The fire burning in my chest wakes me. I’m lying on a park bench under a huge leafless tree. It’s branches spread out across the white sky like a thousand bony fingers. I’m alone, full of chaotic emotions, and confusion. Scared witless; with no memory of who I am.
I’m wearing an elaborately embroidered cream-colored dress. It’s a silky, flowing dress, with gold beads at the neck, and sleeves that reach past my wrists. For all its layers, it does little to break the icy chill of this winter air. Wrapping my arms around myself, I try to pluck my name from the muddy blackness of my mind. It’s no use. The only thing I’m sure of is that I’ve lived this day before … many, many times.
People walk past me left, and right not sparing me even the slightest of glances. Like I’m invisible … maybe I am. My eyes flicker here and there, searching for something. My mind feels foggy, I know there’s someone very important that I should remember … I just can’t.
Standing up slowly, hesitantly, I walk down the cobblestone road shivering, stumbling, my slipper catching on the length of my dress. Feeling self-conscious I try not to make eye contact with anyone.
It’s a beautiful, sad old place, this park. It looks like it has history painted in it. I absent-mindedly rub the aching place between my ribs. It stings with every breath, like a dagger twisting where my heart should be. The pain is so intense, and comes and goes unexpectedly.
After walking around aimlessly, I come upon a string of shops and a small cafe. Stealing a glance at my ghastly reflection in a window, the young girls face staring back at me is foreign. I don’t know her, though she must be me. She moves when I do. My hair is dark and dull, reaching down past my waist in long curls. My complexion’s sallow, the dark half-moon circles under my eyes are my most prominent feature. A frightening sight in my dirty dress, I must be scaring everyone. There’s a sickly green tint to my skin that can’t be healthy. A girl my age should have a blush in her cheeks, and rosy lips. Mine are pale as lead.
Pressing my finger against the cool glass, I slowly trace the outline of my face. My eyes are sorrowful, and too big. I don’t notice the rain until it transforms my horrid reflection into waving ripples.
I decide to walk in the cafe and speak to the cashier, maybe she can help me in some way. It takes every ounce of my strength to shove the door open. The cashier rushes over from behind the desk and quickly presses the door shut behind me. She’s very slender, wearing blue pants and a fluffy thing made of what seems like wool. I find her choice of clothing odd, I’m not sure why. So many things about this place confuse me. I wait for her to pull the door shut from the cold and the wind. She curses under her breath and goes right back to her post without acknowledging me.
“Excuse me? Miss? Can you help? I’m lost … I can’t remember anything,” I plead with her, but it’s no use. She’s staring at some brightly colored glossy book, and completely ignoring the drenched girl in front of her. Anger wells up inside of me, making the sharp pains in my chest throb. If she only knew who I was, she would never treat me this way. Wait, I don’t know who I am, why would she care? I’m so confused. I pound my fists on the counter trying to get her attention. The light in the room flickers, and one of the round candles on the ceiling bursts. She screams and darts outside, leaving me sodden and unaided inside the shop.
Defeated, I follow her outside. There’s no sign of the wretched cashier anywhere. I trudge along again, not sure of where I’m headed, or where I’ll end up. If I could just remember ….
My eyes rest on an old graveyard in the distance, peeking through the trees. I feel something pulling, drawing me closer. I’ve nothing else to do, so I start towards it.
Some faint memories of yesterday flood my mind, blurry around the edges. I remember waking up, and being so cold, walking around the park. I feel as if I’ve gotten farther this time, than I ever have in this nightmare I keep reliving. The closer I get to the graveyard the lighter I feel. Huge evergreen trees surround an old rickety cast iron gate, I move the overgrown leaves and rattle the lock. It finally opens and lets me in. It’s a large graveyard, the headstones are substantial, with tombs and massive stone angel statues everywhere. Some of them weeping with their hands covering their eyes, others beautiful with flowing hair and feathery wings. The grounds have been kept up, but the time, and the weather have left their mark here. I ramble around reading random names, and stopping to feel sorry for the tiny ones. It’s as if I share their loss. This forgotten place, is a lot like me. The family members
that wept and grieved for them, are now dead and buried alongside. No fresh flowers to be found.
I’m out of breath now, falling against one of the tombs, I gasp for air, clutching the fabric at my chest until my knuckles burn. Resting my head against the cold moss-covered stone, I stare at the dark clouds swirling overhead. I try to think of nothing but blackness, slowly the pain lessens. Losing track of time, I fall in and out of consciousness. I feel like I’m turning to stone, like one of the angels.
The soft singing of a lark perched overhead, startles me from my reverie. I wrench myself up from the ground, using a headstone for support, and wipe the dirt off my dress though I only succeed in smearing it. My appearance couldn’t be any worse. Oddly I wonder why, when I’ve forgotten everything else … my vanity is still intact. Rays of sunlight fight to break free from the breaking black clouds. It mixes with the moisture from the storm creating an eerie fog all around me swirling up and around my body with each step I take, it’s so thick almost tangible. I reach out to touch it, my fingers getting lost in the mist. I hear a curious noise in the distance, like the agonizing cry of a dying animal. I follow it as best I can.
There’s a boy, not much older than myself, sitting atop a large gravestone. He’s the one making those god awful noises. I’m not sure If I should go to him, or if he’ll just ignore me like everyone else. Tentatively I approach him, and lightly tap his shoulder. He jumps and turns to face me. His eyes are so familiar. I’ve seen this boy before. He looks like me. Dark hair, impossibly pale, the ashen sunken circles around his hazel eyes mirror mine exactly. His lips are the same shade of sickly green as my skin, with tiny red veins spreading out along their length.
“Tell me your name,” I whisper, my voice cracking in my dry throat.
He groans and doubles over clutching his stomach. I feel helpless … a familiar feeling.
When this passes, he points at his throat, and shakes his head back and forth … he can’t speak. After a moment, he stands, grabs my hand and leads me away. We reach a large tomb and he traces his finger along the name carved there. The tomb is large enough to hold two people. There’s an intricately carved double door in front, covered in crosses. He points to the name, then back at himself. I don’t understand what he’s trying to tell me. Maybe he has the same name as the person who is buried here. I sound out the letters one by one. “Romeo” I read. Saying that name out loud brings back a flood of a million different images to my mind. I remember now.
Grabbing my hand, in his equally chilled one, he pulls me over to the other side of the tomb. The name chiseled there is mine, I know it the instant the word spills from my lips. “Juliet,” it reads. And I know the truth ….
We are them … we are dead, and have been for quite some time. I should be frightened, but I’m not. I finally have the answers I’ve been seeking.
This boy, this is my Romeo. He’s been waiting for me here. I’ve died twice for him. I’ll accept any eternity I’m given; as long as he’s a part of it. If this is hell … I’ll gladly take it. We sit outside our burial-place on a bed of leaves, two forgotten ghosts. Until the stars start to show themselves. Holding each other, reliving our short lives in sad memories. Dying over and over again in each other’s arms.
Then I wake up … under the same tree … but this time … I remember my name.