In the morning which is blinding, I claw and clutch for something and feel the cold in my hands. I struggle against the weight of him, wrapped in heavy coils around me, the paws of some giant beast. Something. Something. Nothing ever is, Dean, I’ve looked. I’ve looked INSIDE. I’ve torn everything apart and nothing is left. Don’t you see? Don’t you see?
Crying, panting, every small girl in her nightgown. The morning dawns late in a strange room and the lump rises in my throat.
This is NOT HOME.
I demand to know where I am, where I’ve gone, why didn’t you wake me up, why did you leave without me? I want to go home. I want to go HOME. I’m so tired of crying, it makes my eyes heavy to try to start now. It would be insincere anyway, the tearing up. It would come from a place of not fair and every dragon learns early and first that in the long scope of things, when given enough time, Evelyn. Everything is fair.
I would fight for it, if it was worth believing. I would die, I would do what Nick said and cut my own throat. I would follow you, Dean, to the end, to every end, to the place where it ends. I would never stop, I don’t know the word. Because I believe in you.
Dean’s answer is simple and quiet and I’m a child against him in a way he’s never been a child against me, even in his ancient infancy.
I stop my struggles like a pinned butterfly. I stop everything. He speaks again. I am wrapped close to him by a wide animal arm that would crush every bone of me if not for his care. This is where the angel in him meets the compassion of his dragon parents.
The things worth believing in are the things you’d never have to die for. Don’t.
But we. All this time.
I’d never ask you to follow me, Tracy. I’d never ask you to die. I’d die for you, in less than a heartbeat.
Dean lost his temper, but he never does that and sometimes I think it was me and not him that lost Andy, but we both did. I feel that way because we’re a part of each other, and his pain marked me the same way mine marked him. Because we all feel the loss of Brad slipped cold from us on a long morning when the light is lost to the sun. When the shower is wet but he’s not in it. When the coffee is made, but never made just so again, and you drink it from the mug the world has forgotten was his favorite.
Dean and I, we soldier on. We bear the weight of the world’s loss. We choke coffee through fake and pasted smiles and we laugh along with jokes on the television and at night...we tumble fast into the night when sweating palms and twisted hair in fingers can so briefly resemble the light gone out; the last wall that held the cynicism back. We touch each other in the deepest places, where lightning still lives.
The train, it crashed.
I broke my spine. Was that how?
The sound of Dominican hesitation is unlike that of it’s American counterpart. I hear his tongue click as he reigns in a thought, and then a second. He cycles through 3 or 4 thoughts before he can share one, his voice painted with something compassionate to cover his passive irritation. I might hm through my nose and sigh, but the battle for what to say takes place in the back of his throat, a place infinitely more impatient than the space inside my lungs.
No se, Blanca. ¿Donde estas?
No se. No...no recuerdo. No entiendo. ¿Que es la diferencia, Gradiente?
¿Que ves, hermosa?
Veo una...puerta roja. Quiero pintar de negro.
Conozco la cancion. ¿Que ves, Evelin? Dice me.
El tren...se estrella. Llego tarde a la escuela. Te ves tan guapo en su abrigo. Te quiero mucho, Grady. Tengo un mensaje para informarle. Pero soy un dragon. No se me permite. Lo dejo, en su abrigo. Los tigres. Eres un tigre.
Gradient stands still on the football field, in the dark of an endless night. He’s lit with the strong lights encircling the field that make it bright enough and safe enough when the darkness comes to hold in and illuminate all the dreams of young boys. He’s alone on the grass that I realize is fake grass everywhere but within me, and he tosses the football in the air, spinning it before he catches it again. He follows it with his black eyes, dark and wet in the white lights, his skin glowing along the edges, reflecting back a pearl sheen on the plane of his cheekbone. He doesn’t see me because I’m a dragon. Which means he might. He could, if I let him.
The orange ribbons in my hair that match the colors of his team make me feel stupid. He knows I like him now; that I watch his games and I’m rooting for him. I feel like tugging them off and letting them fall. I want him to know I’m not like everyone else. But even if I wasn’t like all the girls at school who love him so, I’d still be so very young that he could step over me without effort, without notice, without the knowledge of my name.
Here, after the game, while he reminisces on his victory, we’re alone. The stadium of the high school is small, but with such grand aspirations. Very much like me, in that way. This world is made of the small things clawing up to reach the huge ones. This place, and this moment, is made for little girls like me to fall in love.
This place the angels make, that we call Christmas. I wonder sometimes if it’s the span of that moment when you’re given your chance, in the empty bleachers. Behind the theater, next to the tour bus, while the exhaust makes a plume of fog in the rain. To find our shaman and tell him how much he’s changed us, inside. Maybe it gives to us the moment to confront what it is we worship, and it’s us who are surprised at what that really is.
Part of me never wants to move, so I can watch him forever. Part of me wants to have what he has. To be on the team. To serve something greater, with the enthusiasm and lack of cynicism that makes one a patriot. To believe.
But I’m a dragon. I can’t cheer for the team without questioning their motives and why I’m here at all and if I belong and if they’re really in the right. Dragons drape the places beneath the bleachers, smoking cigarettes and cutting people’s shoelaces. Making comments about the head cheerleader and what talents she might really have. Eschewing the light of cooperation, the sense of community and team spirit. To us, it’s just giving up Self for Whole. It’s our paranoia that drives us to the shadows.
But I say his name because I can’t not. Because it’s 1969 and he’s a black boy playing on our football team and he’s the star and he’s so brave and beautiful I can’t imagine anything else existing but the things he’s touched.
His eyes look at me, surprised to have been caught alone, and to use his real name. In them, I can see damnation and heroin and guitars on fire, smacking hard against the hull of the bayou south that’s in his blood in a way he can’t name or understand. He’s all angel, in that moment. The holy saviour of all young girls; keeper of innocents. Long-fingered artist, coaxing from unwilling places sounds that only exist in dreams with careful persuasion and his soft voice. My heart beats hard my confession to itself. I was right about him. I was right about him. I see what no one else saw. Johnny Hendrix, what are you hiding in there for?
He doesn’t answer, but the wet of his eyes gets heavy and spills onto his face and he doesn’t have to.
Forget about the past baby. Things ain’t what they used to be.
Here, he would always speak in music. Do angels have secrets? Was he ever a secret at all? Or just waiting, forever, for someone to look inside and find him, just beyond that door? Angels don’t have secrets, but they are secrets. And there’s nothing dragons love more than knowing shit no one else knows.