There were black flies buzzing about my head, when I looked up from my book, and saw my old friend walking by. You and I gave each other a nod of recognition. I had’t seen you in a few months, and I’d really been hoping we could avoid any more close encounters- now that we were done with college. When we finished fighting, we individually decided not to say any sort of goodbye. The terms of our peace were uncertain and unsaid, and we made our best effort to pass from each other’s lives.
But this afternoon we have ruffled the undergrowth of my peaceful expedition back here. I’d taken up work at our old college for a short month, as a time I might lay out to dry the spot cleaned fibers of my formative youth, and shake out the dust and dead sugar ants against the side of my old college apartment.
I’d tried hard not the reenter the armored mindset of the last few months. I think something had taken hold of me back then. I felt alone, and I’d grown twitchy, without orders, walking the scent trail like a soldier ant with something sick in the brain. Even if She didn’t want revenge on how I’d let things fall to pieces, they were all going to make sure the debt was collected, and you were war chief among them. It was in my mind I was being leered at and watched by my old friends, now taking on new appointments as the benevolent and righteous observers.
So spring turned to cold war, and I took on the mindset of a jarhead who told me, “You’d better get mean too boo”. I rallied to match the rage that I saw coming at me like canon fire from the undergrowth. I put myself low in the mud, dug fox holes in my spirit, and readied for the all out assault. It never came. Days passed slowly, and then all of a sudden, it was over. We graduated, and the defensive perimeter faded back into my countryside I’d carved it from. Where once I saw spies and encampments, there were only the places I’d always known. I’d been rolling in the mud shivering in the dark.
There was never any peace, just an odd sort of armistice. I can’t be sure what was real then, the conspiracy, the hatred, the warfare, all of it. Maybe they’d dropped leaflets, hints and hands into my patch of cover to tell me to come out, it was OK, it was over. But if they had, I knew I wouldn’t have believe them. Maybe I was really following chem trails the whole time, and letting my own rage make a mockery friendships and four years. Now, where there were foxholes, have popped up calcified grudges in the cool moisture of the soil, and they are hardest to weed from the garden.
We were all just kids then, but I was old enough to let my paranoia seep in through the air vents and the drinking water. I remembered where the moss left spores on my spinal column, as my heartbeat raises and we pass by one another. There is a certain sickness in a growing mass which hopes to spread from its contained ulcer. I know that no one will ever truly win this war of my own imagining.
There would never, nor could ever be, a parade in the city, nor a felled duelist at high noon in the streets of Tombstone. Rather, there is a quiet field of black mushrooms. They have come up out the shell holes and trenches that litter the spot where our mutual hatred silently slipped past one day in July outside the college library, and I went back to my book.