You didn’t clean up before you got in the car and drove away. But I did. I stayed. You didn’t call when you got to the bar, and didn’t save me a seat, even though I asked if you could. I called, and you didn’t pick up. I sat in the kitchen and ate peas and potatoes, and then I had a beer and wondered where you were.
You managed not to say goodbye, but I did. When the police came to my house to say that you’d started a fight, I said sure, that’s you. That’s always you. They said you’d run from the bar down the end of the road – streetlights shining on the fog – and found your way into the forest. You hated that forest, you always said, but I know you didn’t. I know you loved it, and that’s why you went there after the fight, to the open spots between the trees. The police said you probably got lost there, fell down, hit your head, rolled drunk into a creek and drowned and maybe the animals were eating you now. But it didn’t matter what they said. They stood in my doorway telling me everything that probably happened to you, but all I did was say goodbye, and after that you didn’t come back.
It’s funny, but I saw you this morning. It was in the newspaper, in a photo of a building where someone was giving a speech. This person had their hand up in the air, their collar raised, but it was you behind them. Climbing the steps. Looking back halfways so that I could see some of your face, your black hair, and a glimmer of white from your eye like you knew I was watching. I pictured you walking up those steps out of the photo, into the building where it got dark. Where you walked the hallways, trying to make a life without me.
Two months after you left, you called. Remember? You must have used a new phone, because the number was strange. It had too many numbers in it; it had none at all. I sat on the porch in a sweater when I picked up, and there you were. No words, no telling me how sorry you were, just a hint of breathing to prove that you were alive. I smoked a cigarette and talked to you as the afternoon wore on. It was near winter, and it was cold. I pulled the sweater over my knees and asked what you’d been doing. But you didn’t answer. You didn’t say anything at all. There was nothing there but breathing.
I told you that you’d left without cleaning up, but it was okay. I’d done that for you. I went to get a drink and when I came back to the porch, the phone line was dead. You hadn’t said anything. You’d just breathed, to let me know you were alive. I’d sat on the porch until deep into the night, when fairies came out, but you didn’t have any words for them either. You just didn’t.
I wrote you a letter and the next day, I took it to the forest. There was fog again. There was always fog. That must have been what it had been like when you left. I yelled for you twice, only twice. I’d promised I wouldn’t let myself sound more desperate than that. I put a nail through the letter into a tree and then I said I wouldn’t go back to that forest again. Wouldn’t even so much as walk in the fog, because of the places where that can kind of journey can take you – the type of place it did take you.
I saw you this morning. You didn’t know that I did, but it’s true. I was coming home from work and you were on the sidewalk, coming out of a store. It was the type of place people sold things for money, and I wondered what it was that you were giving away. What did you have anymore, anyway? Everything you owned was at our place, in a closet where I’d put it. I checked every day to make sure it was still there, that nothing was missing. That you hadn’t come home for something.
But there you were. Your hair was different, longer, and I think maybe a different colour. It made sense. There was no point in looking like your old self, when you’d been with me. No point at all. And you had a beard, and sunglasses, and it seemed so unlike you, but I’d known. I’d told the person on the bus next to me, and the one behind me, that I’d known. It was you.
I’d got off at the next stop and run back. You’d always said that I was a poor athlete. Too short, too stumpy with my legs to run fast, but I ran anyway, back to that shop. You were gone. You’d been there, but then gone. I went inside and walked around the shelves and the counters, looking for any hint of what you’d given away. There was so much dust in there, but I found your fingerprints in the grime. On a shelf, near the floor, next to a silver chain and underneath a rotting book. There they were, right in front of me. I’d put my hands in the memory of yours. Felt your warmth. Wondered that I’d come so close to seeing you.
Last night, you were in my bed. I woke up to find you there, on top of me. You were whispering in my ear and digging your hands into me. I told you that I’d missed you, but you didn’t care to speak about where you’d been, just pretended that you’d never left. You smelled strange, not like what I remembered, but you told me that it was okay, that you being there was okay. I’d screamed, and told you it was joy; I’d wanted you to cry, and say that this was wonder-full. But you hadn’t. I’d slept in dreams, of those times when we’d been young and you’d been next to me, and there’d been fairies in the sky where we had been born and had promised each other we would always stay. But we hadn’t. We just hadn’t.
