The ash-silver river is rippling in the wind tonight. Soft ripples that bring me peace and comfort and happiness. They drift me away from my thoughts and worries and pull me to a brighter place. A nicer place. A place that’s been my destination for this whole ride.
When I’m riding down the ash-silver river, I think of you as the person you are alive, the bright, loving, selfless man. Always wearing your baggy, dirty green jeans and growing your chocolatey-brown hair all the way out to your waist. Doing anything you can to help society, help strangers, help the environment. Help me. I never think of the person you are now, dead, the person resembling sadness and tears and grieving and funeral bills. Those thoughts don’t exist on the ash-silver river.
When I ride down the ash-silver river, the whole world passes by me. Evergreen trees sprouting out of the mossy forest floor. Woodland creatures, from the shaky deer to the scurrying mouse, gazing out towards the glistening water. I can see anything from the ash-silver river.
Also riding down the ash-silver river is you. Your gaze is on me, but not just on me. It’s on everything around us. Recognizing and appreciating every single thing.
The stars are out over the ash-silver river tonight. Hundreds of stars, twinkling over our heads. The moon has risen to its peak in the sky, looking down over us with what seems like a sly expression.
You smile sweetly at me, the wind brushing your hair against your neck and upper arm. You offer me your hand, and I take it with a sense of loving pride. Together, we look out over the river as the current pushes us forward, down, down, down the ash-silver river.
“How are you doing?” I ask, looking up and staring into the jade green eyes I’ve obsessed over since the day I met you. “Are you lonely?”
You shake your head. “I’m not lonely, of course. I have you here with me.”
“Are you bored?” I’m getting worried that he is.
“No. You entertain me every day. You bring the fun into my life.” You give me a sideways glance. “Are you worried about me? I’ve told you many times, I’m okay.”
“Okay,” I concede. “Okay. I was just checking.” I resist the urge to delve deeper into more questions. I decide to enjoy the peace and quiet of the ash-silver river instead.
The ash-silver river is quiet, yet at the same time not quiet. I can’t hear the sounds of the outside world, the screams and the shouts and the everyday rising cacophony of life. I can hear myself. And I can hear you. These are the sounds I can’t hear anywhere else anymore, with all of these changes.
“Do you ever wonder what’s out there?” I ask wonderingly. “Beyond the stars, invisible to us. What we can only see through our imagination.”
“I don’t know,” you say, looking out. “I’ve always wanted to know.”
We stare out in silence as our small boat drifts down the ash-silver river. Through the world, through endless life. Through everything imaginable.
The ash-silver river gives out misty air. It seeps into our faces, coats our noses. It’s a distinct feeling, that mist. One I’ll never, ever forget. I lean my head down, wanting to feel it. You join me, gripping the boat and staring down, having the time of our lives.
I lean back and sit against the rim of the boat. You wrap your arms around my waist. I dip my toe into the ash-silver river, then immediately bring it back up, the water splash, splash, splashing. The ash-silver river is icily cold, but also warm in a way. Welcoming. Providing hospitality to all. I slowly dip my feet back in, feeling the running water pushing through them.
We sit together for an endlessly long time. I don’t know how long. The sky fades to a midnight blue, then to a purplish tint. The stars only get brighter and brighter.
The world continues to spin as we go down the ash-silver river. The Earth continues to orbit the sun. The bees still shove their way into the flowers, the trees continue to give us their oxygen. And we stay, watching the world continue on.
We stay, knowing we’re doing just as much as the bees and the Earth and the trees, being here for each other.
Then, suddenly, the ash-silver river comes to a stop. Reality flips around. Everything goes blurry. I scream and look at you, but you’re fading, fading, fading away until you’re gone.
Until you’re gone.
Tears rim my eyes as I wail for you, begging, begging, begging for you to come back. But you’re gone forever. Everything comes back into focus, but I’m by myself.
The ash-silver river is not what I believed it to be. It does not give me a break to see you again, the real you, the living you, not the you lying in your coffin, the you caught in a blazing fire.
The ash-silver river is still. Because this boat is not moving anymore. The peaceful ride is gone, along with you.
The ash-silver river isn’t the happy place I thought it was. The ash-silver river has tricked me.
The ash-silver river comes to an abrupt stop in the end, leaving me here, alone on this boat without you.
I quit trying to get you to come back. You’re lost to me.
You’re lost to me.
I step out of my boat and wade through the river, casting a longing glance up at the shining stars that are spreading their ashes over the water. I wonder what’s beyond those stars. Could it be… could it be… could it possibly be…
Animals are scurrying along the forested shores and banks. The water is rippling in the fresh, misty wind tonight, currents preparing to carry another soul down. It winks at me as I walk away.
The ash-silver river has fooled me.