III: the ghost of christmas yet to come
the document in front of him is blurring, words running into each other in black rivulets. he wants to keep on reading, trying to immerse himself in more books. more ledgers, more things that can adequately distract him, rather than give into the melancholy nipping at his feet, the way tha this time of year bit into him. he wants to keep awake, keep running, but.
that's not how this story goes. it's not how it's ever gone. the ghost of christmas future has always kept the same path.
so alexander's body relaxes against his will. his eyes grow heavy, the word run together on the page, and he sinks into the ghost's vision of a future.
in this future he finds himself flat on his back, on a sky that is slate gray. snow falls down in heavy bundles, yet as his fingers stretch beneath him, he finds that he cannot feel the cold around him. he sits up, breath issuing from his mouth, misting around him.
his chest burns, the field of his vision swallowed up by white snow, punctuated only here and there with trees. he stands, and begins to walk in a direction he thinks is north. his feet is the only thing that makes any sound, crunching into the white banks as the trees come closer and closer.
by the time he breaks into the wood itself, alexander is starting to realize that something is off with the way everything feels. he glances down at his feet every now and again. there is bramble collecting there, some cuts. none of them register in true sharp pain for him, the bramble a surprise the more he looked at it collect on his feet.
the wood is close, dense. the air feels thinner, odder as it slopes downward. he thinks he hits mud at one point--there is no fall, however, no slip when alexander finally reaches the bottom.
II. lucky strike
the second time alexander considers his hands, he is sixteen years old. his roommate, a boorish peter knox, has never liked him. he has always pushed alexander down hallways, has been crueler than most of the boys who seem to realize that he is different from them.
his mother says that he is poorer than alexander and that he is jealous that alexander will be graduating in spring ahead of the other boys. alexander accepts that he is poorer; but he does not think that it is a matter of character that informs his wealth.
he does not say that to his mother. that conversation is useless.
what matters more is that alexander has been doing small things to get back at peter knox in the past year. he has been moving things slightly in the room: putting his school supplies a little further than normal. placing his letters in different parts of the room after watching peter passing out from drinking. replacing his cigarettes with hollowed out ones, absolutely useless to knox. small annoyances that are comparably nothing to the pain that peter knox has dealt him over the years.
he used to tell himself that it was enough to do such things. he's finding more and more, as the date looms, as he's bodychecked during sports, as he spends nights uncomfortable, dreading when peter comes in from drinking or being out with friends, it's not enough.
so maybe, he'd gone a little far this time when he had taken the peter's shoes over a long weekend where peter had gone to his parents for an emergency. peter was a good soccer player. aggressive. the cleats he used were expensive, and something he'd been proud to earn.
alexander had gotten useful with pocketknives. it had been a good weekend, keeping the windows open as he smoked the pack of lucky strike that peter had seemingly lost a week before, wedging the knife in the shoes, purposely separating the soles form the bottom. the work felt good, to use his hands in a way that felt more of his own--and to take part in what he thought was a small act of revenge. he'd gotten the sole mostly parted from the bottom when he was satisfied. the shoes went back into the closet, and waited.
the wait was disappointing. peter came back with a broken leg, and the only thing that alexander took with him were the lucky strikes in the months after. he smoked them on and off, slowly getting used to the taste, and then buying them on his own off of the other boys at college.
he had forgotten all about the cleats until that summer, when his mother had phoned him. he had been half paying attention to her, more focused on searching for a book when she her voice, half suppressing glee, expressed, "--knox, that made for an interesting turn. i remember you told me that he was an athlete, but you never told me that he had rivals."
alexander frowned on the other end. "rivals?"
his mother's voice is practically dripping with glee, "alexander, you really should pay more attention. someone tampered with his cleats. they went to pieces during a game." alexander finds his heartbeat quickening. "i heard the fall was bad enough that teeth were knocked out." she gives a tsk, and alexander wrestles with his emotions for a moment, with the thought of how fall must have hurt. how wounded peter might have felt.
his teeth cut against his tongue. he tastes blood, and hastily says, "i'd like to talk more--"
"--but i have class. i promise i'll call back," he shifts, turns the phone off with shaking hands.
"i think you should have been a surgeon," luna intones sleepily beside him.
alexander is wide awake beside him, still not sure how to feel about this day. the rainbow on his cheek is still painted there, his fingers still brushing the stiff paint. lightning hasn't come to strike him down, nothing is on fire. he just went to his first pride parade, and he is in bed with his boyfriend, and the world is still turning.
he sends luna a quizzical look from his space on the bed, feeling a little punch drunk from his position, from the day. it still feels so much to be here, to be out. to have memories of holding luna's hands in public, to kiss his stubbled cheek despite the hammering of his heart, to be with other people who felt the same. he thought maybe the conversation here would be different, feel different.
not this, to have luna yawn at him, smiling with his overcrowded, crooked teeth that alexander could never love enough in it's imperfection. "you have steady hands, you know. i know you've never done a lot of work with them," luna yawns again, reaching over to grasp alexander's hands with his rougher ones, "but they're-- steady. confident."
"i've played piano, you know," alexander intones softly, shrugging his shoulders. "i wouldn't have been a good surgeon, though. i think--"
luna presses his mouth against alexander's, sloppy and sleepy. alexander squeezes his hand in his, and he's never felt so bonded to this man, to anyone else in his entire life in that moment, his fingers clutching so tightly to luna's.
speaking is overrated. kissing luna, holding onto his hand is more important.