This is the last post I will write about Gideon, because I have the feeling that he is fading—not out of life in general, but out of my life, specifically. A tremulous line of salt on the craggy blue rocks, dissolving as the water comes in. The last triumphant note of a hundred-member orchestra, evaporating into the air of a bronze chamber. Tears cling to my face—tears neither of suffering nor joy, but some third thing that unbolts like a chest in an attic.

Time is a forest and Gideon and I briefly walked one of its branching paths together. I recall emerging, blurry-eyed, from a far-off den, and seeing him across a field of purple heather, through the thorns. We were brought together by the similarities in life experience, the proximity in our ages, and the coincidence of our encounter at the crossroads. Though we had little in common, initially, beyond the circumstantial, we both possessed a dark streak that we felt set us apart, and that made us distrustful of anything dew-sweetened in the gardens of our pasts—those potions, clouds, and roses. We suspected already that knowledge—sometimes an antidote, sometimes a poison—would trickle back through the forest, settling in those gardens like an oil spill, revealing the potion to be syrup, the clouds, smoke. The roses, fanged and carnivorous.

In a coffee shop on a main road, we compared notes. We traded vulnerabilities, and didn’t. We learned, and didn’t. On a frozen street in midwinter, we tried to console each other. We tried to make the moment more than it was. I held Gideon’s two gloved hands in both of mine and promised we’d keep in touch, though I understood that we would not. My breath was a plume of pewter-colored smoke. His face contorted with pain, but I was privately embarrassed by the hugeness of his feelings. Another part of me, secreted within the depths of my ego, was crushed, too, because I knew his tears were not shed on my behalf, but because of his fear of the upcoming end to our age of innocence.

Ah, I’m not writing about Gideon anymore, am I? Not the Gideon that I know now, in any case. Not tall, dark-eyed and depressed Gideon with the painstakingly gelled hair and the perfectly tailored suit. It may be that in each stage of my life I meet a Gideon—someone who shares my propensity for cynicism, my terror— and we move each other, like twin red stars locked in an inescapable orbit, but without ever coming close to telling each other the truth.

Now, crawling through the dark moss, I raise my eyes and see Gideon. He is hidden in the dense canopy, one eye of blood-streaked amber visible through a shroud of gold-edged leaves. I blink and he vanishes. My breath is a bruised fist in my chest as I wade through a stream of chilly, translucent blue. The water doesn’t rid me of the thorns, but it lessens their sting. On the other side, I find soft hollows left by footsteps, where spores of something unknown and scintillating have taken root.

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