The Fall of Rome
There wasn’t anything to say, not for weeks. I started dreaming again.
It was one where something I loved was on fire,
and I was the one who set it ablaze.
I was full of matches. I didn’t know any better.
I will follow you until the ends of the earth, but I won’t chase you there.
We built our bridge out of wood,
in order for it to burn easily,
in order for it to be no one’s fault.
We poured each other glasses of kerosene so we could touch and end up as smoke.
In order for it to be no one’s fault.
Clean water wasn’t available, not for weeks. We laid on the floor among the ash, unkempt
And mostly alone. We had known all along that if one of us closed our
Eyes the other could never come with, but this time we weren’t given the
Option to wash it off, to go home and sleep a small enough death to paralyze our
Eyes wide open.
I remember thinking I’d never gone this long seeing the outside only from behind
Glass, how windows are reminders that you could be swallowing paint
Chips and finding another use for the chain that hangs off the ceiling fan
And the world will not stop.
You could find all of the seams of your skin and the world will not stop.
A month went by and we weren’t going to make it out of this room.
He woke up in fevers too hot to touch. I hid behind the bathroom door.
I couldn’t watch.
Fire cannot find you if your eyes are closed. We invent stories to keep us alive
When dying doesn’t look like it did in the picture.
He asked me to tell him the dream one more time, but there was no need. It was already
Happening. There was a knock on the door but we had sawed the handle off when
We entered this house for the last time.
There a different ways to do it, I said, and we
laughed because it was more like a half suicide. Our almost-death neatly aligned with our evening plans of climbing into each other’s mouth to breathe the fresh air.
Two months and we were still burning. He had never looked more like himself than when he stood
With his back to the window. His nose was running into the claw marks around his throat and he said, t’s still not enough.
I don’t remember who they pulled out first, him or me. They didn’t let us in the same room, after that. I didn’t know how he was for weeks.
I have yet to determine if I ever knew what he
looked like, if I ever saw him instead of me.
S.E. Frederick is Seattle born and New England raised. She is starting her undergrad at Savannah College of Art and Design. She has been published in Alligator Juniper.