When I woke up, you’d been gone. I went to the closet where I put your stuff, and it was all still there. The porch was empty. The kitchen table clean. It was like you’d never been there, but I remembered you from the night, what you’d done with me, and I knew you were out there. I knew you existed, and that you remembered me. But you’d left again. The hundredth time you’d done that. I wrote you a letter. Drank on the porch. Watched the fairies gather together to make the moon, then split apart to form the stars.
I wrote you a letter. Better than the first. More sensible, more like me. More like what I want to say, if only I can get the words to you.
When the fog came, I couldn’t wait longer to show you what I’d written. Outside, it was cool, but it didn’t bother me. I walked down the road, just as you had. The streetlights were on, and I was in my sweater, and you – you were waiting for me at the end of the street. Amongst the trees, in the shadows. You were hidden but how can you hide from me? Why would you want to? Tell me that, just once. Post a letter on the tree where I’m going to put this one, and return it to me. Or better yet, tell me for yourself. Maybe this letter doesn’t matter. Maybe you’ll never read it. Maybe it’s better for me to walk into this forest. These trees are dark. Cold. There is a wind, but not much. Stars but not many. And sometimes I catch a glimpse of you in here. It’s hint, a clue. The part of a shadow that you never fully see, and wonder at times if you ever really did.
69 thoughts on “Hours After You”
Nicely written, and raises a lot of questions – did he kill her? Did she kill herself? Did she simply leave? Is she perhaps really alive somewhere? The cops never said they found a body, did they? Is he planning to walk into the fog and join her in death? I could feel the sense of loss and searching throughout the story. Will there be a Part II, Trent?
Hard to say, CM. I think in the end she went into the forest, and maybe she’ll stay there. Maybe not. I kind of wonder if she’ll find what she’s looking for, but I wonder that about the rest of us too.
Yeah, I know. The mood struck me and out came this. Thanks for reading.
I agree, sad, but beautifully written…
Thank you – much appreciated.
Loss without closure…the straightest road to a tortured soul. There are so many possibilities with this narrative NB, and you’ve managed to write into each and every one of them without spelling out a single one. So well done my friend…a story that can be driven on so many different roads…I’m in awe.
Thank you SB. I think you put it so well, loss without closure, I think that’s perfect. I can’t imagine anything worse than not knowing, and being there to live on. I feel for anyone in that boat.
Hope you’re doing well down there.
Other than the never ending heat/humidity…things are okay 🙂
Good stuff. Stay well down here. School’s about to start up here… an ending to a breathless summer.
Beautiful and sad and painful all at once. Well done, Trent. Your first commenter asked a question that assumes the narrator is a man. I read this as a female narrator. Which is it?
Good point. Narrator in my mind is female, and I was at first confused by the comment until I realized that I never specified. I wrote it as a female narrator but it works as either I suppose.
I’m not even sure why I read it as a female narrator, I guess it just sounded like a more feminine concept. Although that would be great way to throw the reader for a loop. Towards the end reveal the narrator is a man instead.
Glad to see you’re continuing to write. It’s always good to read your efforts.
That’s an awesome suggestion actually. I have such a problem with gender, I occasionally get mixed up with male/female voices. Having it be a man at the end would maybe be surprising to some, but not to others, and I wonder what that says really… interesting concept.
Thanks Mark. Hope to be reading more of your fiction. I’m reading novels at a crazy clip these days, but there’s something more immediately and in ways satisfying about fiction in blogland. There’s so little of it but when it’s done well, it’s compelling. Hope you’ll be adding to your on-line library.
I want to write another chapter of The Jump. I know the content of the chapter. Just haven’t figured out the right way to go about it.
I know, I know … just write it!
What I’m trying to work on these days is to publish a novella I wrote about and that I have mentioned on my blogs. Northville Five & Dime. I’ve decided to get that done. I’m having somebody edit it and I’m working now through his first set of comments. Hopefully, it’ll be out by the end of the year. And somewhere in there I’ll go further along with The Jump.
