Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson
Halloween or not, it was still early in the day. It was a Saturday, so school wasn’t in session. Lori had an idea to sneak into the high school and change our grades so we’d look like better students. I thought that was a cool idea and was all for it, however Brian and Kelly didn’t seem to care what others thought of them. And anyway, they kept their grades up pretty good. Donald was also uninterested and just wanted to go see his mother again. I understood that. After all we were living in the mystery hour, meaning we didn’t know how many hours we had left until they pulled up the bus and it’s bloating occupants. So Lori’s idea was scrapped in favor of checking in on the folks one last time.
Donald said we didn’t need to go with him to see his mom, but I felt like it was the right thing to do. After all, we had started out as ghosts doing this very thing. Might as well be what we end on as well. I hated having the attitude of “it’s only a matter of time”, but it was inevitable that this would come to an end soon. We couldn’t wander around as ghosts forever, especially when recovery operations were underway to bring us up out of the river.
At Donald’s we were surprised. Over two dozen neighbors were at his house. They had brought over food for his grieving mother. Some had brought flowers and cards with money to help her out. As we moved among them all, I caught snippets of conversation that led me to believe no one carried any hope that Donald was alive, and that soon there would be a funeral, with or without his body.
The outpouring of goodwill towards his mom touched Donald. In life, apparently not many of these neighbors ever came to visit, but with the tragedy they all pulled together to comfort and console a family that was wrecked with grief. Perhaps in all this, the good to come was that Don’s mother didn’t have to be alone. His passing had drawn others to her, and she was finding herself with offers to join the bridge club, the ladies civic club, as well as several churches extending their condolences and open arms to her.
“This is nice,” he said. “I was worried she would be all alone now.”
I had to agree. It was very touching, this outpouring of neighborly love. I had to wonder if Lori’s family could expect the same thing. It made me think of my family too. I was trying not to think about it much, but seeing all the neighbors here reminded me that my parents had seemingly vanished from public life.
Lori, ever the one for reading my mind, tried to be a comfort. “I’ll help you look for them if you want.”
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“Maybe there’s a clue somewhere at your house.”
Brian and Kelly had tagged along with us to Donald’s, but they opted to remain outside, sitting under a tree and sucking as much face as they could until the end. I couldn’t blame them there; part of me just wanted to take Lori’s hand and run away from all this. Spend whatever time was left making out and sharing promises that would certainly be tested soon. With that thought, my mind was filled with the image of Lori and I laying in my bed, curled up together, kissing, touching, and becoming all we could be if only we were alive.
“Hello, anyone home?” She asked, bringing me out of my silent rapture.
“Oh, sorry. I was lost in thought.”
“Yeah, I could tell. Everything alright?”
“I was just thinking how I never had a girl alone in my bedroom before.”
She smirked. “Are you sure you want to be telling me this?”
I chuckled. “No, it’s not like that. I just never had a girl in my room at all. I used to lay awake sometimes, wondering what it would be like to fall asleep curled up to someone. Or when I first started teaching myself guitar, I used to say to myself, one day you’re going to play a song for a pretty girl right here. You’ll be sitting on the floor playing, and she’ll be laying across the bed, listening to your song.”
“That’s a nice image. I used to think something similar. Except I would be playing this boy my cassettes and CDs. I’d play him my favorite song, and he would lean over and kiss me and absolutely beg me to run away with him.”
I smiled. “I like that. What’s your favorite song?”
“Just Like Heaven.”
I smiled. “I can play that.”
“It’s not heavy metal.”
I laughed. “Yeah, I know. There’s more to me than long hair and screaming guitars.”
“Alright, I will.” I grinned. “But that means you’ll have to come to my bedroom.”
She smiled. “I’m not scared.”
“Scared of what?” Donald said, walking up to us.
I looked at him. “Of whatever comes next, I guess.”
“Same here,” he replied. “Hey, I’m just going hang out here for awhile, if you guys don’t mind.”
“That’s cool. We’ll come back and get you. We’re going to go see if my mom and dad ever showed up.”
“That’s fine.” He grinned at us as if he knew it wasn’t just about checking on my parents. As we headed off, he called out to us with a laugh as if he were our doting mother, “Don’t stay out too late. Use protection!”
The first time we had went to my house, after discovering Lori’s mom at the library, the television had been on, so had my dad’s computer back in his office. Now, both of them were off. In fact, the only thing on was a small lamp in the living room. Sitting on an end table next to it was a pile of unopened mail and several days worth of newspapers, still folded up the way our paperboy Jeffrey Tompkins delivered them.
“Well, it looks like they were here at some point,” Lori suggested.
“Yeah, it does. Them or someone else.”
“Who else would be here?”
“I don’t know. We are on good terms with our next door neighbors. Mom and Dad play Uno with them some nights. Maybe they are getting the mail and paper.” I stopped for a moment and listened. “And I don’t hear Jake.”
“Maybe he’s sleeping.”
“I don’t think so. He knew we were here the first time. We heard him in my room.”
“Well, you’re supposed to take me to your room anyway,” she replied with a wink.
I smiled. I really adored the flirty Lori.
