Rise of the Storyteller 37: The Secret to Teardrop Road

I love you and I can’t live without you.

I love you and I can’t live without you.

I love you and I can’t live without you.

And it’s on a loop in my head now, words I spoke, words I wrote, words that consumed my every breathing, every living moment. For I loved my Leviathan, and I could not live without her. I can’t tell you how many times I wrote that phrase. I filled a composition book with it, sometimes perfect, polite script, I love you and I can’t live without you. Other times deep, dug-in with a hard, emotion-filled pen, scratching the surface with erratic strokes and fierce clawing, I love you and I can’t live without you.

I thought I had put that phrase away. I thought years ago, when I sacrificed that composition book to the waters of the bridge, I had shaken loose of those words. But as we slipped into the cut in the dark roads, putting Best Western behind us, and diving deep into the back country, those words played in my mind.

It was the first time we were coming here alone. I had Bekah. And things had been so amazing. I was happy. Truly happy in a new way. A way I had never found before, not the bliss of romance, this was nurturing. This brought about creativity of the future. We had started talking about my desire for an education. We had started talking about me writing books. We’d started talking about a future with me outside of St. Robert, outside of Waynesville. Possibilities were possible, and I was taking her here for the first time. Maybe she’d been with us before, I couldn’t remember. I had taken so many groups of people to the bridge. But this time, it was just the two of us, and I was prepared to tell a story I had never told to a living soul.

“Take this turn right here, it’s just a bear right. It’s not a turn. Slow down. This is Teardrop Road. You can zoom right past this area if you’re not looking for it. If you go further on, until the sharp turn, that takes you on the far side of Teardrop. This is different. This is special. I wanna go the long way.”

She was driving. I’d handed over controls. Now, I wasn’t supposed to be driving anyway, I’d lost my license, but every other time I had come to this place, I had been aggressive in the winning of it. But I let her lead, I became a passenger. For the first time, I was relying on somebody else to get me to the place where I would tell a story. I was relying on her to get me there. That opened up so many confusing doors. How much responsibility would she take in the future endeavors of my mind? How comfortable would she be in facilitating my storytelling? There were so many questions now, and always in a loop in the back of my head, I love you and I can’t live without you. I love you and I can’t live without you.

I looked at her, her profile lit by the dashboard lights. I could tell she was excited, and I was scared. Of what, I didn’t know. This was real love. This was not something I had had with Mary. This was not a shadow of a thing. This was true. This was pure. What would I do if the bridge rejected her? If I got out there and her presence made it that I couldn’t tell a story, or the Leviathan demanded I walk away from her? What would I do if this new part of my life did not line up with Teardrop Road and the seed of my imagination?

I love you and I can’t live without you.

And am I talking now to her? As the trees flash by in the headlights and she hits every pothole that she doesn’t know to swerve her way around. Am I talking now to her? Am I saying, Bekah, I love you, and no matter what happens in the next half hour, I can’t live without you? Or is this the old refrain, my words to the Leviathan, the creature out of reach, the love pure and solid in my heart, that can never be mine. Pure and solid in my heart that eventually sours me to every woman I come in contact with. Will the Leviathan’s grip on my heart sour me against Bekah? Who do I love? Who can’t I live without?

“Pull over here,” I say, “You can park in front of this old bar. Nobody ever comes out here. You know, when we were in high school, we actually parked on the bridge itself. Fuck anybody who needed to get by. We’re not gonna do that. But there was a time.” I took her hand. It was cold. It was clammy. I didn’t know if she was nervous with sweaty hands or if these were my hands.

I took her onto the bridge. She talked, she was excited. I fought to listen, I really did. I wanted to hear everything that came from her mouth, but I was so tied up in the next couple of minutes. What would be found? What would be waiting out here for us? I never brought this true of love into this place before. The anticipation of it was burning in my hands.

I love you and I can’t live without you.

“I was right here when I heard her. She was crying.”

Bekah’s face was so still, so serene, so serious, she knew. How she knew, I didn’t know. Nobody knew. Nobody who came out here actually believed. But when I started telling the story, I could look in her eyes and see, she truly believed what I was saying, down deep in her heart. Maybe one person, maybe Ty, had ever looked at me with this level of acceptance.

“I heard her crying, and I called out to her. I turned and there she was, dripping wet, with a thin dress plastered to her body, hair high on her neck, with locks pasted to her forehead.” I looked up, I looked at Bekah. It was a trick of the light. It was the stimuli of seeing a thing as you’re talking about it that blended her face with the Leviathan’s face. You’re looking at a thing while thinking and talking about a similar thing, and your mind pastes one object to another, blends those two objects. This is what is happening to me.

Time stutters a little bit, and the Leviathan is talking about my heart, the wild thing in my chest. Without being prompted, Bekah reaches out. She places her palm on my heart. I’m standing there looking at her. I grab her wrist. Her arm is cold. I kept talking. I kept telling the story. The story I had told to no one. The story no person alive had ever heard. I kept talking. I kept telling it.

“Bring them here,” Leviathan says. “Tell them stories of this place, of my world.” And I’m telling her this, and she believes me. This is no trick of the light. This is no woman standing ready for a story. This is a woman accepting facts. I had been waiting in the distance. I had been waiting to hear the slap of her tail.

“What was that?” Ty used to always ask.

“That’s just a fish jumping,” Heart would say.

I waited. No tail slapping. The fish weren’t jumping.

I love you and I can’t live without you.

“And you can hear her,” I said. “She sits in the support of this bridge, her tail swishing in the water. You can hear it.” I draw Bekah close, pull her to the edge of the bridge, directly over the support, in the very place I have heard Leviathan’s tail swishing for years and years beyond telling.

I pause. My heart is not beating. My lungs are not breathing. There’s no anxious movement that plagues me at all other times. My mind is not churning. Every part of me is thrown forward and down, searching and listening for the swishing of her tail.

“You can hear it. It’s right here. Just listen, you can hear her tail in the water.”

But you can’t. It’s not there.

I love you and I can’t live without you.

And the tail is not swishing. And you can’t hear her in the water.

“I don’t know why you can’t hear it tonight. You can always hear her tail. Usually you can hear her tail slap the water at some point while we’re out here, I haven’t heard that either.”

She looks at me. She smiles softly, almost as in response to a joke she just heard and the rest of the world hasn’t heard yet, the slyest of smiles, the lightest of smiles. A smile so fragile, and she says, “You can’t hear her because I’m right here.

I love you and I can’t live without you.

This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 1: Teardrop Road, available on Amazon.

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