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The Gravestone Beneath the Wintry Sky

The Gravestone Beneath the Wintry Sky

2009

It is summer, but the sky above her gravestone is as gray as late winter snow.

He imagines that it has been this way for the last twenty-five years. He imagines all the students who have passed by and wondered how she could have gone so quickly. He imagines all the people who have knelt by that stone and prayed for her soul. He imagines her parents coming here three times a year at first, and then very rarely, until they, too, had their own gravestones on another side of the world.

Other people see her name here, and the goodbye for a teacher and friend carved into stone. They see how she had not even reached her thirtieth birthday. He, however, does not see these, or anything else on the ground. A few months ago, he wept on her tombstone, shamelessly grasped it and imagined her heart beating beneath the grass. But today is different. Today, he sees the sky.

The sky – brushed with angels’ wings, painted in the gray of coming rain, veiled in the gauzy brilliance of sunshine and gold…the sky is quiet today. It speaks, in its muteness. It tells him that he has to look up – to keep his chin up – to keep his eyes to the heavens.

He finds it hard to look nowadays. His eyes are weaker; he can’t even arch his neck to look at a nearby tree, let alone the sky. But for her, he does.

He hasn’t done something for her in a long while. It’s been years since he truly talked to her, listened to her as she sobbed over what he once saw as tiny issues, held her in his arms and kept her close. He will give anything to hold her now, to whisper his apologies, to speak of his love. But she is gone: as the earth is silent, so is her heart.

So he will look at the sky, arch his neck, stretch his old muscles from time to time. He will look to the sky, pretend that he is hoping for more, pretend that he is seeing her and listening to her and finding her there.

And then, one day, there will be more than a tombstone.

Today, he sees the same bench in front of her grave, the same bright green grass, the same trees waving their branches in the distance. There is the same sky, gray, like a house over where her mortal body lies; like a house with halls through which her soul walks.

One day, he will walk those same halls with her.

Today, he will sit on the bench. Today, he will talk to her softly. Perhaps he will sing her another song, something he wrote in his sleep, something he sang to her in his dreams.

One day, he will wake up to her – and one day, she will no longer be his dream. She will be the morning eternal, the sun from which no night can be drawn.

He can wait for that day.

He smiles at the sky. “Yes,” he says, as he sits on the bench, as he breathes, as he hears his old bones creak, “Yes, I can wait.”

He leans back, revels in the summer sun, gazes calmly at her gray castle floating above the earth. Perhaps she will gaze out one of the windows at him. Perhaps she will give him a smile, blow him a kiss, wave at him. Perhaps she will send a letter down.

But she has heard his words, he knows. All this time, she has heard; all this time, she has listened.

Published inShort Stories