We Dance in Graveyards

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
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A lonely teen manages to find love. Somehow, he ends up lonely again.

Submitted: February 11, 2017

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Submitted: February 11, 2017

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Miles – June 8th 1981

The horizon is glaring at me, piercing both the windshield and my eyes like an icicle. The night is spattered with stars that resemble tiny multitudinous snow globes and I shiver again and try to pull my arms under the blanket while keeping my hands on the wheel. I exhale my breath shaky and it’s when the scent of ink and warm milk skis up my nose that I remember my heart is a furnace.

I pull the Mustang over to the side and reach into the glove box. My hand is slick from all the bottles so I fumble for a while brushing past those ruby pebbles I collected trying to get a grip on my simmering red fountain pen red kind of like her hair but not as warm. I unscrew the cap and work on what I started before.

It is an etching of a burning skeletal vulture, the head on my palm, and the flaming wings and body fanning out steadily to my elbow. Every shadow, every ripple in its singed hair is carefully defined. I like that it’s burning because that means it’ll fly for a little while and then land on some grassy field later. The eyes are two big circles, so big that I like to poke them in the center with the nib of my pen.

I can’t wait to show Ash. We’re going to meet at the graveyard. We’re going to meet at the graveyard where I will breathe in the embers from her crimson hair drenched in moonlight and I will give her back her lighter and the searing singularity in the middle of my heart will breathe fire no longer and instead give into the honeyed abyss and I will feel warm all over.

 

Miles – March 4th 1980

The lurid orange façade of the school sneers down at me, when I notice a bright red feather on the sunbaked sidewalk. As a breeze rolls by, the feather beats excitedly on the cement, like a child hopping up and down on his parents’ bed during a cool Christmas morning. When I reach down to pick it up, jolts of cold air pulse through me and I shiver just a little. The feather is velvety soft, with a slight parting on the right side down in the middle, and a whitish tint further down. My thumb slithers around the stem, going from the flaming sea of red to the arctic white tundra, and I suddenly picture the course of my life, soaring through a volcanic youth and crash landing inside the frigid meat locker of old age. Because I can use a little cold in the heat, and because this feather reminds me of my fountain pen, I gently slide it down into my pocket.

My hands feel cold again, just as the school bell wails. I, along with a horde of other students, trudge up the steps and into the halls of the school. I am the only one silent among the masses, a nameless phantom in a snowy field. I zip up my sweater, and for a moment I wish for a giant fire at the end of the hall, one that will invite me in and wrap its arms around me. I head to my last class for the day.

The room is white-blue, as if sea foam crystallized and fused with paint and then clung to the walls. There are many days where I just stare at these walls, not really to escape the nauseating ennui of English but to try and to discern something from these cloudy rectangles.

But today is different, and instead I stare down at a piece of paper on my desk.

A young blond man, chewing gum and resting his feet on Mr. Packer’s desk, explains that today will be dedicated to getting started on college essays.

After the explanation, he begins to read a novel, and immediately the other students chatter among themselves. I consider taking out the book the class is supposed to be reading—a collection of essays by Nietzsche. We have gotten to an interesting bit, the bit where Nietzsche says to consider time repeating itself over and over again and to proclaim that no matter that I do in fact accept the circle. Some nights I have dreams where I find myself staring into the roiling, widening gyre containing forlorn bits and pieces of my life, reluctant to step in. Perhaps I should put down Nietzsche for a few days.

I stare down at the lined piece of paper in front of me, the slick icy horizons stacked upon each other so neatly. The lines taunt me like nasty kindergarteners. So I imagine getting into a car and driving faster and faster down an endless road, where an infinite number of kindergarteners are lined up on either side, and their words are blurring together until everything and everyone sounds like static.

 

After class, I take a detour into the cafeteria. Students are clumped together on the lunch line. They talk about things like dates, movies, college, and jobs and my stomach is weightless, avalanching down ad infinitum and so I stare at them and try not to listen too much because if I start listening it’ll just feel that much colder and so I do not feel hungry anymore.

I exit the school. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a girl with a sketchpad and a pencil, staring at a bird. I suddenly have the urge to give her the feather, which is steaming hot in my jeans, and I worry that if I don’t keep my hand underneath my pocket it’ll burn a hole and escape with the wind.

