To Remember Clouds

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I can hardly see my sweetheart in the passenger seat. I want to turn my head and find him, but I’m driving and must keep my attention on the road. I am driving because he no longer has his hands. They went up in smoke days ago along with most of him. I don’t know what he has left of his body anymore. That is why I keep the windows rolled up. To contain those parts he still has. Those parts now wisps of silver gray.

***

The man I love started to disappear about a week ago, and I told no one. I could not explain it. The night before his strange transfiguration, I felt his skin for the last time. I had no way of knowing of the change that was to come, so I loved the skin as I always did: by holding onto it. If I had only known, I would have practiced releasing him.

I think it was the change in his weight that woke me up. I had fallen asleep holding him, but I woke up holding a cloud. He was weightless but still corporeal. I held onto him desperately, afraid that he would float away. He still had his bodily scent of last night’s sex, but it was mixed with something acrid and wet.

“Will,” I said to the billow that I guessed was his head. Two tiny blue dots stared at me. They looked like teardrops. “Oh Will, what happened?” Of course, I did not expect him to respond or to even hear me. I did not know if there was still a man somewhere in the drab puff.

I began to weep at what had become the intangible. He no longer had a feel to him. My arms were wrapped around air. Will must have understood my tears. He grew darker, more somber and cinereal. Suddenly, I smelled spring. He roared, the first sound in his new form, and it was agonizing to listen. I could not hear any remnant of man in the thunderous sound of nature. I shrunk back like a child hearing its first storm, unable to fathom such a sound.

“Oh Will, I love you,” I said, still weeping. He began to cry along with me. Droplets of him soaked everything on the bed. Pillows. Blankets. Me. I swam in him in a sort of sad intimacy. I was only beginning to lose Will.

He stayed that way for the next couple of days. Somber and cinereal. He stood by the window in our bedroom until his legs vanished. Then he simply floated there. Everyday he lost a little more of his shape.

I sought reason, at the very least an explanation. I looked to science, but there was no law or theory to describe the change Will underwent. There was sublimation; I believed it was more than that. More than a matter of matter. He had spirit. Something that could not be explained by atoms. Religion failed likewise. The Bible could explain miracles, but what Will underwent was not a miracle. Just an unfortunate occurrence.

What I sought was best satisfied by a clairvoyant who read palms. I figured there was no better way to understand the loss of touch other than through touch. She did not provide reason or explanation, but instead said what I could not bring myself to say. She held my palm, digging into the skin with her thumbs. Like two shovels, they looked for something buried.

Your hand is like Earth, she said. Strong. Firm. Rough. It holds onto something that cannot be held. When hands are clenched but do not hold anything, they are just fists. She read the heart line. It is time to open your fists. Let go.

I would come home from work and hurry upstairs, hoping that a miracle had changed Will back to man. That miracle never came. The only part of man he retained was those blue teardrop eyes. There was something in them that he tried to communicate to me.

He no longer fed or drank. He gave up being human all together. Which entailed the all-too human need for intimacy. No longer did we share meals or a bottle of wine. We used to cook together, but when I boiled water the first night after his transformation, I foresaw the future in the steam. In the mornings, the same message was told in coffee clouds. He would be gone soon.

The last glass of wine we had enjoyed together was sipped underneath the stars, when Will said the greatest thing someone could be in this world was a dreamer. Everyone dreams, but not everyone is a dreamer. I wanted to tell him my dreams. The ones about faraway places and children.

I didn’t say anything though. To dream means to journey. I realized every dreamer has their own journey. Perhaps that was why I was not afraid when I woke up with a cloud in my arms. Only sad that he was taken so soon. His transformation was a part of his journey.

Will never left his spot by the window, and I regarded him more as a ghost than a lover. What I loved about him was abstract now. Those things like a laugh or a touch existed in thought but without the physical body they had once belonged to. When Will turned, he left behind a lifetime of inside jokes. I couldn’t laugh at the man on the billboard we always saw on drives to the grocery store together, because a joke doesn’t exist with just one person.

Oh, how I missed the sound of him. The tirades on politics he went on and the movie lines he could recite like a priest reciting verse. Will always knew more movie lines, but I knew more lines of poetry. I would speak them like lullabies every night. Dickinson was our favorite.

…But that Cloud and its auxiliaries
are forever lost to me…

I recited poetry with my head on his chest. It only took one poem, and he was out. I would stay up just to listen to his heartbeat. The sound I longed for the most.

The silence in the house was not paradoxically loud. Silence is silence. An absence of someone.

Sometimes, I would rummage through his closet. I needed to touch his cotton or polyester shirts to remind myself that he was once real. Will stared while I did this, and I would feel guilty that I missed him and wanted him when he was right there. He was there, but he was also gone. I wondered if he comprehended everything he had lost. I adopted a nighttime ritual of spraying the bed with his cologne. An earthy musk of rosewood could fool me to sleep. It was during these lonely hours that I longed for the contact of skin the most.

I would drowse off listening to rain.

When he was human, Will and I took trips to the park. We always sat under the pergola, sometimes in silence. We listened to the life happening around us. Bird tunes. Grasshopper songs. Children’s laughter. On every trip, Will took the time to admire the sky and the shapes of clouds. It was I who stared at him during these precious, curious moments. I witnessed something mystical and devout being established between a man and the wide blue.

My mother used to tell me that each cloud is someone’s dream, Will had said. Isn’t that beautiful. I smiled but felt a sudden pang of absence.

One morning, I woke up, and Will looked like the clouds he once marveled at. White. Soft. A cotton ball. He was no longer the shade of storms.  I would stay in bed to watch the sunrise pass through him. In the early morning light, he became a lantern.

The idea dawned on me. I could preserve what was left of Will in a glass jar and no longer fear losing anymore of him. He could stay on the nightstand where the sunlight could still pass through him to me. A touch we could share. Something to link us.

The idea did not last. I realized my own selfishness when I saw how he stared out the window. I knew then what those eyes tried to communicate. What they longed for.

***

I stop the car here to fulfill my fidelity as lover and dreamer. Across is the pergola which now stands as a memorial. Will is nothing but vapor anymore. Nebulous. He fills the entire inside of the car. Somehow, I think he knows where we are because he is restless. He rolls around as if something had been lit, like the smoke emitted from candle. I press a button on the overhead console, and the sunroof opens. I do not know how to say goodbye. I open my fists and let go.

Will leaves in a stream up to the widest blue. I just watch. Tears form, but they do not fall. I blink them away. Each cloud is someone’s dream. The last bit of him disappears as a thin white ribbon.

I do not know how to say goodbye.

I press the button again, and the sunroof closes. I think about leaving but open the door instead. Morning dew soaks through my shoes as I walk in procession to the pergola. A spot I know I will come back to like a headstone in the following years. I mourn the man, but sit there staring at a sky full of dreams. 

 

Contributor

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Trevor Eichenberger

Trevor Eichenberger writes fiction in a non-fiction manner, staying close to the ground and human truth. He is currently enrolled at Nebraska Wesleyan University and is pursuing a B.A. in English.