Tonight we climb up the hill, aiming at the top. We’re a team tonight, howling at the moon, like a pack of wolves. Liam holds my hand, screaming his heart out, for he’s happy and loved at last. Adeline is a few steps behind me, beside Noah, who looks right into her eyes, ignoring the view. Next time, I’ll drive you to the top, he says, not just to Adeline, to all of us. We all nod for we’re too tired to walk farther ahead. We don’t know yet, but we’ve reached the top already, although mom claims it’s far too soon. We’re too young to have reached that far.
I feel dizzy, approaching the cliff, blaming the height, or the video game, or both, for it’s as if I were still playing that game, where the hero climbs up only to fall all the way down and I somehow sense that this could happen today. Only that hero has three lives, while I only have one. Liam says that’s far enough. We don’t need to reach the top, he insists. No need to go higher. He’s been invisible for too long, he’s been a ghost and I breathed life into him. He’s now seen. And heard. He’s happy. It could be the happy pill he’s been taking though, the one that makes him yawn so hard, he can’t hear me. That’s how it starts, the downward spiral, I say, but he doesn’t understand, he doesn’t even see the void beneath our feet. Liam takes off his shirt and I see the tattoo on his shoulder, an eagle it is, he says, like he’s proud of it. I’m now free, he tells me, for being loved set him free, he doesn’t have to please his folks anymore now he’s found me and I feel proud too, like he’s my tattoo and we’re stuck together, I tell him and he nods.
Adeline walks next to me and we’re now both standing breathless, like we’re at the top of the hill, or the world and we’re not only seeing the view, we’re also watching the best part of our lives playing like a movie ahead of us.
In a couple of weeks, we’ll be waiting for Noah to drive us up to the top. Up to the point we haven’t reached tonight. Only Noah won’t show up and we’ll spend the night at the mall, the place that dies at night, when lights go out. We’ll no longer be a team next day; we’ll be lone wolves instead. Lone wolves are a myth, mom will say, claiming wolves don’t remain alone for long. It’s over, I’ll tell her and she’ll close my mouth with her hands, mumbling comforting words, like it was God’s will, which won’t help much. I’ve reached the peak, I’ll say, it’s all downhill from now on, but mother will advise me to not rush into the future, to not confuse my peak with Noah’s peak.
Adeline will fall apart. Noah, who is now a fling, will be the love of her life after he’s gone. Poor Adeline will be the first of the gang to fall out of the safety net and into the black hole of loss. That black hole that’ll take her to a parallel universe where loved ones disappear and people certainly allow a certain amount of time for mourning, but expect her to move on like nothing’s happened. Only, to her, Noah’s arc will be a dream forever lost.
Liam will spend his time rearranging the future. He’ll be the opposite of the over-achiever he’s been for most of his life, as he’ll blame that goddamn top of the hill for the loss. He’ll try to live alone, away from the city, or distractions. He’ll try helmets to resist mainstream ideology, to not let it penetrate his mind, only helmets won’t help. They’re permeable to ideas. So he’ll spend most of his time in the shower, rubbing his skin, to wash off invisible bits of ambition. Liam will prove to be a shape-shifter, slowly shrinking his ego, turning into the eagle he now has on his arm, until he flies away, never to be seen again. Not as secretly as Richey Edwards, Adeline will say and I’ll agree.
Mom will say it goes like that; you climb and climb and you don’t know you’ve reached the top, until that first slip, that first loss. You can only walk down gracefully after that, she claims, emphasizing ‘gracefully’ to make the descent sound better than it does. I’ll be rolling down, almost gracefully, fixing my hair every now and then, stretching my clothes, checking my make-up, swallowing happy pills which won’t work but will only make me yawn harder, to the point I’m almost deaf and the world is conveniently incomprehensible, trapped in a sad Van Gogh’s painting, among ghostly ‘roots and tree trunks’, mom blocking the way, to keep me high enough, or push me higher, but I’ll keep rolling and I’ll tell her what the painter allegedly told his brother: la tristesse durera toujours. The sadness will last forever and mom will nod, but I’ll get used to it, she promises.
However graceful the attempt, the descent sucks, but we don’t know yet. We don’t even know we’re about to find out. We form a circle, holding hands and we sway to the music of Motorcycle Emptiness, only we’re not yet familiar with that everlasting nothingness we sing about. We’re standing now at this point, the world at our feet, flying high like eagles in the sky, or on Liam’s arm, at the peak of our togetherness, drunk on the future that will escape us, and we party like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t, exchanging glances of complicity, of promises we won’t keep, but for now it’s only another tender night, one of those nights you don’t suspect you’ll always remember, but we all will, except for Noah.
Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist from Athens, Greece. Her work can be found in many journals, such as the Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish Review, the Sunlight Press (Best Small Fictions 2019 nominee), Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn, Ellipsis Zine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Bending Genres, Litro and others.