The Other Side Chapter 1
Something happened a couple of weeks ago and I needed to write about it. I thought I could make it into a kind of book eventually, but I only got part of the way through chapter 4 and I lost the connection. It was also painful and exhausting to write. I don't think I'll ever finish it, but I wanted to share what I had written anyway. I don't know why I want to share it, maybe just because it is a piece of trying to make sense of things that don't always make sense. Anyway, I'll post it here. Feel free to read it if you want to.
Chapter 1: Zee
“Where does one story end and another one begin?’
‘No really, I’m asking because our stories bleed together so tightly that I’m not sure I can tell where you start and I end. Can you tell me? Zelle? That’s what you want me to call you right?”
She doesn’t answer me. I look at her for a minute longer. Her brown eyes are deep. The depth of them strikes me and I feel queasy when I look into them for too long, but she never gives me the chance to get past the initial shock. Instead she turns and faces the other direction.
The light has started to stream in behind her. It lights up the dark in curled waves like dusted smoke.
“Zelle? Elle? Zee? What’s your name?” I ask again, “what do you want me to call you?”
“I don’t remember my name anymore” She answers. She is leaning toward the light but noticing the dark for the first time, “I guess it doesn’t matter what you call me.”
“How do you want me to tell your story? Do you even want me to tell it?”
She faces me again but doesn’t look at me. Her eyes are following the smoke. It seems odd to me that she’s never noticed it before.
Has it always been this dark here? I can feel her wondering. She hesitates as though she is considering asking me but decides against it.
“Zelle” I say again, “Zee.”
That was the name she gave me first even though she hasn’t really committed to using it. “It’s your story, do you want me to tell it?”
“It’s our story” She says, “It wasn’t supposed to be, was it? But that’s what it became. Yes. Tell it. Even if it is just to yourself. You deserve that much. Did I keep you here all this time, in the dark?”
“No.” I say. I pause and look around. I’m used to the dark, but I never knew how I got there or why “I don’t know.” I tell her, “I don’t understand this any more than you do.”
“Huh” She looks at her own hand, it has grown lighter since the beginning of our conversation and more transparent. It is starting to glow now, before our eyes it is un-forming. It is no longer solid matter but hundreds of tiny stars buzzing next to each other, in another moment they will pull away and float through the portal.
“I have to go soon” she tells me. She looks desperate for a moment, worried.
“I know” I tell her, “It’s time.”
You get to go home. I don’t say the words out loud, but I feel them. We feel them together.
“Home” she says. Her arms are turning into the collective of tiny stars now. “I get to go home.”
“Yes” I say.
“I’ve wanted that for so long”
I can feel tears in her eyes even though her face has become too thin now to produce water.
“Go” I tell her, “This is what we’ve been waiting for. It’s time for you to go.”
“You’ll be okay?” She says. It is half-way between a statement and a question.
I nod. “I will.”
“I’ll see you again” She says in a way that suggests confidence on the surface but underneath wants reassurance. She looks back to the light and lets its warmth soothe her. Her hair was red. It might have been dyed that way but maybe it was natural-- I’m not sure. It is glowing now as her face evaporates.
“When it’s your turn. I’ll be there to greet you, to walk you home.” She seems more certain now. The light has told her the answer.
“I know” I tell her.
“And I’ll watch over you” she promises, her voice echoing around the dark space because her mouth has vanished, “I’ll be helping you from the other side.”
My own eyes have started to water now. I don’t feel anything in particular—or maybe I feel it all so strongly that I’ve gone numb. It’s really hard to tell in the moment. I watch as her deep brown eyes turn bright white and scatter into a dust of stars. Her hair leaves a reddish hue in its wake.
The light seems to dim for a minute, it contracts like a breath and then it blasts open. The light is blinding, and the world is filled with colors. So many bright, beautiful, vibrant colors that my own eyes itch trying to hold onto them. For a just a second, I see where she is. I see our home and I know what I have been looking for all these years. What we have been longing for is finally within reach. She is home, she is safe. She is--
Then the light is gone, and I am back alone in my own body in my own apartment, staring at the dark television screen in front of me.
What was that? I wonder. My head can’t explain it, but something inside of me knows. I have been looking for her all this time and she was always right here--and now. Now she’s gone.
My dog yawns and pulls herself up. She pads across the floor in a circle, her toenails click against the tile.
I see the flashes that I’ve seen for decades now. I feel them sharply inside of me as they swing by. So many nights I spent trying to piece them together. I had turned them over in my head relentlessly and never been able to make sense of them.
Now I see.
They are memories, just not mine. They are hers. They were always hers. And for the first time I think I am starting to understand.
I don’t know exactly what happened, how we became enmeshed like that, or how to separate our stories. Once she appeared, she became me, but these flashes are her memories from before then. We had our own lives once many years ago. Two completely separate stories that had suddenly become so tightly fused that I no longer knew what was mine or what was real.
“I’ll tell your story,” I say to empty space. I look up at the ceiling. She promised she would be there. She said she would be watching and helping me. I believe her. I trust her, “If you help me. Please?”
I can feel her smile and nod even though we are worlds apart now.
“What name should I use for you?” I ask her again.
“Just call me Zee.”