by Stephanie Bagnall
John sat, his wool cap shielding his ears from the late November chill. Most days he didn’t know why he returned here, where her memory clung to everything, like too much perfume. He often wondered if he was masochistic, enjoying the searing pain that twisted his gut and constricted his heart when he sat here, hidden from the outside world by the highway that hummed with activity just beyond his gaze.
He could still see the glimmer of her belly ring in the late afternoon sun; hear her laughter echoing in the abandoned tunnels where he had chased her. He could feel the softness of her brilliantly red curls as they slid like water through his fingers, smell her fruity shampoo in the air and taste the cherry lip gloss from her pale pink lips.
If he were honest with himself, however, John knew why he always found his way here and sat until his body was numb with cold and the only thing piercing the darkness where the buzzing fluorescent lamps used to illuminate the highway. This was their oasis where the rest of the world and its troubles had not mattered and time had stood still. That magic seemed to hold, turning this place in a time capsule, its contents unaffected by the passage of time.
Here he could block out the other memories surrounding her that plagued him in the outside world. the blinding white of the semi’s headlights the screeching tires, the shattering of glass and bone, the sickening scent of burning rubber, the sticky wet feeling of blood, the emptiness of his arms as the paramedics tore them apart, the cold, hollowing numbness of her funeral, followed by guilt that seemed to eat him from the inside out.
His therapist said it wasn’t healthy to return here, that he had to face reality and the grief that went with it and move on.
But his therapist didn’t understand. This place kept her alive, kept him from forgetting. Returning here kept her with him, and that was a gift he’d pay anything for—including his sanity.
Stephanie Bagnall loves a compelling story. When she’s not busy writing her characters out of the trouble they get into, she is a Philosophy and Political Science major at MTSU. Her work has appeared in Ink Bean magazine.
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