On the banks of my loving memories

by Nick Perilli

At his wake, Jamie sat in the corner of the living room petting the dog. He didn’t have much energy to move in this new body—this boxy tin-man they hurled his conscious being into as the light faded from his physical eyes. He spoke over the mourners filling the rest of his and his husband Scott’s house. Scott sat in the recliner across from Jamie, resting his head in his hand. He watched the birds out the open windows more than he did his husband. Jamie’s mouth blinked.

LOST. BY THE WAY, I FOUND ANOTHER MEMORY. DO YOU RECALL WHEN WE SKIPPED WORK TO DRIVE ALONG THE COAST FOR THE DAY? I TOLD YOU THAT I DIDN’T WANT TO BE APART FROM YOU EVER AGAIN. WE SPOTTED A STRAY DOG ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. WE BROUGHT HER HOME.

“I do,” Scott said, smiling and wiping his arm across his eyes. “Keep that one, please.”

KEPT. BY THE WAY, I FOUND ANOTHER MEMORY. AFTER A TRAGIC ACCIDENT, WE WENT SPELUNKING IN THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS WITH OUR FOUR FRIENDS. OUR ADVENTURE SOON WENT HORRIBLY WRONG, THROUGH, WHEN A COLLAPSE TRAPPED US DEEP IN THE DARK UNDERGROUND AND WE FOUND OURSELVES PURSUED BY BLOODTHIRSTY CREATURES. AS OUR FRIENDSHIPS DETERIORATED, WE STRUGGLED NOT ONLY TO SURVIVE THE STRANGE BREED OF PREDATOR—BUT EACH OTHER, AS WELL.

Scott shook his head. “That’s a movie,” he said. “Get rid of that one. You didn’t like enclosed spaces anyway.”

Their dog stared at Jamie in his chair during the night. She looked deep into his ever-open LED eyes. During the day, she did the same while Jamie pet her until the cat stepped in to bite and scratch at his unfeeling hand for hours. Then, she would step aside and stare unflinching from her bed by the TV.

LOST. BY THE WAY, I FOUND ANOTHER MEMORY. WE MADE LOVE IN THE ATTIC AFTER YOU FOUND OUT YOUR FATHER DIED. YOU CURSED HIS NAME AS WE DID. YOU CRIED. IT WAS UNCOMFORTABLE, BUT I LOVED YOU MORE FOR IT.

Silently, Scott leaned back and shut his eyes. He only remembered the part about his father just now. “No,” he eventually said. “Lose that one.”

A bird flew in through one of the open windows. It landed next to Jamie’s chair. Scott stopped him from touching it, as he worried about Jamie’s grip strength. Their cat chased it off.

LOST. BY THE WAY, I FOUND ANOTHER MEMORY. I BREATHED ONCE. NO, I BREATHED MANY TIME BUT THIS ONE WAS IMPORTANT. IT WAS EITHER MY FIRST OF MY LAST. MY FIRST, I THINK. THE AIR TASTED STERILE AND DISEASED.

Some mourner brought a small glass of bourbon to Scott. He took a sip from it. “I don’t know what to do with that, James.”

SKIPPED. BY THE WAY, I FOUND ANOTHER MEMORY. I PICKED UP QUARTERS FROM THE BANK FOR THE METERS DOWNTOWN. I HAD PAINS EVEN THEN, BUT YOU CONVINCED ME NOT TO WORRY ABOUT THEM. YOU DID THAT. DON’T LISTEN TO MY FAMILY. THERE IS NO ONE TO BLAME BUT YOURSELF.

“No,” Scott said. “Lost. Lose it.”

LOST. BY THE WAY, I FOUND ANOTHER MEMORY. DO YOU REMEMBER THE DARK AT THE END? I REMEMBER THE INCREDIBLE DARK AT THE END. I SEE IT EVEN NOW, DROPPING IN THROUGH THE WINDOW. THROUGH YOUR PORES. I DON’T WANT TO GO BACK FOR IT, BUT I DON’T WANT TO STAY HERE LIKE THIS, SCOTT.

The mourners sang for Jamie in the piano room. Uncle Georgie sang the loudest, and Scott let him drown out his husband. Their dog came back over, so Jamie pet her again. She stared forever into his LED eyes.

Nick Perilli is a writer and aspiring librarian living in Philadelphia with a dog, a cat, and a fiancee who have yet to watch Gremlins 2 with him. Work of his can be found in Maudlin House, Ghost Parachute, Five2One Magazine, Empyreome and elsewhere in the internet void. He tweets @nicoloperilli.

Artwork by: Claire Loader

A writer and photographer, Claire Loader was born in New Zealand and spent several years in China before moving to County Galway, Ireland. Recently published in Crannóg, Dodging The Rain and Pendora, she spends her days seeking enchantment in ruins. You can find her work here: www.allthefallingstones.com

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Twitter: @msloader