This Ain’t Goodbye [short story]

Intro: This week’s short story assignment was to create a Twilight-Zone-esque tale. Enjoy.

How long has it been? A little over a year since she went away. “Went away,” over a year and I still can’t wrap my head around losing her or use words that aren’t overly euphemistic to communicate her death. A little over a year and I still find myself having all of these conversations in my head fully expecting her to laugh at some joke or poke fun at something I said, but always with a smile. I stare at the ceiling in the blackness of my bedroom and still can’t move past the emptiness of this place, this world without her.

At first I spent most nights lying here trying to separate what is from what was and usually failing at some point as I drifted off in our empty room. Occasionally I’d find myself back in the hospital room just staring at her motionless body connected to those goddam monitors with tubes and tape obscuring her silent beauty. Tears well up, wishing that she’d wake up; I hold her hand pleading with the universe to take some of my life and let it flow into her body. I never sleep well when my mind goes there.

But more often I find myself some place familiar doing something inconsequential and she’d walk up behind me and brush the back of my neck with her hair and then a quick kiss. Try as I might I never seem to be able to react quickly enough to return her kiss before she gleefully jumps away and happily mocks me from another room. It was her way of having fun with what others might have seen as an annoying habit. She always said that I tended to focus so much on what I was working so hard that the whole world could fall apart around me and I’d never know. Too true, my love.

Then we’d be out some place laughing, loudly talking with friends and listening to music and she’d pull me on to the dance floor. Protesting was futile. Besides, any excuse to hold her body close to me was a great day and she knew how to make me want her all the more just with just her mischievous smile. How much rock and roll and sex can anyone take? I was more than willing to find out and she never greeted me with anything less then her kisses and smiles. Smiles, we did a lot of that.

Then we’d be in a car driving across the country, just ‘cause we could and it was fun to be out exploring places we’d never been before. Sun setting outside the windshield and she would curl up next to me in the front seat as I drove and drove. Stars outside, blackness and headlights, my whole universe existed in that small moving space. Glancing over at her sleeping so peacefully, I knew so much bliss just in those precious moments. Deep internal smiles, invisible to others and impossible to explain but I could stay there forever, just to feel her peace and affection.

Most mornings I’d wake and squint to remember which part was real and which was memory. It was so real. Most of me wanted to go back to sleep, just so that i could smell her perfume just one more time or hear her laugh that invariably would turn into a snort, that embarrassed her and made her laugh all the more. Smiles, I’d hold on to the thought. We’d silently stared at each other before I opened my eyes and got out of bed.

The part I’d left was becoming more real than the day I was beginning and like a secret cache of gold I held onto the memory and began to look forward to the end of the day when I could rejoin her in that world we had together. No one said anything about how little I was getting out. That I was just getting up every day and going to work was sign enough to them that I was dealing with it and would eventually get back to the old me. But I didn’t go to work every day because I was somehow getting “better.” I did it because it was what I needed to do so that I could get to the end of the day and rejoin her in the world behind my eyes.

There was this song that popped up in my player one day after she was gone and I held on to it in my mind to help me get from morning to evening:

“You and I were friends from outer space,
Afraid to let go, The only two who understood this place
And as far as we know, we were way before our time
As bold as we were blind, Just another perfect mistake
Another bridge to take on the way to letting go

This ain’t goodbye
This is just where love goes
When words aren’t warm enough
To keep away the cold”

I played the track over and over. Sometimes, when no one was around, I’d silently cry. Other times it helped me hold on to her memory, knowing that I’d see her and be with her again once I fell asleep. No one knew what I was listening to and seemed happy that I seemed to find my smile again, but it was just the song helping remind me of her, so, on the outside I smiled. But really, nothing else mattered.

I can’t believe that I used to hate coming home and facing the night alone. The truth is that I’m not alone and I will never be alone ever again. I can’t explain it to anyone and I don’t really care if they ever understand. Some days I ache to hold her again and feel her squirm when I touch that place on her waist that no one else knows is where she is impossibly ticklish. Laughter is the medicine that makes everything else go away and we have a lot of it. So I did the daily grind to get to the end of the day, when I could be with her. And I don’t care if anyone else understands. Let the rest of the world be damned.

“We were stars up in the sunlit sky
That no one else could see
Neither of us thought to ever ask why
It wasn’t meant to be…
Oh no, this ain’t goodbye
It’s not where our story ends”

I’d come home and she’d show me what she bought today, hinting that there were some things that she bought that she couldn’t show me until later… Some nights we’d watch some TV series we loved, other nights we’d drink wine and just stared into each other’s eyes. Some nights she’d pull me up out of my chair and we’d dance and dance until we couldn’t stand up any more.

I got to the point where I didn’t need to sleep to see her again. I just needed a comfortable spot to be in and just close my eyes and there she’d be, just like it always was, as it would ever be. If I wasn’t asleep, I really had to concentrate hard to make it work. But if there was anything I could do, I could concentrate the hell out of anything, as she always said.

“You and I were friends from outer space,
Afraid to let go, The only two who understood this place…
This ain’t goodbye
This is just where love goes
When words aren’t warm enough
To keep away the cold.”

If I lie here, perfectly still, I can barely feel the sheet over me and the song in my head drowns out the urgent sounds of people rushing about. And if I concentrate really hard I no longer feel whoever it is who is sticking needles in me and yelling something meaningless. What do I care? As long as I can smell her hair and feel her touch, this ain’t goodbye.

This Ain’t Goodbye by Train (Save Me, San Francisco)


One Comment

  1. Jessica

    Good writes:
    “I hold her hand pleading with the universe to take some of my life and let it flow into her body.”
    “my whole universe existed in that small moving space”


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