Time Must Needs

Artist: Pavel Kolomeyets.
Artist: Pavel Kolomeyets.

You say that it has been six years. And I nod.

The wheel turns and April 25th comes again and I am thankful for the rain. It should always rain. It was sunny then, that day was beautiful. That day is beautiful – sun-yellow and sky-blue. I say is and was all mixed up because time must needs move backwards. But it will not. If only my will could make it so.

Maybe I am making it rain. Maybe it can always rain. So easy in my mind to go back, why can not I compel Time to come with me? Why not pull Time back with me when I go and cover that day with Rain? But it will not. That day is sun-bright, will always be beautiful. I go again and again and the sun still shines.

Time must needs. Must needs move. Backwards. But it will not.

It only moves forward. Like a river it only moves downstream. I get farther and farther away past other days and graves and waves and love. I learn and forget and dream and wake. You tell me that it has been six years and I nod.

Time must needs. I must needs. Must needs move backwards.

Time is not my servant as much as I write it. No magic or will can bend the river into a better shape. It helps to pretend that the Rain comes at my bidding, so today I will have it so.

So today I say I love you. I say it with grey clouds and black skies. I say I love you all with Rain. May it fall until this day is over.

I Have Only Read 1.5 Terry Pratchett Books.

The Color of Magic and Good Omens.

That’s it. That’s all I needed to know. That I would live my life writing in his shadow. That I would have to wait until I was not writing fantasy for a while before I could read more, because I would copy. Copy copy copy. Some without realizing, some with avarice and the bandit’s dagger bit between my teeth.

Artist -  Molly Crabapple
Artist – Molly Crabapple

I’m sure you’re surprised. The closest comparison people have had for my stuff is ‘Are you trying and failing to do some sort of weak-sauce Pratchett thing?’. And the answer is yes. Of course it’s yes. Even without reading more, he’s everywhere – his essays, his presence, the quiet vibration in the air when I write. I’m not the first explorer, far from. He marked these paths for me, he’s already traveled further than I ever will. He already said the things, he already made that joke, he already saw, he already wrote it better than I ever could. I’m a candle and he is a bonfire.

It made me jealous, it made me depressed, it made me feel safe. I struggled to articulate the core concept of my fiction for months, he laid it out in 1000 words thirty years ago. I seethe on the border of the city he built, a useless rebel. I stare at his mountain of work with pickle-green envy.

And now he is gone. He left as he wished, in the manner he chose.

And now the road is less. The way is less. The worlds beyond are darker, and the paths out of ours harder to find. His light remains but it is distant, like the time-phase of starlight. And I feel alone. I have his whole canon to enjoy one day and that is a blessing, but out here in the woods between the wind is colder and I am bereft of the traveler who I envied and barely knew. He left his light in a tower of words, but his campfire out here in the dark has gone out and all I can smell is smoke.

With temerity and gall I claim kinship, with grief I join my voice to all that mourn.

318 Words about Death

It’s like green. Like losing the color green.

Your brain clatters on, and your heart keeps pumping. It’s just green, after all. You’ve seen green plenty of times, it’s common and commonplace. A shade that your eyes find unremarkable as a whale finds the sea.

And what’s more, your brain can process the loss. You know what things are

The Final Illustration for Siren - Owen Gent Illustration
The Final Illustration for Siren – Owen Gent Illustration

green, it’s as simple as math, as simple as subtraction. When you see the blank your mind ticks and says “Oh, that’s a thing that Once Was Green. Just move forward as if it were Green.”

The trees are blank, but I know they Once Were Green. The grass is blank, but I know it Once Was Green. Traffic lights present no problem – I see the yellow, the red and then the blank light. I press the gas as if it were Green. My favorite mug is blank but it still holds water.

I begin to avoid avocado and it’s blank flesh. Kermit is blank and his song just sounds like static. Blank lettuce, blank pickles, blank tractors on the roadway. Blank markers in my bag writing in blank ink.

Blank push-pins and my toothbrush is blank. Blank shirts in my closet, all of my money is blank. Pidge pilots the Blank Lion but still helps form Voltron. Obi-wan’s light saber is blank.  My eyes are hazel, a mixture of green and brown. In the right light my eyes are blank in the mirror.

Each blank is a scar. I move forward through the world, startled again and again by how much has been erased.

The blanks burn. They burn like a net of empty.

One day, will I forget about What Once Was Green? Will my mind triumph through silent substitution, the blanks covered by quick illusion?

One day I will see green trees again. I will see green grass again.

But I will know that they are blank.

452 Words About Grief

Other people’s grief has always made me deeply uncomfortable. Averting my eyes, and scurrying out of the area as quickly as possible.

Grief was this grey-jacket loomer, an insurance salesman with faded hat — pushing his pamphlets, with a concrete-block hand flopped on his customer’s shoulder.

Artist - Robot Pencil

Seeing their eyes, their tears, the megaton-emotion radiating — I accelerate and ghost out of the room. Relieved and glad as the sun and wind found me on the outside, and away.

But then, one day for all of us — the knock at the door.

Grief slides in through the keyhole, looking for a place to hang its hat and dripping rain on the linoleum. It smiles a greasy smile and guides you to a chair, water and paper spattering on the kitchen table.

Now it’s your grief.

Now it’s my grief.

He visits each of us in turn. Sometimes rarely, sometime with pop tart regularity — sometimes he moves right in, propping his big rubber shoes on the ottoman, ruining the fabric with rain, and stays and stays. A few find a way to love their Grief, holding him close in the fish-clammy darkness of their beds.

Grief is a devoted husband.

Grief will break you, if you let him. Gum you slowly into oblivion, catfish jaws working and dripping dripping dripping.

My Grief is mine. If I try to explain what brought him to my door, you will nod and seem to understand — but you won’t. Just like I won’t understand if you tell me about your grey-fish insurance man. We all lose souls, and only the client knows what brings the pamphlet-pusher.

All I want to say, as I get heavier with rain and concrete — is that I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I ran out of the room when your Grief came to call.

And some advice, that a very wise friend once gave me. The Three Rules of Grief.

Every day you must:

1. Take a shower.

2. Eat.

3. Go to work.

That’s it. That’s all you should ask of yourself. If you do those three things you can feel as bad as you want, for as long as you want. If you don’t do those three things, you will follow them down into the grave.

If you need to break the rules, you will. That’s okay – it’s the Fourth Rule.

Handle it as you can, when you can – and recognize that you’ll sometimes snicker, or sing a song, or smile in the sun –  and your Grief will sigh, and look very importantly at you over his glasses. And you’ll feel like you should cry a little harder to make up for forgetting that he was in the room.