"Mere Memories"

By McQuinn

COPYRIGHT: According to the United States Copyright Office, a copyright is secured automatically when the work is created. I will have the ability (and certainly the desire) to take legal action against anyone who infringes upon the ownership of my work. I am in law school and have friends in high places. When I catch you, and I most definitely will, you will be sorry.

© 2005 McQuinn (FictionPress User ID: 474896)

What we once had—what we once lived for…that was a good thing. That was the meaning of our lives, the reason why our souls perpetually were—tumbling and tossing and just being a part of a thing I liked to call, "Us."

He was a great kid. "Such a cutie," as Mother liked to put it when he and I were children. He had jet-black hair, terribly and attractively messy. His hair was always begging you to touch it, to just smooth your hand over his uncombed locks that symbolized his five-year-old innocence.

I remember touching his hair once, when I was a teenager. My hand combed through the spiky tumult, enjoying its silkiness against my palm. He lightly slapped my hand away then, groaning about how weird I was. And then he lay down on his bed and looked casually at his Playboy poster, before taking my hand in his and tugging me on the bed with him. He stranded his fingers through my hair, and took a dark curl in between his fingers before he placed it against his nose and lips, to smell and kiss it.

Then we fell asleep on his bed, as we did every night when we stayed up late, together on weekends. I suppose all best friends do that.

But he never told me he considered me his best friend, and I didn't either. The fact that we were best friends was so true and alive and blunt that it didn't need to be stated, or worded through one of those, "You're my best friend" cards I often studied in Hallmark. Our relationship went beyond simple phrases, tight hugs, and light kisses on the cheek. What we felt for each other transcended any form of diction. Anything that could describe what we had just corrupted its pureness and its serenity.

When we were children, we used to play jacks on top of that small, rickety bridge you could find in the middle of Pacific Road. Cars very rarely passed that specific bridge—it seemed to be too dangerous to take on anything heavier than a small, tiny postal truck. But when we were sitting there—when we were talking there, laughing there, glancing at the world from atop of that rickety, dangerous bridge, it was like everything just slipped away…and it was just him and me. Simply, unequivocally him and me, our lives ahead of us, and a game of jacks at the tips of our tiny fingers.

When we grew up, the game of jacks turned into music and CDs, rock and roll and jazz. We sprawled out on the wood of the bridge and tanned in the sun all day, once in a while looking up at one another to see what the other was doing. After the song ended and after the sun died down, he would stick his head through the spacing of the bridge's wooden bars and look down at the water.

"How deep do you suppose that river is?" he would ask me once in a while, examining the water with curious, interested eyes.

"How deep do you want it to be?" I shot back in this imposing manner.

He usually dropped the question after a few moments of thinking about it, and we casually popped the next CD into the player as the sun peeked out through the dissipating clouds.

Although I was very fond of his hair, his best features were his eyes, sparkling green, wretched with forlornness I knew he never experienced in his life. Why would he? I was always there, and it was always him and me—what we had transcended everything, even lonesomeness and desire.

But I witnessed those eyes on the afternoon of June 24th. The summer's air caused our shirts to stick to our damp skin. We were on the Pacific Road bridge, drawing each other with the charcoal pencils Mother had bought from the art supplies store. I drew him: his handsome, masculine face, his tousled hair, and his desolate, sparkling green eyes. He wouldn't show me his drawing of me, though. I grew rather perturbed with him, stupidly perturbed enough to rapidly take the drawing of him and rip it up into tiny shreds of paper. I lifted my hand in the air and let the wind catch and blow away the small pieces of picture.

He looked at the fragments, following their tracks as they landed in a scurry across the river below us. He stuck his head out over the bridge, looking at the river enveloping and drowning the perfectly ripped picture of his face.

"How deep do you suppose that river is?" he asked, seemingly unfazed by my actions.

"How deep do you want it to be?" I asked back, after a pang of guilt shot through my heart. I ripped the drawing, I ripped him and me and the bridge beneath us, and I let the wind catch it, and let it drown in the river.

He thought for a moment. "I want it to be as deep as my love for you," he whispered hesitantly.

His words filled my mind in a flash, and our friendship and love quickly became corrupted by its description in words. I was confused and disgruntled and wild with anger—he loved me?

I picked myself up from the bridge and ran to my house, up the stairs and into my room. I locked myself in and stayed there for hours, sobbing into a placid green pillow.

I was seventeen then. He was, too. We never fought or even got close to it. We really didn't even know what fighting was, much less experienced it firsthand.

I was silent in my room, those few hours after I stopped crying. I made an effort to reason with myself, to tell myself that everything would be okay tomorrow—that we'd go back to the bridge and we'd play poker or read comics or listen to classic rock—that everything would be like it was before, completely pure and unadulterated and sweet and calm.

But then Mother barged into my room, with her hands covering her mouth like something terrible happened. She tried to explain it to me through her torrent of tears and quick hiccups of breath, but I wouldn't listen. I couldn't listen or understand or even think about what she was saying, because I told myself that everything would be okay tomorrow—that he and I would go back to the bridge and we'd play and read and draw and listen. And that everything around us would slip away.

The next day came, and I went back on the bridge, only it was different. There were policemen everywhere, with their cars on the bridge, flashing spurious lights of red and blue. A crane dangled above the water, blocking the "Pacific Road" street sign that didn't seem to be there anymore. A few men and women in swimsuits plunged into the river, finally discovering its depth.

I tried to ignore those people, tried to sit in the place he always sat on the bridge, and tried to let everything just disappear.

But a piece of paper fluttered near my hand before I closed my eyes. It was folded, and it stuck its pointed edge out of the small gap of wooden planks that formed the bridge.

With shaking hands, I slowly pulled the paper out of its place. I unfolded it, looking at it with wide—and now forlorn—eyes. My hand went over my mouth, like Mother's hand went over hers, and I sobbed a silent bout of pain as I studied the deep, smooth charcoal figures. The picture was of him and me, on the bridge, kissing each other, holding each other, loving each other.

I tried to grasp it in my incapable, numb hand as my dead heart jumped with agony. The wind caught it though, and the paper was sent into the river, landing peacefully on the water's surface.

I scrambled to my feet in frenzy. "Grab that paper!" I screamed to one of the men in swimsuits. He wasn't listening. "Grab that paper!" I screamed more loudly, gaining his attention. He swam over to the floating paper, picked it out of the water, and reached to give it to me.

I grasped the paper, holding it tightly to my chest. I was glad that I recovered the picture—it was the last memory of him and me.

But then I glanced at the soaking paper.

The river destroyed the picture—it destroyed "Us"—leaving it in a disaster of blurs and water, the charcoal disappearing and him and me dissipating at the tips of my fingers…