I Burned the Bridges to Heaven
The room was filled with the smell of cakes and pastries, as well as coffee. Plates and silverware clanked together voraciously as the people around them ate their sweets and discussed the normal politics of the day. “Bachman said what? Still they protest? We should be thankful for what?” It was just the norm of this bakery, which sat at the street corner for so many years it could practically be a historical monument of its own. It has seen marches and influential people plow through the streets before it. People protested then, much like they protested right now. Of course, it was never New York, but each state “must be occupied” as they said on the news and internet podcasts. The Modern Day Delilah has lived, as much as it lives right now.
She was never empty, and the people always wanted her attention. Her customers never changed it was only the politics and the news that floated around in the air mingling with the coffee steam. In the corner of the Modern Day Delilah sat a woman who frequented regularly enough that the staff knew her order and even gave her a special spot on the menu for being such a devoted customer. She was always so elegant when she stepped through the doors, and her voice pierced the local chatter as she walked to her seat, singing:
“Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes all the same…”
It was a song the bakery never wanted to miss, and knew that one day it would. It would miss her customer’s singing as much as it would miss all of the people in the room one day. But somehow, the place knew they would all return.
It was couples frequent hang out. People got together for the first time, or have been going for years. The Modern Day Delilah was never empty of love-filled emotions much like it was never empty of sappy break ups. It has heard and seen everything there is to world of love and then watched it create a new world in a rapture it has not yet experienced.
“Larry was nothing more than an invalid dear. He had no style, no sense in this world at all. He was nothing like you, Derrick” the words rolled viciously from the squirrel’s tongue. Jay carried a black shine to his coat of fur, and from his chin to the neck of his shirt one could tell he had a blue under belly. His hazel eyes grew into the usual dreamy “I love you more than the world” look as his hands wrapped around the black hands of the raccoon sitting across from him. They slid up to Derricks auburn arms for a moment and he let out a faint smile.
Jay was never the one. In fact, to Derrick, Jay presented himself to be sort of creepy. He was the kind of clingy guy who would follow your every footstep like a ninja at night, waiting for you to come home and becoming jealous of any single person who looked their way. He attached himself to the raccoon as he rubbed Derrick’s arm for a moment. Derrick’s body began to tense up as he realized the situation could get much worse, maybe not at that moment, but progressively worse if given the time. He could just imagine the squirrel’s lovesick eyes darting at every scrap of fur he left behind, and here at this coffee table, it needed to end.
Jay was like all the rest he had met, and Derrick still holds the scars from a couple of mistakes. He inched back a little bit and diverted his eyes to the table top thinking of how Jay was going to react when he gave him the message to go away. His hands had never been touched so gently before. Derrick could almost feel the love pouring through Jays fingers as they rocked back and forth. It took him back to Andre, a wolf who had left so many bruises on the raccoon’s past that Derrick had forgotten that the sun also rises. Jay’s touch brought back the smell of sterilized hospital rooms. The beeping of the monitors synchronized with the clanking of the silverware. He could hear the machine now, making sucking noises as it pumped air. Derrick closed his eyes and he was back in the bed, waking up to find a silver and white wolf staring at him. It held nothing; Andre’s eyes were empty as they watched Derrick slowly wake. “Thought I had lost you,” the wolf said as he laid his hands on the raccoon’s, the same loving touch as the squirrel’s.
“Derrick?” his name echoed in the room but no one was speaking. The wolf was silent. “Derrick? Are you okay?” The raccoon blinked once and he was back at The Modern Day Delilah, Jay sitting in front of him now only holding a small card. “Listen, I have to leave now, but maybe we can do this again sometime. Here’s my number,” the squirrel said nervously as he dropped it on the table. From his pocket Jay’s phone began to ring and he flung it out while walking towards the door. Derrick sat back in his chair and watched the squirrel jump out into the winter weather falling from the sky. From outside you could hear people singing Silent Night, their notes swept across the sidewalk as they heaved their voices through the cold.
The Christmas month had begun. The carolers were out now, on time as usual on the first of December. The raccoon’s coffee was getting cold now. He left some money on the table and slid on his grey hooded sweatshirt, walking out into the snow. He looked up at the sky for a moment, and then began walking up the street. Away from Andre, he had hoped.
