I now humbly present the flip side.

For Outtabreath and Azilee...

What the Hollow Soul Craves


I'm trying hard to escape this constant pull towards ache.

….It's a vulgar burn, the bitter liquid twisting a vengeful path down his throat. Unpleasant, the way he prefers his alcohol when the drink is poured to accompany misery. A broken glass and a cut that will sting righteously through the night. He will not tend to the wound; in some way both profound and imagined the dripping red draws him closer to her ghost. The pain is deserved and outshined by the ache somewhere so deep, he cannot name it. By day, the job keeps him from loitering in the shadow she's created and while he can't forget, he can function. Others die in savage and creative fashion and require answers he can work toward. There are bodies for families to claim. He's fighting desperately to stall the steady descent but by night, he is left alone with a shredded heart that self-medication will not balm. And the one who runs can no longer move forward. What he craves does not exist in the next moment so there is no reason to journey there.

….He drowns in her wake.

Keen to the shifting of wind, I bend to it blind.

….Where he is drawn is far from home and farther from safety. Nonetheless the call is heeded because this slow death must be either stopped or rushed. He no longer cares which. It is the prospect of answers that puts him on the path and he's sightlessly running once more. Her body to claim, to save or to bury. Something and everything feels different as he nears the foreign landmass. Finality. The weight of its cost steals his breath, threatens the composure he's faked since the last time her eyes met his. The others follow the trail his determination has carved across turbulent water but no one understands how far he's prepared to go. He will leave this place with her or not at all. Fate has already decided their course and he has achieved some measure of acceptance. Until the dirt coats his eyelashes and through the veil he finds her bruised face. And he smiles because it's all he can do. That she lashes out is a thin attempt to salvage a distance even an ocean could not maintain.

….Only her breath matters.

Drink from my spell, quench love's drying well.

....Air may be invisible but it embraces them in a crisp welcome. Home, the place where love is gathered among the familiar. Everything hurts, which feels like a blessing. The setting sun shuts out the light but behind his eyes is nurtured the spark of grief conquered. Life moves toward some nearly attainable goal he has yet to choose but the marching of time is no longer regrettable. It means she gains traction in the sand she brought back with her. Except that, in the hour of moonlight, he learns that she is only losing ground. Approaching her is taking one's life in hand but he's already divested himself of the fear of death. A skittish creature straddling the gulf between strength and fragility and when he extends his hand, she grips it as an anchor and proceeds to drain him of all he can offer. The selfish being he had been now bleeds out in her name all that is contained in a heart only recently mended. There exists no more worthy deed.

….And no greater purpose.

Your kiss has hindered my day.

….Because she doesn't just end it with the flower, he is not responsible for his actions. A delicate purple bloom has been added to his suit jacket, clashing brutally with the tie that her flexing fingers are presently crushing. His mouth has known all manner of trouble and he's often been forced to apologize with it for where it has been, but with the approval of warming sunlight glittering in her hair, he gives into the luscious scent of the bud. And her. The kiss follows no precedent, the origins born of sand and blood, cleansed daily in proximity and burn. Public displays of backlogged passion are far from sanctioned and when she steps back, he prays she recognizes that his heart lies between her fists. The threats her shaken voice spits would drive him to despair save the gentle plea in her eyes. And he hears the request; not here, not now. But the distraction lasts for weeks, the dull throb of what he'd lost and regained only in part. So close but she will make him wait. Fortunately, time's laborious passage has granted him an arsenal of patience

….The effort is rewarded.

Can your heart conceal what the mind of love reveals?

….She says his smile won her. He prefers to credit genetic persistence and an abiding faith in the resilience of a woman born for destruction but destined for peace. All they could have been, laid out in the weaving track of waste years, takes up too much space in guilt and blindness. They are what they should be and this is enough. Potential, hidden in masks and protocol, shines through the cracks in their combined armor, scars worn with no shame or regret. Necessary, the brutal ravage of the private war. With the universe. With each other. With themselves. Necessary because they would not be here otherwise. Two pieces joined are revealed to the world, incapable of disguising what has been healed. She is resurrected and he is completed.

….Neither is hollow.