Of Tethers and Tears
Whether her smile enchants or haunts him, he doesn’t really know. All he knows is that there is this eerie kind of warmth enveloping his chest whenever he tries to dredge up the smile from the piles of black-and-white scenes filling up his memory bank. But when he sees the smile in person, an unusual coldness slithers up his spine, like a snake that can kill him in one icy, poisonous bite. It gives him the creeps, but at the same time, he likes it.
Sometimes he wonders if she notices his tensing up whenever he comes up the counter, a 5-inch vinyl record in hand.
“Belle and Sebastian,” she says one time through the upturned corner of her lips, sliding The Boy with the Arab Strap into a plastic bag. “They sound so much like The Smiths, don’t you think? A tad too twee perhaps, but it’s obvious they love Morrissey.”
He can only nod stupidly at her. She tilts her head to the side and, like she always does, flashes a sad sort of smile at something behind him. And like he always does, he looks over his shoulder, only to find nothing but the cover of new releases glinting under the fluorescents. He shrugs and goes out the store, feeling both haunted and enchanted...again.
She likes to think of herself as some kind of a seamstress. Every time he rips a part of her heart open with a new wound—by saying a word as blunt as a blade, or by not speaking at all when she wants him to—she can always find a way to stitch it together into a new, prettier shape. Sometimes she thinks it drives him crazy. Sometimes it drives her crazy, too, but it’s the only way she survives.
She waits until the last note of the door chime makes peace with the air before she acknowledges his presence.
“He left again with a Belle and Sebastian record,” she says to him matter-of-factly. Her eyes shine brightly, but they cannot veil her pain. “Won’t you follow him? I bet he’s going to give it to you, like all the previous records he’s bought.”
She watches as he rakes his fingers through his hair and bites his lower lip. Then he says, without any tinge of accusation, “He loves you.”
“Maybe not,” she shrugs. She attempts to give him a genuine smile, but it crumbles away, giving way to a lonely, upturned frown. She hates it when he looks at her like that, his eyes brimming with sadness that will never spill.
“And here we go again,” he says through a mirthless laugh. “Please. Spare me all the pain. I can’t feel them anymore.”
“I don’t want to hear it.”
He drifts out of the store, perhaps to follow Clark, leaving a new cut across her heart. Like he always does. She’ll just stitch it together later, in bed tonight, when she prays for a miracle to happen. She wipes away her tears; she’ll pray for him to love her back, even when their worlds can’t merge anymore.
“She knows all this stuff about Belle and Sebastian. Every time I buy new singles, she says something new about them. I’m so dumb I can’t understand a word she’s saying, but you? I bet you’ll love talking to her.”
Clark puts the record down on the grass. Josh hovers behind him, shaking his head as if to sarcastically say, you have no idea. He crouches beside his friend and watches how he lazily traces the carved letters on the stone. He fights the urge to touch his fingers.
“Dude,” Clark breathes. “I think I love her.”
“I know,” Josh replies, his voice a ghostly twin of silence. “And I love you.”
He doesn’t regret that he’s not able to admit it when he’s still alive, that he will always be unheard now even if he shouts it. What’s the point? Clark will never reciprocate it anyway. Sometimes the fact that Clark can’t seem to get over his death gives him fleeting happiness, but it’s wrong, and selfish, and delusive. It’s ridiculous, but he still wants him despite all these thoughts…
“You know,” Clark speaks, his fingers still on Josh’s name on the gravestone, “sometimes I wish you never left. I mean, I kinda miss us hanging out. And you can help me with her, right? You'll know what to do. It drives me nuts, not knowing what to do.”
“I wish,” Josh mutters sadly, inaudibly. “I have to let go. Damn, I don’t even have anything to hold on to about us, right? But yeah, I wish I know what to do. With you, and with myself. Sometimes I wish I just vanish so you two can work it out. But you…I don’t know. You tether me here. I can’t go away from you. And Viola—damn psychic, she pushes me to you. Even though…”
Even though she loves me.
And with that, he knows that the three of them are at an impasse.
A/N: This is one of the fragments from my story graveyard, a folder in my laptop that contains stories I meant to write as something longer (i.e. novels) but I abandoned when my muse evaporated. There are some of them that are begging to be resurrected. And perhaps I will, sometime in the future.