What Follows

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11.3: Parallel Universe

'let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you'


"That makes no sense whatsoever-" I say. "Why would we 'forget' each other?"

"Because we're wired to-" Tobias says, looking at me with his bloodshot eyes. "I-I have those stories-" He says, tapping his forehead. "-inside my head. Stories that I certainly didn't create and didn't live. Stories that must've belonged to someone-"

And all I can think of is that my eyebrows must be south because all they do is get attracted to the north of my head. And it's really unpleasant, really unpleasant to have your face frozen over, to not know if your lips are bleeding words or if your ears are singing Latin. Because, hell, nothing makes sense.

Because, God, I cannot afford it making sense.

"You really think I wouldn't have more 'friends' over 30 years if I was allowed to?" Tobias asks like it's the most obvious thing ever.

And you know, what he says does hit me. It couldn't have been mere coincidence that Tobias chose me as a 'friend' over the previous decades.

"So I'll forget you?" My voice breaks. "What-What if I don't want to? I don't want to-"

Tobias holds my flailing gaze in his unwavering one. "You wouldn't even remember not wanting to forget me."

I gulp, I reach for my throat, I rest my hand on my chest. "But-but we're friends. We like each other. This can't just happen-" I sniff and point at him accusingly. "God's gotta know that this is- it's cold-hearted."

Tobias looks away. "We were too-"

"We tried-"

"That's exactly what we didn't do!" Tobias says, his voice gaining strength. "At least, not hard enough. At least I didn't-" He looks away. "Death isn't something poetic and it isn't anything like falling leaves- or- or sky tremors or heartbreak. It is nothing like anything I ever related it to. Death is existing in a moment, then-then-" He gulps. "Then, hush. Total lack. Non-existing existence."

The level of panic I am in overwhelms me and I get on my feet.

"Why-why didn't you tell me that?" I ask him, slowly approaching him.

"Tell you what?"

"Tell me that we-we will forget each other, why? Why didnt you tell me that?" I press.

"Because I thought you'd figure it out-" He says, looking down. "It's obvious that everything works against our wish."

My eyes widen as a wave of unjustified anger rolls its way from my core towards Tobias. And really, really, the more I stare at him, the more I see a broken boy who knows nothing but sad things. Sad things he keeps hidden in the tucks of his smile lines and the gaps of his teeth. Sad things that he's trying to constantly fight away by trying and trying to seek the bright side of everything.

And when I look at his defeated position, I deep down know that this is his exhausted body, battered by the scars grief left behind, constantly reminding him to forget. And I know that if he didn't tell me this, it's because he doesn't want to remind himself and depress it, not because he belittles my feelings.

And suddenly I'm no longer angry. I'm defeated.

And suddenly I realize that that could be the difference between Tobias and I. Tobias turns his battles, his agony into breathtaking smiles, while I turn mine into frown lines and desparate anger. I realize that all those masks are nothing but defense mechanisms.

I slide down the wall, next to him and stretch my legs in front me, feeling incredibly tired and sorry. He imitates me and stretches out both his legs, throws back his head and looks at me through the few hair strands that escaped his bun.

"I'm sorry for your mom," I find myself whispering. He says nothing. "And I'm sorry for us."

He nods, his eyes welling up.

"I'm sorry for your pain-" I tell him. "And regrets."

"I'm sorry about yours too-" He says.

"We were broken-" I say. "And personally-" I pause, my voice breaking beyond my control. "If I'd blame this on anyone, I'd blame it on the people who forgot to teach their children manners. And on people that are so goal-oriented that they forget that there are other important things in life that's not winning."

Tobias blinks away his tears, his hazel eyes pouring and talking to mine. "I'm sorry we didn't meet under better circumstances-" He says. "Like when we were alive, for example." A brittle smile flashes across his features and my heart breaks in two.

"We are generations apart-" I remind him. "I couldn't have met you even then."

"In a parallel universe?"

I tilt my head toward him and swallow. "We are in a parallel universe-" I sniff.

He says nothing for a while and stares at me. Then, "I'm sorry-" He whispers sincerely, closing his eyes. "I didn't know we were going to get that attached to each other or I would've told you."

"Or you shouldn't have told me at all-" I say sadly.

Tobias puts out his hand in the space between us and I look at it with a small smile, remembering the lecture he gave about sensation just to 'show' me that he's a poet.

I put my hand in his and almost laugh because it's the most ridiculous thing ever. Holding hands (ehem, that you can't feel) with a ghost who will be wiped clear of your memory in a few days.

