The two of them, lying there together on the hard concrete, bleeding out together. That was the end, for them.
It had been a broken fairytale, the kind that begins with the end and ends with the beginning. It had been, what? Two lives? Two years? Two everythings.
She went second, the light dimming from her eyes as her neck spilled her love for him out into the night. He went first, careless for a half-instant too long, collapsing to the floor with his heart full of bullets.
This is a story that plays out in reverse, because this is a life flashing before their eyes.
They had been walking from the cinema, shivering in the night air, cuddling up to each other, certainly not expecting this walk to be the last walk they'd ever take. 'This coat is big enough for two.' 'I'm cold.' 'It was, wasn't it?' 'Beautiful.'
They pulled apart, then came together. Lips touched. Eyes closed. Arms pulled each other closer. He smiled warmly. She smirked playfully. They turned to face each other.
They were there, under the streetlight, just like last time before the film and the time before that on that bench and the time in the park and on the beach and on her bed and in the kitchen when he taught her how to cook and she tried to sing and they kissed.
I gave you hell through all these years.'
I know I took the path that you would never want for me.
Remember when I broke you down to tears…
'Now remember when I told you that's the last you'll see of me…
Remember the first time they were together, the first time they slept in the same bed, the first time they fell asleep curled up on the sofa. The first time they sang together.
Never can fill the void.'
Better in picture –
Whoa-oh, love is a Polaroid.
'Whoa-oh, how did it come to this?
The first time he said 'I love you.' The first time she held him to let him cry against her shoulder. The first time he helped her with her trauma. The first time she helped him with his depression.
Don't you tell me to be strong.'
So ease it off!
Can't take the pressure!
So ease it off!
'You can't fight the friction!
Reverse quotation marks, reverse punctuation, reverse words. Uoy evol I. Reverse lives. Pulling away piece by piece, coming undone like the pegs of a zipper unlocking and parting for the last time. Left-earphone-right-earphone inverted music. Backwards poetry. Upside-down art.
As she unwrites, the pen erases her words. Her life's passion unzips from the page and rejoins the ether. As he absings, he swallows lyrics and eats his tune. His heart's love recurses and fails, diminishes.
Their poetry dissolves
nl s nds
O y ou
What is love when it reverses? What is life when it reverses? It is death. It is hate. It becomes these. These become it. Meaning is lost and language itself breaks down. And so they watch his favourite film for the first/last time. They read her favourite book ever/never again. They sit then on the couch together and watch TV as a couple in the now.
'Some would say I'm quite the reverse.'
Goodbye we say to the days, goodbye to the nights, goodbye to the dawns and half-thought twilights. Goodbye to the jokes, goodbye to the smiles. Hello discontent and lonely trials. We're b/r/e/a/k/i/n/g apart, save us, put the pieces back together, don't let us go all the way. Don't let us end. Please. Gar, I -
Replaying the first kiss, now, unbiting the cracked lip and letting the surprise drop of blood flow back into the cold and the warmth. Replaying the alley falling apart. Brick by brick. Word by word. Glance by glance.
They peel apart, never to come together again.
Now it's back to the slanted hints and the sidelong looks and the humour and the playing-hard-to-get and the flirting and it all spools back like someone's winding up a cassette tape with a pencil. All the film is sucked inwards, the details are smoothened out, the tape is worn thin from frequent use. Now she sleeps okay for the first time in days. Now he leaves the room worriedly. Now he stands up. Now she hugs him properly like she's never hugged anyone before and never will again. Now he tells her that she isn't a monster. Now she is reassured. Now she worries that he's got that same darkness inside him. Now she shies away from him as he sits down. Now he walks in, calling 'Raven? Are you okay?' and then he's gone and she sits trembling on the edge of her seat full of the feeling of death that accompanies her wherever she goes.
Now she is reforged. Now she is broken.
Now he dies. Now he lives.
They win, then fight, then lose, then fight again. Now, they don't even know there is anyone to fight. She puts away her pride and her force. He shelves his strength and his fluidity. He returns to his natural state.
The runes are removed from his blood. The car un-flips. The pole slides out of his stomach. He's forced back into normality. They drive away backwards forever.
And then time undoes all their friendship, all their knowing, until they're at their first meeting, when all he sees is an irritated girl and all she sees is a smug-looking guy. Years gone past, years of built bridges and mutual happiness, and this is where it ends.
They lock eyes. They walk away from each other. It's over before it has even begun.
So as they lie dying on the pavement, hands squeezed together in a last gasp for love, and each one knows they could save the other at the expense of the world, they see it all unravel and they cry. The man with the gun is gone, a man who will face something more than justice very, very soon, but at what cost? They fall apart. They end.
But at least they had each other in this broken fairytale.
At least they were together, once upon a time.