Her head is a lovely blanket of crimson, fanning out in smooth, vertical striations. Each strand of hair is a road that begins from the rosy ravine that is her scalp and ends in the cliff made by her shoulders and back. For a second I imagine wandering down each of these crimson roads, and then getting shaken off and then holding on for dear life. I stop imagining immediately. 

Her milky skin makes her brighter than the sizzling pavement. Her hair is glowing, hotter and hotter as it soaks in the heat, and I brace myself for the moment it will explode and then condense to black and suck me in and be born again.

The bird looks around curiously, fascinated by its audience. And then it flies away. The girl watches it go like a child after a piñata is burst and all the candy is spilling onto a dirty puddle on the ground. Her soft pink lips bud open in the middle. Her earrings are steel circles, not as big as I have seen before but big enough so that I can push my pinky through them. There’s a constellation of freckles painted across the bridge of her nose, smoldering intensely, like those ruby pebbles I see all the time on the road.

I somehow register all of this in a matter of seconds, and just as I am about to look at her eyes I meet her sketchpad first. I see an enchanted rendering of the bird from earlier, but she replaces the eyes with a blindfold and it is now that I speak without thinking

“Why did you do that?” I sound like a protesting child.

She drops her pad, and looks at me, alarmed.

No no no no no I’m such an idiot.

I keep my gaze on the blinded bird.

Her lips move. “Who are you?” She sounds like a chorus of canaries, a symphony I can hear not everywhere or nowhere but here.

I kneel down next to her. I sweat as if I am inches away from a wildfire, the burning wood scalding my throat. “This pad is pretty heavy,” I say, thumbing through the pages, stopping every now and then to look at a marvelous bird in flight—

She snatches the pad away from me.

“Who are you?” Her lips are moving again. Come on, come on, come on say something come on—

“Miles.” My throat is burning now. I still don’t look at her eyes, but I think they’re green.

Then, a familiar black bird disturbs the grass in front of her and starts pecking. Her gaze locks onto it instantly.  She flips her pad open to a blank page. Her spidery fingers are back to work, weaving another masterpiece.

I stare at the bird. “That’s a crow, right?”

She looks like a frieze from where I’m sitting, embossed onto the blue sky behind her. “Corvus brachyrhynchos,” she says, sketching. “Omnivorous…based on tail length, tarsus length and head-bill length…probably…male.”

Then all I hear is the harsh sound of pencil on paper. I take a deep breath.

“Um…so, what’s your name?”

She pauses. “Ash.” Then she resumes drawing, but I see that her hand’s a little shaky now.

We sit silently for a few minutes. I then get up and start to walk, taking one last look at her earrings, wanting to poke my finger through them, my legs quivering and the feather in my pocket berating me and my heart hurts like someone was trying to sew two halves back together but left the hot needle sticking inside—

When someone taps me on my shoulder.

I turn around, and I meet her eyes, the leafy green eyes I didn’t want to look at but now that I am looking I cannot stop.

She looks at me for a second, as if there’s a foggy window between us and she can’t see me clearly. “I need help with an assignment. Only for fifteen minutes. Can you help me?”

I manage to say something: “Oh y—um oh yeah yeah sure.” 

She motions towards the school gates, and I follow the blazing trail left by her hair, the feather itching to leave my pocket.

Ash – March 4th 1980

He and I finally make it. Flint Cemetery. Massive graveyard, with headstones standing over varying patches of yellow and green grass. Rust hugs the iron rails of the gates. Red-orange pits biting into roiling black.

I amble around the perimeter of the cemetery. This “Miles” boy strands right in front of the gate, staring at the name. He then looks past the bars. I can see his eyes trying to look for a horizon. I consider telling him it's pointless--this cemetery is so expansive, so infinitesimal that everything ahead looks obfuscated and I have no choice but to focus on what's in front of me: an incalculable infinite sum. Ethereal.

Halfway around the perimeter, the rigid iron bars make way to flimsy, meshy cages. Death is on a strict budget. I throw my bag over and scale the cage, relishing the flight down onto grass. If only I had wings.

Miles finds a hole in a nearby fence. He's about to crawl through when he decides to take my route instead. His foot meets the horizontal bar on top, and he tumbles to the ground.

I laugh, just a little. "I think you should use the hole next time." I almost clamp my hand over my mouth. Next time?

