Romance American Drama

This story contains sensitive content


Trigger Warning: This story involves a terminal illness and may be unsuitable or triggering for some.


A gentle breeze ebbs and flows, licking at my skin like the eternal ocean which laps at its sandy shores. Instead of deadwood, an invisible sea of pregnant air brings me aromas: damp earth and rotting wood are its gifts. I sense in it the painful desire for rain as the humidity cries out for its deliverance from the saturated air, ready to embrace the earth and trees like an insatiable lover. Here I stand, forgotten like an unsent invitation, on some deific dresser-top as the tortured, tantric air clings to the only thing here that allows clinging: me. It hangs on me like a slip made of sea salt, rolling down the hard edges and soft valleys of my body.

It is the opposite of snow.

I breathe in deeply; as though I might bring the entirety of the ocean into my lungs. When I get to the end of my breath, I sense more air behind that, even, and suddenly I find myself wondering why I’m here. Why do I stand here, on this wooden pier miles from my home? Why do I stand alone, bare feet seared in the sand that has yet to understand the storm clouds gathering on the horizon?There can be only one reason, and it’s the old reason. It’s why everything happens—or doesn’t happen—or can’t happen.

It’s because of her.

And in that thought, she’s at it again, banging against my consciousness like that woodpecker in the old oak down on Chalchiuhtlatonal Street.

It’s always her and always the same.

I think of that time we first met. She is ephemeral to me and, while at the same time, tangible—both real and unreal. I don’t mean a ghost, as speakers would suggest at the darkened cemeteries in the dead of night, enclosed within wrought iron gates. I mean that when I reach for her in the span of my memories, she is never there, yet all the while, she still clings to me like the droplets that now make trail marks down my legs.

When I met her, she was mired in the distinctly non-lurid act of drinking water from a fountain. A recent rash of illnesses had turned me off of public water fountains, yet this beautiful soul was strong and unafraid. More than unafraid. She was soaking in concentration so profoundly deep that it kept her from seeing me, who stood only five feet away, entranced by her. She noticed me as a startled doe notices a hunter: with a start and a splash of water into her skin. That made her smile, and she wiped her salmon-colored lips.

“Hey,” she said, as casually as though I was someone she’d always known, matching the bone-deep knowledge I had that she’d always been there, and that I’d always been there, and we’d somehow always been destined for this moment.

“H-hi,” I inelegantly stuttered, which brought to mind the quote from the poem that I’d learned only earlier that year in college: “O for a beaker full of the warm South, Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene.”

Yes, I said that. And that brought her lips apart again, issuing from them a cross between a giggle and a laugh. She was a nightingale, and her titter a gift that she lay before me. I lapped it up, lounged in it, rooted through it, and lusted for more.

She turned quizzing eyes on me. She took me in, from top to bottom, and her smile changed into something else. Still a smile, but not a smile. It was the type of smile that hinted at more, a future and possibility.

There had been the possible, and then there hadn’t. We were inseparable for only a month, then she lost interest, or perhaps I did, or perhaps it was that we both did. I can never be sure because all I can usually remember is that first meeting and the nothing that came after. This is when I know I must flee again, before the storm arrives. The nothing lingers like a predator and stalks me. It reminds me that something happened here, something so horrible that I can’t face it.

I won’t try.

I am not ready.

Air presses against my skin, reminding me again of her touch, and I think for the smallest of seconds that, maybe today, I want to remember.

The wind gathers its force up, turning gentle breeze to frigid gust. I don’t want to remember what it was that stole us apart. I want to remember only hands, sweat, and kisses so deep that I forgot who I was. I want to remember being so interwoven with another human soul that the boundaries of our skins fell away, leaving only the intermingling of the glows of our auras.

Unbidden, another day springs into my mind.

It’s her again, telling me to remember. And this time, something gives. This time, my chest falls into my stomach, my tired mind is too defeated to fight, and this time, I am powerless before her.

She wasn’t smiling that day because…she’d gotten something. Some news, perhaps, that at that moment I couldn’t quite understand. It was something about her mind, perhaps the only thing about her more beautiful than her face, that wide southern nose, and those eyes that shone brown in the unforgiving sunlight. Her auburn hair hung down like seaweed in the humidity. I struggled to hear what it was she’d mouthed; only the waves made it impossible.

“What? I couldn’t hear,” I said, in what now seems like the most useless gesture and banal conversation that could ever have existed.

“Nothing,” her stoic mouth expressed.

“I want to know,” I told her. The heat forced us apart.

Even lovers must beware of the heat sometimes.

“I said…”

Whatever it was, she wouldn’t say it a third time. It was another week before the topic came up again, and this time, she hurled it at me like a spear.

“I’m dying from a brain tumor.”

I feel her confession in the air as an icy breeze that prickles the skin in the wake of the warmth that has fled me. The temperature has dropped, and I feel it chasing over my skin like a pack of iced rat claws. Towering, hate-filled clouds chase the sun away and bring hungry gusts that will strip flowering branches from their trees. The engorged heavens that sought their release will soon find it. The whipping wind and prickling rain will be upon me soon, but I’ll stand right here.

Because I remember all of her now.

And I want to remember forever this time. I want to remember everything about her, the caress of those lips on my own, the way that she drank me in and never let me out again. And the way she left the world still loving me. Even more than the water fountain, I want to remember that last moment when I looked into her eyes, she in mine, and we both declared our love knowing that it would be for the last time.

Lightning rips the sky apart.

The storm has issued its final warning. It means destroying the heat, dampness, and groping clutches of lovers everywhere.

We will stand.

This time, I will be here when it passes. And I will gather the fallen branches and the un-rivered fish and the ocean bounty that washes up the river instead of down as it should. I will be here, and as long as I am here, so shall she be. All of her, with all of me.

July 02, 2023 15:15

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Vid Weeks
14:33 Jul 13, 2023

It is a powerful, visual piece of storytelling, I certainly felt the storytellers emotion. I can't help feeling the tragedy would be more keenly felt if we had learnt a little more about her, been allowed to fall in love a little with her too.


Andrew Sweet
14:06 Jul 14, 2023

Thank you so much. I agree with you on that. I didn't know it was a love story until about halfway through, and something about the abruptness of the discovery toward the end bothered me but I couldn't figure it out. I think that's probably it. As the story stands, it's very deeply in the heart of the lonely lover, but we don't really get why. It would add another layer to let the lost love be a person rather than a far-off object.


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Frostie Whinery
03:37 Jul 10, 2023

Wow, what a visual, powerful story! Beautiful writing style, particularly “She was a nightingale, and her titter a gift that she lay before me. I lapped it up, lounged in it, rooted through it, and lusted for more.” There’s a cadence to it that I find enjoyable to read and often try to incorporate into my own writing. May I ask how you came up with the title and street name?


Andrew Sweet
00:12 Jul 11, 2023

Thank you for your kind words! Sure. "Chalchiuhtlatonal" is the Aztec God of water. I thought it fitting for two reasons: first, this scene is in Louisiana, and there are lots of Aztec street names, so I thought it'd be a good clue for the reader wrt the setting, and second, because this story is about change and loss and memory, all aspects which have been ascribed to water (the river of life and death, native American, the river Styx, others...). I thought it a fitting name. Of course, I wouldn't have gone to Aztec mythology probably if I...


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