only when she smiled at me from her death bed did I realise that she had always known; always known that she had been born for martyrdom. if I had realised sooner, I think, I would not have let her go to war.
as per the cliché, it only became obvious in hindsight – I spent countless nights wondering how I hadn’t noticed sooner.
how did I not realise, the night that she propped her feet up against my bedroom wall and told me that I’d inherit the earth?
“And what about you?” I had rolled my head sideways to look over at her, tearing my eyes away from the cracked ceiling.
she hadn’t done the same, had only smiled and breathed out softly. that was all that it had taken for me to forget about it, all that it had taken to convince me to change the topic.
it was so obvious; I see that now. people would tell me that she never joked, and I’d reply that she did so constantly.
now I see that she was serious.
I see it in every time she told me that she would never grow old; “**** me,” she had laughed, “If I ever reach thirty.”
being young, I didn’t want to grow old, either, and I jokingly agreed.
but thirty isn’t old. now, I am old.
she should be old, too.
she had been all fleeting smiles and elbows and smoke that curled through the air. she had been fearsome and secretive and warm arms wrapping around my waist.
when she called her flag a cross to bear, I had offered to share the load and she told me no, it wasn’t mine to bear.
in hindsight, I know that she never wanted me to die with her. she had always known that she would leave me here, and she had known that I would let her go.
dying suited her – she did it with grace (she didn’t too much with grace, she was always in her own way). her pain-tightened jaw didn’t disrupt the soft smile, the tears in her unfocussed eyes didn’t make them less bright. she didn’t struggle, she didn’t call for help, she simply asked for me to stay with her, to sit by her. I wasn’t supposed to cry, I knew that, so I kept the tears at bay or wiped them off on my ***** sleeve, because I was slowly realising that she wanted me to happy, that maybe I should have been happy about this – it was what she wanted, wasn’t it?
martyrdom put her at peace, martyrdom made her glow; afterwards, I wasn’t sure whether or not I should mourn her.
she had been happy, with blood on her lips and in her hair.
and so I was happy, with an ache in my chest.