Nothing by Alicia Tai

Air. It’s all around us, yet we rarely notice it. Drifting around aimlessly, it is essential to our life, but we don’t feel it —at least not until it’s whipping furiously through your hair as you plummet to your death. For starters, I wasn’t always like this. Plummeting to my death, I mean. In the beginning, I was a happy, carefree girl…until he came.

Who was he, you ask? I’m not so sure myself. He was the arms around me when I was alone. He was the hand that guided me through my dark times. He was what I could call home. He was. It all came crashing down so fast I don’t know when it ended. Or when it even began. I guess it started after spring break.

Yes, he started being distant after I came back from my trip to Moscow. At first it was barely noticeable — just a few missed calls here and there, declining some offers to go out. But after a while, we barely ever saw each other. I guess that was what built up to the grande finale. On our two year anniversary, he told me.

“Marie,” he’d said, “can I talk to you?”

I was too happy to notice that his smile was only a facade, and that he was crumbling on the inside. I was too blinded by my love to notice that his life was slowly unravelling.

“Sure!” I had responded, jumping up from my couch to greet him, “what do you want?”

He pursed his lips, and it was then that I realized something was wrong.

“I… I don’t know how to put this,” he had said, his gray eyes watering, making me feel terrible. The joy I had felt a second ago came crashing down into pain. And then the dreaded words fell upon me. At first, I didn’t know how to respond. Every word he said felt like a knife sliding into my gut. “I don’t know how to tell you this…” Stab. “But I…” Stab. “Have to…” Stab. “Break up with you.” Twist.

We stood awkwardly for a second. Me, unable to move or speak, and him, eyes brimming with tears and hands in fists. Then, he walked beside me and pushed out the front door. After he left, time passed by quickly and slowly at the same time. Seconds blurred into days, and days blurred into weeks. I had no idea why he had done this. No idea, until one day, I heard a knock at my door.

Over time, my wounds had healed into scars that hurt only when pressed; the pain dulled long ago. However, when the doorbell rang that day, I opened it to two soldiers with grim expressions.

“Are you Marie Rose? Can we come in?” the first one asked, his voice embedded with pain that was more raw than anything I had ever heard. Mutely, I nodded.

They sat down, and the second soldier talked.

“You knew Marcus Young, didn’t you?”

At the mention of his name, my scars ripped open once again. I guess I had thought wrong — I wasn’t okay.

“He was your boyfriend?”

‘Was.’ It was like that day all over again, the knives plunging deeper, skin ripping apart faster than it could heal.

“Yes…” I replied, hands dangling limply by my side.

“Oh,” he swallowed dryly at this point and resumed, “I regret to inform you that he has been killed in battle. He told me to give you this at his deathbed.” He handed me a box etched with beautiful silver spirals, and in his handwriting were the words, “I’m sorry”.

I couldn’t move. It was like the tendrils of death himself had clamped onto my body, rendering me useless. The soldiers sat for a minute more, and then stood up to leave, but before they could make it out the door, I found my voice once more.

“How…” I whispered, voice hoarse.

“How what?” the first soldier replied, turning around abruptly.

“How did he…” I couldn’t force the rest of the words out. There was no way Marcus Young had died. No. He had left me for another girl, right? He was still alive out there somewhere. He was still living.

“Die?” he finally caught on, “he died trying to save the people of his country. He died trying to save you.”

When I finally got the nerve to open the box, pictures tumbled out. Our first date, our last one, everything. He documented everything. He even wrote to me during the war. I picked up the letter that had the most recent date written on it. A month before.

Dear Marie,

I don’t know if what I did is right anymore. Being in the battlefield, I don’t know what is wrong and what is right anymore. All I know is that in order to save you from the pain of losing me, in order to save you from the incoming war, I had to do this. When you read this, I’ll either be beside you or… Let’s not think about the other thing. All I want to tell you, Mar, is that I love you. I love you more than the moon loves the sun and I had to tell you, one way or the other, that I didn’t leave you without reason. I haven’t stopped loving you. Tomorrow they’ll send me to the front lines; they claim I’m doing well. I hope they’re right. I hope I can save everybody. The moment I signed up for the war, I prepared myself for this. For you. Mar? I love you.

Love, Marcus

So there. That’s my story. So why am I plunging to my death, you ask? Although I know the value of life now? Because I’m guilty. He didn’t deserve to die the way he did, for a person like me. I was nobody. I am nobody. And I’m about to become nothing.