He gets up, oblivious. "Sorry, I'm a klutz. Anyway, why this place? The school garden would have been perfect."

"Pretty boring, except for the birds. But they don't stay long enough for a good picture."

"What about...I don't know, that volcano no one shuts up about? It's only about five minutes from here."

"Everyone picks that one. I want to do something creative."

He holds up his hands. "Alright, your assignment, I guess."

I give him my film camera, which has been in my bag all this time.

“What are you gonna do?” he asks.

“I’m going to dance.”

Miles – May 17th 1980

For once in my life, the moon smiles at me as I make my way to Flint Cemetery. Perhaps she and I frequent this place too often, perhaps not. Either way, it’s ours, or that’s all that matters to me and her.

Besides, the ones below don’t seem to mind that much.

I start to sweat in my prom suit. No, no, no, this can’t be happening right now.

We had both told our parents that we would be in the school cafeteria. That’s where the prom is, anyway.

But not our prom.

I climb over the gate like I had the day I met her, the day that seems lightyears away but feels like it just happened, the memory like a supernova collapsing and expanding ad infinitum. I am careful not to crease my shoes, glittery black and sequined on the bottom.

And then I see a candle in the center of the graveyard. A person in a billowy white dress, and a full head of red hair glowing, drenched in the moonlight. She turns to me, and smiles.

No words are spoken. None are needed. I remember giving her my feather, and her fixing it by her ear. She gives me a lustrous red lighter.

We spin and spin, bodies in constant motion, feeling strangely tender for the ones below. I only look at the freckles painted across her nose, trying to count each one and make constellations out of them. The only music we need is the soft whisper of the grass beneath our feet and the silent appreciation for the dead men, women and children here with us today, watching us wistfully yet happily: we can celebrate love and life with them here today, because no one else will.

And so we spin and spin and spin, our bodies swirling together like a flame, forever.

 

Ash – May 18th 1980

There is ash in the air today suffocating me and everyone and all of a sudden I cant breathe thinking about all the people I see all the ambulances and the people in stretchers and all the birds falling to the ground the bodies all broken so heavy and now light. And then I realize that birds dont really know how to fly they only pretend they do but they dont fly unless theyre on the ground with their little hearts snuffed out Miles I am light too light everything hurts and so I must be a bird like a bird where you are looking at the most beautiful winged creature in all of existence, the sparkling shimmering stuff left in a neutron star the one that makes you think its so beautiful it must be a message for me, but suddenly the bird flies away too quickly before you can do anything just like that

The car just hit me

I cant breathe I cant breathe I cant breathe I cant breathe

IcantbreatheIcantbreatheIcantbreatheIcantbreathe

The tree is alive and humming. And I will fly while I am still alive flying in this graveyard dancing in this graveyard—

I never saw the car coming. The driver never saw Mt. St. Helen’s coming. We never see anything until it’s right behind us.

 

Miles – June 29th 1981

The spectral silence is broken by a ballet of leaves as soft as her words late at night as I climb over the rickety steel gate.

As I am lost in thought, the lighter falls out of my pocket and lands on yellowed grass. I stare at it, thinking it has a mind of its own. I pick it up and try to get a small fire going. I try again. Again. And again. My breathing gets heavier and heavier, and my chest heaves up and down like it’s on a trampoline.

I stare at her gravestone and start to cry.

As I lie above, she does not even lie below, because she is not she because she used to be here but what is she did I really ever know she because she was not even she at least not that the she she could have been and I am left with the she she was but this makes no sense fire is supposed to rise and rise and why is she not above and why am I not below the cold eventually becomes warmer and the warm feels cold and they both converge in the middle that’s how it’s supposed to be but I still cannot understand why she is below without me without the dancing and without the trees and

I take a ruby pebble out of my pocket, and place it on the arch of her gravestone.

why a stupid drunk driver had to kill her the day after we were happiest the day why the volcano had to erupt that day killing millions I was the happiest and now I wont ever feel happy again because happiness is just an empty calorie now devoid of any real nutrition but

she could have been and I am left with the she she was but this makes no sense fire is supposed to rise and rise and why is she not above and why am I not below the cold eventually becomes warmer and the warm feels cold and they both converge in the middle that’s how it’s supposed to be but I still cannot understand why she is below without me without the dancing and without the trees and

How warm it feels to wander this graveyard late at night, and think of her.


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