Inspirational picture borrowed from Pinterest. Source.
Angel and Firebird
It’s the middle of the night, and I wake up with his image burned into my retinas, like always when I’ve dreamt about him. In my dreams, he’s smiling at me, with eyes sparklier than sapphires and the rye blond hair messed up and adorable. All I want to do is reach out and take the hand he holds out for me. Follow him wherever he wants to go.
I roll over on my stomach and bury my wet cheeks in the pillow and inhale, as if hoping his scent will still linger after all this time. I remind my foolish heart that it’s impossible and it cracks open in my chest and poisons my bloodstream with sorrow.
Five years ago today, I lost him forever. My soul mate, best friend, my reason for living. When he was taken away from me, he brought all my joy with him and I don’t think I’ve smiled once since.
I will never forget that day. It was his twentieth birthday and our hometown arranged its first ever Pride parade. We were planning to attend. Of course, we were; we were young and in love and wanted to scream it from the rooftops to anyone willing to listen.
I wore a rainbow T-shirt, but he was much braver and threw off his top and put on a pair of angel wings. “You always say I’m your angel,” he said, and my heart swelled so much I was afraid it would burst out of my chest. He was more beautiful than ever and I wanted to drag him back home and run my hands all over his silky smooth chest and make love to him while he wore his wings.
I didn’t. Maybe my life would be different if I had.
Throwing off the covers, I stumble into the bathroom and splash cold water on my face. I stare at myself in the mirror. My eyes are dull and puffy and I’m so pale I’m almost translucent. A ghost would look tanned next to me. Even my hair has lost its will to live and hangs listlessly over my forehead.
I won’t be able to go back to sleep, so I pull on a pair of sweatpants so worn they might disintegrate any second. They used to belong to him, and I feel closer to him when I wear them. I won’t ever throw them away.
I refuse to listen to everyone saying I need to move on and get rid of his stuff. Just the thought of it gives me a panic attack. I don’t have them nearly as frequently these days as I did in the beginning, but trying to imagine our place without his things is a sure way of triggering one.
“No,” I say out loud to the shadows lurking in the corner of our empty apartment. My apartment. Whatever.
The vivid image of him lingering in my brain erases the lines between reality and dream. I know it’s my place now. I do. I can even go full days without thinking about him. And then he shows up when I sleep. Sometimes he seems so real I can almost feel him spoon me in our bed. My bed.
I shake my head, trying to get rid of the cobwebs cluttering my mind. Grabbing his favorite throw blanket, I carry it to the living room and dump it on the couch before continuing to the kitchenette where I chug down a bottle of water. I dry my mouth with the back of my hand and stare out the window. It’s pitch black outside but sounds of people moving around outside in the hallway drift in through my front door. I scrunch my eyebrows together and glance at the clock on the wall. Three thirty. Are the neighbors having a party again?
A loud banging on my door, followed by a panicked “Fire!” makes me jump and my heart speeds up. “You in there, Phoenix? Get out, get out.” Hasty steps disappear from our apartment and the procedure is repeated next door.
The damned fire alarm must be broken again, but I’m frozen to the floor.
“Move, dammit,” I mutter and force my feet to walk to to the bedroom to get my phone and wallet. I grab a hoodie and hurry to the door. The stink of smoke finds its way into our home and I cough. As I reach for the handle, I remember something.
The photo album! I can’t leave without my pictures of him.
I run back to the living room to grab my most precious possession and press it tightly against my chest. I squeeze my eyes shut for a second, gathering courage…and I see him.
He’s reaching out his arm to me. Beckoning me to come to him with his index finger. Fly to me, Firebird, he laughs.
I’d forgotten he used to call me that. How he used to say my name was perfect because my hair looked like a raging fire.
I open my eyes, but he lingers. I hesitate. If I stay, I can finally be with him again.
My gaze flits between his blanket on the couch and the door. The echo of my neighbor’s frightened “Get out, get out” rings in my mind, but his voice is clearer. Closer. As if he’s standing next to me, whispering in my ears.
Thick smoke wells through the gaps around the door, and the window for me to escape narrows. It’s now or never. Muted sirens approach in the distance. Help is on the way.
I love you forever, Firebird.
Filled with a calm I haven’t felt in years, I walk over to the couch and curl into a ball underneath his blanket. It’s the same color blue as his eyes, and maybe, just maybe, if I try hard enough, I can evoke his scent. It was rainy days in spring, laughter, and love.
More than anything, it was love.
A cough racks my chest and it’s getting harder to breathe.
I close my eyes.
His last moments on earth was a wonderful summer day, and we walked the Pride parade hand in hand. Everyone looked at him and his snow-white wings and I was so proud that he’d chosen me. That he loved me. He turned his head and smiled at me. The sun shone brightly in the sky, creating a halo around his head. For the longest time, I thought it had been a sign. That maybe God called my angel home, that he was too good for this world.
Our perfect day was destroyed when we were on our way home late the same evening and five people jumped us. They screamed obscenities at us. Rained punches on us. Kicked us. A boot to my stomach made me bend over and puke my guts out. The last thing I remember is my angel grabbing my hand. His lips moved, but even though I couldn’t hear his voice I knew what he was saying. I love you forever, Firebird. Again and again, until darkness overtook my world never to leave again.
When I woke up, he was dead.
I’m getting drowsy. Every breath is like inhaling fire and my eyes water. Is it the smoke or tears for him?
“I love you, my angel,” I mumble. I drift away.
When I open my eyes, he’s there. Just as I remember him. His smile is blinding and his eyes shiny with happiness and he’s wearing his wings.
“I’ve missed you so much, Firebird,” he says and cups my face with long, bony fingers. He feels so real. Like he’s actually here this time.
I lean closer to him. I’m desperate to feel his lips against mine. “I thought I’d never see you again,” I whisper as tears spill down my cheeks.
He wipes them away with his thumbs. “I’ve been waiting for you.” His words are balm to my wounded soul and I can breathe again. The darkness that has filled my chest for so long is gone, replaced with his light. His love.
“Don’t ever leave me again,” I plead.
“Never,” he promises, surges forward, and kisses me.