On-Again, Off-Again

A word a minute. Then the
slightest glint of light. Yes!

A cascading waterfall.
We do not expect it to end.

Rolling into gold,
we ascend the peak.
Laughter, a beautiful sky,
great scenery –

yes, we are glorious!

RING!!! Is it from your mum?
Oh, don’t you worry.
You gotta pick it up before it stops.

Footsteps crunch to a halt.
The other stops, uncertain of the direction,
starts fiddling with her smartphone,
not preferring to converse
with the gods of boredom.

“Um, yes, mum. No, mum. Okay.”

He bites his lips.

We regain our footing,
but struggle to recall.

“Oh, where were we…?”

Then the first stutter of “um”
punctures the first hole
into this newly created blankness;
scattering hurriedly groped words
and fracturing half-swallowed reasons,

leaving not even the slightest inch
of an escape route
from a crumbling mountain.

Grasping at a piece of rock,
she tries to cling to the peak.

The light is a pinprick,
but this pinprick still has the ability
to burn its purple shadow
into her retinas.

A last, desperate moment
could turn this all around –

“Oh…yeah! How’s your mum, by the way?”

His face breaks
into a cheerful, apologetic smile.
She sighs with relief. Then, she
notices the wrinkles that pull
at the corner of his eyes.
Cheerful blue wildflowers
that sprang in the deep grass.

They definitely weren’t there last week.

Or had she not looked closely enough?

She winces.

“I’m so sorry, I gotta leave right now…
I can’t leave her like this…
well, you know how she is, don’t you?

His eyes start to make the quick detour.
She bites her lips. This had to happen again.
Weren’t they supposed to get off together?

She keeps a steady glance
on the route of his eyes,
noting their mercurial steps
that land on bus number ‘49’.

His eyes quickly look up, sensing
her pervasive presence. Eyes meet.
Bright cornflower blue, middling arabica coffee.
Why won’t you wait for me?

She opens her left hand.
A piece of rock sits in her palm.

“Jackie, when will you ever have enough time for me?”

His smile falters.
A baby boy, all tear-streaked face
and chocolate smeared fingers
smiles back at him.
The mother, bearing the brunt
of flesh, nods curtly back in return.

I turn back, to look at the boy –

All that unspent youth.
The potential of a promise,
the burden of a promise…

Why can’t he see what I see?

“I’m so sorry, Tina. Just this once!
I’m trying to find a caregiver
for her. But you know how it’s so difficult
to look for a good one…”

We stare at the pieces of rubble
before us. The message is clear.

Providence holds up her crown of thorns.

© Zelda Reville


 

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