Song Inspiration: En Ésta No, by Sin Bandera.
There was little of him left. The weight loss, rather pronounced in the last few months was part of it, the missing perennial fingertip extensions that had previously been his cigarettes were another, but something else had changed.
He had changed what his definition of recklessness was. Now, extreme pursuits dominated his life, searching for exhaustion, pain, or the nothingness offered by his dalliances with painkillers to feel something or nothing, depending on what he needed most.
It had been different. He used to define his heart as reckless, to indicate how far beyond fearless he felt in the pursuit of love. He no longer pursued it. And it showed. The former romantic in any group of friends, was now like a recently extinguished candle. Still vaguely warm, but without fire, without light, as if the latest gust had managed to extinguish the flame of hope that had sustained him through bad relationships, breakups, years alone.
It used to be about being willing to get on a plane to talk to someone, maybe for the last time, or packing up his life to be with the one he had been certain was The One. Now it was surfing bigger waves, pushing his body to the limits of its endurance, with little regard for safety, in a blind pursuit of feeling something that didn’t have to do with her.
“Maybe in another life…” she had trailed off as she had walked out of his apartment. It wasn’t the first time that she had said it to him. They had dreamt of meeting younger, before the others in their lives had occupied their younger years. They had said it as part of a daydream of marriage and parenthood together, of having shared the good days that preceded their meeting, of having avoided the bad ones.
Weeks went by with him not telling anyone, not his family, not his closest friends. He knew that as soon as the words had crossed his lips that it would become real, irreversible. He had hoped that by keeping it in, she might change her mind, that she would come to her senses, and see that together they were better. As individuals, as a couple, as workers, as parents, as family.
She never did.
In time, he made the phone calls he had long dreaded, spilling his awful secret into a headset, or on luckier days, ruining the mood at family dinners she would no longer attend.
“What are you going to do?” or some version thereof was always the response. Having proven himself to be the hopeless romantic, they all expected him to make the grand gesture, even if doomed to failure, to get her back.
“I don’t know,” he would sheepishly admit, for the first time in his life fear getting the upper hand in the battle with love.
She had chosen fear over love, a choice he had always avoided, even despised. But now, the comfort of his loneliness presented a welcome alternative to the uncertainty that lay ahead of him, were he to fulfill the actions of the person that he was typecast as, by those who knew him best. It was just easier to just hunker down and just miss her, than to be faced with another rejection, another wave of crushing heartache, for which he felt insufficiently prepared. He gasped the first time he thought that he had already seen her last smile, felt their last kiss, touched her for the last time. That they would not walk through the world, and life, together.
“Maybe in another life…In this one, no” he thought, wistfully, one last time.
He willed himself to suppress the love for her, the love she had grown and earned by being more than he had ever dared to dream of finding in a single person. He was going to choose the safety offered by fear, just as she had. And he was not going to think about it.
Surfing was something that he had tried on a business trip to Hawaii, having been enchanted by a gorgeous woman surfing at the break of dawn. Trying it, he had found it to be just as magical as she had described it, and although living a short distance from the beach kept it from becoming a daily activity, he now raced to the waves every chance he got.
The winter storms brought surf warnings that he promptly ignored. His improving form and newly found physical recklessness propelled him beyond the breakwaters, and into the higher waves. Multiple attempts at riding one of the twenty-footers that were hitting the shore ended in awkward faceplants into the water, dangerously close to the rocks that lined the left side of the beach.
With each attempt, his desperation grew, as this was no longer the spiritual oneness with the sea that the beautiful Hawaiian had talked about. No, this was about killing demons, or himself; something had to be slain that morning.
As the sun fully rose from behind the mountain to the east, he finally found himself atop a wave, riding it as if his upbringing in Kansas has done nothing but prepare him for this moment, as if he were born atop a surfboard. He rode the wave closer to shore, thrilled at the awesome power of nature, and then….
Crack! The board splitting into pieces as the wave bounced him on the rocks was the last thing he heard before blacking out.
And now she was next to him. She was kissing him, filling his mouth with her tongue, and his soul with her love. It was like a vignette of their happiest days, and their dreams. A curly-haired little girl, walking between them, holding their hands as they lifted her forward, a gleeful squeal accompanying each of her parentally-propelled leaps through space. The Northern Lights overhead, waves of iridescence washing over them as if the heavens has opened a portal, filling the sky with color just for them. Holding hands at the right moment, of the right song, at a concert. The sunlight streaking across her face on a Saturday morning, a smile on her lips as she felt him climax inside of her. The smile in her eyed as his hand caressed her cheek at bedtime.
He awoke to a dark room, and quickly deciphered he was in the hospital. He felt excruciating pain on his left leg, and pressed the nurse call button in hope of relief.
“You should not be feeling any pain!” the nurse explained, looking at the massive doses of morphine noted on his chart.
“I was on painkillers before this. Would that make a difference?” he sheepishly asked.
“I’ll have to get the doctor, because you are near the limit as it is,” was the nurse’s atonal response.
He returned with a syringe, injected it into the left IV bag, and looked at Tom, saying, “OK, you should go to sleep…” before Tom had a chance to ask what had happened.
The morphine brought him back to his sweet dream. Once again, in this life, or the one he was dreaming of, she was there holding his hand, laughing with him as they people watched in a seaside cafe in Italy.. She was even more beautiful than he remembered, and he remembered her as being pretty beautiful.
PAIN! THat’s what brought him out of it. He tried to open his eyes only to be blinded by a bright light shining directly into them. He could not breath, and curiosity forced him to slowly squint into the light. The pain was slowly abating, and he felt himself getting lighter in the bed.
He could not, however, move his body, as if the thoughts in his head were no longer connected to his physical being. He opened his eyes slightly more, and could see two silhouettes, both female. One might have even been hers. The light grew dimmer, and that silhouette got closer, until her face was over his. That same smile, those gorgeous brown almond-shaped eyes. Was this that other life? As he was losing consciousness he was not sure if he was still daydreaming, dead, or had managed to hop to a parallel universe where their love story had not only started, but continued. He didn’t care. His reckless heart beat once more, in this life.