“Hibernis” — A Short Story

And as I sink back into that old, leathery brown armchair, now decrepit with time, I think of all those cold nights we shared. The way I held you, saying everything will be fine. The look in your eye, the shimmer of hope, that twinkle that always seemed to be there when you looked at me. A look I can never forget. The remembrance of what once was, what is, and what shall be no more. We both knew, as much as we denied it, your time was coming.

As the air grows cold, and the trees begin to die, my heart sinks, filled with the agony I once felt, but never let you see. Night creeps up, ready to swallow me into the darkness that has come with the passing of time. I can still hear those words you said to me beside the fire of that starry winter night. “The loss of something beautiful breeds a new beginning.” When I feel winter coming, I cannot help but think of you. It was my favorite season. We would walk down the trail behind the old shed, the unset snow crunching beneath our feet. The way your smile shone in the sunlight that reflected off the white ground. All the things I cherished most. My life had been good in winter.

Christmas Eve, I still remember as though it was yesterday. I laid my eyes on you, in that red Santa hat, ugly Christmas sweater you always used to love, and those brown boots you wore to every occasion. You were still with him then. But I could tell, the way you acted with him… it wasn’t you. I had to get to know you. I was so afraid. I had never seen anybody so beautiful. I zoned, didn’t care about anything happening around me. Then you looked at me, as I was walking over. My heart stopped. I didn’t know what to do. I was so embarrassed. You laughed harder than I had seen all night as I fell to the ground, tripping over that damn dog toy that I told my brother to clean up before the party. As the drink fell out of my hand, pouring all over my brothers wife, ruining her new red dress that he was a slave for, you came over to help me up. I thanked you, and introduced myself. That’s when the night changed. That’s when he hit you. I was astonished. You took it, as normal, and got ready to move on with your night just as you had for the past three years. But I couldn’t let that happen. You didn’t even try to stop me. I put a man in the ER for you that night, and you’ve always said it was the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received.
 
Now, as winter comes around again, I drown in my thoughts faster than I drown in this bottle. I wait through the misery that this season brings, ready for the new beginning of spring. Your life escaped my grasp of love, and I lost you when the snow began to fall again. So as I sit here, dark amber-colored whiskey in my hand, crackling fire that seemed eternal warming the ever coldness I now feel, watching the pictures of us above the fireplace fade with time, the memories of you run ramped through my intoxicated mind. Just another lonely night with Death’s sweet grip around my neck. The taste of cold steel in my mouth, a sensation I have experienced every night since. The succulent rust on my tongue. My finger slightly pressed against the cold metal of the trigger, not quite hard enough to end my suffering yet. Every time before this, I stopped myself. I’ve stopped myself for you. I know you wouldn’t want this.

But you’re gone.

Ready to paint the old walls of this cabin red, I break down in tears. Am I not man enough to do this? I haven’t been a man for twenty seven years. A part of me died with you that night. I place the gun down. Then pull out the pack of Camel cigarettes that I’ve been sitting on. I pull out the last stick in the pack, and light it with that old scratched up zippo. I take one long drag, and sip on the last of my whiskey. Falling asleep, it felt like an entire lifetime. The hot ash of the cigarette that has burned down to my fingers woke me up instantly.

Once my eyes were able to focus, I examined my surroundings to get my bearings. That’s when I remember… you aren’t here. For some reason, I’m forever hopeful that when I wake up, you’ll be right there next to me. Every time I awaken from my dark slumber, my heart is overcome with disappointment. So I pick up that old Over and Under that my father passed down to me from his father before him. I remember how everything in my life dies. This bottle of whiskey. The last of my cigarettes. Even the fire, the last thing to warm my eternal coldness, has died now. Maybe when I wake up from this, you’ll be with me this time. I could never go through with it before, but tonight feels different. Maybe I’ll be the man I never was, and finally pull the trigger.