It is a chilly Saturday evening as I instinctively grasp myself for warm. The usually supple earth felt as hard as pavement as I tredged up a hill that faced the town we all resided in. At the top of the hill stood a lone tree beckoning in front of a once lush forest, all their leaves and otherwise littering the forest floor all around. This spot was a favorite hangout place of some particular people as I drifted by every now and then to accompany them. As I reach the base the tree, I find Kira and the two other classmates waving me over.
“Glad you could come, Keir! It means a lot that you could show up today…”
I wave away any signs of gratitude as I came more for myself than anything else. Kira quickly nods in understanding as she waves over more faces to come. Night began to break as the sun retired below the horizon for the day, and a decently sized fire was set ablaze to continue dancing light across reception present.
“Thank you all so much for coming here on your presumably busy Saturday evenings. Some of you may know me, but for those who don’t, my name is Kira. I was one of Valen’s best friends, and I arranged this memorial so we could talk about Valen one last time. He was a profound part of my life, and I want to know more about how he affected all of yours.”
I sat sit and drank in the serenity of the scene unfolding before me. Loss is painful, but loss doesn’t have to be suffered alone, and Kira knew this by organizing the whole event. One by one each member of the reception spoke, some faces I knew in passing, and some whom I have never met before today. One of my classmates, the same dead-serious colleague of mine from earlier this week, finally let loose and as he regaled all the great times he had with Valen. He enjoyed his time while they were together, and was happy that he kept in touch with Valen everyday until his passing. Another classmate, the one on the verge of tears, just bawled and sobbed as he was in the same boat as the former, but the loss hit him so much deeper. As the stories continued to be shared (mine including), one story hit me the closest. It was from a fellow I had never met, but apparently was a great friend of Valen’s for quite a while. They lost touch as he had to focus on school and his girlfriend, so it came as a knee-jerk reaction to learn that one of his old friends was no longer going to be around anymore. His story resounded the closest to mine, as I treated not only Valen that way, but most people in my life the same. It gave me more to ruminate on as the evening flashed by in what in seemed like minutes. The once roaring fire at the beginning of the ceremony was now a humble and quiet flame, signaling the end of remembering and the time of departure. Most got up, waved each other goodbye and left, but I stayed as I had more to think on.
“You mind if I stay out here with you a little longer?”
Laying down close to the fire pit to gaze upon the stars, I sense the grass adjacent to me being shuffled as Kira sits right next to me.
“If you pleas. I might be chatty today, I might not be. The gamble is up to you.”
Kira smiles, and lays down the mimic my star gazing position as well.
“Thanks again for coming out when you didn’t need to. You’re always a hard one to read, Keir, so I’m glad to you have some heart in you as well.”
I blink quickly, assessing the fact that I was probably insulted, but I let it go as I began.
“Truth be told, I mostly came to see how everything would turn out. I did come to pay my respects, but I came moreso to learn how I could feel. I’ve had older uncles and aunts pass away in the past, but as I didn’t know them intimately, the loss was not something prevailing within me. But I knew Valen, and he was one of the few people I would proudly call my friend. To think, someone our age could just leave us like this, it’s surreal. I’m crying even right now, but even these tears don’t even feel real. I still think I can message Valen and he would reply to me right back with a witty reply as he always did. It’s like a part of me doesn’t want to admit, that as much as I think I have control over my life, I don’t. Life changes dramatically in fractions of a second, which got me to thinking… what am I doing? How would I feel if I were to pass away right now?”
I pause as I was deciding how to take this conversation next, and I feel a hand wrap around me.
“I don’t know how you would feel, but I would certainty feel sad. I’ve had so many people leave me in such a short period of time, it feels like I don’t know how to be happy anymore. But I know this is a feeling that will come to pass, because most things do… but even if you don’t pass away, I get the feeling you’re going to leave me anyway. Not because you resent me or anything like that, but it feels like whatever you’re looking for, isn’t here.”
My eyes widen in the darkness as my mouth dries, completely taken aback my the way this line of conversation has gone. I want to respond with something, anything, but my body refuses. I just didn’t know what to say.
“It’s fine, though, because I’ve known you for a quite a while, and you quite clearly are different from all the rest. I don’t know much about how you spend your free time or free thoughts, but whenever we catch up, it feels like you’re making huge moves to get closer to the place you need to be. It scares me, because it makes me feel like I’m not only going to be left behind by you, but by life itself. But because I refuse to be anything but myself, and being myself feels like I need to be in touch with as many people as possible as often as possible, it sets me behind. I’m a little jealous quite frankly, it must be nice being free.”
I gulped as I summoned all my courage to ask the next question.
“Do you think… I will ever get there? You know… the place I need to be?”
With her free hand, Kira tilts her head into her hand forming the thinking pose, and responds quickly.
“I don’t know, do YOU think you’re doing all the right things? If you live your live with conviction and make an honest effort to adhere to those guidelines, I don’t see why not, you know?”
Just I had thought I had cried my last tears, fresh new ones come streaming out as I continue to cry once more. I cry for a friend I will never see again, I cry for the friends I will leave behind as I continue this now-lonely journey, and I cry for myself in remembering all the time lost in not be able to live by my own convictions. The hand once grasping mine lets go, and soon I see Kira’s face hovering perpendicularly above to my own.
“Some people look to the stars for guidance, others look to the expectations of their friends, family, culture, and society. Some look for guidance in community, both religious and otherwise. But some people like you, are asked to look within. What do you see, Keir? Where is it that you are going that people like me will never be able to reach? Whatever the case may be, I believe from the bottom of my heart that you will get there. And once you get there, your world will change in ways nor you or I could ever believe. “
This was a weekly crossover post between Sandbox Zero and the Altspace VR Writing Group.
Sandbox Zero’s Weekly Prompt was Looking for a Guiding Light and Meaning: Spirituality, Dreams, Fortune Telling, Astrology
ASVR Writing Group’s Weekly Homework Prompt was Describe your character’s first day of using CONTRAST.