scribbled-in, ink-spattered, and stained with ash

Author's Notes: "Do Not Go Gently into that Good Night" was written by Dylan Thomas.


The young man sitting on the park bench seemed young enough at first glance. He wore a dark jacket, man's jeans, combat boots—a lighter flicked open and closed in his hand, a habitual motion an observer could judge from the casual delivery of the gesture, the absent look within his eyes. But on second thought, a closer observation would reveal the faint weathered lines on his face, the neutrality of his features, the weariness about his shoulders—perhaps he was merely a good-looking thirties, not a young man still waiting to become. In fact, that maturity hovering about his edges drew more than one female eye in that green space of New York City. This was a man whom life had scribbled in, a well-worn book that could stand a test of time and patience. The only woman to introduce herself was Cynthia. She was politely declined her request to join him.

It was perhaps pure coincidence that a certain young woman crested a rise on the paved walking path, glanced up from her open book of poetry, and stopped, her murmur of lyric verse falling gently to silence. She paused and watched that weariness, the flick of an open lighter, a closed lighter, the edges of ash where fire had danced once in his eyes. Her mouth closed, her eyes softened, and she quietly approached. Unlike Cynthia, this woman demonstrated something of an understanding of the mind of the man: she did not ask to sit beside him, simply did. She did not look up at his startled glance, simply continued to read, murmuring over words they had read a thousand times.

My candle burns at both ends—

"Stop." He put his hand on the book, not startled enough to forget the words and spatters of ink he had once stained across his heart.

She looked up at him then, his dark eyes, open and almost afraid. Words, just words. They had never been just words and they had lived them. "John," she said calmly.

He stared at her for a long time, just breathing, palm flat over the pages—their pages, caught on the same books until they had been captured in each other. He was not so old, this man; it had not been so long ago.

His fingers curled around the book. She let it go. There was certainty in the gesture: once, eight months ago, she had let him go, knowledge dark with who he had been in battle, with those last dark oats he had sown.

She watched him pull the book gently from her hand, flip a set of pages (long ago, he had loved it well enough that it fell open naturally to this poem, to that), and read aloud in that soft, dark voice.

Do not go gently into that good night
Rave, rave against the dying of the light.

Her eyes closed, mouth tightened with pain. He studied her in silence. He only knew one language safe to speak.

Long moments and finally, a breath. He could. He did. "Kitty." So soft, she should not have heard the word. She could. She did.

She opened her eyes and met his studious gaze, whispered softly, "I miss you."

Breath stuttered and something broke within him. He leaned over and kissed her. Half a heartbeat, and finally, she kissed him back.