“We can’t do it.” Laia looked at him. He held her gaze with bold, nonnegotiable courage.
“They didn’t agree?” She questioned.
“I didn’t ask” he says.
She smiles sadly.
“Dance with me on this stage one last time.” He held out his hand and held her closer. He smelled her hair and nuzzled her cheek.
“Only if you promise, to never, ever fall in love with a hater of poetry ever again.” She said softly.
She twirled, laid her hand on his shoulder and dropped to her knees. He knelt beside her. He could see her tears. He lifted his hand to touch them, but she looked away.
“Don’t Roy. . .” She hesitated, before she drew herself onto him. Wrapping herself so tightly, that she wanted to believe that they could stay like this forever.
“I’m sorry, Laia.”
“It was not meant to be this way.”
He lifted her and effortlessly swayed with her.
“Do you remember when I didn’t like words – when I said they made me think too much?” he chuckled solemnly.
“You said, they were obnoxious and how in moments of your relief they reminded you that you weren’t supposed to feel ‘relief’.” She recalled.
“Yes, I remember. I always said that life grew hard for me because of words. They always forced me to choose between surrender and withdrawal.”
“But, when you fell in love with a poetess, it all changed.” They gazed at each other. He lovingly held her belly. Their hands clasped tightly, almost as if they were making love through nothingness.
“I fell in love with a poetess who was too scared to accept her love for me.” He put her down and they now tiptoed around the ballroom. As they waltzed, her blue gown twirled, and her lose sleeves brushed against his worn out coat.
“She denied her love because you were too rational for her. Words were all she had, and you played with them.”
“I played with them only to win her over.”
He turned her and pulled her close. Holding her back and tracing his finger down. She laughed at the mischievous play of his hands and sighed. “It doesn’t hurt now.”
“Yes, because one day I woke up tired and frustrated; almost as if all the small splinters of your memory clinked together.”
“You were so dismayed that day.” She said.
“Yeah, I remember. I never believed I could write – forget about directing a play!”
“I told you, I always believed you were meant for greatness.”
“Greatness and dark circles maybe.” He interlocked his arms around her, his neck resting on her shoulder. He breathed the strawberry scent of her hair and the raspberry whiff of perfume, taking in her aura one last time.
“You always smelt like a fruit salad.” Her laugh ricocheted through the empty theater. She pulled his arms closer. His presence comforted her. They moved in circles and squares, almost as if they asked why them?
“Remember the night I checked your purse and pockets?”
“You didn’t find drugs, nothing was out of place, Laia . . . Laia.” He laughed sadly.
“How was I supposed to know you were in love?” She turned to him, his eyes blazing like dark coals. Who would’ve guessed that death made every human seem exotic, that when death knocked every human action felt intricate?
“Our worlds turned that day, Roy.” She continued.
Silently, he removed a chocolate bar. “It’s melted, just the way you like it.” He unwrapped the wrapper, she touched her belly slightly. He slid his finger in the melted chocolate and sultrily lay his fingers on her lips. It was a naïve attempt, but they were facing unexplainable trauma and their kisses knew no bounds now.
“Nothing will ever make perfect sense again, Laia.” He whispered. His voice grew throaty as she pulled him down. They both sat, as she concealed his face in the layers of her hospital gown.
“As long as it makes sense, Roy, you’ll be fine: Nothing can be perfect.”
‘But you were.’
She didn’t know if he whispered that, or if the airs of the night were playing with her.
“Don’t die with me Roy.”
“Please live for me, Laia. . .”
Roy looked up. She was gone. He sat in the middle of an empty stage. His phone buzzed, he saw the image of his daughter. He replied and congratulated her for winning the spelling bee. He scheduled dinner at the fanciest restaurant.
“If only, I could’ve scheduled when you died Laia. I would imprint your life on immortality.”
She appeared again and asked him, “Didn’t you cure yourself of this Roy?”
“I tried Laia. I ate. I distracted myself. I ate and ate until I shooed my primeval fears away; until the unknown pages of the book ruffled and revealed themselves again.”
“Maybe you need to walk away.” She suggested gently.
“I needed to walk away.” He repeated.
“But instead of walking away, you cried.” She touched his elbow and rested her head on his shoulder.
“I cried with all my heart, Laia. I cried as the plastering tore down from the walls of our house, I watched the cement heave ash, the walls that once stood strong crumbled at the sight of sex and blood.” He grew thoughtful and then replied, “I’m sorry for having so much sex after you died.”
“Oh, Don’t worry. I took a vow of chastity in heaven. Carnal human desires don’t matter to me at all now.” She laughed cynically. The ghost now rotated around, dancing to celestial music as she created aerial dance movements.
“But, I cried because I believed that sex was all I craved for and I didn’t need love, and I cried the most at that thought, because love was all I had ever believed in.” He went on, almost as if he didn’t hear what she had uttered.
“Pssh. Don’t lie. You began to believe in love only after you met me.” Laia commented.
“Well, that’s when I started to live. So yeah. For as long as I have lived.”
“But Roy!” She now moved closer to him. She bent down aligning their faces, “You can’t be this broken. Remember you were the practical one?”
“Do ghosts always need to sound so rational? Can a man not grieve?” Roy replied angrily.
“Well, actually. I am just a part of your imagination. It is happening in your mind – well, the rational part of it actually. Whatever you say. So grieve.”
Roy laughed. He continued, “I watched commercials of lust and pleasure, but what I saw instead was haunting cries for love, I mocked the anti-heroines and the adulteresses of TV serials, but what I realized instead was they were had never felt deep love. I was amazed at the world I grew up in.” She nodded empathetically. Yet, she kept dancing and moving around.
“But, then, today, when I sit by your funeral urn
I wonder and ask you, that while I try to cope with my pain,I understand how everyone is trying to cope with theirs.”
She didn’t say anything, almost as if she had begun her process of disappearing.“Maybe that’s why not everybody cares.” She said quietly from distance.
He didn’t even look up, as he continued, “Because everybody is just young, and scared and sensitive. I will probably always sit by your funeral urn.”
“Wondering if the blazing fires of my heart had some uncouth lie in them, Wondering if the rusty breaths of my lungs had some lied bliss in them, Wondering if my love for a passionate life stood meek and timid in front of your coldness.” They repeated the lines of their first play. They wouldn’t look at each other, but the weight of their sorrow could be felt in the emptiness of that night.
Roy looked up. He stared at Laia, who was so kindly listening to his monologue.“Will you ever come back?” “Look around you, Roy. You’re sitting in a graveyard imagining this to be the theater where we met. Do you think I’ll come back?”
“But, you have to put up the musical Roy.” He didn’t look up, he didn’t respond. “I command you.” Laia’s last words had a surreal impact on him. He watched her move away, he called out to her. He threw his hands and struggled with his legs.
But she was gone.
“She. Commanded. Me.” He stood up just as the ashes flew away.
The urn shut once again.