Be nice to read Northville. The Jump still stands out in my memory. Strange, dystopian landscape and sense of desperation. So unreal but somehow real… the best type of storytelling.
That’s part of my dilemma. Maintaining the “strange, dystopian landscape.” I really liked it in that short story. It may be difficult to maintain in a longer piece.
Man, I love coming here.
Hey, who are you, Someone?
It’s Fay being too lazy to sign in and owning it.
Really truly loved this story.
Thanks Fay. Hope you’re doing okay. I need to write more.
Heart wrenching! So many questions left unanswered. Do we all have someone in our past like this that we just can’t let go? Whether through death or simply walking out the door when someone leaves we want to know what happened. We want a definitive answer so we can make an attempt at moving on. And sometimes we really don’t want to move on. Reality and fantasy often cross paths to stir up lost…love, feelings, emotions. Whatever you want to call it, this piece was very familiar to me and kind of bit me in the ass. You do know how to touch a nerve.
Hey Michelle, hope the bite wasn’t too severe. I feel like I’ve moved on from a bunch of stuff, but can’t fully remember it all… sort of a haunting of a different kind.
Thanks for the words, as always. I love it when you show up.
This leaves more questions than answers… and I love that about you…
Thanks dude… questions are fun.
Are you sure you want to ask that?
Haunting, Trent. The way you convey your stories is haunting. He left her and kept haunting her through pictures and phone calls and dreams…”Wouldn’t even so much as walk in the fog, because of the places that can kind of journey can take you – the type of place it did take you.” And yet she was still willing to go at the end. Haunting. Sad.
Thanks Jaded. Haunting is about it, I think she’s haunted herself. I think I’ve felt like that before, or at least I remember the ghost of that feeling.
Very well done, left me feeling sad.
Thank you very much for the comment, Katie. I never try for sadness, but it occasionally creeps its way into the stories.
I paused when I saw the word “beard” and figured you were writing as a female. This left an uncomfortable feeling with me… ghost-like, due to the fog and the forest. I think you really dug deep with this one and it’s almost like you had an out-of-body experience when writing this while you were going through it. I think I would have difficulty shaking the melancholy funk this would put me in when I was finished – much like an actor coming out of a role… perhaps a good way to measure one’s ability to show and not tell.
I agree entirely.
Thanks Kelly. Yes, the guy she saw had a beard so the object of her affection is male… but I guess that doesn’t mean that the narrator couldn’t be male too.
Well maybe the answer lies in the forest… best to not go in there, Trent! lol
You might be all optimism and buoyancy, but I see the light in the middle of that pitch black forest, and I’m going in to get it.
Go for it, Trent. And know that I am not an unyielding optimist who’s unaware that forests burn as well.
Reblogged this on Read 4 Fun and commented:
But you are always there … somewhere …
No closure? Sure, maybe, I guess. I thought the paragraphs would just go on. There is more to come and “he” will continue to show up. At any rate, I reblogged it in a blog I write for my university students (optional). They don’t have to read my blog but they feel that they might get higher grades if they give me some coherent input.
Much appreciated… are you a professor then?
Loss without closure, as mentioned above, always puts me in mind of Blink 182’s “Miss You” which I found exactly when I needed it, feeling with my own loss. “Like indecision to call you and hear your voice of treason, will you come home and stop this pain tonight… stop this pain tonight.”
Then again, does closure even exist as we think of it from books and movies? Or does the pain of loss always remain and our threshold widen?
Hah. Didn’t remember the story and enjoyed it thoroughly this time through. Not sure I can top my previous comment, it still rings true.
You have great comments, my man. You’re super generous.
This is a fever dream. I’m not sure any of it actually happened except in his mind. Maybe just before the anesthesia punched the lights out.
Or the heroin… Definite fever dream, living out of time, just messed up. So you think it’s a guy too, eh? I find that really interesting. I wrote it from a female perspective, but now I’m not so sure…
Whenever I see you’ve posted, I wait until I can sit down, uninterrupted, to read and think about what you’ve written. This time, I’m especially glad I did.