This was New Jerusalem for the raccoon. His freedom, his escape—everything he could hope for all bunched into one small rubber ball, bouncing up and down. And still the ever growing need to look behind him, over his shoulder in fear of the past, which had vanished years ago, would be standing right there as if to say, “How’s the patient today?” There were no angels there, and he never achieved such a holy status. He was merely a mediocre thirst to be called on whenever he was needed.
That was all the past now, a photograph he could look back at and smile, or weep as he put it back in a box closest to his heart because one day Derrick will open it, and everything he saw then, sees now and may see soon will have changed. But the spirits will twist in his stomach until then. They will sing, and dance as he moans to forget that he was never born until he left the cage of a thirst. Spirits are never a matter of forgetting, nor are they a matter of remembrance. They’ve no memory in this life, or even the next. It is only the ones they haunt that the remembrance of the past is given to them.
Derrick shuffled into his apartment, escaping the awkward date if one was to call it that. He leaned his back against the door, laying his head on its surface, as if he was catching his breath, but he felt no fatigue. The cold was forced to retreat as the warmth of his home pushed it back, heating up his body he had to throw off his sweatshirt. The lights were all off, and he sat there in the solemnity of the passing.
His legs felt damp for a moment. They were cold and swishing around as if he were in a pool. His body quivered for a moment as he stood there in the darkness, legs cold and damp. His hands dropped down to feel what it was that covered him, and as if his hand was lashed by the cold force he snapped it back and waited for the pain to numb away. It was liquid he felt, like it was a ice cube melting in his hands, the water swishing in his palms, and he was immersed in it.
Derrick placed his hand along his front pocket. The raccoon rubbed his thumb along the outline of what is a small tin box. The box was everything to him. He carried it wherever he went, taking in life with it, only taking what he needed—never indulging in any more than necessary. He stole a bit of life every day, and felt that maybe he’d learn that it was more precious tomorrow than it was at the moment he picked it up. He rubbed his thumb along the outline as the liquid around him began to rise a bit, nearing the box. Derrick pulled it out, stared at it, and opened it up. When he looked up from the box he saw he was standing in water, a cold stream sloshing around his legs. There was a mild confusion inside him, but it was subsided by the box as he looked at it again. As if he were holding his own child he cradled it in the palms of his hands. He didn’t move in the water, just stood still and facing its current. He took his fingers and reached inside the box, lifting something out. It was thin like a sheet of paper, folded neatly and faded yellow a bit. He began to open it, seeing a small bit of ink. A smile trudged across the raccoon’s face as he began to remember what the ink was.
“Where’ve you been?” a voice interrupted him. His body began to tense up, afraid of the voice. It held in it a small piece of spite, its tongue lashing out with chains. “I asked you a question, where have you been?” with that second question the raccoon was back in his home and the voice formed in front of him. Derrick was silent as a bit of white fur gleamed in front of him. A wolf emerged, and Derrick stood frozen as Andre stood before him.
The wolf jumped at Derrick pinning him up against the wall. The raccoon whinced as he felt his fur being pulled out of him, his feet could no longer reach the ground as Andre lifted him up. “I expect answers when I ask questions,” His voice began to get louder, his anger could not be subsided any longer as he balled one hand into a fist and thrust it into Derricks stomach. The raccoon cried out as the force shot through his body. Andre smiled for a moment and then dropped his victim, “you’ll do better next time.”
Derrick lay on the ground coughing and cradling himself, but when he looked up Andre was gone. As he noticed he was alone again, the pain in his stomach washed itself away. Derrick rushed to the mirror in his bathroom throwing off his shirt to see his stomach, but there were no mark. His hands brushed the sides of his arms a bit, nearly trembling from the episode. He turned himself to the side and allowed his fingers facing the mirror to glide along the scars along his back. He carried a tree with him every day. The scars sprawled out, like branches, and if he looked closely, sometimes they grew larger. He had a tree on his back, growing from his back, and Andre placed its seeds there when he opened the raccoons flesh years ago.
But Andre was gone now, and he had his little box to pass him through and to keep the branches back. The branches were heavy. They were always heavy. Derrick sunk into the couch where he was dropped next to, and let his eyes travel across the ceiling and get lost in the fan spinning above him. The raccoon slowly closed his eyes as he took a deep breath, falling back into the solemnity of the passing before the water. “I burned the bridges to Heaven,” he murmured softy as he drifted away.