Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, from Athens, Greece. Her work…
We step onto the roof in anticipation. Just the two of us and a bottle of wine, a cool summer breeze caressing our faces.
“What now?” I ask.
“We’ll just have to wait,” you say, your eyes already fixed on the night sky.
I lie down by your side, trying to stay still as if moving could deter the stars from falling. They’re not really stars. They’re only parts of a meteorite colliding with earth’s atmosphere, that lighten the night sky. And it’s fun for a while, as if a huge Christmas tree flies on the moonless sky, the lights blinking in celebration of our sixth anniversary together. Yet the moment comes. The moment when I fix my eyes on you and can’t take them away.
“There goes another one. Did you see it?” you ask in excitement, your hand rising towards the direction of the horizon. I didn’t see it, yet I saw your face brighten up, which feels the same to me.
“I missed it,” I whisper, feigning mild regret, yet I don’t feel guilty at all.
It’s this moment again. It’s happening once more and I feel the tension rising, as you insist I should look up when all I want to do is stare at you, while you’re here. It’s a lasting moment, an endless point in time, which I wish would last forever, yet I know it won’t. The more I try to turn my head up, the more I keep on staring at you. The more I give in to the impulse, the less guilty I feel. Bursts of dopamine reinforcing my fixation, as if you’re the cigarette I hold in my hand and shouldn’t smoke, yet a typical chain-smoker can never resist the temptation. Yet you wave at me, as if I’m far away, calling me back, asking me to focus on the sky.
I catch a glimpse of it while still staring your way. A line of silver stardust crossing the sky, unzipping a hidden purse that holds the secrets of the universe, in a failed attempt to unveil the truth for us mortals to see. Yet the truth remains hidden and it seems as if an invisible hand is up there, tearing out the veil, and the sky is now filled with tiny cracks that are quickly repaired so that you can only see a shadow of the secret. Only you. Because I’m too busy giving in to my impulse, as I sit here, looking at you looking at the sky.
I forgot the cake. I run for it as fast as I can, determined not to waste time away from you. Time is precious at the moment. It has always been precious, yet its value has been increasingly evident lately.
I light the candles and then take a picture of the cake, with the camera I brought upon this roof on the spur of the moment. The camera is rather useless if I can’t take a photo of you and I’m not so out of mind to believe that I could. You blow and you blow and it’s as if the breeze has halted to test your strength. I blow the candles for both of us.
“Happy anniversary darling,” you say, still focused on the sky, as if you wait for another star to fall. As if that’s all you care about at the moment. It’s not that I mind. I’ve never doubted your intentions. Not out of blind trust or naivety, but because you earned it. Are you waiting for a star to carry you away? I wouldn’t be angry if you did. I have trusted you for so long that I have forgotten how it is not to trust you.
For a single moment, I drift away. It only takes a second to upload the picture of the cake. In virtual life, all goes on as usual. I upload pictures, check-in at beautiful restaurants, tagging your name, pretending you’re with me because in that world we still hang around having fun. It’s not on purpose or out of pretension. It’s because it’s my last chance at normality. If a world collapses, its reflection is doomed to last a little longer.
“Some of the stars we see up there are already dead,” you told me long ago, in an attempt to explain your stargazing habits. You found that fascinating: the reflection surviving the existence. Are ghosts only traveling light?
I turn your way and you have disappeared and I rise in panic at the thought that the light of your earlier days might have burnt out and I look for you. But then you appear again, your face slightly paler than before, your body transparent. However flawed or distorted, this ghost of you is still all I have left.
My younger self watches me from the corner like she always does, she frowns and stares, as if asking:
“Was that really what you wanted?”
And I nod because I was too young to know then and I watched the world through pink glasses. Yet now I know that this is all I ever wanted, to love the whole of you. Awkward moments included funny grimaces, unsuccessful jokes, in sickness and in health, all in the package. My younger self can’t know yet what true love is, yet I’m grown enough to be wiser. That little girl has seen so many films where the protagonists are all dressed up and live in big luxurious apartments or idyllic cottages or beach houses and she thinks that these are the necessary preconditions to nurture love.
I smile to comfort her, yet she walks away in disgust and she can’t know, yet that’s exactly what she longs for too, only she’s too young to realize.
I held your hand this afternoon when the doctor told me it’s a matter of hours. You half-opened your eyes and I wanted to scream, to ask you to stay with me, yet I remained silent, watching you concentrate on your final battle. And I feel as if I’m living in one of those dreams where I do things and walk around, only to realize later on that you weren’t by my side. And there comes a person, an irrelevant person, different each time I see the dream, to tell me how sad it is that we’re apart. And then the whole dream comes down to this, and begins to make sense, because I can’t recall the reason we parted and start thinking how wrong it is and then I see you by chance – it always happens accidentally – and I tell you that we should be together and you agree and then everything is alright again like a jigsaw falling into place.
And I always feared the moment. The moment I would wake up and I wouldn’t find you beside me. You live your fears again and again, in your head, in your nightmares and then you wake up relieved, until one day you don’t.
Your death has already happened in the near future. Or it may be happening at this moment. And our beautiful anniversary will transform into a sad one. It’s this moment again. Between impulse and control. Or the lack of it. I feel the tension rising, while my wish to fly high, to become the falling star that catches you and carries you away, becomes increasingly appealing and I can’t resist.
I can’t see the beauty, except through your eyes. What happens when they disappear?
There is no such thing as a happy ending; dreams are but unfinished nightmares.
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Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, from Athens, Greece. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in many journals, such as the Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish Review, Sunlight Press (Best Small Fictions 2019 nominee), Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn, Ellipsis Zine, Queen Mob's Tea House, Bending Genres, MoonPark Review, Litro and others.