In this hour we have left, there is no difference between closing and opening my eyes. Someplace else, somewhere I can’t see, you have gathered with all of the light and you prepare the morning. But if I have one last night, I don’t want to think about dawn. So –

If I close my eyes, I’m there again.

Fresh-scented evening around us, kind light of the moon. We lean on the wall, smoking a cigarette, and the stages of the night gently ooze away. Hours of excitement, sleep-deprived, enjoying another kind of clarity, one we would have to recant in the morning. It’s the first time for you – I stopped counting.

Did you know how young you were, what that meant? You couldn’t have possibly known.

I sit on the outside of time and turn to this enclosed hour. I feel an indescribable tenderness for the boy I was, still in the dark on so many important things. That terror inside of me – the shirt I wanted to wear to prove to myself and everyone that I still belonged there tighter than I thought, compressing my chest. Horribly afraid that you’d see, in that softness of my skin, one of your elder brothers, your father. It was the first time you took my hand, electrifying like a crime.

I would like to ask you what you see, when you look back. Is there someone else at my place? If you think about that city, do you remember me, or was I always a stand-in for someone else that didn’t come, someone of your damned generation, or anyone else that wasn’t you? Was I always going to be late to you?

I don’t remember where we went to, afterwards. If I bought the beers or you did, if they asked about ID. If you walked in the store with me. But we must’ve gone dancing at some point, because I remember watching you, envying how easily the music entered your body, how you channelled it out. Then morning came and it found us on the shore – you spilled on the sand, sunrays multiplying in the water. There was no need to say that that would be the last time for a long while. It was the beginning, or maybe the end, and I was enjoying how unnecessary talking felt. But, when you didn’t attempt anything, I was still the one to promise. Still bound to my years, my scepticism.

Were you really looking for me, that night? Have you found who you really loved, after the eclipse? Do you dance and rejoice in your supreme being, or have you failed at that? Do you miss me? Are you still in there, are you still you?

All of that city held the taste of sand for years – of sunscreen, of plastic. Back when nights meant something, I lived through entire years where I couldn’t drive past it without crying. But this was later, and there was a little consolation in being able, whatever the time, to tell myself that it had gone well, in the end. In the later years, after we moved, if I found myself on that road I would turn towards the inland, away from the shore. I had found out that some things are better left unturned, unrevisited. As I aged, the sadness of my twenty-five years took its residence in that city, then the anger of twenty-six years old me who didn’t find you, the confusion of my twenty-seven and twenty-eight, before I said yes. All of the jealousy, all of my fondness, the fear of showing it. But also your first absence, then your repetitions, that pride of yours that kept us apart for years. None of my friends believed in the revelation and we kept living our lives as if Dora hadn’t spoken. I kept coming back to that city, walking along streets brimming with fourteen years old experiencing the first summer of their lives and the world that was promised to them. Forever out of place amongst them, my eyes grew darker as my friends moved into other cities, where living was easier, analog was becoming a psychological necessity and growing up with children felt safer. I didn’t understand why they felt this need to protect them by isolation until you began inviting me to the outings of your brigade and I began seeing what nightmare you called future. This was after, too.

When you let me find you again I discovered you had grown older and different things mattered to you. We both weren’t alone – my friends, your friends, impossible to integrate. It was still early, the revelation was on everyone’s tongue and we were all trying to play our game, trying to understand what the other was up to without letting curiosity, the first sign of weakness, of fear, transpire. Your people already showcased that indifference to the world that would become so pungent, so fucking irritating as we all grew up – you were supposed to be nineteen, for God’s sake – and you weren’t unaffected by them. I never figured out if they had influenced you in those years I didn’t see you, or if you already were a dreamer when I first met you. That night, that first holy night, we were both playing another game, and we both didn’t want to ruin it with politics, with figuring out the edges of our dreams.

I still think about that night, the second one (I think about it all). After all these years, after all that’s happened to the world, I still don’t know why you took my hand. If you had just become tired of hiding, or if you knew already that it would slip into mine like water. That night, for the first and last time, I didn’t question if it had a right to fit there so easily. You were nineteen, you had been promised eternity and infinite communion, and life was a delicate garden for you. I was twenty-seven and the world had become cold like a beach when the sun turns away.

