Jasmine. That’s what moonlight smells like to me. I know, cliché, but I’m a sucker for the truth. That or death and decay, depending on where you might be. I’d been in both places. Can you guess my first choice?
She died on Christmas Day 2019. Quiet and unassuming as she’d been in life. I’d like to say I missed her, but I didn’t. I really didn’t know her.
The marriage was one of convenience, a perfect cover, but I’ve come to realize that maybe that wasn’t fair, not to her. Don’t get me wrong. She agreed to the farce, whole-hearted and happily, but I think she had expectation which turned out to be false.
The funeral was the next day, quiet and unassuming as she’d been in life. Was I sorry for the way her life had turned out?
Maybe, but probably not. A man like me doesn’t live long with emotions. I was gone so much, I always thought she’d take a lover, live her life without me, but I’m finding out now that she didn’t. Never. Ever. No lover. No life beyond the false curtain of our lives.
Damn, the woman.
I don’t normally swear. Not in my nature. Not the man I am or want to be. But sitting here by her gravesite, watching the jasmine glowing in the moonlight, I’m not sure any more of what kind of man I actually am.
I quit the day she died. Used grief as my excuse and they believed me. Not for long, but I’ll be gone by then. You see, they didn’t let me go, just…. gave me a vacation.
I sat awhile longer, watching nothing, listening always. What had I missed? Had I ever really known her? Can one suddenly realize their whole life has been a lie without destroying everything in which they had believed?
No regret, but…. maybe there was.
Maybe I wasn’t so truthful as I believed. Maybe I had been the one missing life all along. Maybe she had been the one to teach me if only I’d listened.
I dropped a cluster of Jasmine on her grave and stood, hefting my pack in one hand.
Maybe, but my life had become one of maybes.
My cell vibrated in my pocket.
“Yes?” Softly, barely stirring the air before me.
“Are you still at the grave?”
“When are you going to come?”
“Well, yes. It’s taken you a long time to understand.”
I thought about a show I’d seen years ago. A vampire show. Watched one of those long stretches in some jail somewhere or another.
“Don’t use words you don’t understand,” the vampire had said. Then, “Don’t use words I don’t understand.” If I’d believed in vampires, I might have believed in him.
“I’ll be there.”
A soft laugh, almost unheard. “I know. You have to know, don’t you?”
I nodded, knowing she couldn’t see.
“Maybe you’ll understand then.”
Snapping the phone shut, I stuffed it back into my pocket, glanced around. Empty graves never did much for me, not even if the moonlight smelled like Jasmine.
I vanished into the darkness.
He liked to be alone. Walking through the woods, loafers loud on the plank walkway, the peace of the forest surrounded him. He’d grown up in a house surrounded by woods; had always felt just as home outside as he had in.
Life was different now. He existed in a concrete maze, nary a slash of green anywhere. There were parks, man-made, allowing just enough ‘wild’ to show through the smooth veneer of their civilized mask.
He had money, the fancy house, cars, a lovely wife, but none of it made him happy. Not even his wife and he’d thought he’d loved her long ago.
This wasn’t the way he wanted to live his life. This wasn’t who he was or who he was meant to be.
He stopped at the curve of the walkway, staring off into the woods, listening to the scamper of a squirrel in dead leaves, the rub of branches, the distant call of a hawk. His suit coat dropped to the ground, followed by his watch, wedding ring and wallet. He didn’t need them anymore. Wasn’t that person anymore.
Stepping off into the leaves, he walked away, disappearing into the distant line of trees.
The world is full of cactus, but we don’t have to sit on it.
The space between the gates was not wide enough for her to slip through so she dropped belly down, squirming under the fence, chain links catching at her hair and hoodie.
Once inside, she took off at a run, reaching the kennels moments later, glancing in each as she trotted down the walkway. Momma and the babies huddled in the last run, puppies protected by Momma’s thin body.
“It’s okay, Momma,” she assured the bitch as she slipped inside. “I won’t hurt you or your pups.”
Rubbing Momma’s neck, she lifted the puppies one by one, cradling them in the lifted front of her sweatshirt.
Carefully, she trotted back to the gate, Momma beside. Placed the puppies one by one on the other side, then slid back beneath the gate, Momma still at her side.
Gathering the tiny balls of fur, she ran to the path leading away from the Institute and back towards town.
“No one is going to hurt your pups,” she promised Momma. “Ever.”
Ever, ever, ever, she promised as she ran.
Not sure how I feel about this story. Something is off, but since I can’t figure it out right now and I’m already late posting, I decided to just take the plunge.
All images from Pinterest.