A month after the funeral, Charlie was still confronted by ghosts of his boyfriend each morning. These confrontations started small — harmless, sugarcoated memories — like when he would notice one of Levent’s thick, dark hairs on the brush and think, “Oh, that’s right, he’s…” But then the day would wear Charlie away to almost nothing, down to memories that would pulsate through his mind while he stood motionless in the various spots of their home they had never inhabited together, tucked away behind the stove he had shoved away from the wall, or beyond the closed door of the hallway linen closet, trying to eradicate every wiry, steelwool hair from the carpeted floor. Then, in those dark, forgotten places, the rest of the thought would materialize. “Oh, that’s right. He’s dead. Levent is dead and you will never see him again.”
The first week was a completely blank and irretrievable time of Charlie’s life; when asked to recall it, he would press his temples hard with his thumbs, as if trying to squeeze the memories out like citrus juice jammed up inside the pulp of his brain. But there was nothing there whatsoever. Everything had been wiped away, and Charlie, a thankless zombie who no longer felt the need to live but was pushed onward by the same, nameless primal instinct that keeps shipwreck survivors alive for weeks, was grateful now to whatever divine power had granted him the gap-week following Levent’s death.
It wasn’t until the funeral that he felt himself separating from the loose soil of malaise that had nestled all around him. The bright, swimming faces of Levent’s family cascaded against the empty docks of his eyes; Levent’s aunt had made several pitchers of ayran for the occasion, and the sea salt and garlic stung Charlie’s throat in a way that reminded him of the summer night when Levent had turned on the strings and strings of holiday lights they had looped around the apartment and presented him with the salted yogurt drink. Together they spent hours among the thousands of pinpoints of light, listening to music, smoking, laughing.
The two drinks became the same in Charlie’s mind — perhaps they were even the same recipe passed through the family — no longer separated through the veil of time. Flashes of the past world kissed the present, mutated it. The mutation allowed Charlie a small opportunity to wake from his long sleep with just enough time to watch the body lowered into the ground, away forever. Charlie brushed off the remaining loose soil of self-pity from his suit jacket and thought about the idea of pushing onward, in spite of himself and the dark thoughts that had been entering his mind. “It’s what Lev would have wanted,” he thought, as some nameless relative trumpeted his nose into a handkerchief. “Goddamn it, you,” he said, smiling internally at the little inside joke that had once been, and, he supposed, would always be, theirs. Though, of course, he had no way of knowing, this would be the last memory that would remind him of any pleasantness of the life he and Levent had shared together — at least for a while.
Thanks for reading part one! Stay tuned for more!