Nineteen ninety-something. A writhing sea of black leather and torn denim. A place people come to forget. Two young men, older than they look, older than themselves, remember...
He arrives empty-handed, but he carries his past in his eyes. His past, yours, theirs, everyone's but mine. With a nod of recognition, I welcome him by name. "Been a while, Time."
He returns the gesture. "Busy days, Death. Busy days."
We face each other, a foot apart, watching, catching up silently at first. We used to need words for this, but not anymore. We've been around each other enough by now just to know, to see everything. Sometimes it feels like we're the only ones who really see each other. Inevitable and invisible. They look at anything but us. We have those kind of faces. The face of a clock, the face of the light they see at the end. Or what they imagine is the end. Whatever.
It's unusual for us both to arrive at once though and we both know what it means when we do. Still, there's an opportunity for more talk because there always is. We do it out loud now because no matter how often we end up here, no matter how separate we are from all of this, we still try to be like them in some small ways. We still try to pretend, even if only to ourselves.
"I'm Noah," I tell him, and he gets it immediately.
"Lived to be nine hundred and fifty, according to that one book."
"Yeah. Irony had a hand in choosing it."
He rolls his eyes, remembering. "How is Irony these days?"
"How she always is, you know, complicated, hard to pin down. What did you get?"
"Chase. Feels appropriate. Funny how different words get attached to things, how that changes."
There's one almost ready here and we both feel it. This is going to be a tough one. Part of me wants to be there early, to stand close by, arms outstretched, until. Another part of me knows there's no point. He knows too.
"Just wait," he says.
"I hate these ones."
"Me too, sweetness, me too. But at least the music's good." He looks around, appraising, appreciating. "And the scenery's not bad either."
"I can't think of them like that anymore. I used to be able to, but it got too fucked up. We keep coming back and they don't."
"You're stunning again though," he says, "No matter what face you get, you're always fucking stunning."
"Makes it easier, I guess."
"For them. They get to see what they need to see, when it happens. You're not so bad yourself."
"I know, right?"
We stop talking again for a bit, letting it all sink in, all the recognition, all the meaning and the understanding and the cold necessity. I don't know what it would look like to anyone else, if they were looking, which they aren't. They don't see us in the corner, his back against the sweating wall, me leaning into him, arms around each other, barely inches between our unblinking eyes.
He looks away for a second and tilts his head into the space over my shoulder. "Don't look now," he says, "but that's her."
And I feel it. The shiver sweeps across the back of my neck, under the collar of my jacket, settling into leather-wrapped vertebrae. I always feel it there. No matter what, that's where it lands. I wait a bit, then look round and there she is. What's left of my heart trails itself inside out. "She's so young."
YOU ARE READING
Radiant Brevity | A Flash Fiction CollectionShort Story
✒️ An ongoing collection of dark and introspective flash fiction. 🧾 It's labelled Completed because, at any given time, it is complete. But also, it's added to continually. It is what it is. 📚 There's a list of all the stories on the Contents page...