Love Lies Bleeding

By Charlize Colle Fernandez

In my dreams, I’m always drowning.

It starts with this: the sky above, the ocean below, and a boy, tall and thin like an evening shadow, a signal fire for the setting sun. Waves crash against the cliff like thunder, kissing to my cheeks the salty tears of a fallen nymph. White foam rises against the shore like clouds, the ashes of a mermaid, the embers of a goddess. The deep blue beneath me is endless. The deep blue beneath me is the end.

One step, two. A black cat poised to leap. A raven braced to fly.

One breath, two. I jump.

The brief moments collected between are a lingering flipbook, carrying me in the space between sea and sky as if a cradle to a child. Time is a floating thing, curling around me like the breeze that accompanies my descent, cold and uninviting. It is the love of my mother, whose life was sanctioned for my own. It is the love of my father – or, rather, the absence of it, the
abandonment of it. It is the love of my brother, his doting stemmed from pity rather than from anything genuine. It is the love of my sister, who had all to spare for everyone but none to spare for me. It is the love that I lack the privilege for.

I am a luckless child, born under the stars of something forsaken.

In my dreams, I’m always drowning. In my dreams, I’m always grieving.

There is that luckless child inside me, a loathsome little glimpse of what has become of me, of what will become of me. He screams and he screams and he screams. Why don’t you love me? A question. Why don’t you love me? A demand. Why don’t you love me? A plea.

I do, says her voice. I do, insists her voice. I do, pleads her voice.

As always, she is above me. She jumps after me, hand outstretched like vines crawling up the brindled bark of a dead tree, an unwelcome overgrowth. She is always trying to reach me, even here, in the stark nebula of my dreams. She is an iridescent blossom against a blue so dark it has diminished into smoke. She is more daydream than dream. She is a lullaby, a halcyon. Of
her, I am undeserving. And yet still, I reach back.

This is where the dream ends and the nightmare begins.

I hold her in my arms like holding onto the dregs of whatever hope had refused to leave the house of my stubborn heart. She presses her face into my chest, the hollow cavern of my ribcage crowning the top of her head like the apse of a sanctuary. Here, she is real. Her hair is a bundle of golden threads, her skin bathed in sunlight. She is small like a bird and light like a song. I can feel the warmth of her breath against my skin, hear the rhythm of it inside the small chamber of my ears. I join our breaths together in an uneven tandem.

When we hit the water, she is gone. She slips away like drifting clouds, falling further and further away as if a testament to what we really are: unattainable. This time, it is my hand outstretched against the expanse of blue, almost black, almost nothing. I cannot reach her. She sinks and she sinks and she sinks, her face the picture of peace, wandering into a sleep that she
will never wake from, a dream that she will always live in. It is colder here already.

Eventually, the ache sears in my lungs until it becomes an unbearable burn. I reach towards the sky. I cannot save her.

Reality greets me like an unwanted guest. The room is empty, the apartment even emptier, and somehow even colder than the freezing depths of the ocean. While my dreams are always blue, my reality is always gray, a black and white photograph, a silent melody from a broken piano. My memories, too, are monochromatic. No matter how many times I dream of her, feel the softness of her fingers, hear the honey in her voice, see the kindness in her smile, there is
always something missing. I cannot remember the color of her eyes.

In my dreams, I’m always drowning.

Even when my eyes are open. Even when I breathe.

In my dreams, I’m always grieving.

Even when she loved me. It was not enough.

I carry the weight of that grief like water in my lungs. Where do I put it down?


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