This story of loss could, really, fit any loss. Love lost because it didn’t work — don’t we all have visions and visitations from lost loves, don’t we all wonder what might have been? Or it could run to the opposite end — to murder or desire to do so. It could even be the end of imagined love.
I love the way you write.
That’s such a compliment Elyse – thank you so much. As for the type of loss, I agree, they all hurt.
I really enjoyed this story Trent – I have known a number of people who have lost loved ones and they claim to see them regularly. I think that I would be afraid of those returning but none I have ever talked to are. They feel hands on their shoulders or see imprints in the pillows or catch a glimpse of a passing figure. All are sure that their loved one lives on perhaps in a dimension that only occasionally crosses this one. I assumed the narrator was female until I read CM’s comment and then I realized it could be either gender. I’ve never seen that done so cleanly that I didn’t notice – I’ve seen it forced a few times but not well.
Excellent post, extremely well written. ThankYou.
Thanks Paul, very much. The gender thing wasn’t purposefully implanted so I’ll take no credit for it. It just happened, I guess.
I think I’ve known people like this. Possibly I’ve even been one. So hard to tell sometimes.
do we ever really see? do we every move outside the shadows or better yet, do we ever allow ourselves to be seen without the cover of dark? You provoke alot of questions with this one, Trent. The sign of a very skilled story teller– I wish I had a fraction of your creative ability. Wonderful. I do love the way I lose myself in your stories, Trent. It is so effortless to read your words– again, you are true talent.
Thank you Audra, striving for something different each time out but still try hard to wrap people into the stories.
As an aside Trent I did a guest post over at Mark Bialczak’s https://markbialczak.com/2016/09/04/im-sorry/comment-page-1/#comment-83008 I would be honored if you could find the time to drop by for a read and comment. Thank You.
I read it. Still not sure what to say other than that I’m glad you’re through this.
Closure is overrated. There’s still hope in not knowing.
Love this .
Thanks much Jo. Yeah, closure is just a word, right? Hope is where you dig it up.
Wow, that left me almost in tears!
Well thank you! I thought this one was particularly sad.
I read this again after you posted it on FB. Haunting, heartbreaking. Soul searching.
I am at once thinking of my sister, who I lost 20 years ago. I see her all the time. I often wonder if behind the funeral ritual of seeing the body is some sense. Because then you really know they’re gone.
And today I am looking across the room at a future specter. It appears that my husband’s cancer has come back, and we are just waiting to hear the plan in the next few days. Is it really back. Is there something we can do, that he/we want to do. And how long before he too is a shadow in the fog.
This is a beautiful piece. Don’t ever stop writing.
I am so sorry to hear about your husband, Elyse. That’s the real tragedy. I hope he’s okay, I really do. My best wishes to you both.
Classic Real Magicalism at its finest.
Have I told you lately how great you are? That phrase sticks in my head.
Well, no, but…[blush]…DO go on!
I am glad. That phrase is how I see your work. It is “magical realism” turned on its head. It is its own thing. It is new. It is other-worldly while also being so firmly rooted in our own world as to be a given. It is a “Doh!” moment. It is the recognition of our own humanity. It is the realization that humanity is bigger than any of us could possibly encompass, in word or deed or thought or paradigm. It is the only route to our trueness. The stories of our selves; the story or our self. It is the story of The Other.
That just makes me warm, and now I feel awesome… thank you, my man.
Sorry. I am rather deep in me cups at the moment and waxing philo-poetic. And probably not very coherently……..mea culpa, mea culpa……
And Philo-Poetic, btw, is akin to Philo-Doh!. Light, flaky and full of butter. Just ready to be stuffed with all the goodness, be it savory or sweet, that Life has to offer.
And I should mention also that I technically do not actually know anything about magical realism….really. Me and Gabriel Garcia Marquez do NOT in fact go anything like way back….we’re barely acquainted, in fact…..
Yeah but I love that dude. And Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood. These are awesome writers.