A strange sound of thunder crashed through the peaceful cerulean sky. I braced for impact, expecting to see the terrible ribbon of lightning that was guaranteed to follow. I waited and waited, and was finally greeted by a light spray of rain.
“Oh great,” I muttered to myself, “you just had to forget your umbrella.” The thunder continued, growing more and more violent and ominous, a complete contrast to the peaceful street bustling with unfamiliar faces. No one seemed disturbed by the assault. Passersby kept their lighthearted pace, birds manoeuvred through the rain like trained pilots, and store owners didn’t budge to move their outdoor furniture. The storm itself was a mere mirage to them all; and I couldn’t help but feel mesmerised by the scene until the storm picked up and the rain became shards of glass cutting into my skin, making me wince and washing me over with a terrible dread.
I ran to the nearest restaurant, in hopes to find safety, coffee and breakfast; and to my surprise, the scene around me remain undisturbed. “This is what you get venturing too far off Alice,” I joked with myself as I ordered a coffee.
I was several blocks away from my neighbourhood but the buildings and sights were nothing too new or too out of place from the usual suburban neighbourhoods. A bookstore replaced by a coffee shop. A bank replaced by a Walgreens. Same landscape, different mapping. And, although I was unfamiliar to this area, I felt connected to it somehow. There was an invisible ribbon that was tied to this place and my heart was flooded with love and peace for the quaint space.
I stood outside by the restaurant sipping my coffee, lulled by the sounds of the deadly rain falling on people nonchalantly walking the street, when my name was heard faintly.
“Alice….please….” The voice trailed off.
“Alice…..stay with me…..” The voice continued.
The voice almost melted with the rain, which made it harder and harder for me to identify. I tried scanning the street but the rain was thick enough to be a smokescreen, masking the faces and bodies of pedestrians strolling along. I waited for the voice to call my name again but nothing. Maybe there was an extra “kick” in my coffee that had me hearing things, possibly the voices of ghosts long passed.
I figured it would be best to cut my little adventure short and find the quickest way home. I bowed my head and closed my eyes slightly as I stepped back out into the rain. I was expecting its cold grip, but instead I felt nothing. Surprised, I looked up and saw…him. There he was my ex, Harvey, standing over me smiling with an umbrella in tow.
“Harvey….I thought….but you’re dead…” My body froze. It was him, “Danger Prone” Harvey, the love of my life whom I hadn’t seen for over a year. Harvey reminded me of a mahogany tree; extremely tall, kissed by the sun, riddled with scars from the wear and tear of life, sturdy and reliable as can be and topped off with a mop of ruffled hair that crowned the frame of his face.
“Dead? Wow, I mean I did leave suddenly but that’s harsh, even for you,” he joked.
Dumbstruck. I was absolutely dumbstruck. My hands, having a mind of its own, reached out to touch his wet cheek. Using his free hand, he cupped my hand into his, brought it to his lips and kissed it gently. My heart skipped several beats, the blood in my body raced, my breath shortened. He was real! He was alive and with me! My mind was reeling with questions, so much to the point that I pulled my hand away and cradled my head. I had to stop the typhoon of thoughts that thrashed through my brain.
“It’s okay,” he assured, “spend the day with me and it’ll make sense.” He was my Aladdin, and almost on cue he outstretched his hand and smirked, “Do you trust me?”
I took his hand. I did trust him. He was my life, my world. He left but maybe this was the closure I needed. The storm cleared up; the thunder, like myself, surrendered to his voice; and, the rain evaporated as suddenly as it appeared.
People were still walking, life was still existing, but time was standing still for me. I scanned the neighbourhood, and realised that the familiarity that I felt was because of him. This was his neighbourhood! My mind had somehow subconsciously led me here, to where he lived…to find him? Was this the first time in over year that I had thought to visit here? Had there never been a time when I retraced my steps to his doorstep in search of him? I searched within myself for the answer but nothing revealed itself. I felt confused, overwhelmed and slightly disappointed.
