“Something’s different with the coffee.”
“No it’s not.”
“Sure is. It’s more full-bodied, warming, cheerier somehow.”
“You’re losing it!”
“No, I’m not. I feel better for drinking it, happier, festive.”
“At least it’s in a take out cup.”
“You can drink it in the asylum.”
I collected her tears and set them on a plate where they settled to a crystal blue pond. The best years of our lives were captured on crockery with only me to see them. I gave them to the cat who licked them away. The best thing for us really.
“Don’t stop,” she whispered. “Don’t let the world hurt you, break you. Don’t let the bad and mad mould you. Don’t let them change you. Please, just never that. Whatever you do, my son, don’t ever stop being you.”
And then she stopped. And for a time, so did I.
“What are you doing?” I hissed.
That’s how the strangest meeting of my life began. It was only ever going to get worse.
He pressed his face up to the glass so hard as to make his whole head seem flat, his green hat and emerald-trimmed glasses falling off in the process.
“Why are you dressed like that? I whispered. I’d never seen anyone dressed head to toe in green velvet. Even Robin Hood wore brown pants, the Errol Flynn one anyway.
”I’m incognito,“ he said, and winked.
”Incognito as what?“
”An iguana of course! What kind of spy are you?“
”I’m not a spy,“ I answered truthfully.
”Really? I thought everyone that crept around in the evening was a spy.“
He said it so matter-of-fact that I almost believed I was.
”I just came for a drink.“
”Ah, I see.“
I didn’t know how he could what with him being an obvious nutcase.
”So, what are you doing?“ I asked again. I was already past the point of caring if my questions bothered him, but just had to know.
He gave me a swift appraisal, eyes bulging like the lizard he resembled, and said, ”I’m following my wife.“
”Yes, I know it’s sneaky, but us reptiles are.“
He beckoned me closer.
”I’m actually a gecko, but that’s just between you and me.“
”Yes, I suppose you are,“ I agreed. Despite an urge to roll my eyes and punch him in the head, I restrained myself and continued. ”Have you seen her?“ I enquired placing an eye to the dirty glass. The basement below seemed full of happy revellers, booze flowing in copious amounts as some chatted and others danced.
”Not yet,“ he answered. ”But I will.“
”Is she dressed like you?“
”I’m not sure, could be. It’ll be hard to tell.“
I thought she’d stand out like a sore thumb but persevered. ”Can’t see anyone in green, mostly bare skin.“
”That’s the brilliance of being an iguana, we blend,“ he said striking a surprised pose.
”Yes… Yes, I suppose you do.“
He relaxed at that and went back to his spying.
”What are you going to do when you find her?“
”If,“ he corrected.
”I’ll open this window, flash out my tongue and steal her peanuts. That’ll teach her not to hide food from me. Oh yeah, that’ll teach her. That’ll teach her good and proper.“ He wrung his velvet-gloved hands together; green ones of course.
”Good job she’s not a chameleon or you’d never find her.“
”Yeah, they’re the ones that change colour to match their surroundings.“
”Are you sure?“
”Damn it all to hell!“ he bellowed.
”I told him I was a chameleon,“ said a woman materialising out of the brickwork. ”Bloody men never listen. Fancy a peanut?“ she asked offering me an open packet.
I’d have taken one if the spymaster hadn’t stuck out his tongue, thrust his head in the packet and started chomping down nuts.
”And he wonders why I want the odd night out alone.“ She shook her head, though all I saw move was her beautiful, big, green eyes, dropped the packet, and merged back into urbania. ”I’ve always hated lizards,“ she muttered from the shadows, ”I much prefer dogs.“
”Really?” I said, as I scratched behind my ear and peed on the iguana’s green shoes.
They offered gold. In shoals of aquamarine mystique, the Mermaids swam towards the moonlit, shipwrecked many in their little, wooden boats. They wouldn’t breach the surface preferring the comforts of liquidity to the surface storm. Refusing their gold was easy, (too heavy) refusing them, the hardest thing we ever did.
Lovers Lost to Time
We were the last, the free, two lovers emerged from night into a brand new day.
I shielded Kara’s eyes, her arms too weak to lift unaided, and led her out of the caves into what remained. Gone were the cities, the dying and the dead, everything and anything replaced by orange-tinged rock and loose sands.
“So barren,” she whispered.
My own mouth was too dry to answer. Instead, I just nodded.
“Is this it?” she asked, imploring eyes staring from her gaunt face.
“Yes,” I managed. “Yes, it is.”
“Do you think we’re alone?”
“Yes,” I replied and hung my head.
For months we’d cowered in the darkness waiting for the bombs to stop and the world to realign. I’d had one hope, just one: to see the sun again. Now we did, the great celestial ball of fire peeking over the horizon like a glinting diamond, all I wanted was to return to the night.
If I’d taken it badly, Kara had taken it worse. She stood in a daze like a rabbit caught in the headlights of life itself. She twitched, cocked her head in spasms unable to digest what had happened. When she spoke every syllable echoed her fears.
“Are we lovers lost in time, John? Are we?”
I looked to the sky free of clouds at last, back to the blazing sun and said, “Not in time. To time. We are beyond all that was, is and will be, my love. We are everything and nothing, but I could never love you more.”
Kara smiled at that, and at last I remembered why we’d hidden and why no matter how long we’d have together it was a decision I’d never regret.
When we kissed I forgot whether it was night or day. I wished I didn’t have to open my eyes ever again. But I did.
I took a breath as the whale dived beneath the churning ocean determined to hold it longer than him. Papa told me to stop being stupid when my face went red, then caved in and pretended to do so too.
We sat in our little boat for almost an hour puffing our cheeks in and out whilst waiting for the whale to surface; I was in tears by then.
“It’s dead, papa!” I wailed.
“Not yet, son.”
“He must be!”
“Not yet,” papa said, but his face disagreed.
When the sea exploded upwards in a fountain of salt water, papa laughed. I didn’t, though. Even when the whale’s flukes tapped the sky and disappeared again, I remained unhappy. I just couldn’t understand that life played out before me as it did every day. No matter how many times an eight-year-old’s told it’s okay down there it just doesn’t sink in. It must’ve been so dark and lonely was all I thought.
I wept again that night when we got home much to papa’s annoyance. I wasn’t sad about the whale anymore, I’d learned that lesson. No, I was just glad it wasn’t me under those tumultuous waves, and couldn’t help thinking that wrong. I soon snuggled down in my bed and forgot about it though. Such is the way when things go unseen, they’re easily dismissed.
I feel Her.
Lady Death stands at my shoulder sheltering this shivering form with a swept up cape. Cosseted by Her darkness, cold but comfortable, I wait to the ticking of my pocket watch.
I hear Her.
Her breath grazes my neck like that first Autumn frost. Beautiful in its own way. She moves closer, whispers in my ear, then all is night.
I touch Her.
Peace sweeps over me like celestial night the sky. Awash in sparkling obsidian, I revel in this eternity as I would an iced tea in Summer. I am Hers now and She is mine.
“Moon on the water. That’s how I want to go.”
I never knew what my grandma meant by that until I approached her age. She’d sounded so defiant as she’d glared out of her window across the rippling, evening lake.
She passed the next morning, but her reflection still lingers.