Thursday, December 3, 2009

Through Subsequent Lives

"Where's your family?" he asks, wondering why he's the only person present. It's a bit of a rhetorical question, as he knows her well enough to already know. Family, to her, is little more than a convenient excuse of forcing friends. And she didn't like forced friends. Friends were earned through experience, not given by blood. That's not to say that family couldn't be or aren't friends - her brother was one of her best friends before he died - it's just to say that she views family as somewhat of a cheat when it pertains to friendship.

She smiles, mostly to herself, subtly aware that the question is meant more to break the silence than anything else. The two have been friends for so long, they no longer need to answer questions, nor even finish sentences.

"How are you?" This question, too, is rhetorical, for he knows she doesn't have much longer. But etiquette seems to mandate that it be asked. Doing so embarrasses him a little; he hates the obvious. So does she, for that matter.

"I'm dying. How are you?"


They met during her third semester of college, the beginning of what she calls her "second life." Her "first life" was the one her family dictated she lived. Choices, in large part, were not hers. Where she lived during her first life, for instance, was never where she felt she wanted to be. She simply lived there because her parents did. Taking piano lessons was also not her idea, though she very much appreciated taking them later in life. She did not, however, ever learn to appreciate church. In another life, perhaps her second one, she may have, but as she approached the end of her first life, she realized that church was a choice made for her... and she much preferred to find her own way.

Even her first year of college happened at a school her father made her go to, his alma mater, which is what prompted her transfer.

"Second life, eh?" She remembers him asking that during their first conversation. At the time, she was overly proud of her revelation of "first life, second life" that she usually brought it up within the first few minutes of meeting someone new. As far as she was concerned, everyone she encountered in her second life was entitled to know that she was a different person than she was just a few months ago... even if they had never met her before. Eventually, the pride of epiphany waned a bit, but she continued to hold the occasion very dear in memory.

"Yeah, my second life. Have you started yours yet?" She smiled, not having meant the slight offense that he  had taken.

"You could say I'm on my third," he responded, somewhat annoyed but still enamored by the unconventionally beautiful - and pleasant - girl who wasn't yet old enough to drink. He smiled back, not having meant the slight offense that she had taken.

He explained that he, too, attempted to distance himself from his family and his childhood. The attempt took him into the military, and the military showed him another world. There were regrets, of course, but also experiences which revealed him that everything in the world - existence, in fact - was to be appreciated.

"What about death?" she asked, a play at Devil's Advocate. His response, which to her was a clever surprise, opened the door to their lifelong companionship.

"Aren't you on your second life?"


"Is there a life after this one?"

He tries to stifle a laugh, but fails. Such a question, coming from her, borders on the ridiculous. She frowns, eliciting his kiss on her forehead.

"What do you think?"

"I don't know. To be honest, I don't really care."

This time, he frowns. He grabs her hand, rubbing her thumb and forefinger gently. "Bullshit. There's always something right around the corner."

They both smile. Such a statement was blunt truth when it came to the intersections of their lives. Despite having done nearly everything and been nearly everywhere together, they had only had sex a handful of times; usually after a night of too much drinking or too much tragedy. Tragedy fucks, she liked to call them. And, despite being together through thick and thin, they both married other people a few years after college.

Her husband was a medical student she met when she was obtaining her own doctorate. She wanted her friend to be her "Man of Honor," but her fiancé vehemently refused it. In order to obviate the controversy, her friend arranged to be "unable to attend." She knew then that the marriage would end in divorce, and it did. After she filed for the separation she learned that she was pregnant. It was her friend, not her husband, who was there when she aborted the baby. There would be no tragedy fuck.

He married an actress from a local theatre company. He had eloped and his friend, not wanting to return the favor of not showing up for a wedding, flew in to be one of the witnesses. He and his wife seemed happy, but a car accident took her from him less than a year after they were married. The events surrounding the crash created controversy and his wife's family blamed the incident on him. His friend again flew in to offer support, though her husband - she was still married at the time - demanded that she stay home.

There were jokes of third lives and fourth lives, of course, and the two even mulled marrying each other, but neither really liked the idea. Their friendship was, so far, enough to make them closer than any two other people they knew, and there was no need for a legal document to signify their love for each other. Besides, they adored the idea of not having to answer to anybody whenever random thought or emotion took either of them on a spur of the moment adventure.

Still, as she lies there, she knows she's lying to herself. If there were ever a man to call her husband, she knew it was him. Looking back, it's the only regret she really has. She considers telling him that, but the very fact that he's here lets her know that he already knows... and feels the same way. She feels a sense of euphoria, partially from her body shutting itself down, but mostly from the realization that her one true friend will be with her the moment she enters her next life.

She closes her eyes, too tired to keep them open. Or perhaps because she simply doesn't want to anymore. "Do me one last favor."

He nods, mostly to himself, subtly aware that she's no longer looking at him. "Sure. Anything."

"Be there for me."

"I will."


Alan Burnett said...

As I am sure I have said several times before, your style is so well balanced. Plot, description, mood, emotion, drive .... they are all there in perfect quantities, and this is surely the most difficult thing to accomplish. Great writing.

Tom said...

nice writing, sad, sweet ending...happy TT!

Harnett-Hargrove said...

Your style reads, flows so easily. A friendship that runs so deep is true quiet profound excitement.-Jayne

Wings said...

Great piece, so interesting the small glimpse we get into the (multiple) lives here.

Kate Hanley said...

Great story. I was totally enthralled. Happy TT!

otin said...

Wow! That was very moving! Great writing! Anything that involves someone dying makes me sad, unless I write it, then it's ok lol!

Jaime said...

great piece. very well done

Bitsy said...

I didn't like the first two parts as much as the third. The "forced friends" part at the beginning confused me. It took me all 4 sentences to figure out what you were talking about. Also, part 2 was not interesting or clever, which is fine if you want the characters to seem banal. Part 3 makes them seem more intersting. I liked that part.

She Writes said...

Jeff, if this wasn't listed under fiction, I would have believed it. Too many good lines,
"she didn't like forced friends," or, "She smiles, mostly to herself, subtly aware that the question is meant more to break the silence than anything else."

The second life thing, I was thinking, I am on my third and then your character says just that.

And what woman wouldn't love the ending of this?

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