“You think too much you know that.”
Harvey broke the chainsaw thoughts that were severing my peace of mind and mended it with his smile. Grabbing my hand, he pulled me from the restaurant into the direction of the street— the actual street. Half laughing, half screaming we bobbed and weaved through oncoming cars and motorbikes until we had safely crossed over.
“I swear, you’re trying to kill me,” I panted between breaths and laughter.
His bushy eyebrows frowned slightly for a second before wiping the beads of sweat off my face.
“I want to take you someplace.”
“Harvey, where have you been? You can’t just appear out of nowhere and then say you’re going to take me someplace,” I began to argue. My body felt like an act from Cirque de Soleil, doing somersaults and other gymnastic feats due to his presence, while logic remained the skeptic audience. I had to know where he went.
He ignored me. Instead, he grabbed my arm and dragged me to the corner where his black BRZ Coupe was parked.
“I see you kept the death trap,” I joked. Harvey had insisted on purchasing a used coupe that he took his time to refurbish, driving it with or without working lights, gauges or brakes.
“It’s almost fixed,” he shrugged, half embarrassed.
He opened the doors, threw the umbrella in the back, and like prince charming bowed with a playful boast, “Your chariot awaits milady.”
I couldn’t control the laugh that escaped my lips. There was a beauty to Harvey, even with his scars and burly exterior. He was the sweetest; daring and bold and filled with so much life. I couldn’t help but follow along like a zombie to his wishes.
“Sure,” my voice imitating tension, “but only if you tell me where you’re taking me.”
“I’m taking you to see the lights.”
We drove in silence.
The road seemed endless with trees blending into each other like a watercolour canvas. The sun seemed to be frozen between the sky and earth, a never-ending sunset; not quite dipping beneath the earth but not quite postured in the sky, creating rays of deep reds, oranges and purples. Music played through the radio but blended into the scenery. The only fixed state was Harvey as he made narrow turns around the winding corners, eyes fixated on the road and deep in thought.
Normally, I would’ve screamed or yelped at his reckless driving but I couldn’t stop staring at his profile. He was serious, so lost in thought that I felt like he was drowning in them. I contemplated being a life vest to save him, but I was nervous myself. I had so many questions, so many feelings. And the longer we drove, the more everything felt like a memory.
We took a wicked turn, grazing the barracks of the road, before meeting a new scenery of a shore. We were going uphill, maybe to the end of the city?
His words came out almost like a whisper.
“For endangering our lives just now? Yeah, you should be,” I teased.
Something was wrong. Harvey wasn’t this quiet. He would’ve swerved the car once more or maybe stop abruptly to scare me. But this time he seemed lost, in a trance, following a script that only he knew the ending to.
“Harvey, are you—”
“Remember the last time we drove up here,” he interjected.
The last time? There was no last time. We hadn’t taken this road before as far as I knew; but as we continued to drive, the blurry scenery became more in focus, each tree becoming more distinct to my right, and the waves more boisterous to our left.
“I wanted to take you to the lights because I love you. They’re beautiful. I don’t want you to keep doing this to yourself Alice. This isn’t a life worth living.”
“What are you talking about Harvey?”
“I know it’s selfish, but I want you to come with me. I always want you with me, but maybe….maybe you don’t want to be with me.” His voice was agitated, his fingers curled tighter to the steering wheel. The car jolted forward slightly, increasing in speed.
“Harvey, slow down.”
“Do you want to see the lights with me? Do you want to go with me? Please say yes Alice, it kills me every time you say no.”
“Harvey, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Let’s pull over and talk about this.” My heart started racing. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead and I felt the goosebumps rear their heads under the thin layer of my cocoa skin.
“I’m such a fool. I wanted to marry you, you know. I had it all planned out,” he started with a melancholy chuckle, “I would take you to the hill at sunset. The ring was— is in my pocket. I wanted you to see it shimmer with the sun. But I wasn’t going to ask, not officially ask, until we stopped.”
