Warnings: Death. I hate putting this here because I'm afraid it will spoil the ending. But it's just fair that I do, because a lot of people avoid these types of stories (myself included).
Notes: I was reading The Giving Tree to my 5-year-old nephew and it made me cry. And not just tears, I was downright bawling like a baby. There was something about the boy returning to his first love many years later as a broken and withered old man, and having her there waiting for him patiently that really touched something within me, and it inspired me to write this.
Looking for an Absolution
By Anahita (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It was a cool spring morning, quite ironic that the air felt so heavy and somber around Eiri as he walked along a somewhat familiar tree-lined path. The earth beneath Eiri's feet gave way slightly as the man took a shortcut across the grassy hill that he vaguely recognized. He turned his head in both directions, looking for a spot that he knew was there, although his memory was a bit clouded from the years that had passed, he continued to persevere.
Was it 10 or 20 years since he had last paid a visit to Shuichi? Surely that emotional brat would hold it against him for a little while! That's how he always was, anyway. He wouldn't speak to him for weeks if he did so much as forget a birthday or an anniversary, or something mundane like that. But the boy's anger never lasted. He was of a kind-hearted spirit deep down, and things like that never bothered him. He could just shrug them off and continue living happily as if nothing fazed him at all. Maybe this time would be no different. Maybe he would pout for a few moments and then shrug it off and give him that smile that warmed Eiri's heart to the core. The same smile that drew him to the most unlikely source of love that he could ever have imagined. Yes, that's how it would be. Or perhaps not, after all, years had a way of dulling the edge of emotions.
At last he saw a cherry tree that he recognized from the last time that he made his way to their quiet meeting spot. Shortly afterward, as he continued down that path, he saw the concrete park bench that was covered with a thin skin of green moss and cracked from years of neglect. And again he found another familiar landmark - two statues of cherubs, heartbreakingly cheerful even in their current shabby state, perpetually playing like children frozen in time. Even underneath the years of being worn down, they still displayed their angelic smiles. He remembered them; and soon he would be at his destination. Soon he would see Shuichi again.
He was nervous. Did he have any right to do this? So many years had passed, and compared to those years, their time spent together seemed like a blink of an eye. So fleeting, so short lived. Why couldn't he let go? Why did he still pursue something that he had no claim to in the first place? Maybe he had come to the conclusion that he wanted Shuichi, but it was horribly presumptuous of him to think that Shuichi would want the same from him. What possible reason could the boy have for agreeing to take him back?
But he had to try, one last time. Eiri wanted this. He had lived his entire life not allowing himself to want or need, to feel loved and to be vulnerable. He had fucked up once and he knew that, but he wanted to set things right. And he would. Or at least he would try. As soon as he had an opportunity to face his one-time lover once again - as he was doing now, he realized. His heart began to race and his eyes widening in recognition.
Eiri blinked back a few tears. That was always hard. More tears for that boy. He could not recall the number of times that he had cried over him. Shuichi awoke excruciatingly painful memories within him. The boy unknowingly tore off the bandages covering his gaping wounds and made him cry out from the pain of it. But it all proved futile in the end. Although Shuichi tried to heal his rotting heart, the task simply proved too difficult. Not that Eiri ever let the boy succeed in the end. He left well before that was ever a possibility. It was for Shuichi's sake that he did. Only a fool would put up with someone like him in the first place. It was a surprise the boy didn't give up and leave earlier!
But that was all in the past. Now he was facing what may have been his final chance to set things right, if that was even possible anymore. Eiri had no excuses. His only alternative was to try. He could only ask for the boy's forgiveness. He took a deep breath to buy him a moment to keep his composure in check before he began.
"Hey kiddo. It's been a while, hasn't it? I think that I got lost finding this place. It's just like you to search out the most secluded, out of reach corner just because the land was pretty" Eiri chucked to himself and then coughed as his weakening lungs protested the extra strain that he put on them in his short hike to make that visit.
"I miss you. I just wanted to say that. I don't think I ever had a chance to say it before, but I'll say it now. Not a day has passed that I haven't thought of you. Though I suppose it was an oversight on my part to not get my heart back from you before we parted ways." He choked up. The task was proving to be much more difficult than he anticipated. He pulled out a crumpled tissue out of his pocket and dabbed his face with it, wiping away the tears that intermingled with the light spring rain that fell upon him as he stood there.
He closed his eyes. Looking at Shuichi proved to be much more painful than he could imagine. "I realize that this makes me a complete hypocrite, but the truth is that I just cannot stop thinking about what we had. Even though it was, what - 40, 50 years ago? I always knew that I wanted to be with you, but I was afraid to say anything because everything I touched with this cursed hand turns to ash invariably, and I don't know why I'm here now. I was content before, just watching you from afar. As long as I collected news clippings about you and your music, and as long as I could look over the photographs that I have of you, that was all I needed. I thought that I didn't need your body there with me. And for many years, I was content living like that. The news clippings stopped years ago, and the photographs are fading with time and my mind is growing weary, and I felt like I needed to come here and plead with you while I still have the chance." As Eiri kept his eyes closed, he fell to his knees, mostly from fatigue, but also as a way to beg forgiveness from the person he wronged so many years ago. He dug his hands into the soil there, amazed at how easily it gave way. Even the mighty earth was fragile at its thin exterior Looking down at the mud and grass below his knees, he swallowed nervously and continued.
"I don't profess to know anything about your state. All I know is that at one time you were the foolish child who once sang fairy tales of happiness that was everlasting, and I was the idiot who wrote stories praising those same fairy tales that I never believed in. And I'm probably a fool for saying this but maybe I was wrong and there is such a thing as happily ever after and maybe I'm just a frightened old man who grows more and more frightened every day that I remain alive and feel my body weakening from the cancer that is slowly rotting my organs, and I'm probably a fool for even saying any of this because you probably aren't even listening to me babble in the first place. I am making a fool out of myself, am I not?
"For all I know, when we die, that will be the end of it. Forever only means something in childish stories and these pictures I have. They are the only sorts of forever, aren't they? We die, our bodies decompose and become one with the soil, just like the lowliest insect, isn't that true? There really is no sense in me talking about such nonsense. But if there is a chance"
Eiri coughed again. His voice was weakening. The cold air was not helping. Shivering, he pulled his coat around his frail body and continued.
"So what I think I am trying to say is that even if we can't be together for all eternity, you know, just like you wondered all those nights when I held you close and listened to the beating of your heart while you prattled on and on... At the very least I can try to earn your forgiveness. So I'll just leave with that. I'm sorry, Shuichi. I'm sorry for hurting you. I'm sorry for making you cry, and if I don't get an opportunity to say this again"
He sobbed. "Goodbye, Love."
He leaned forward to press his lips against the cold slab of marble in front of him, before taking a moment to run his fingers across the name that was etched on the front of it. He let his fingers linger there for a moment.
"Please give me another chance."
The old man rose to his feet and turned to walk away from that somber spot.
however far away i will always love you
The Cure- Lovesong