North Star

It’s the names we lose first when you love somebody.

It rattles my brain even now.

She had a date tattooed on her arm. She never told me what happened on that day. She had many tattoos. That’s the only one she didn’t talk about.

I didn’t talk much either.

Words grew more useless as time went on. We lobbed them every now and then just to keep the distance between us in sight, but what’s the point when they’re nothing but phantoms masquerading as explanation for the chaotic fracturing of the world around us. But that’s probably just the war talking.

And the crazy-colored clouds.

We met while the war was only one hundred miles away, and the sun shivered in sepia light warning of its coming, coloring all the dying pines ochre like Yellowstone cliffs. A tangerine splotched horizon. She was picking flowers from my garden and she ran away when I approached. Like a scared, stray dog. It’s only when I yelled that there were golden poppies in the back that she stopped. Her footprints molded into the quivering cement there fore-after.

She had no home and I had nobody. Sometimes the unfairness of it all works itself out. They say there are 12 million satellites in the sky. It’s somewhat magical to think one of them is watching you.

“I used to be a nurse,” she told me. “Before…”

“I’d rather not think about that.”

When I entered her it was like unlocking two doors with one key.

This was long ago.

There are still days where you can’t tell anything has changed. Where we sit on the porch and the breeze still brings with it the smell of the sea. Sometimes I feel like building a boat. Get my hair tossed by the spindrift.

We had nothing but time in common.

“Do you remember that show? The one with all the celebrities dancing?”

She was so crestfallen when I answered, ‘no.’

When things turned for the absolute worst we didn’t bother moving away. We stayed in the bones of those better times. Fending off the cold burning old newspapers. Occasionally a helicopter flew by but none of them ever landed. We survived on bananas and wild game.

I never learned the meaning of that tattoo. She kept it guarded like a bear cave…

“Everything is coming up roses,” she told me after a rainstorm flooded the basement. She was being funny. I had forgotten about laughing, how sometimes it hurt. There were swimming water snakes circling the staircase. My mind raced. Blood I thought dormant invaded my sense of disaster and returned my manhood to glory. I got so hard it poked through my denim coveralls. It fucking pointed at the North Star.

It was then that I knew everything was destroyed. But I still felt okay.

It was the oblivion I was counting on.

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