Yes. You promised. And yet here I am, as alone as I was before you came. You are gone and I wait like a fool for an end I swore to you I would not hasten. Please, darling, could you keep this one promise, could you do just this one thing for me? I asked so little of you while you were here and you know it. You owe me this. Please, don’t make me break my word to you by breaking yours to me. I can’t wait any longer.
I could not care less if my death should be ruled a murder or a suicide. It is merely a question of semantics; at the core they seem identical to me. After all, if I stay, if I let you wrap your lovely hands around my neck in the dark of some night, who is really to blame – you for your action or myself for my inaction? To whom should my death be attributed, and why should I care one way or another when I am gone? The beauty of that final moment is that we are together, conjoined in our shared sin and experiencing its climax as one. Your squeezing hands, my bruising skin, they are really not so different. Here, darling, take the last breath off my lips and keep it as your own. You may call it a trophy or a suicide note, I do not care.
It is very much like a ritual – the coins, the candles – and this brings him a sense of peace. He locks the front door. He walks clockwise through each room, starting in the kitchen. With one hand he anoints; with the other he lights the candles.
He arrives last at the bedroom, and upon entering he closes and locks the door. Within, only moonlight gilds his path, yet he would need no light at all to see in this place. He undresses in the dark, folding each article of clothing with care and setting them to one side. Naked, he walks to the right side of the bed and removes two silver coins from the nightstand. These he places gently on the closed eyelids of the man laying on the bed; in the moonlight they shine just enough that he seems to be alive.
Taking up the third coin, Tanim walks around to the left side of the bed. From the nightstand drawer he removes a revolver. He leans over and places a kiss on his companion’s cold lips, then lays down at his side. The coin he places on his own tongue before threading his fingers through Daren’s. With his left hand he raises the gun to his temple. For just a moment he closes his eyes and pretends the body at his side is still warm, the hand in his pulling away with characteristic disdain, and then he pulls the trigger.
Sometime later the first of the candles burns down to its base. As the wick sputters, a single spark lands on the gasoline-soaked carpet. Flames burst into life and follow the trail of fuel through each room, consuming as they go, until finally reaching the bedroom door.
They say spirits cannot cross running water; so what happens if someone dies in between? What if some person still closer to boy than man, desperately fleeing a life he escaped once and to which he won’t let himself be dragged back, plunges into the river? The river that crashes forth from the mountains, tumbles through the foothills, and slips with placid power through the town where this not-boy, not-man came of age? What if he relinquishes himself eagerly to the black water’s undertow just as his pursuer, this one more man than boy but still young enough to think love can fix anything, reaches the edge of the sandy bank? What if something happens – maybe he dives purposefully, maybe he slips, maybe the bank gives way under his weight – and suddenly the river has claimed two lives, washing the empty bodies far downstream from where they met their end? What if all this happened in the span of a breath; what would become of these doomed spirits? Trapped within the very water they cannot cross, would they be fated to remain in the river itself, caught forever within the icy current? Would their voices cry out in the thunder of the rapids, unable to ever find the peace they were also denied in life?
Sometimes life is not the better choice. Sometimes nothing can be done to save someone because there is nothing left to save. I am a walking corpse, and I will find a way to cut myself free from this rotting body eventually. To argue or pretend otherwise, or to offer me well-intentioned falsities, is a waste of time. Daren is gone. Nothing will change that fact. He will still be gone if a therapist gives me antidepressants to stave off the crushing sorrow. He will still be gone if my family has me committed so I cannot harm myself. He will still be gone whether I live another thirty years or die tomorrow. Given that immutable fact, what does any of it matter? He is dead and I am alone.
“Aren’t you going to tell me not to do anything drastic when you’re gone?”, I asked him once. He had shrugged and said, “I won’t give a shit what you do then.” I wonder if that’s true, though. Do you give a shit now? Can you, wherever you are? And if so, are you disappointed in me? I know I am. I used to wonder what I’d do after you were gone, whether I’d pick something flashy like jumping from the roof or something classic like hanging. Turns out I just went back to what I did best before I met you: killing myself slowly with alcohol and painkillers. Not really flashy or classic, I guess, so much as just pathetic. There’s no urge to do anything else, though, you know? I don’t have the energy to climb up to the roof. I don’t have the desire to decide which tie would make the best noose. I don’t even feel moved enough to take the whole bottle of pills and wash them down with a tumbler of Crown. I just keep getting drunk, getting high, getting lost, waiting for the morning I finally don’t wake up. Does that disappoint you? Were you secretly hoping I’d make some grand final gesture, or at least that I’d find it impossible to slip back into my old life so easily? Or do you still, even now, not give a shit what I do or how I do it?