Staring through a window, I didn’t see my reflection, but instead my corpse.
My chest caved in; my lungs sucked dry from misery. I watched my mother weep. She glimpsed at a monitor beside my cadaver, every beep determining my fate.
But I stood in a confining room, observing everything through a piece of glass. Darkness perpetuated, and behind me I saw only as far as the luminance projected from the window allowed. I’m going to die, right?
My mother spewed a mixture of lively sobs and chuckles. He showed signs of life, his bumbling arms attempting to move, heart racing faster than before.
Doctors and nurses stormed his room. They stressed and strained, trying everything they could. My heart never stopped pounding; I yearned the same for him. Clamping the hinges of the window, I prayed he would awaken, freeing me from gloomy solitude.
Yes, he awoke. But I never left the window. I blinked for what seemed a million times, my fingers rattling the glass until they slowly dropped by my sides.
* * *
Weeks passed. Him and I were indistinguishable, other than his knack for ungratefulness. He survived his last year of high school, never putting down a cigarette. As badly as I wanted to take the wheel, I knew the result. I had already tried, pinching the glass with my fingertips—or endeavoring to shatter it with my trembling fists—every steamy breath mocking my reality.
* * *
He moved up north, abandoning our mother. From years of imprisonment in darkness, the constant standing, my eyes ready to fall into perdition, and the obscure lack of hunger, thirst, or even rest: I knew I wasn’t human. Whatever deity constrained me to a room wanted me to watch. So, I did.
He served at a restaurant and used most of his pocketed cash to buy cheap cigarettes. Then suddenly, something marvelous occurred. As I watched him waste his life away, I received the opportunity to see someone kindle a flame in his heart. We met Anastasia—Ana for short.
Her spark gave rise to the grandest warmth. It was obvious: his smiling and sudden reserved demeanor—after harboring a life of apathy. We learned all about her. She studied psychology, and I always associated psychologists with assholes who dissected behavior, to make sense of abstruse actions. But that was never Ana. She picked nothing apart, but rather put it all together, completing our insipid puzzle. Our wonderful Ana, I touched the window gently, when will I come back? I am Prometheus; the flame is mine. The gods can amble off.
They loved each other, and I didn’t understand it. He never appeared complete, only less miserable. I wondered if she would love him more if he were better, if I were better. Is this some extreme case of multiple personality disorder? As I thought frantically, he remained complacent. Holding her back. Question: Who’s really the senseless one?
One day, Ana left us.
Then I came to.
* * *
Beholding blackness and abrupt glimpses of light, my head spun countless times. I kept my mind on Ana as I suffered torments of the unknown—the consumption of a voracious black hole—or so I imagined. I knew not to try to comprehend it. Death already proved not to be an option.
In a room I struggled, quickly leering about. Tall entities hovered over my body, and my eyes bulged after a quaint revelation. Forcing by the medical staff, I stood. The hospital appeared identical. It hit me more as soon as I ignored my mother. So, I hugged her, my IV dangling by our legs.
I told my mother everything. She seemed skeptical but happier we spoke for once. Everyone acknowledged my changes in attitude, and all I thought about was whether Ana would appreciate them, too. As soon as I left the hospital and finished high school, I searched for Ana.
I began taking courses at the university she attended, counting the days. I remembered the exact time I would meet her, and where. Gratefully, the restaurant remained.
Ana never showed. Every night I dined out and regularly glanced at the table where he met her. Nothing. I searched our university directory, but her name fled the pages. I tried again and again, as if the conception of an archive summoning my love back into actuality existed.
Later it dawned on me. I noticed subtle discrepancies in the restaurant. The employer wasn’t the same quirky bastard either. I recognized the details because it was where I had fallen in love. Nothing mattered but to be with Ana. That damn second-bastard took her away from me.
I must try again.
For my mother’s sake, my actions needed to appear accidental. As much as I wanted to pretend not to care, I couldn’t see her hurt again. She did not need to stand in that medical room again. Not for me.
I started my car and drove as fast as possible. Running lights, disregarding civilians, I visualized a wormhole, it serving as a catalyst for our moment. I’m going to die, right?
* * *
Death seemed more meaningless as I awakened anew. I scurried to the window, traces of hope spilling from the sweat glands of my fingers. I rubbed the hinges, relishing its texture. That’s it, my window. My eyes peered in all directions. I loved Ana, desperate to see her again, adamant to stare for lifetimes until I did.
The nebulous void manifested nothing, until a glimmer startled me. Something began to congeal from beyond the empty. Ana? Mother?
Once it formed, I saw only one thing: My face staring back at me. He cried.
And so did I.
This story was originally published in Scrutiny Journal and then reprinted in Agony Opera.