In a room with the curtains drawn, she turns her back on me and curls into a ball. When I put my arm around her, I want to give her my words, but I’m frightened by what’s inside. So I keep quiet. She waits and waits, but there’s nothing from my mouth save for the warm air I breathe against the back of her neck. Sometimes she cries. She tosses and turns always making sure to hide her face from mine. The hours tick away. She falls asleep then wakes, and when she rolls over and looks me in the eyes, all at once I feel as light as a feather and as heavy as the black dog on my shoulder.
From somewhere outside comes the sound of meowing cats. They sing in a chorus only they know the meaning of. In my clumsy way, I meow just like them, and for a second, she smiles and meows in return. She wants me to say it. To come out and tell her, but when I try, the emotions that flutter around my heart flutter someplace else. All these visions and images that captivate me during my waking hours, and then when I need to speak my truth the most, what’s there but this bubble that lodges at the back of my throat. She brings the animals and she shines this light that shows me the way, but I can’t find the right words to let her know. So, taking her hands in mine, I tell her the only way I can think of.
There’s this door, I say. A door on a beach. From behind this door comes the sweetest music you could ever imagine. For so many years, I would find myself stood before this door with no way of being able to open it. I’d try all I could to find out what was on the other side. Sometimes I’d force it. Sometimes, I’d say all manner of words in the hope that one would be the key, but they had no effect at all. On occasion, I’d bring others with me, and together we would do our best to gain entrance, but again, nothing. For half my life I would keep coming back to this door. Keep asking myself what it was I was doing wrong. What it was preventing me from passing through to the magic I was certain existed just beyond.
Reaching out to touch her face, I tell her that one day like any other, I was sat there looking up at this door playing with handfuls of sand and watching as it slipped through my fingers to be carried away in the breeze. I thought about her and all her myriad ways, and then went ahead and said her name, and just like that, the door opened and the light from within shone upon me. In a matter of seconds, my body had been lifted off the ground. Floating there so helpless and giddy, I moved outside of myself and saw the flesh slip from my bones and then my bones turn to dust until all that was left was this shining orb. This orb, it flew through the air like a firefly. It zipped around so excitedly, and just like that, it disappeared through the open door.
On the other side, I followed the orb and then there she was. A little girl playing in her parents’ back garden one Sunday afternoon in the balmy summer month of June. She was so happy, and as she raced this way and that playing with an imaginary friend, there were no shadows in her heart and nothing to pull her down. Time had no meaning. All that mattered were the games she played and the music that came from within her beating chest. She was the sweetest thing I had ever seen, and to hear her childish laughter made me feel something I had never before felt. Circling her head as she raised her hands to the sky, the sight of the stars made her young heart fill with wonder, and the love in her eyes left me not afraid of dying but afraid of not being by her side.
At some point, she went inside, and after saying goodnight to her parents and kissing them both on the cheek, she climbed the stairs and got into bed. I was watching her through the window, and as she looked up from her pillow, she saw my orb and smiled, and I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be the source of that smile. That nothing else would ever matter. And as she fell asleep, I watched for hours on end not wanting to be anywhere else, and even though the thought of dying still got me down, the idea of not being a part of her life seemed so much worse. I’d always known, of course, but sometimes what’s before your eyes is what you don’t see until it’s too late.
Looking back, she doesn’t say a word. She doesn’t have to. That smile. It tells me everything I need to know, and as the night passes in silence, we change shape so many times, and when we come close to tasting death, we become orbs, and we fly through so many doors, and when we’re high above the trees that overlook our town, there’s no touching what we have, and no way that anything can ever make us come back down.