Through Candid Eyes
I shiver under a midsummer sun in the tall grass we once played in as children. You lie at my side with a cold stare toward the sky. The reflection of my plain face and flat hair shimmers in the corner of your eye, but you’re too distant.
These times of toil preoccupy your mind: the times I’m overlooked. So long it took you to notice me in the first place. Growing up, always there, then finally you love me.
The hard manner and long scar lining your beautiful face remind me you’ve had a hard young life. The scar I tended with the white of my blood stained shirt when I was only your friend.
I feel your love in the way you understand it, but I don’t recognize you acknowledge what you feel. Strong silent type, what is it you see?
I roll over, dismissing the thought because of my tendency to overthink. The rich blue of the sky exhales its gentle breeze and rests my eyes.
A rustle to my right startles me and I see Tristan on his feet.
“Tris,’” I call to him.
He continues walking away. I blink, and he is 10 paces further.
“Tristan!” I shout.
Again, he takes no heed.
Proceeding into the trees bordering the field, he disappears.
I chase after him and enter at the same spot, yet the trees I’ve known so many years seem oddly unfamiliar.
“Tristan, wait!” The lush of summer chestnut grows thinner with each step. His broad form fades further on and passes out of sight.
"Wait!” The air dries, and my lungs burn to the chill passing through my nostrils.
I emerge on the opposite side to a city miles away. A curtain of snowflakes drapes the scene, temporarily obscuring my vision. Waving them aside I spot Tristan approaching a pedestrian bridge ahead. His walk is stiff and overly balanced. I run to catch him through the cutting air, wrapping my arms around my elbows to preserve whatever warmth my T-shirt was unprepared to hold. Reaching him, I take his hand. It’s frigid. He slowly rotates his head to acknowledge my presence but his pupils register nothing familiar.
We maneuver through hoards of people, still holding hands. I don’t recall if they were there a second ago. As I gain focus I realize these are not just people but friends from my life, from our lives. They all proceed in the same manner as Tristan, impervious to the cold with unfeeling gaze.
I hear the roar of the highway swell as we start crossing the bridge. Toward the middle, Tristan drops my hand. I haven’t the energy to follow. Puzzled and disheartened, I stop and watch him go.
Night has fallen. The lights and sounds of cars show more life than the weather and people, so I move to the guardrail and rest my chin.
The music warms me. It removes the distraction of the cold and calms my thoughts onto Tristan.
I see the boulder in the lake where the eagle would rest. A fond memory. We’d swim to it as children, but now I see only myself in the water, in lovelier figure than I remember.
Your father leaves. You channel your pain into sport. Success makes you arrogant, and hardens your fall. I see the crimson of your failure on my shirt.
Your mother fades. I sit at her bedside surveying her withered form. She dies, and my face becomes hers.
Laden with grief, I take reprieve on the tall grass. I still do not see you. My eyes close and my body absorbs the silence.
I raise my chin to an unsettling sound: nothing. The cold and cars have disappeared, along with the snow and people.
A lone light flickers from a building nearby. I focus my attention. The light steadies in a window resembling a TV screen. In it I see Tristan watching me swim to the boulder.
Another window illuminates, and lying wounded he contemplates me tenderly while I examine my bloody shirt.
A third light, and he looks past his faltering mother, deep in my face.
In a fourth, he turns to his left, and in a silent field I rest.
Then I realize.
When I saw myself alone, I was seeing through his eyes. Such a gift to learn some of the deepest acknowledgments go unrecognized. A glimpse when I’m not looking into what he chooses as a moment’s worth. The candid, the real me, that’s what he sees.
The windows begin flashing once more. Steady, then faster, spreading from building to building until the area shines like day. It forces me to shield my eyes. Then, in one final burst, the area erupts and the lights go out.
I open my eyes to a thick blanket of summer air. The blue dome overhead welcomes me, and I smile in greeting.
My love lies to my right, apparently dozing. His scar seems no more than a scratch when he sleeps. I decide not to disturb him. He knows I’m here. Underneath his eyelids it's plain to see.
Jeff Wimperis has been published in The Brooklyn Voice, and will appear in forthcoming issues of eFantasy and AntipodeanSF of Australia. He is a Language Educator at St. John’s University.