XVIII (Cure and Catastrophe)
Daniel and Melissa are more than just celebrities, more than just heroes. Etched into the dreams and thoughts of every man, woman, and child, they are legend. They are everyone’s closest friends, the couple who survived the Bucket not only intact, but closer than ever before. The praise, at first, is welcome, and then overwhelming. They are dragged from place to place, questions hurled at them, cameras thrust in their face. Their smiles begin to wilt under the flashing lights.
Late one night, in a hotel room in Los Angeles, Daniel jumps up from their bed, begins throwing things into a suitcase, whirling, dashing, sliding around the room. Melissa wakes and sees him.
“What are you doing?”
“Get up. Get Dressed. You’ll see.”
She does, despite her confusion.
When their things are together, he takes her by the hand and drags her out the front door, into the car. They drive for hours and hours, but it is okay. They are very patient, these days. Time no longer feels to be pulling them, tugging them along, but rather plying them with gentle words, enticing them forward, inch by inch.
They pull into a parking lot, just as the sun is rising. Melissa yawns awake as Daniel opens her door. They cross the lot, the great expanse of the Grand Canyon spreading open before them. It reminds Melissa instantly of the Bucket, that great hole in the dirt, lined with invisible teeth. At first she stiffens, but Daniel gently coaxes her forward, sits next to her, perched on the edge of the abyss.
“This is the part I remember best,” he says. “The Grand Canyon. We saw everything, the birth and death of a whole Universe, and yet, somehow, this is the part I remember best. Even with all that had come before, I knew it as soon as we saw it, recognized the contours and the shapes, thought to myself ‘Hey, I’ve been there.’ Watching it get whittled away, seeing the years pass by as flake after flake was shaved down into nothing. All that life, all that death, all that change. Even rocks, in the end, are just there to get filed down. But it’s not always an act of destruction, I don’t think. Like this Canyon. It’s not just the absence of something, it IS something, something real and here and breathtaking. And I just feel as though I know it so damn well.”
They stare into it for a time, the hands brushing over each other, their coats rattling in the wind. She presses her head against his chest.
“We know how it all started,” she says. “And how it all ends. So where do we go? What do we do?”
His fingers weave with hers, settling into their place, half expecting themselves to fuse at the skin.
Things are right. Things are good. In a few hours they will drive, to who knows where. They will swim, and laugh, and drink, and fuck, and fight, and run, and eat, and live, and die-