And We’re Down To Two Roads

Published on: Sunday, September 17th, 2017
by Ethan Lesley CC | © All rights reserved.

Joaquim was trying to skip rocks at the green lake. It was a surreal experience, one that Margie thought only existed in movies, but this landscape was as breath-taking as can be at ten in the morning. Their silk clothes are more radiant than the white flowers that bloomed only on April, regarded as having the ability to restore youth to those who smelt them. All of that were legend, of course, that Margie didn’t really believe in but she still hand-picked a dozen.

Margie could feel the warm breeze block her low voice but Joaquim heard her inquiries. “How far have you thrown?”
“This time?”
“Yes. This time.”
“How far have I thrown? Would it be that I haven’t used more force? Why is it not enough?”
“It’s your youth, darling. It’s fading.”
Joaquim was, in this form, a 38 year old man.
“You should change your stance. You’re a totem pole.”
Joaquim, who seemed four years younger, did nothing. “I admire everyone who hasn’t bought into going here.”
“It really is serene.” Margie’s hazel hair was dryer than the wheat from their homeland. “Do you think you’re obsessed with feeling younger?”
“There is no remedy but feeling.”
“I’m not sure about that.”
“Like you’re so sure of everything.”
She unconsciously nosed her picks, not minding her chair squeak. “There is nothing more elegant than youth.”
“There is nothing.”
“That I’m sure of.”

“Brother, are you sure you want to stay here?”
“Why? I’m not hungry yet.”
“I didn’t ask.”
“You look a decade older now.”
“It’s just the sun. Orange makes me older.”
She danced around, pretending the grass were sheepdogs.
“I need to be cured.”
“You’re obsessed with wellness.”
“I’m obsessed with living.”
“This is not living.”
“To me, it is. It’s going to buy me more years.”
“You cannot buy years.”
“I can.”
Margie didn’t mind her brother’s fascination. She just continued to smoke Cubans as her dress turned auburn with the sun setting. It was a terrible thing of him to let the thirteen year old silly with her vices. “Do you want to go home?”
“Maybe later.”

“Describe your life to me in three words,” Margie asked.
“Tiresome, lonely and phlegmatic.”
Her skin was wrapped in fern. “You had a great career.”
“It was short-lived.”
“What happened to your friend? Robert?”
“He ran. Like everybody had.”
“He was jealous, wasn’t he?” she goaded.
Joaquim tipped his bottle of expensive whiskey onto the lake as a sign of deliverance and resignation. He wanted it disturbed, ineffectively burnt.
“Did you want him to be jealous?”
“If you are asking if my actions were intentional, yes. Yes, they were.”
“Why?”

Robert laughed at Joaquim’s eager face. “Are you still having visions of the future? One where all of us are popping champagne? What sort of afterparty rages in your head? How loud, this imaginary music you’re playing?”
“You have a life now.”
“I have a life now.”
“A job. Good one?”
“Better. Real one.”
“Just because you decided to give up on your dreams doesn’t mean the rest of us had. I will replace you with people who are ten times better, tenfolds cooler. And all you will be able to do is watch us with envy behind tables and people lining up. And you will cry. And your tears will add to the stains already on your two-dollar shirt. And you will call my name, and I will look at you, unable to remember who you are.”

“Robert called me a dreamer of the impossible. I mean, not with actual words, but I can sniff it.”
Margie hushed her first born and put her in the stroller.
“You thought it, so you made yourself think he said it.”
“No. He said it.”
“But not with actual words.”
“He didn’t need to. And I didn’t need that sort of negativity in my life.”
“Neither did he.”
“Neither did he.”
“You should call Ally.”
“Why? She chose Macau over me when I was on a wilt.”
“That was terrible of her.”
“I was down to thirty, dying, and she was losing chips.”
“It was December.”
“I slept through the new year. She didn’t text.”
“She didn’t.”
“Her photos were captioned, ‘Best days.’ Fuck ‘Best days’. What about her ‘best friend’, whose skin was dark and dry?”
“She was with that colleague she met only three months prior, right?”
“I knew her for fifteen years”
“Fuck ‘Best days’. Fuck ‘Better friends’.”
“She said that?”
“But not with actual words.”
“Wait for me. I’m still fixated.”
“…Okay.”

Joaquim’s right arm was sore. “I don’t think I can skip rocks anymore.”
“How far where you able to throw?”
He tried to point out at the horizon, but his half-blind sister couldn’t make it out.
“It’s nightly.”
“It’s one in the afternoon.”
“Is it? I couldn’t tell.”
“Did you talk to ma?”
“Yes. I tried to tell them about my depression and they laughed at me.”
“I’m sorry.”
“They laughed at me because my feelings are a joke. Because my depression is just a normal part of me, part of my anatomy. It is my birthmark, birth right… Could you dip my hand into the lake? I want to feel.”
He did so.
“It’s cold.” Her hand shriveled. She was eighty.
“We’re down to two roads. One leads into the murks and one back home.”
“Pick one.”
“Murks.”
“Alright.”
“We’re down to two roads. One leads to youth lost – to relive it – and one towards retirement.”
“Pick one.”
“Youth lost.”
“Retirement for me.”
“You had a fine life.”
“I guess so.”
“We’re down to two roads. One leads to your son still being alive and one towards having a newborn.”
“I can’t pick one.”
“Why?”
“It’s impossible.”
“I see.”
“We’re down to two roads. One leads to the farthest stone you’ll throw and one towards no longer trying. Pick one.”
“I’ll try again… Wait for me.”
“Did you talk to Val?”
“Argued, more so.”
“Made you feel bad again?”

“No man is an island, except for you. You are an ugly, godsforsaken floating rock where nothing ever thrives and no life prospers. You are just an eyesore in what could have been a beautiful blue, and everything around you sinks.”

Margie sank her golden soul into the water. “Silver,” she begged.

“Push me into it.”
“Are you sure?”
“I want to be baptized.”
Margie was now stronger than Joaquim, seventy, and didn’t know her own strength. He flapped his arms but his sister, fully blind and deaf and senile, stayed smiling and unaware. A form in the water emerged and drilled a hole in Joaquim’s childhood eye.

“Are we going home?”
No sound.
“Are we finally going home?”
The lake was still.
“Tell me when you’re ready to go home.”
Unaware of the crystal green still reflecting the skies and an empty face.
“We’re down to two roads. One leads to you swimming till the rest of your days and one towards a warm cottage, home-cooked meals, a comfy leather sofa and your favorite game shows. Pick one.”
No answer.
“…Have fun. I’ll wait.”

 
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