<3 <3 <3
Shuffled steps. Echoing laughs. The acrid taste of a scorching sun. Everything seems fake, yet it’s all perfect. I look up because I have nowhere else to look, and stare because there ‘’are’’ places to look, but you are the only real vision. My young heart jumps when you meet mine and smile. As I walk towards you, you walk towards me, and our young bodies mature. The sun goes down quickly and the laughs retract to the background. The moment we hold hands, everyone surrounds us. Watching. Waiting. Neither of us let go. I lean into you, and you in me, and there’s a moment of peace. Then I scream in agony as you’re ripped away. I feel the fire- your fire - consume me, and I take two steps back, into the abyss.
His eyes fly open. What time is it? Gabriel hears his mother and sister murmuring in their sleep, laying in the tattered rags of their inheritance. Pain hits his stomach, but it dulls quickly. Hunger is but a companion. It had been three days since the Angelenos ran them out, the same people who had been their prejudiced neighbors for all of Gabriel’s existence. Anger burns in his heart. They wanted a perfect city, and there is no room for “Japanese” immigrants to take up space and food. The son of Poseidon glances at his clear tattoo, the fire that burns so bright at night, and a different kind of pain fills him.
How many years had it been? The last he saw of his best friend, the man he l- deeply cared about, the roaring twenties had had their father’s heads sweltered from money. His own dad spent most of their savings on the stock market. As an Asian and one of the few thousand Koreans in Los Angeles, he was never paid in full, but he had enough for them to look rich in the eyes of the rest. Just as he won it all, he lost it all in ‘29. Gabriel had lost it all before then.
Gabriel looks out the moving train, wishing it would take him to a streetcar named desire. They had been inseparable since the moment they laid eyes on each other. In crazy times such as the twenties, maybe close male friendship should have been as accepted as booze and jazz was, but alas it wasn’t. They weren’t. He still remembers, he remembers everything.
I’m holding him like I’ve never held anyone. I don’t care if it’s wrong, he’s my friend. I don’t care if we get called chinks, or ethels. We’re in his room. As we connect on a deeper level, pain sears into us, and at first, I think it’s the effect of love, but I soon notice I’ve been branded. A fiery tattoo fresh on my skin. A wave on his. Then his parents enter the room and my life is over. I don’t see him the next day, or the day after. He’s in Paris now, and I’m...Here.
Kyle had been his light in dark times of discrimination and imaginary shadows that followed them everywhere. He learned to run away, but it only worked if he was running with Kyle. Tears accumulate in the inner corners of Gabriel’s eyes. He’s no closer to understanding, understanding anything. Miles and miles apart, and he still yearns for his companion. Oddly enough….
“It’s like I can feel him.” His voice comes out as a raspy whisper. He can almost smell him, and he knows that wherever Kyle is, it isn’t as terrible as what he himself is going through now. After his dad committed suicide when some white men broke his leg so he wouldn’t be able to work, it had been up to Gabriel to make the decisions. It’s somehow ironic that he’s now responsible for a mother who fears who he is. Life is interesting like that. Gabriel decides to lay down again and stare at the ceiling. Almost immediately, darkness encloses on his vision, cold hands slipping their touch under his shirt and grabbing his heart. The depression he’s felt for so long makes itself visible to him.
He’s dressed in his best, an expensive suit of sut covering him with a dusty tie to compliment the unwashed grit on his face. His mother stands next to him, stoically crying. Her own attire reeks of elegance and body odor, although not more odorous and beautiful than his sister. Her cheeks radiate pureness, like snow beneath a mountaintop. She’s even more precious in death.
His mother coughs in fear, and Gabriel takes two steps to the side. It’s likely she has TB too. They end the funeral procession early, leaving the small girl’s body among the flowers and tents. He can’t find the tears to let leak, assuming it could be the crust of the earth concealing his face from the world. His heart aches dully. The depression took the only other person he loved. Gabriel’s mother trails behind, oddly quiet. It would be so easy to leave her here too.
Faintly, he feels someone else with them. He turns and looks, but sees only his mother. An unmistakable connection grips his soul. It’s like someone is holding his hand. Is she still there after all? Warm arms take him in a hug, strong enough to stop him in his tracks. This is love. “What?” Harks his mother. “Continue on then.” Gabriel closes his eyes, and he imagines a hot Parisian day.
Something is going on. Is it a festival? People walk up and down the streets looking worse for wear, but they’re smiling. I wonder if they are happy. You’re mixed in the crowd, a beautiful wonder to behold. I love you. Thank you. I wish you were here with me.
She’s screaming at him to get up. Telling him they have to push forward. Tears flow onto his skin and burn him like lava. “I’m sorry, I must be exhausted,” he admits to his mother. They continue their pace, back to familiar trains, abandoning a city that’s not worth living in without his sister. “They didn’t even have any jobs,” his mother huffs.
