When the boy next door knocked on mine and pronounced himself dead, he had a gun and I had a sword. Because, after all, I was the girl. He said it was only fair, that I should take what”s handed to me. I told him, one is as dangerous as the other, and made him promise not to shoot.
We played until I killed him, one stab through the heart. His imaginary death was a sight. There was anguish in his eyes and a sadness in his rolling about my front lawn—a final peace that belonged only to him—because, in the end, he was completely still, stretched out, smiling at what I couldn”t see and what he”d thought must have been the best neighborly introduction ever.
I never wanted to play such a terrible pretend thing before, but his performance made me see the merit in a fight to the death and I was new to the neighborhood.
Later, when I realized I”d won yet again, that Jon was dead on my lawn for the third time in one afternoon, I ran inside yelling hooray. I”m not sure why I was so excited because, as he pointed out, from the very beginning he”d told me that he was the one who was going to die.
When he became a soldier and died in some foreign war, I though about what I”d done. It was a long time ago, but somehow I still felt responsible.
For me, the wound was fresh. It bled like the time we kissed beneath the stairs at his mother”s house, wet and what could have been never-ending.
Jon”s father lived out of the country, so I was used to him leaving. Every month or so he was gone. It was no different later for us.
In high school, we dated. Sometimes each other.
When we dated other people, Jon told me to stop it with his friends. They had a code and I was breaking it. That seemed silly to me, casino online because it was their code, not mine. But he seemed shocked by what I had done, and I knew right away that he probably loved me.
I told him not to tell me who to date.
He said, Don”t tell me what to do.
We should have argued, instead we kissed, angry and not-knowing what better to do with our lips. He believed in codes and I didn”t believe in anything but fake deaths on my front lawn.
When we were married, he told me that college would be around the corner. He thought he”d go into design after he”d finished the service, but the soldier he was required his will and his body—and I was reluctant to share.
It was a fight to the death he wanted, and I obliged, telling him if he didn”t come home soon I”d sell the house and move.
Where to? he”d ask.
Spain, I”d say. It was always somewhere with a beach because those places seemed the most like us, far away and warm to the touch.
Spain, he”d say, I hear it”s nice there.
I didn”t want him to hear me laugh, so I”d cough into the phone and say, you’ll have to hold, I have a young man on the other line.
Whatever he”d say next would be something said in a way that would make me stop crying until he came home.
The next week he”d be back with tickets to the warm country of my choice. He didn”t want to go. He couldn”t have. He”d just flown in, put his bags on the floor next to our bed—but he”d stand there beside my dresser, helping me fold my clothes. We”d pack and decide what I”d wear when we went dancing.
He”d ask if the new skirt I bought really was vacation material.
Maybe the beach is cold there now, he”d say. Maybe we ought to stay in bed.
We played that way and I always won. He was back when I wanted, and he took me where I thought I needed to be.
Our vacations were nice, full of warm sun and full bellies, but he had to leave from time to time.
And I knew somewhere inside of me that one of those times would be the one where I no longer fell asleep on the beach underneath the hot sun knowing someone who loved me would wake me up before I burned.
When he came to my house and I was still only a girl, he would carry all his toys with him, the swords and the guns, but he had other things too. There was a giraffe made out of plastic pieces that he assembled in an array of colors. I”d told him, nothing real looks like what you made with those red, blue, yellow, green pieces. But, holding out the toy, he asked if I didn”t like it anyway. I did, so I had to lie and say it wasn”t good enough for me—only a real live animal was a real live animal—only that would do.
When we were still new at being one person, I told him—the birds fly just for you, and the snow that fell this morning in our yard, landed and piled, because you think it”s beautiful the day after.
I said to him—I can”t help myself, so I”ll help you.
I told him—we are what you want us to be, that we are happy just seeing each other when we can.
I told him those things then.
And I told him those things again, with a choke, sob, tear, when they stood me in front of him, laid out for the procession.
I wanted him to know I wasn”t playing anymore, not by his code or mine, so I told him—the toy sword you brought me, I want you to have it back—I”ll put it in the casket with Spain, winter snows, and growing old together.