The car sped up. My heart was racing. I saw a glint from the corner of my eye and finally noticed the ring on his pinky. It shimmered against the backdrop of the water; and for some reason, both joy and dread beat upon my heart.
“Yes, Harvey, I’ll marry you. Just slow down. Or at least for God's sake, put on your seatbelt,” I screamed over the engine. Everything started to speed up and I swallowed my spit, trying not to barf. Harvey stared at me, tears falling from his face, “I love you so much Alice.”
“I love you too, Harvey.”
“Then come to the lights with me. Be with me.”
My heart winced. My head burned. Memories crashed my brain. We had taken this road before. This was in fact a memory, my memory. But Harvey wasn’t this upset; he was nervous, chuckling like a kid hyped up on sugar, fumbling with his hands trying to put the ring on his finger. He hadn’t seen the last curve that took us to hill overlooking the sea. He hadn’t seen it. And, he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt.
“Harvey,” I whisper, “you’re dead aren’t you? Am I?
“Will you see the lights with me Alice?”
That was his only answer, but it gave me what I needed. Tears poured from my face in uncontrollable sobs with Harvey following suit.
“I love you so much Alice and I understand if you don’t want to stay with me but please, think about it. I hate losing you like this,” he voice trailed off.
We were going to die.
“Will you see the lights with me? They’re just up the hill.”
“No Harvey,” I screamed, “this doesn’t make sense. No, I love you but I can’t. I just can’t.”
His face disappeared between his chest and hair for a moment before he remerged as his usual self. The car seemed to slow down but the uneasiness in my soul refused to leave.
“Alice,” he started, fumbling with the ring on his pinky, “you’re my world. You’re bright and beautiful and if I could I would give you the moon and the stars.”
“Harvey, what are you doing right now?”
“You’ll see,” he beamed, “we’re almost there.” He stared at me, his eyes filled with so much hope and love. This was the Harvey I knew, the Harvey that was as sincere as he was reckless.
“I am,” he laughed.
“No, I mean on the road. You’re not wearing your seatbelt and I don’t want us to crash.”
“Oh come on! You’re my good luck charm there’s no way I could—”
The sound of the car hitting against the barracks was like thunder and proceeded with other ominous rumbles as the car went spiralling down the hill into the ocean. Harvey tried to grab my hand but kept missing from the sudden jerks and pulls of the vehicle.
Sprays from the ocean could be felt as we continued closer and closer to the sea. Our bodies thrashed about into the car until we were stopped by a huge boulder that sat on the shore. Harvey’s body flew through the front window, onto the shore. The shards of glass pierced my skin as I cried in pain for myself and my love. The waves continued to splash into the boulder, adding literal salt to my wounds and slowly pulling Harvey away from me, with me being unable to save him due to the seatbelt that held me hostage.
“Alice….please….” The voice trailed off.
“Alice…..stay with me…..” The voice continued.
It was the voices of paramedics. There were lights flashing and I saw myself being carried into an ambulance while Harvey’s body was encased in a black bag.
A strange sound of thunder crashed through the peaceful cerulean sky. I braced for impact, expecting to see the terrible ribbon of lightning that was guaranteed to follow. I waited and waited, and was finally greeted by a light spray of rain. The rain felt like shards of glass piercing into my skin; but, before I was able to run for cover, an umbrella miraculously sheltered me. I turned to thank the kind stranger and was shocked to see who it was. There he was, my ex Harvey, standing over me smiling with an umbrella in tow.
“Harvey….I thought….but you’re dead…” My voice trailed off, dumbstruck from seeing him for the first time since over a year.
“Dead? Wow, I mean I did leave suddenly but that’s harsh, even for you,” he joked. Suddenly gripping my hand he stared into my eyes deeply and said, “I want to show you some lights, will you come with me?”
Still in shock, I allowed myself to be led by him across the street as the storm cleared up; the thunder, like myself, surrendered to his voice, and the rain evaporated as suddenly as it appeared.