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in the ether, in the heavens

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listen. this is how it goes.

you meet him. you meet him, and you meet him and meet him and meet him because there are so many different sides to him you can scarcely keep track. there’s him when he’s working, solid and focused and fierce and ruthless, and there’s also him in the mornings, soft and a little blurred around the edges and draped into his dressing gown, and there’s him in the window, quiet and thoughtful and familiar, silhouetted by the late afternoon light streaming in, the line of his forearm, the last beams of the sun catching in his hair.

and he sees you. he sees you, the whole of you, in a way you’ve never been seen before, in a way you’ve barely dared to see yourself and you’re not sure what to make of that. you look up at the stars and he looks at you like you hung them there, and it’s heady, and intoxicating, and powerful, to be seen like that.

and he keeps you. relies on you, bargains with you, talks to you, he talks to you so often that he talks to you even when you aren’t there because there is somehow a part of him that can’t imagine you leaving him behind, even just to run to the shops.

and you think, maybe.

he sees you in the fluorescent lights of an indoor city pool, and you see the look on his face when he sees you dressed in your own death and you think, maybe, yes.

but you only see him in bits and pieces and you can’t really understand how it all fits together, and that makes you nervous, so you stand in the bathroom and look at yourself in the mirror and whisper, I love him I love him I love him, because you have to say it to someone out loud and there’s no one to say it to. you type it at the end of your texts, your emails, your blog posts, I love you I love you I love you. backspace backspace backspace. you are filled up with him. you worry when he doesn’t eat and you listen to the tone of his mood in the lilt of his music and you think, maybe, you were wrong, maybe, you need to protect yourself, hem yourself in, you think maybe you can understand I don’t have friends better than you can understand conductor of light.

then you think maybe if you had told him, maybe if you had dared, maybe he wouldn’t be dead.

you have day after day after day to think about it then, to wonder about it then, to sit by yourself as the smell of him in the flat begins to dissipate and you think, how could he, how could he, I thought we would have forever. you think about following him. you think about whether you could find him in the ether, in the heavens, you think about going round and round the garden like a teddy bear, and wonder if he was even there, or if he forced himself to stop existing the way he forced himself to stop living, by sheer force of will.

you think, if he were there, I would find him.

but you don’t because it’s better to be here without him, imagining a time you might be together again, than to go after him and find out that forevers are for children and you’re nothing but a dreamer after all.

you stay here, and you move on because time moves on, but he moves on too, in a full circle, alive and then dead and now alive again, back here, back to you.

and you’re angry, really angry, angry at him because how could he, how could he, I thought we would have forever, and you’re promising forever to someone else because he frightens you, he frightens you the way the depths of the ocean frightens you, the way the darkness of space frightens you, with the curve of his neck, the length of his fingers. he gets on his knees and begs and you are ready to die with him, the way you’ve always been, and it frightens you, so at the end of the night you turn away and go back to the safety of the enclave you had to build for yourself when he was away.

you can still see him, but you think now maybe he can’t see you. you see him surrounded by cloth opera houses, making small talk and dioramas and seating charts. you see him softened by drink and wonder if he always looks so delicate. you see him on the stairs, on the sofa, on the floor, on the bench in the drunk tank and wonder if he always looks like he’s being held together with cast-off bits of string.

you still see him, but he looks away.

you see him in the windows of the church, reflected in the stained glass with eyes downcast, and you can read it in his eyes: how could he, how could he, I thought we would have forever.

when the lights begin to fade and the music turns to silence you realise he’s gone and you can’t remember when he left. you stay that night with someone that isn’t him and try to tell yourself that he didn’t say goodbye because it isn’t over.

listen. this is how it goes.

you go to bed at night and curl around yourself and wonder if his hip bones would fit in your hands. you wonder how his neck would look arched back against the pillows. you wonder if you could make him whimper. if you could make him scream. you think maybe you know his body so well without ever even having touched it that you could find all the secret spots, the ones he barely knows himself, without even having to try. you think you could.

you make two mugs of tea in the mornings and forget who you are making the second one for. you bicycle to work to let off some steam and see patients that remind you of him because they are so very ordinary in exactly the same way that he is not. you wait for your mobile to ring. you wait for your mobile to ring.

you wait for your mobile to ring.

you are married now but you still wait for your mobile to ring and you think, I thought we would have forever.

on the other end, in another room, in another life where you might have been together, he is looking at his mobile and wondering if he should call you, but you are married now, your forevers belong to someone else, and he stopped waiting for his mobile to ring months ago.