It was easy to tell Grim was in a mood by the cold.
Grim. With a click and a crack he would always be there. My Grim. His arms that carried a hundred billion before he was held by one.
The frost grew borders around the windows, and I could see my breath. He faded into the room and sat next to me. I put a tender hand on his shoulder. “What’s the matter?” I asked. His head slumped forward with resignation. “It’s okay. You can tell me.”
“I can’t do this anymore, Mary,” he said, sobbing.
“What can’t you do, honey?”
“This. I can’t do this anymore,” he said, gesturing to the robe he was wearing. “It’s not the same, anymore. Not since being with you.”
An involuntary smile came over my face. He was the sweetest of them all, when he was vulnerable. I took his bony hand in mine, cold in my palm, never more warm in my heart. “What’s changed?” I asked.
“Since you… Everything,” he said. “The faces never mattered before. I didn’t even look. That sounds awful, doesn’t it?”
I knew he was talking about the ones who were left behind, and I suddenly realised my oversight of his changing demeanor the previous weeks. He’d alluded to this, many times. Oh Grim. I’m sorry I didn’t ask.
“I thought if I could tell them about the reverie of the dead, it would fix things. That once I carry a soul from the body, it glides painless, and free, that the place I guide it to should invite their happiness, not grief. Yet so much is their grief!”
He was shaking. I pulled back his hood and gently wiped with a thumb the tears from his eyes. He squeezed my hand and looked at me. “I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t be this way. Since I met you, the world is nothing as it used to be. Through you I have been born, Mary. I was just an agent of the cycle, before. Alive to the work, totally dead to the world.”
“Well, I’m sure death suited you better than most.”
We both laughed. “This is why I love you,” he said. I blushed, and gave him a glance to keep going.
“I’d never loved anyone before you, and so I’d never known the possibility of loss. Now that I do, I can see it a million times a hundred times over, a thousand times over, a thousand times a second, this knowledge of heartbreak, their sorrowful grimaces of the deepest grieving as the connections of love are severed. Last week I spoke to a religious woman who had lost her daughter. I told her of the reverie and the peacefulness, that she needn’t worry. Her daughter would be happy, and waiting. When I told her this, she smiled at me, the smile of a mother who knew the naivety of a child’s idealism. ‘My poor boy – she called me boy, just imagine! – I’m not grieving for her life, I’m grieving for my own.’
“And she explained that even the most selfless human heart, is selfish. That this kind of selfishness is an expression of the loving connection we have lost.”
He looked into my eyes. I knew now what he meant, at once feeling the burden of his pain, and the power of his love for me.
“Death is for the living,” he continued. “The pain of the greatest loss, that I now see in magnifications beyond my capacity to explain with words. When you go, I won’t be able to come with you, Mary. That fact I am reminded of countless times every single day. I can feel it already, and so I feel it for them all. Every tear tells me you will be gone, and how we could have spent that same time together, instead. So I’ve decided that’s what we’re going to do.”
His tone had lifted. He brought me close and we hugged, tight, for the longest time. Then it occurred: “Who will do it in your place?” I asked.
The meaning of his answer took a long time to sink in. I was too happy at the promise he had made to consider a reality like that. Maybe I’m just as selfish as the rest, I later thought, once I’d realised. We would be together, two soul-mates who met in the cool rain of my brother’s funeral, our future laid out long, blissful a serene road in front of us, and nothing else would matter.
He squeezed me tighter. “No-one, of course.”