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16. Faith

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I went to see Darius often. I missed her dearly and it was horrible to have to see her there, locked away from the world, locked away from me. Yet I went and we spoke and things were as good as they could’ve been.

And then there was Cicero again. The source of all our troubles still survived and flourished, causing more issues along the way. And we couldn’t get away. He was everywhere and everything. The bastard just kept going without error; he didn’t falter. He had to fall sometime. He had to. And yet, he didn’t. He was locked away with my love and there was nothing I could do about it but watch him sneer at me, save behind his bars and locks. There was nothing I could do to stop him, to help her, to shield myself.

The most painful thing that one can feel is lack of necessity. And the worst version of that is being absolutely helpless, positively useless. When you love someone as much as I loved Darius, when one suffers, you both do. When you love someone that much, you would do anything to protect, anything to shelter them from the cruel melancholy that the world truly is. I had my hands tied and was forced to watch as she suffered, and there wasn’t a damn thing in Hell that I could do to help her. I would die if she commanded it, I would break every bone in my body if it would satisfy her; I’d give my immortal soul to keep her from feeling an ounce of sadness for even a millisecond of her life. My life was hers, whether she wanted it or not, and that’s how things remained. And her life was mine, and I cherished it and held it close, locked away in my heart, sheltered from anything that might tarnish it. I was useless to her now. All I could do is go and talk, I couldn’t take her away, I couldn’t stop the madness. When you love someone, it’s impossible to walk away if they need you. Love doesn’t work that way. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Love makes you do some funny things. It’ll make you make a complete fool of yourself, it’ll turn you into the world’s court jester, and while they laugh at you, you won’t care. It’ll make you hurt yourself to get attention, drag yourself over hot coals to get so much as a slight glance. Love’s the most powerful of all emotions, it has no limits; there is no one single definition. Love’s fickle and just, never cruel or malice. It doesn’t seek revenge or plan for the worst. It is endless. It is not perfect or ordinary. It’s never typical or normal. Love’s never simple but constantly pure. It can’t be corrupted or ignored. It simply is and it can’t be denied or forced. We had that; call it what you will, however tragic, our devotion and dedication were classified as love in my book. Maybe your book’s a little different.

It destroyed me to visit her and watch the plastic smile shift and her fixed expressions as she told me everything was fine and not to worry. I had to worry, I had every reason to. That bastard was locked away with my love, my poor sweet angel. They tried to make me stay away but she convinced them to reconsider. I truly love her. She took crazy risks on my behalf, and I was ready to fight on hers, but she never let me. Sometimes, if I was good, she might. It was all part of love and devotion, till death do us part, if only we could be so fortunate. It drove me up a wall, I would go home and rant for hours, but only on paper. Every so often I’d verbally rant to Syrius or Draven, explaining my troubles. They both understood from experience. They’d listen quietly, watching me pace back and forth like a lunatic. And they’d just listen. They would never get annoyed with me, never turn me away or tell me to shut up. They’d listen and acknowledge and offer whatever advice that they saw fit to offer. Every word I took in like a sponge, I might not have acted on what they told me one hundred percent of the time, but I still took it and kept it in mind, just in case. Prepare for everything, always have a Plan B, in some cases, a Plan C and D as well.

I had several breakdowns while Darius was gone. I found myself crying uncontrollably when I first found out about Cicero. My emotions raged. Randomly swinging from anger to jealousy to hatred to sorrow to doubt, maintaining balance was impossible. I don’t know how I managed. I put myself through the days so that I could see Darius. I made myself better for her. But it was hard, nearly impossible. Yet I managed. I don’t know how I did it, but I did. I ranted and raved and locked away what was necessary to lock away, and I moved along with my life. It was tolerable, or as tolerable as I could make it. Madison would listen too as I’d rant, she was more emotional than the others. She’d smile or hold me and act motherly. I think it’s a female thing, they take parental rights over people by default. I can’t say that she picked it up on her own, we were very parental over her and Darius. My, how the tables turn.

She was gone two long hard years. For two years I forced myself to smile. For two years did she smile at me blankly, hiding her true frustration. She knew that if she was honest, they’d never let her out. She’d do whatever it took to get out. Some things . . . never mind. I forgot what I meant to say. I do that a lot anymore, I don’t know why. My train of thought’s never on the tracks. I’m not sure if it ever was.

Darius and I were flawless in our relationship. We were human, sure, there were disagreements and issues of concern, but nothing could destroy the deep foundation we’d laid down for ourselves. Never settle for less. There was so much we’d put up with and seen, said and done. Every new day that we both lived on together was a reminder of our devotion. I don’t know if I could survive without her, I doubt it. The separation was agonizing enough. We had something that most people would never have. There was good reason why most people didn’t understand. Because they were ordinary.

Ordinary. As I said before – Normal love will never survive the winter, only extraordinary love can light the blazing sun to burn the sky. We had something that defied the odds, broke the rules, set no borders, was beyond all limits. There was nothing that could hinder us, nothing to falter us. There was something there that the typical cannot understand. Faith. Hope. Ideas that most people fail to trust in. But that little bit of trust is what made it work. That little bit. Not insane amounts, nothing irrational. A tiny bit of belief in disbelief. To put a little bit of heart into falling without a net. Taking a leap without looking down. Crossing a bridge without testing its’ strength. That’s what separates ordinary from anything else. Most people don’t have faith anymore. Quite tragic.

