Sleeping with ghosts by Mileva Anastasiadou

Flash Fiction, Punk Noir Magazine

Every you and every me are proper grown-ups, they live the dream, with jobs and families and houses in the suburbs. They meet again, they meet by chance, they recognize each other, shake hands, exchange a kiss, say how time flies and they mean it, it’s not small talk. They reminisce about old times, take a look at the picture, that old photograph of them, smiling, kissing, all over each other, side by side, hand in hand. They stare at it, then at each other, then look away, they have destroyed the bond, burnt down all bridges, but here they are, and time has passed, look how young we were, they say, they are each other’s mirror, or a reminder that time healed the wounds and they feel relieved but also old.

Once they were together. Once they were apart. Once they were wild. Wild hungry beasts, that tore each other apart. They stand on the same side this time. Once they shared love, shared friendship, they shared hugs and kisses and bodily fluids, they shared homes, money and pain, long empty days they filled with time wasted, long empty nights they filled with dance and music and silence, because time was endless, time was empty, they were empty, eager to fill the empty space, the empty time, the hole inside that hurt, the hole of nothing that demanded something, they shared bottles of wine and beer and youth and hope and cruelty and despair. Once they were connected, but only now, now that nothing keeps them together, now that they have settled down, now that time is ending, they are on the same side.

Every you and every me remain calm and composed, as they tear the photograph in half, they act like surgeons, their movements precise, their eyes focused, they look at each other, then look away when their eyes meet, as if saying, stop being personal, as if thinking, you were but a stepping stone, or you were but a pass-time, they cut the photograph in tiny pieces and throw it up in the sky, they tear the past apart.

Last time they met, they were not kind to each other. They were brutal, dishonest, they were cruel and uncaring. But now they are normal. They remember lust, but they can’t feel it. They remember pain, but they’ve gone numb. They feel more connected now that they’re apart, now that they share nothing but decay, oh how they miss the old days, now that the torture and bliss of youth is but a fading memory, now that the future they craved for is here and life has moved on.

Every you and every me speak to each other, like they have never spoken before. They speak the truth, the truth that was once unspeakable, but now it does not hurt.

Every you is engraved in my wrinkles.

Every me is carved in your arm.

Every you has shaped my future.

Every me has broken your heart.

But they are fixed now, they are normal, middle-aged weary, too tired for pain, or poems, or dreams.

Once life was intense, but now intensity has vanished, they move gently into that good night, their footsteps barely heard, those huge, loud feelings they could not handle, back when they were young and damaged, now comes fading, death shall have dominion, not like in poems, not like in dreams, as if life’s fading away, like this fading picture of them, like they were fire once, but now the flame is fading, they’re not yet ashes, but they are not alive either. They watch it now, what used to be a photograph, the past falling from the sky in tiny pieces, like confetti during a sad celebration, although love is lost, lovers are not, not like in poems, not like in dreams, they thought they’d outgrow the sorrow, they thought they’d be mature, it’s closing time every you says, every me agrees, it’s all gone now, the kids are awaiting, they tell each other and they frown, like saying, we’re all fucked up by now, and they think they fucked up each other, but it was time that got them here, time that wounds, exhausts and kills. They’re on the same side now, now that expectations have vanished, partners in loss and defeat.

Last time they met love was a rat race, a game they played, and they were empty vessels and life was crystal clear.

Last time they met, they were invincible.

Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, from Athens, Greece. A Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions nominated writer, her work can be found in many journals, such as Litro, Jellyfish Review, HAD, Ruminate, Lost Balloon, X-R-A-Y, Chestnut Review and others.