And They Said It Would Be Divine
by Christina Edwards
It breaks like this:
We hold on tightly, and literally, because we’re young and we’re stupid and because we still want to have hope. I curl my hands into the waistband of your jeans, pulling you closer until your weight is pinning me back against the exposed brick. You tangle your fingers in my hair and nudge my head against the crook of your neck. I’m crying, and there’s already a damp patch on the shoulder of your T-shirt, but you don’t seem to notice.
“We could have been so good,” you say.
I want to remember this; I want this to be my cautionary tale. I want to hold the memory of it so close to the surface that I won’t be tempted back.
“We were so good,” I reply.
I loosen my grip. Your face falls as you reach for my hand. I keep the distance between us, using the five inches of space between my body and yours like a shield. I excuse myself to the bathroom. When I come back, you’re gone.
You knew a person — a friend of a friend of your brother’s with a spare room that turned out to be a spare couch. We pulled it out into a bed at night and spread faded floral sheets on an old mattress that dug into my back. I fell asleep each night half sprawled on top of you with my cheek against your chest, imagining my breaths were in time with the beat of your heart, and I woke up each morning to the pads of your fingertips running circles against the small of my back until the soreness disappeared.
Sometimes I smiled, but not as widely as I thought I would.
We have been warned our whole lives, I think — warned of the rash invincibility that lurks in the nooks and crannies of our DNA, waiting to take us over and crash us straight into an explosive and destructive dead-end sort of misery, the kind that will leave shrapnel of ramifications in our more responsible adult incarnations for decades to come.
Maybe we spent too much time screwing around. Your truck once gave out 50 kilos from the bridgeway. I think about how you pawned off the parts at a trade station with an outdated license while I waited for you outside. I didn’t tell you this because I didn’t want you to think I was being melodramatic, but I cried when you weren’t looking. It’s just that you saved so long and worked so hard for that truck, because that truck was our plan, a little part of us: we were supposed to escape together in it.
“What do you want out of life?” you once asked me.
“Like, what do I want to be when I grow up?”
You laughed, surprised. I used to love catching your laugh off-guard. It was sweeter that way.
“Yeah, like that.” You poked my side to make me react. “Astronaut?”
“Pop star, actually. Fame and fortune, duh.”
“Big piles of money. Huge house.”
“Exactly,” you said, pulling me closer. You pressed your face against my hair, and I could feel you breathe in and out, in and out. You were quiet for a long moment, and then, “Seriously, though. What do you want?”
I closed my eyes as the breeze whipped errant strands of hair into my face.
“I think I want to not grow up.”
“Yeah. Not ever.”
You nod against me.
“Would be nice,” you murmur.
It sounded a little sad. It sounded like dropping your favorite book into the crack in the world.
That spare couch we’d claimed in the flat had a window right above it. Each morning, we woke up early to watch the permanent people of the city hurry along on the streets, all of them going somewhere. We made up stories about where we thought they were headed: she writes the scripts for toothpaste commercials, he feeds lemurs at the zoo, and that one definitely designs kindergarten desks.
We laughed at the joke and felt superior about it. It didn’t matter where they were going, because we were in motion. When you kissed me on the cheek before we headed out to whatever temporary jobs we could find that week, I’d whisper, “At least neither of us owns dress shoes,” and we’d laugh again.
The flat was an in-between place for us. We left after a few months: there weren’t enough jobs to go around, and the space started to feel tight. By then, I had memorized all the cracks in the ceiling, just like I did in my childhood bedroom. I stared at them when I couldn’t fall asleep. I used to imagine I was watching the world split.
I think about the word enough, and I’m not sure what it means anymore, if it wasn’t this.
We’re standing on the edge of the world, and I couldn’t care less.
It sort of looks like a crack in the sidewalk. It’s jagged like that: crumbly and bumpy like someone tore a piece of it off on a whim without bothering for the exactness of a knife. You kick at the loose bits of gravel clinging to the edge, and they drop off into a black nothing. We can’t see where the nothing turns into something, and I have a sneaking suspicion it never does.
The nothing spreads out beneath us, and I spread my arms out in answer. I lean back, press myself tightly against you, feel your warmth — no, your heat, burning slow like coal and alive like magic — behind me, solid and real and just as infinite. I can feel my heart pounding, testing the limits of my ribs, taunting my flesh, burning the insides of my skin. It is saying: I am as a large and unending and beautiful and terrifying as the edge of the world. Come and get me. Come and get us.
Your arms wrap around me tightly, your lips press an open-mouthed kiss against my skin, hot and damp against the chill of emptiness around us. It fills me up, and I glow. I can feel it so fully, down to my fingertips. I tilt my head back and let my knees relax because you’ve got me. You’ve always had me. I wonder if you always will.
“I told you I’d show you the world,” you say.
“This is more than the world,” I smile, because I never doubted you. “This is everything.”
“Or nothing,” you say, but you’re grinning, so I grin, too.
“Maybe it can be both,” I reply.
You swing me up, scooping my legs into your arms like I belong nowhere else. Maybe I don’t. I wrap my arms around your neck, and we lock eyes. We’re staring at each other and we can’t stop, don’t need to stop, not for the possibilities crying out for our attention just beyond the reach of my shoulder blades. There are stars bright enough beyond the color of your eyes.
You’re spinning me, and we’re laughing: my laugh and yours twist together like they were meant to be intertwined. I realize this is the moment they were warning us about — the telltale sureness coursing through the bloodstream of my thoughts, more intoxicating than any drug we could get our hands on.
I’ve never felt this wonderful. I’m beginning to think I’ve never felt at all before this moment.
“It could swallow us whole,” I say, but I’m smiling.
“It’s a crack in the world. It could swallow us straight into nothing,” you say.
“Let it try,” I say.
This is the moment that’s supposed to destroy me: the moment where I know I’m bigger than the entire world, where I know I don’t need to do everything. And I guess I don’t care, because I kiss you then. You taste sweet, and I want more, and so I kiss you again and again and again. It doesn’t feel like I ever have to stop.
“I’m sorry,” you murmur.
I shake my head and keep my grip on you, because that’s all I can manage now. I cry harder. You run your hand down my back, deliberate and soothing. It’s not your fault, and we both know that, but you said it first, and it’s easier to be selfish and pathetic than hurt.
“I love you,” I say.
“That’s not fair,” you say.
“Yeah, well,” I shrug. “That’s not the point. It doesn’t have to be fair to be the truth.”
Once, we were sitting on a cliff above the clouds, overlooking the south break. There was a slight breeze and the sky out from under us was clear and blue enough that I could almost pretend we were at the ocean. I’d never been, and neither had you — that I know of — but I’d seen the pictures you painted, and I knew that if it hadn’t been for the split line two hours down from the town we grew up in, we’d have had a real beach. I always liked to think that in another life, another you took another me there to watch the waves lap against the shore as the sand stuck wet and grainy to the backs of our legs.
They say the world didn’t split all at once, but wedged itself open. That’s the part I couldn’t get: that people saw it coming. They saw the cracks. But when I’m honest, so did I.
Christina Edwards is from Atlanta, Georgia. She started writing in journalism, and is now an aspiring fiction writer with a love for magical realism and YA novels. She currently works in public relations, and can be found on twitter holding in depth discussions of comic book superheroes and science fiction.