We went down the staircase to the basement. The door to my room was open. The lights were off, but we didn’t need them anyway. The room looked untouched from the last time we were there, with all of us and Jake. But now Jake was gone. The exuberant Doberman wasn’t in the house. As I noted this, Lori moved around my room, looking at all the rock and roll clippings from Heavy metal mags I had pasted to the wall. Standing in front of the Nikki Sixx poster, she said, “I still think he needs a sandwich.”
I smirked. “What about Bon Jovi?” I asked, pointing to a fold out poster of the group standing in front of a trans am laden with bikini clad girls.
“He gives love a bad name.”
I laughed. “Oh, good one.”
“Oh wow,” she exclaimed, spotting my record collection. The albums were kept in two blue milk crates by a closet, and she squatted down to look through them. I stood there with my arms crossed. This was an alien moment, by myself with a beautiful girl in my room, as she took interest in things that were me. She looked up, holding up the Ratt album, Out Of The Cellar. “Do you have anything other than Metal?”
“Well, I’ve got The Motels in there somewhere. I like Mission Of Mercy.”
“Yeah, they aren’t bad. Only The Lonely is pretty good.”
“I’ve got the Charlotte Sometimes twelve inch in there too,” I told her.
“No kidding? Wow, you are pretty darn cool after all.” She found The Cure single and lifted it out of the box. “Charlotte Sometimes was the first song I fell in love with. That, and All Cats Are Grey.”
I told her I hadn’t heard that one. “Oh wow, you’re missing out. Next time we’re at my house, I’ll play it for..” she stopped, perhaps realizing there was a good chance there wouldn’t be a next time at her house. A sad look crossed her face for a moment, then she mustered a smile. “Weren’t you going to play me a song?”
I smiled, but I was a little nervous. “Yes, I was.” I opened up the closet and got out my electric guitar. “I wont plug it in,” I said. “I blew the amp the other day anyway.”
She rolled her eyes and laughed, getting up from the crates of record albums to go sit on my bed, cross legged style. I did a little tuning of the strings, and thought to myself, please let my energy hold out long enough to play her a song. It would be weird to be half way through the song and the guitar passes through my fingers.
Despite my nervousness, I found the key of A major and began the opening chord progression. From the first lyric of “show me, show me, show me how you do that trick”, Lori sat enrapt, watching me play and sing the song about a boy’s first feelings of romance for the girl he wants to be with. I performed it slower than the original so I could make the chord changes easier, but she didn’t seem to mind. Even as I stumbled on a few words here and there, she smiled with her own set of longings etched plainly in her eyes. I wanted to just stop singing, throw the guitar down, and take her up in my arms to dance in the deepest oceans like the song said.
Three minutes later when I ended the tune and the last chord faded into silence, I did just that. I set the guitar back in the closet so it wouldn’t be out of place the next time someone came down in my room, and then joined her on the bed.
“That was beautiful,” she said.
“You’re beautiful,” I said. “Just like a dream. Like the song says.”
She blushed. “Chris, I….”
I touched her lips with my fingertips, shushing her. I didn’t know what she was getting ready to say, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered to me was that my mouth was on hers, and as my kiss found her wanting me just as much, we laid back on the bed, the room spinning around us. While our lips revealed the secrets of two hearts discovering each other, our hands fumbled across each other, neither of us knowing quite what to do. We laughed at this inside each other’s mouths, and renewed the kiss with a different fervor. One that was not of confused, nor reckless desire, but of a deep affection that said we would live and die together like this, for as long as we had left. Stolen breaths and mutual longings were all we needed, and maybe in the next life, if there was one, we would find the right time to physically consummate all the things our bodies felt.
“I have something to confess,” she finally said.
“Remember when we were in my room, and there was that photo I took of you and Donald? One of you asked me why I took it.”
“Yeah, I remember. It was a sneaky voyeur pic. From last year.”
She smiled and the look in her eyes were soft. “I took that picture because I had a crush on you. I didn’t really know you then, just knew who you were. You looked so sad and lonely, this nerd boy that no one was paying attention to. You reminded me of myself.”
I started to say something. This time she put a finger to my lips to quiet me.
“I really crushed on that nerd boy. I like your long hair and the rocker I know you want to be, but you’ll always be that cute nerd boy standing on the smoking block, looking out of place to me.”
My eyes started to well up with tears. No one, and I mean absolutely anyone, had ever said such a thing to me. I wanted to respond somehow, but she wasn’t finished.
“When I see you,” she said, “ I see you without disguise. I think I see you as you truly are: the most beautiful boy with the purest soul I have ever met.”
The tears fell. There was no use in trying to stop them.
“If there’s ever a way someone progresses from this life into something better, you’re already there.” She put her hands on both sides of my face, so my tears would stop on her fingers. “You’re my angel, Chris.”
“I love you, Lori. I wish…Oh God, I wish I had gotten to know you sooner. It’s not fair.”
A new round of tears came, but they just weren’t mine. They were hers, too. And as she wrapped her arms around me, taking me into her soft embrace, I clutched her tight as I could, swearing that when the real end came I would never let her go.