too many words by laura lemay

Julian & Me

When we arrived at the graveyard it was still quite dark, and the fog wisped through the bars of the gate. It was a low dense fog that hovered about the stones, never rising above about knee height.

Julian pushed the bike into the underbrush and then examined the padlock on the gate. “I can’t pick this,” he explained to me, “We’ll have to climb the fence.”

Before I could explain to him that I could pick the lock, easily, he had hefted his helmet over the fence. It fell with a dull thud on the other side and I wondered how upset Eric was going to be at when Julian returned it to him. Bemused at what I knew his reaction would be, smiled to myself and then turned back to Julian, who was standing by the iron fence waiting for me.

“Well, come on,” he said, holding out his hand. “You’re not afraid, are you?”

I gave him a disgusted look. “Of course not.” I went to the fence and accepted his leg up, taking hold of the rusted iron that bit into my fingers and froze into my skin. Julian pushed my foot further up as I scrambled over the short spikes, and then dropped down into the weeds on the other side. I lost my balanace and fell backwards into the underbrush, laughing at my clumsiness, and watched as Julian scaled the fence as if that was what he had been doing all his life and dropped lightly to the ground beside me.

“This is so cool,” he said to me, holding out his hand to help me up. I took it and he pulled a little too strongly, so that when I came to my feet I nearly fell against him. “I love graveyards,” he told me, his eyes glinting in the dark, still clutching my fingers in his hand. I drew away and looked around me at the gravestones arranged in neat rows. They were newer stones at this end of the graveyard; the older stones would be closer to the far wall.

“The older gravestones are that way”, I nodded, and Julian grinned, turned on his heel and pushed through the fog in the direction I had pointed at.

I paused by the gate for a short while, breathing in the cold air and looking around me. It was a good night for graveyards. The sky was clear, the moon shown down with enough strong light to see by, and the fog covered the ground in a thick uniform layer, only occasionally stirred up in places by small breezes. It was delicious, a gothic dream. I expected vampires and demons to rise from the ground as I watched. The darkness was here, too, but it was not the darkness I was used to, the amiable darkness of the nightclubs. This was an older darkness, a hostile darkness. It ruled this small bit of earth. And it was not pleased to see me. It pushed at me as if resisting my presence, and I pushed back at it, asserting my inclufence. It could not hurt me, but it was unnerving to feel the anger from it after living side by side with it for so long.

I looked up from the fog, and looked for Julian. He had long since vanished over the hill, and I trudged after him, watching as the dates on the gravestones passed ever backward, as the stones became older and older and the carvings on them became less distinct. Fashions in gravestones had changed over the years; the older stones were thinner and of a darker marble, the letters and numbers carved into them becoming mroe and more rough and haphazard. In the older sections of the graveyard were the crypts, the stone boxes with iron gates and long-dead flowers forgotten on the marble floors. There were even a few statues about, angels and beautiful women in flowing garments, looking suitably mournful.

Julian was standing next to one of these statues, a life-size woman leaning against the side of a crypt, a veil pushed back from her face over her head, one hand resting at shoudler level agaist the wall. Her stone eyes looked blankly at the carvings on the wall of the crypt; her lover had died in the middle ninetetth century. Julian was gazing at her intently, his expression partly hidden by his hair, but looking for all practical purposes as if this stone woman had been a lover of his, a lover who he had lost. As I watched, he reached out a hand and touched her cheek; I almost expected her to come alive under his touch and fall into his arms with a cry. He raised his other hand to the other side of her face in a parody of affection; I would have laughed, but the scene held me and I felt the emotion of it, felt the sorrow and the sadness, and I remained still. I did not know what Julian was doing, why he was acting this scene, or even if he knew that I was standing there watching him do it. Was this for my benefit? Or did he recognize something in this statue that had actually touched him?

I walked slowly foreward, towards him, reluctant to intrude, but curious enough to want to know what was going on. Julian looked up as I approached, and took his hands embaraasedly away from the statue, smiling uncomfortably at me in the darkness.

“Does she remind you of someone?” I asked, coming up close to him. The statue at this distance was a remarkable pierce of art, an entirely lifelike portrait of a young woman who had obviously lost the one true love of her life. Her face was pale and anguished, you could read the expression in her eyes regardless of the fact that they were the same cold gray as the rest of her.

“Yes,” Julian replied after some time. “She reminds me of someone.” he touched her cheek with his hand once again. “Someone I knew a long time ago.”

I watched him for several minutes, then stated the obvious. “You loved her.”

“Desperately.” He replied.

“And what happened?” I asked, knowing the answer.

“She died.” He replied, shortly. I nodded. “She killed herself,” he continued. “She died in my arms, I held her and the life dripped out of her, into my hands, and I could not help her, I could not help her pain.”

“Why did she die?” I asked, softly. “Why did she kill herself?”

Julian drew back, and turned to look at me. “She wanted to know what death was.” He answered, the the shock of it hit me full in the face. “She wanted to know what happened when you die. She used to talk to me, for hours, asking me what I thought. Do you have an immutable soul that goes somewhere to be judged when you die? Does your intellect live on in some altered state? Or does everything end at the point of death, nothing lives on, nothing good is salvaged from it, its just a blackness you cannot ever come back from. She wanted to know the truth. She wanted to know what happens. She thought that by having me there she could tell me. But she didn’t realize how quick it could be or how little she could say. She didn’t realize.” Julian turned away from me, and took the statue of the woman into his arms. He ignored its hard coldness and held it as if it was pliant against him.

I was quiet for a long time.