I sniff and clear my throat. "It pretty much is the end, huh?" I remark with a deep breath. "I mean the month's almost over-"

Tobias looks down at our hands, intertwines our fingers, closes his eyes and says nothing.

"Well, I was getting bored of the pain. I might appreciate a stretch of nothingness-" I say, trying to sound light-hearted, but I don't think it's working.

"Well, you won't really feel it-" Tobias says. "It's just like a blink of the eye. Your peace is never lasting."

"Thank you for your prep talk-" I say no longer surprised.

"I mean you were going to know that anyway-" Tobias points out.

"I mean, it does make sense that we won't even be given the mercy of sleep-" I say, glancing at Benji who's running around his tail. "It's okay-"

"So-" Tobias sniffs and tries a smile. And yes, he manages to hold it. "How has it been since my... absence?"

"Cherry marmalade-" I say with a small, sad smile.

"Oh, it has been 'shitty', like you'd say-"

"Yes, shitty. Shitty like I'd say-" I repeat, looking at his red face with a heart twinge. "Joshua plays it too. And apparently Sierra needs her BlackBerry or she dies or some shit of that matter. And my brother is a heavy, heavy smoker. And I've been 'oh, Rosey, don't it break your heart that you can't even save him?', inside my head.'" I sigh. "This is the conclusion of my days without you-"

Tobias looks away and shakes his head. "I just don't understand it-" He says. Looks back at me, locks my eyes. "How can anybody bear breaking your heart?"

I blink at him and his scattered, underrated freckles and remember to breathe.

"Maybe I deserved it-" I say ever so quietly.

"No, no-" He says, shaking his head. "No body deserves this." Tobias looks away, tips his head upward. "But that's the thing, isn't it?" He glances down at me. "Heartbreak. The reason behind all mighty chaos."

"Heartbreak-" I mouthe the word and Tobias runs a hand through his hair.

"I mean, heartbreak is essentially the breaking point with no return. I suppose the worst of criminals' must've had their hearts broken so bad that they decided to rebel-" He says. "You and I and a hundred thousand more got our hearts broken and just snapped." He then lifts his index finger and smiles grimly. "I suppose the cure to all that, is learning how to protect your heart." He drops his finger, drops his smile.

"So, yes, Roseline-" He continues. "-you do not deserve that pain and God knows, if I had lived and met you, even as a fatherly figure, before you offed yourself, I would've tried to make you see your worth."

"A fatherly figure-" I repeat and laugh quietly at the thought.

"Well, I couldn't have been a lover-" He points out and I lift my eyebrows as a smile blossoms from my lips. "I've been keeping up with the laws. I suppose that would've made me what you'd call a pedophile-" He looks at me as if I had just attacked him. "I'm not a pedophile, Roseline."

I look at his silly face expression and find it really difficult to stop smiling. I shake my head.

"I wish you could've been there-" I say. "As a lover. Because surely I wouldn't have felt as lonely-"

"I would've made you feel loved-" He says. "We could've saved each other-"

I look at his face, my heart breaking. "You think?"

"I know-"

"Well, maybe that's a thing too, you know-" I say softly. "Maybe many people died because their lovers were in a different generation than theirs. Maybe those people-" I say. "-were destined to have loneliness cripple them. We were just...lonely."

"Lonely, hmm-" He says. "I don't know if I'd use this word."

I look at him, almost rolling my eyes. "What word would you rather use? You, the master of poetry and words?"

"I'd go for unloved-"

I make a face. "That was what I literally said."

"You said lonely."

"Well, people feel lonely not because people don't love them. No-" I say. "People do love them. Their parents love them- dammit, they'd die for them. Their siblings-" I say. "-love them. But just not enough. Lonely is not getting the love-"

"The love your soul aches for-" He finishes my sentence with glowing eyes as he nods vigorously. "That's bloody brilliant! I love it when you talk Shakespeare to me."

I chuckle lightly, rolling my eyes. "I'm full of surprises."

Tobias' eyes linger on me and I try not to look away. His grin softens to a small smile and then dissolves into a gentle sigh.

"I might've just fallen in love with a corpse-" He says, his eyes windows opening up slowly but surely. "And I don't seem to mind it-"

I make a face, snort out a laugh, brushing it off. But the last things I saw were the sincerity of his eyes and how tight his hand was holding mine before darkness breathes us in.

And maybe that's what it feels like to die all over again.

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