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Image by Claire Kelly


Stop it, Joe! Stop it! What kind of man do you think I am? You know I can’t stand up there in front of a hundred people and talk about him without breaking down! Look here: he was my lover, my whole world, and I killed him, and you expect me to talk about it like I remember my name? Think, man, think! All you have to do is organize a wake. I have to find a way to keep living, to survive without air, get through the day without him. You’ll do fine, but you’ll have to do it without me. 

Look, I loved him. I loved him with all my heart and soul, not like anything I ever felt before. I used to think love was just a nice warm feeling you got from puppies or parents or Beethoven sonatas. But he showed me that real love is a whole new plane of existence, one that makes everything that came before unimportant, irrelevant, uninteresting. Falling off that plane, falling back into my old existence, is like dying, and I’m dying now. Dying

You have never stood numbly by while consummate evil ground your whole world into little pieces. No, you haven’t. So no, you can’t feel what I’m feeling. You just can’t. You’ve never watched the man you loved smashed down by an invisible cloud of disease. You’ve never watched helplessly as he crumpled under something unknown and unfightable. 

And you’ve never been the one to have to make that decision, that unthinkable decision to tell them to turn off his life support. You’ve never had to kill your lover, man, to kill the man who held you up on that upper plane, who kept you alive. When he died it was like I died. No, you don’t know.

Here I am just coming to terms with how I’ll never hold him again, how I’ll never go to sleep feeling the security of him wrapped around me, how I’ll call his name and never get an answer, how everything we built together is gone, gone as though it never was. Here I am, with all the foundations of my life with him washed away, drowning, with nothing to grab onto, just fighting to find a way to breathe, to survive, to somehow be human again. And you ask me to stand up and talk about him as though he’s a car I’ve wrecked, or a bicycle that’s been stolen, like something I can replace and forget!

No! I’d stand up there and blubber and cry and make no sense, form no words, be an embarrassment to his memory. Well, he deserves a better sendoff that that. Get somebody who will carry on without him. Get his mother, his father. Get anybody but me. 

Don’t you understand? I’d grab that urn and cling to it, thinking nothing so much as how to somehow ooze inside it to be close to him just one more time. I’d fall to my knees and scream out my anguish, not knowing or caring that a hundred people were watching. I’d destroy that solemn gathering just as his death has destroyed me. 

Oh, I don’t care about embarrassing myself. I care about disrespecting him and all that he meant to all those people. I care about taking the memory of a magnificent man and dragging it down into the indignity of pathos, of uncontrolled grief. He deserves better.

I know I ought to do this. I know people will expect me to do this. But I know if I do, people will wish I hadn’t. People will talk behind their hands about the indignity of it all, about how I should have known better than to try to do what I knew all along I couldn’t do.

Oh, what are you doing? Stop that! This is a very private moment; you can’t record it! Please don’t take my awful display of weakness and make it worse! No, you don’t have my permission to play it instead of having me speak. No, they wouldn’t understand. 

Would they? Do you actually think there will be other people out there who feel like this? People who will be comforted to know they’re not alone in their unspeakable anguish? Oh, what if you’re right? What if this is the only way out of this disaster, this disaster that has touched so many people, that has brought so many to their knees along with me. 

Take it. Do what you must. But leave me alone now. I have to cry. I need to cry alone. 

Harry Neil is a gay California desert rat born 80 years ago in North Carolina’s Cape Fear Basin. His first collection of short fiction was recently published by Donella Press as Screaming and Other Tales. His short stories have been published in Carmina Magazine, in Pink Disco, and in the “Revenge” collection from Free Spirit. He is a regular contributor to “The Yard: Crime Blog.”


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