Short Story | ‘Warm Smoke in November’ by Luis Ham, Illustration by Jordan Wester
It had to happen. Eventually, it had to happen. You knew it, and I knew it, and last week it finally did. You made it seem so easy, so flawless, so… perfect. I do hope it was easier for you than it’s being for me. You were always so scared of that moment, but when it finally came you performed as if you had been rehearsing for it your entire life, behind everyone’s back. But I know it was as unexpected for you as it could have been for anyone else. I know because I could see the turbulence in your eyes when you knew it was going to happen; I could see it as clearly as the fog that used to escape your mouth when you sang to me in the cold. It sometimes seemed as if it were your soul, which you were singing out. But it was just water vapor, and the turbulence in your eyes was nothing more than tears pouring out. I tried to dry them, but they only kept coming back. So eventually I just held you in my arms and wished that you would give me some of your grief; that we could maybe split up the sorrow so that you wouldn’t have to deal with all of it, because like the groceries that you brought home everyday and the way that you so incessantly insisted in carrying all the bags at the same time, it was too much. And when you looked into my eyes and said thank you, a brief moment of happiness came over me like a lonely patch of blue in a cloudy sky, because I knew that was your way of letting me know that I had helped, with some of it, at least. Still, the tears kept pouring out.
After that, you tried to be brave. You stopped showing your fear. I could still see it, but I guess that is only because of all the years I have spent with you. In some ways I understood why you did this. You had, after all, quite some pride. But on the other hand, the whole world would’ve understood if you had cried yourself dry, and they would’ve brought you buckets filled to the brim so that you could keep going. Because at night, when you lay in that white bed thinking that everyone else was asleep, I could see the glistens of the drops that roamed your face, sliding from your eyes as if they were cars driving full speed towards the dead end of your hand wiping them away.
You used to wonder how they were able to do it. Breaking it to someone, just like that. And not just anyone, either; we had been going there for at least 6 months before he told you. Before he told us. But those 6 months meant nothing when he walked into that sterile room to announce that the ghosts of those cigarettes before, during, and after the concerts had finally returned to haunt you and we didn’t even need to ask when before he said that that November, that cold November in which the trees had lost their shame and had grown nude in the bone shattering cold, that November would be the final twist, the demolishing epilogue for the novel that your life had become.
Now you’re buried 5 feet under the soil on which I stand, and I would’ve cried myself dry had God not sent this rain so I could keep going.
Illustration by: Jordan Wester