“There is someone behind the treeline.”
I turn my head to look, but I know what to expect.
-“I am aware.”
-“What about her?”
-“What about her?”
I look my conversation partner in the eye. Briefly anyway, she still hasn’t budget from my position right smack in the middle of my weakest spot.
-“You’re still not going out.”
I shake my head and open my mouth, but she beats me to it.
“I know, you won’t repeat yourself. Yet here we are ag-“
-“It’s different this time.”
-“Oh? What changed?”
My glare deepens, and for the first time, I hold it on her as I continue.
-“I grew tired. Literally. Exhausted. Sore. Fear is such a draining emotion and drawing it out wore down my patience eventually. I stopped trying.”
A sarcastic scowl that effortlessly sparks a rage in my gut. A rage that I swallow.
-“Stopped trying, huh? Where were you when-“
-“Look… Who’s talking!”
Perhaps I was a fraction too late in steeling myself. Perhaps I was years late in letting this ball of hatred escape my throat. I shove her with all my might, and would do it again if that tree wasn’t blocking her violent fall. I so wanted her to fall.
“Can’t you see you’re the reason for all this? Can’t you see I won’t leave the safety of the darkness because you’re here with me? Just turning it will leave my back open to you, and I know what you’ll do because you’ve done it before. So here’s what changed- I might still be right here but not as your victim anymore. From now on, we’re playing this game my way, and you’re going to listen until you are where I was before, and you’ll finally walk away.”
-“You can’t do that. This forest is my doing. The trees grew from me, the roots embedded in me. Even that clearing-“ She points past me. “…is in spite of me. What will you do, outlive me? You need me. You need this-…”
I didn’t even have to cut her off, but I’m glad she at least shut up. It feels better now that I moved her from my Achilles heel, and the shade envelopes me in a comfort I haven’t felt in a long time. And things are quiet, eerily so. I let our senses do the speaking, and block those I don’t need. Closing my eyes, I focus on the gently rising glow of what seems a sunrise, but I know is simply the presence of something. Of someone.
Carefully whispered in my ear. She feels she is trespassing, but I let her. She doesn’t know better, and I’d do anything to keep her from knowing. My shadow too, keeps her lips pursed. A shoulder bumps into mine.
I know I’m hurting her, but I let it happen. My Magdalena, my golden calf. My Delilah. My weakness, fading in importance with a silent scream splitting my mind. It hurts me too, but I’m used to it. In fact, the fading ache gives rise to something new, a sunrise, a weight off my shoulders.
I carefully reach behind me and find myself overjoyed by the tangibility of this new someone, ignorantly battling centuries-old demons with her mere presence.
“Hey,” I offer back. “Welcome.” My fingers close and with gentle pressure, grasp on, cling quietly to keep her close in case she would ever choose to step back into the light, with my shaking self close by.