Then time moved pretty fast. I don’t hold memories of those interstitial spaces either – the months of dating, the start of the war. We became citizens of a nation at war, we got engaged and nothing changed substantially. I remember the last night of the world. I don’t have anything left in the dark but remembering. I didn’t think you could have hurt me anymore, I thought myself impenetrable to your words. But the world was ending and that made everything cut deeper. At some point, as I was screaming at you, I realized that would be the last time, that these were going to be the words I was going to leave you with. And once again I renounced action. I had grown tired, my love, so tired. The TV kept screaming, a single white light in the dark blue of our living room, and our phones were blowing up with goodbyes and memories and regrets. I thought, if this is the end, let it be. I always felt so fragile when trying to pick up your hand. You didn’t sleep that night and you didn’t speak to me anymore. You had decided that there was nothing left to say, too.

This is of course not the story I told myself all my life. I had my doubts, but I always believed I loved you. But your absence has created a loop in time, and now I cannot look back without becoming so painfully aware of how you had never quite been completely there, waiting for the rupture, and look, you’ve won. The rest of us condemned to a night without sleep, until the arrival of what you call the empire of light and I call annihilation. It is the last night of the world and I still can’t let go of my resentment. I should be able to forgive you, and not for anyone else’s sake but myself. I won’t get a redo, I won’t get to be part of what you have planned for the rest of time. But I refuse reconciliation, any happy ending. I refuse to become part of your horde.

I wish I could tell you that I still loved you like the first time. I wish love still meant the same thing for us. My version of love looked like becoming unable to love you because you would’ve become so thoroughly part of myself, of my blood, that I couldn’t have uttered a predicament where me would have been different than you. I thought that, at some point, to call you with your name would have meant ripping you off my skin. Some version of this has become true to both of us. How much time has it been? How many centuries since you left? I had a time in the light when I couldn’t see myself separated from you, even in the bad days, and now I have become enmeshed with your shadow in this world of pearl you have left behind.

I wish I could know what you are thinking. All of you. How much the nature of your thought has changed. I have become curious too – not about your desires, but about what you mean now. Does it even make sense to say that I loved you, when you were always on your way to leaving me, to joining yourself with the cosmos?

We fought so hard and so quickly. It became part of our life and we thought it normal. It was never about what you believed in and I didn’t. You wanted to lead by example, show me how much fuller a life with faith would be. But something in me provoked you and something in you disturbed me, something about the way you slipped into my silences, how I forced you to the ground. I’m sure it wasn’t just the years, because in the grand scheme of time, eight years aren’t much. You must see that now. Now, in this after, I ask myself, if I could go back – invested with a power opposite to yours, spiteful to your light – would I try to stop myself from falling in love with you? Would I tell myself that the world ends and it does so without you, because all of those stories you believed in turned out to be a promise, and there is no escaping your truth now? But if it was always going to end up like this, isn’t it better to have loved you, to have fought with you? To have known the peaks and depressions of this love, which after all made up a life, the one we shared?

I wish I could forgive you –

Maybe we had to come to terms with too many things to love each other. Sometime in the years of your life I don’t know anything about you, too, must’ve become convinced that the kind of love that liquifies blood wasn’t something that you could achieve. We settled for the next best thing, passion, flickering intensity, this unspoken promise, sometimes uttered quietly, that we’d always be there for each other. Maybe we both misunderstood our differences as a chance to grow more complete, instead of the markings of two different planetary systems. Maybe we slipped too easily into a ready-made life – the path that took me out of my studies into a job I hated but could sustain us, while you grew your power, your influence, as your brigade became bigger ad bigger. Maybe I should have you let go from the start. Standing at my side corrupted you, it made you grow old before your time. In a few years with me you found a life, too, hints of a career, and suddenly there wasn’t enough time to think about what it all meant. Maybe it was just me. The first signs of your faith breaking had started to show, and I was proud of you, but you still had your brigade. I didn’t have anyone but you.