Kat's Expo Corner

A Terrible Thing To Be

You’re in love with her.

This is news to you, at first. It didn’t happen all at once. It built, slowly, every moment you spent with her: a rising tide that wrapped around your ankles and then your hips and then your chest and then it swallowed you completely. You were none the wiser to its advances until you looked at her one day and you were drowning, staring too hard at her worry-bitten lips and wondering how her arms would feel around you.

You, Lark Athlai, are in love with Lily Pond.

This is a terrible thing to be, because you are also dying. Not in an active way, but soon enough that to be with her would only break both of your hearts, and you need to save what remains of your spirit for the awful, unwanted struggle of continuing along with your truncated existence. To slip into despair now would be the end of you, and you aren’t allowing anything to be the end of you before you reach The End. Capitals and all.

So, you do what you do with everything too complicated for you to waste your numbered breaths on; you set it aside. You set her aside. You get one last good look at her and you tell yourself you’ve had your fill of looking. You tell yourself a lot of things. You tell yourself you don’t miss her, don’t pull out your phone sometimes just to stare at the messages she sends you, to scroll back through the logs with their jumbled timestamps and curt messages that you didn’t put as much thought into as you wish you had. You could fix that, but then again no you couldn’t, because if you had then it’d already be fixed.

You tell yourself that she doesn’t miss you, and that one hurts. After that you turn off your phone, and then you turn it back on and you block her. You delete all the pictures you have of her.

It isn’t personal. It’s just survival.

You, Lark Athlai, are very concerned with survival for someone who is sure they won’t live to see the new year.

(You unblock her a day later, and frantically dig through the recently deleted folder on your phone. You print the pictures and put them in a box under your bed, hating yourself for it and knowing you’d hate yourself more if you didn’t. You miss the time when you thought you knew everything. You miss the person you were, even when they’re right in front of you, because you can never go back the way you really want to go back. Back to a before that wasn’t a before, just a ‘then’ to your ‘now.’ You hate your now. You are the worst thing that ever happened to yourself. You are the best thing that ever happened to yourself. Reunions are hell.)

Despite the self-enforced distance, you think of her. In your quieter moments, between cleaning up messes in the past, between arranging everything that was already arranged when you got there the first time, between feeling the world spiral out from between your fingers as you lay on cool kitchen tiles. When you reach for the memories, they’re there. They’re always there. You hate yourself for reaching, and you hate yourself more for the relief it brings you.

You aren’t blind or stupid or as oblivious as you’d like other people to think, sometimes. In your memories, you can see the way she looks at you. You can see that your love isn’t- wasn’t, you remind yourself, wasn’t, past tense -one-sided. You may have pretended to look away when her eyes went soft around the edges, but you have so much more time to work with as compared to normal people, and no one to stop you from taking her in when the second hand had stopped ticking.

If you had been any less pressed for time, you could’ve had her. Maybe she would’ve made the offer herself, or accepted your request. If you were brave enough, you could’ve had her for however long of a time she’d relent to being yours. You don’t know if it would have worked. You don’t know if it would have lasted. You will never know, and you will take that not-knowing down into your grave.

You, Lark Athlai, are a coward.

You should be ashamed to wear your own face, and, in truth, you are. Your mind is fracturing apart under the stress. Your hands shake, now, when you aren’t holding them still or focusing them on a task. Old damage and old exhaustion and old terror mixing up cocktails in your nerve endings. Every emotion you have wears you thin, tires you out, feels like an old dollar store Halloween mask you’re putting on. You are preparing for your grand debut in the play that is “Lark Athlai Fucking Dies And No One Gives A Shit. The World Keeps Turning. The Timeline Marches On.”

It’s a working title. LAFDANOGAS-TWKT-TTMO is a hell of an acronym. It isn’t easy on the eyes. Neither are you, these days.

It is also not strictly true. The title, you mean. You’ve made friends along your travels, because you were lonely and they were there and you would’ve started falling apart a lot sooner without the company. Most of those friends will have abandoned you by now, or stopped thinking about you, or be otherwise unable to reach you by virtue of time travel being a hell of a getaway car, but Lily… she’s stubborn. You did always like that in a- well, in anything other than yourself.

It gets harder to deny your feelings every day. The love builds up inside of you with nowhere to go until you finally reach a point where the switch flips and it’s easy to claim that too much time has passed for you to go crawling back to her.

It turns out that the love likes to escape as tears, and you let yourself cry until you feel like you could float away on the breeze. Until you’re wrung out and dry, somewhere beyond exhausted and beyond sad, like your grief is tired of being contained in a human-shaped package.

Maybe you are also tired of being contained in a human-shaped package. Maybe it will be a relief, to die. To be at peace for once.

You have to tell yourself that, or you’ll lay down and stop before you’ve done all you need to do. Sometimes you wish you were blind and stupid and oblivious. It might make things easier.

(Nothing makes it easier. Nothing ever makes it easier. You have nothing to rage against but yourself, and doing that helps no one, it just leaves you and you and you even more tired and sad and angry. You are so god damn tired. You could sleep forever and still ask for five more minutes.)

When The End comes you tell yourself you are prepared. You go to it willingly, lamb to the slaughter. You go to it angrily, a tiger loosed from its cage. You go to it deaf and blind to the pleading from the you that doesn’t want to die.

You tell yourself you are prepared for anything.

You are not prepared to live.

You are not prepared for her to come to you, even though you asked her to. You laid upon her shoulders a request for a terrible favor. You asked Lily Pond to collect your corpse. You don’t know which of you is more surprised to find Lark Athlai still alive and breathing as the clock strikes midnight and the curtains fall.

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