Dani, Twice in Mahogany and Bronze
My suitcase was bursting.
Plane took off, skies were gray.
Left my life, seeking better
A wide ocean away.
The first time my childhood best friend Dani died, she was in her twenties and I killed her myself.
After I had left, I encased my heart in mahogany and bronze, then buried it deep into the ground. Dani was trapped inside, along with my family, my childhood, the city where I'd grown up, everyone and everything that I'd ever known.
A few years later, Dani was back. Her face was pixilated, her voice metallic and hollow. Her brown eyes glistened with tears of rage and relief. She did not appreciate being trapped inside someone's heart only to end up encased in mahogany and bronze, then buried deep into the ground, especially not with all the gross and flatulent boys we'd grown up with, and without a good friend to commiserate.
Between the two of us, I'd always been the selfish, impulsive one, the one wanting more and better of everything. She'd been the selfless, dutiful one, on whom everyone counted—me more than most—to be the voice of reason. But I'd known her since our grins revealed nothing but baby teeth. Deep down, she and I were more alike than different. Despite her cool demeanor and unwavering kindness, I could often hear her blood boiling in her veins.
I wanted so much more for myself than I ever could have had where we'd grown up. I knew she wanted much more, too. Yet, where I was going she would not follow. Unlike me, she would not abandon her family, everyone and everything that she'd ever known. She would not, even though the blood in her veins was boiling with dreams.
She visited parents,
Ate some lunch, drank some Coke,
Took a nap in her room,
And she never awoke.
The second time my childhood best friend Dani died, she was thirty-one and it was a Sunday afternoon.
As a child, Dani was often tired and would sometimes faint. In her twenties, she learned that her blood was not red enough and that her heart would not beat with a steady rhythm. Doctors sent her home with a dressing-down for daring ask them for an explanation, and with half a dozen prescriptions that would make Dani vacillate between exuberant and weary. She stopped taking the pills, and soon her pendulum heart stopped swinging.
I never made it to the funeral. If I had, I would not have been able to return to my new life, where someone small and precious needed my love. So I was not there when other people encased Dani in mahogany and bronze, and buried her deep into the ground.
More than a decade later, Dani was back. I saw her walk across the green field behind my house, wearing a flowing yellow dress and scorching the grass under her bare feet.
She sat on one of the patio chairs next to me. Her long brown tresses ended in crimson licks of fire. She said she didn't care that I hadn't come to the funeral.
"You were not the only one who wanted out, you know," she said, flickers of gold in her brown eyes. "Like you, I wanted so much more for myself than I ever could have had where we'd grown up."
"I was so sick and tired of roaming the crumbling streets of our childhood neighborhoods, suffocating among all the gross and flatulent boys with no future... All because I didn't allow myself to say goodbye to those I knew and loved..."
"And what good did it do me, always being selfless, dutiful? Always being the kind, calm voice of reason? What good did it do me, always putting others' needs first, denying myself every dream? This stupid heart of mine knew that the life I led was not worth living, and it did the right thing."
She looked thirty-one, beautiful and beyond age. I should have been terrified, but I wasn't. It was Dani.
"Dani, what are you?" I asked.
"I don't know," she said. "But I don't need to eat or sleep, and I never get tired. I love never feeling tired," she smiled.
"Why did it take you so long to get here?" I asked.
She looked at her bare feet and wiggled her toes, still smiling. "I've been taking my time. Sightseeing. But I really did want to come see you, and the beautiful life you have here."
"I really wish you could have had this life, too," I said.
Dani looked at me, her face solemn, the flicker in her eyes now deep red. "I never would have, and you know it. I never would have left. I never would have allowed myself to do anything I really wanted." She turned her face away from me and looked into the distance, across the green field.
"But I am finally free now, and I am here." She turned toward me again and smiled. "I can finally see your kids, and how happy you are."
My eyes swelled with tears. "Dani, it's so wonderful to see you again," I said. "Will you stay with us?"
Dani laughed, then shrugged. "Who knows? I can go anywhere and do anything now. Maybe I'll stay, maybe I'll go. We'll see. There is so much I want to do."
"But I can promise you one thing," she said. "No one is encasing me in mahogany and bronze, or burying me into the ground ever again."
I smiled. It was Dani.
My Dani was back.
(pen name) is a professor in the physical sciences at a large university in the U.S. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Fiction Pool, Jellyfish Review, Ellipsis Zine
and elsewhere. She is an editor at 101 Words
. Maura can be found at maurayzmore.com
or on Twitter as @MauraYzmore