Sunsets on Mars


 

“Not again,” He saw the unholy spark start to glow behind her eyes and decided this time, this time he would stop her. 

“God’s an amazing artist,” she said, ignoring the warning signs in his face, gathering her righteous energies to spring into the “do you know Jesus? speech”.  

“I just said I’d seen a sunset as though it were for the first time. Don’t make this all about you.”

“But.. “

“No. Just don’t. I was trying to tell you something, and you were about to use my pain to evangelize. It’s selfish. And full of pride.”

“I don’t under…. “

“What I was trying to share with you was that I had gone out for the first time since she died, two months. It hit me that this was the first time on my own. As though I’d just been released from the hospital after a car crash where I’d almost died. And it was just to get a simple haircut! 

“But the whole time I was out, when I parked, walked to the salon, I felt as though I’d never done any of it before. I’d passed that corner hundreds of times when I was working, but it was suddenly totally new. I felt shaky and anxious, exposed. It felt like the sidewalk was tilted and I might slide into the street and I had to resist the impulse to hang onto a building for safety.“

“It was the first time I’d been out among humans on my own. Since the morning she died. It’s ok to say that now. It wasn’t, for the longest time. I felt as though I was a stranger in my own brain. Or that I’d been turned inside out, like an old sock in the wash, and all the lint and seams were showing. But I got through it, and actually had a good time talking with the hair stylist. She was easy to talk to, and we talked about her father dying and her mother coping.  It let me feel human again. I’d forgotten how. 

“That’s all that I was trying to share.    

“There was only one person in this whole world I’d allowed to have a real say in how I lived my life. She was my left lung. My legs. My eyes. She was not perfect—anything but, nor was I— but she was the beating of my heart. My best friend. And she’s gone. I’m a stranger to myself. I went out to get a haircut and saw a painted sunset and it seemed alien, as though it were on Mars. The only person I had always shared sunsets with, and children and a life of haircuts and feeling strange and asking how things seemed to them, was gone. I had no one to ask any more. Each day, that thought slammed with a wet thud, like a bag of concrete dropped from a great height at my feet, and the impact comes up through my feet to my hair. 

 “It’s not that everything’s gone, though. I have all of the years stored up here,” tapping his temple. “But the ongoing parts, the dependability of that.. well, I have to learn a new way to breathe, and walk. And see.  

“And, well…. Right now I just don’t know how I should feel about sunsets. It’s a start. “And”– he said, walking away and saying over his shoulder–” I’m sure Jesus understands.”

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