Tragic. That’s another concept that applies to us. It was tragic how we lived our lives, how we survived in the world and bettered ourselves. Tragic that we required the pain of others to enjoy ourselves. Tragic. In my opinion, we were far from tragic. But that was the world’s label, its’ stereotype. We were supposed to adhere to their limits and jump through the hoops on cue and smile at all times. We weren’t supposed to ask questions or step over the lines. We were supposed to be happy and causing trouble was bad and government was good and school is important. Of course, we did nothing we were supposed to. And we were happier. Now that’s tragic.

Ranting. This is my way of dealing. Sorry if I’m boring you. It’s your own fault really for reading this far, so you only have yourself to blame. I’m still sorry though. See, without her, I’m weaker. She’s really the weaker of the two, I’m able to uphold my harsh exterior without her because she can see through it. Without her, I think that everyone can see through it and I get paranoid. So I swing between moods, in case you haven’t noticed. She was away from me for two years. Two years. Can you think of how much changed in your life in two years? Two years. That’s a long time. Maybe not to some, but it is. When you’re young, two days is a long time, let alone two years. Two entire years. 730 days. 63,072,000 seconds. Tick.

For two years I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I wrote stories, plays, essays, poems. I wrote anything that came into my mind. I took up Darius’ art of photography, teaching myself the concepts along the way. I had watched her thousands of times. I had stared at her camera for centuries it seemed, sitting there alone, unused. I picked it up, and fiddled with it awhile. I turned it around, looked at all the buttons, pressing them, testing their functions carefully. I wasn’t sure if it had film in it. I held it in my arms like a child as I sought the help of the rest of the group. Between the four of us, we were able to learn a thing or two. We found that there was a film left in it, it had no more shots left though. So I went and had it developed.

I went to the photo shop like a fool. I stood there and asked half a dozen foolish questions like a child. I felt the blood rushing through my body, going to my cheeks as the embarrassment of my ignorance set in. They were very courteous with me though. Kind and patient, the workers answered my questions, let me watch them develop my film, and look through the prints asking more silly questions. I thanked them kindly and left deeply satisfied. I had bought film while I was there, and they had taught me how to load it properly as well. If my love couldn’t take pictures for herself, I’d be her eyes in the outside world.

The pictures that were in the camera were of me and her mostly. How she managed some of them, I don’t know. But there was one. Just one that struck me out of myself. It was flawless, as we were at most times. It was absolutely . . . perfect. Now, I know, perfection doesn’t exist. But you don’t understand. If perfection was real, this picture personified it. It embodied the very idea, the very essence of everything that we were. It was love, devotion, it was hope and trust. It was faith. It was improbability. It was impossible. Yet there it was. She and I. It was perfect. It couldn’t be described in garish words that would do it proper justice. You’re going to have to trust me.

I took it with me when I went to see her that week. She was just as taken aback as I was. I asked how she had possibly managed to take it. She just looked at me with a silly little grin on her face. She had that childish expression, that “I have a secret” kind of gesture. I knew she wouldn’t explain it to me then, maybe never. She was very satisfied with herself though. I was proud of her. For most of my visit, we just sat in silence and stared at the picture. I had copies. It was perfect. Absolutely. Nothing ordinary about it. Absolutely perfect. I had her tell me how to operate the camera properly and what she’d like to see. She just looked at me.

“The world. Show me.”

I didn’t understand then what she meant. I’d come back to her with pictures that she’d throw back at me in disgust. She’s yell at me and get frustrated with my incompetence. Then she’d take out that one picture and smile and be gentle again and laugh. I was never angry with her. I just didn’t understand. And my ignorance drove me mad. I hated not knowing the answer to the riddle. And that girl is a world of riddles. But she’s my world of riddles, thank you.

There came a day when she was frustrated again.

“You’re taking pictures of what you think the world is, what you think I want to see. Raine, look in your heart, not through the lens. Look into yourself and discover. You know me, I love you. Trust yourself a little in my absence. What do you think is worth saving? If you had but one picture to take, what would you want to preserve for eternity?”

She looked at me seriously, her head cocked to one side, her eyes pleading with me to see. For a moment, movement ceased. After her words had died out and only the shadow of their echo remained, movement left. For that moment, I saw as she did. Without movement, just a series of still frames. I kissed her gently, rushing to get out to the world, I understood more now. As I got up to leave, she put a hand on my shoulder to stop me.

“You didn’t answer the question. What would you save for all eternity?”

She had the picture in her hand, as usual. I held her close, holding her and it to me. I pressed both close to my heart and whispered, “This.” I didn’t need more words, one was enough.

To explain for the ignorant. This, as in, this moment, this picture, this person. I would preserve her and I, as we were, as devoted as love could make us, as hopeless as society would have us and as faithful as dedication should provide. From then, I took the pictures she wanted to see of the world. The pictures she had directed me to. I saw through her eyes. And we were one, yet again. Through walls and boundaries, we were one. Through my writing and my pictures, she could understand all of the complications of my life and know how I was doing. And with her direction, I could understand how she was. It was our mode of communication. It was the best we could do. It was all we had. And we drank it up, to the last drop.

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