Blood splashes out of him like a waterfall, from his nose, mouth, ears, lips. The black coat he wears turns darker in the area where he’s been pierced. Gabriel stumbles into his mother’s apartment, heaving more blood. His vision is spotty.
Angels sing and crows dance, the day of death has arrived. Skeletal flowers bloom, ripe for the taking, and children cry for their mothers. The sea reimburses my pain and the earth shakes me to humility. Where is Kyle? I expected him to wait for me. Turning, turning, turning, turning. The clock strikes twelve.
“I don’t know you survived,” the shadows whisper. “I wish you had died,” the quiet tells me. “If it wasn’t for that boy… You aren’t a man of God. Who are you? Who are you, Gabriel?” Everything makes perfect sense.
Light envelops me, earnest and wicked. “It was during an earthquake,” the Light proceeds. “He was never right, not really. No one expects their husbands to be perfect.” Justification. Mom? “He told me not to worry, it was just a man. I love you, more than I thought I would, but you’re as diseased as he is.” Lies. “I never knew who she was, but no man could sire you. “ Lies and more lies. What a terrible storyteller. “That’s why I can’t save you. He said they would come for you, but I can’t save you from your disease.” Kyle will save me. We’ll run like we always do. Sinister laughter ensues. Love judges me from its high stool. “Kyle will never save you,” it taunts gleefully. She’s worse than my mother. The snake-like beings who had found me earlier slither in my direction, mouth-watering.
Gabriel survives his fever.
Rough canvas scratches his tan skin. Years etch themselves into the corners of his mouth. Gabriel would rather not live, but at least he didn’t have time to think of it. Work is all he had now, and even then, what was the point? His mother had died the day prior, drinking herself into oblivion as traditional with thy holy Mardi Gras. She reminded him of that light as he dragged her to a garbage disposal. He didn’t have any kind of money to call someone to collect her.
New Orleans treats him with a dignity he isn’t sure he deserves. He’s ungrateful, still wishing for something better. Someone better. His tattoo glimmers, as if the sun had struck it swiftly. “I’m grabbing a bite,” he tells no one. No one listens and nods. Gabriel streaks off into the all-consuming night, ready to steal some supper. His breathing is too loud and his steps are too quick, everything feels like too much.
There are no shadows at night. He runs from his thoughts.
He stops pretending he’s concerned about his meal situation.
Remember the first time we ran? We were small, barely old enough to have legs. You laughed at me when I stumbled and fell. I’ll admit, I laughed too. Remember the first time we really ran? When we ran away from those who despised us, for whatever reason they could come up with? I remember you laughing again, but I remember I cried. I cried as a ran and you ran to comfort my pained tears. The dogs of hell came to force their religion on us, but we were too strong and fast. I cut a corner and left you alone, and for that, I’m sorry. I had to protect you before I could protect myself. I remember attacking them with my hands, making the earth shake enough that secular projectiles rained reality onto those horrid creatures. I remember continuing to run. We were only eleven. I’m still running. Are you?
Gabriel is tired of running. He stops, and turns, expectant. The monstrous being chuckles as if he had said something particularly hilarious. “Well?” Gabriel says impatiently.
The one-eyed thing steps forward, bloody club becoming more and more visible. He’s found himself easy dinner.
Kyle smiles at me brightly. I love it when he smiles at me. I kiss his cheek. I’ve kissed his cheek since before I knew I loved him.
If Kyle is still out there, he can’t just give up. He knows Kyle is still out there. He grits his teeth. “Bite me, ugly.” He raises calloused fists.
I’m falling into the abyss. I cry for help, but none comes. Yellow dust sprinkles into my eyes, the remnants of my final battle. The water is healing me, but it’s too slow. Kyle, Kyle, Kyle! I don’t have the heart to look at the remains of my stomach. Please. Someone. I’m not ready. Barnacles attach themselves to me, crusting into a tomb of life. 1932. Thank you, father.
Gabriel wakes up in a building. Bodies swirl around him, and the structure is unrecognizable. Only the gowns are familiar. He swims towards a perceived exit, past debris and morphine. As he kicks a door open to freedom, a current steals his body.
It’s a miracle he isn’t impaled by beams as he pulls himself onto the roof of the nearest building. His hands are blue, and he’s shaken. The world around him is flooded. “I am Noah’s Ark,” he mutters deliriously. He’s reborn in the apocalypse. A newspaper winks at him floating by. Welcome to 2005, it seems to say.
2006. 2007. 2008. 2009. I know you’re still alive. 2012. 2013. 2014. 2015. Where are you? 2015. 2016. 2017. 2018. I’ve stopped aging, permanently. I know it’s my fathers doing. 2018. I’ve learned of this world, I know what I am. 2018. Come home to me. 2018. Please come home to me.
There’s this camp, it seems to have always existed. I really think you might come home.
<3 <3 <3