“I wish I could bring you home with me,” Evan said.

His husband’s mouth opened. Evan imagined they’d argue and held up his finger.

“Shhh. It’s better this way, Jace. You’re banished…can’t go back.”

Jace glared down the hill where they met now, overlooking dust as wind carried and swirled it to eddy around them.

Evan coughed. “How’ve you been?” He asked.

Jace replied in empty, sullen stares.

“We can’t fight every time I visit.” Evan said.

Jace continued gazing at the brood of brown clouds that grew from the city inferno beyond. A decade gone and the skyline smoldered still; ever inconsistent as the buildings burned or collapsed with decay.

Evan imagined how it looked at night, shimmering in its red embers of spectacular depression. It was probably beautiful in the wrong ways. The way watching squirrels decay on sidewalks is beautiful because they were dead but you weren’t. Ants go marching one-by-one with morsels of squirrel to someplace warmer…ants were alive. That was beautiful too. Even Hope lived underground, warmer and beneath, with the ants. He shivered against the cold through his rubber gear–more a reflex to the thoughts than the weather.

All alone in the wastes, Jace never stopped loving Evan. He thought about him in the black of every moonless night. When banished, he’d begged and pleaded Evan to come, listless eyes drowned in tears.

– “I can’t be out there alone, Evan. I won’t make it.”

– “You know I’ve gotta stay. I want to live. I’m sorry.”

Months later, “sorry” still rang in Evan’s ears. Parting was not sweet, only sorrow. Shakespeare was wrong, but nobody cared. His legacy burned, just like the rest. Jace could recite some lines once, but they’d been tortured from him as tomorrow and tomorrow crept by in its petty pace in the wastes.

Jace forgave Evan for staying below but those words were tortured from him too. They’d both been selfish: Evan for staying and Jace for asking.

Separated, there wasn’t point in living. Evan saw that now. It happened from starvation or marauders here, and in the coughing throes of tuberculosis below. The realization he’d be dead regardless came too late. They might have lived and died together in breathing apparatuses, with lenses shielding eyes from burning, neon skies. Evan coughed and splattered blood inside his mask. Death didn’t play fair and it found you where you hid.

Something crept toward them from the horizon. Fighting trepidation, Evan scooted closer to Jace and closed the space between them.

He asked: “Did you know today’s Valentine’s Day?” But nobody cared. That burned up too.

Evan wept.

Jace made replies in simple moans. When the boulder crushed his legs, Evan began to visit daily. Afraid to touch him — always keeping a safe distance from Jace’s snapping jaw.

He coughed. Blood again. There wasn’t a point. It was time to correct the mistake.

Evan took off his mask, leaning in closer now, to say goodbye with one last kiss.


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