The first time we meet I am letting a cat out of my bag and you are skipping rocks and skipping school. At first glance I can tell you are broken, with your tired eyes and quivering smirk, and at second glance I realize you are beautiful.
As the cat runs off, a black streak melting into an oil portrait of the woodsy lake, you notice me and tell me your name. In return I tell you a secret.
Secrets, we soon find out, are the oldest tricks in the book.
After we meet each other we find ourselves together time and time again. At the ice cream parlor, the Cineplex, and the animal rescue center. I am busy picking up more cats to free, you are busy trying to stop me.
By that point our fates are inseparable, our secrets are inseparable, and we are inseparable.
You slip a worn diamond on my finger months later, a blatant promise. I accept it with a kiss, and though you may be broken and I may have compulsive cat-liberation tendencies, we marry weeks later.
It comes to us in an April. A secret of a world, soft and sacred and so, so warm. I want to keep it, yet you with the broken, beautiful soul protest. It is unneeded, unwanted, you say, a gift from a spiteful angel. You insist we must get rid of it, and I know secretly it is because you see yourself in its glossy blue eyes.
I name it Charlie.
And in time, you come to accept his acceptance of you. I know this because I see you sometimes, hear you sometimes, in worn flannel pajamas, creeping through the house on car horn floorboards. You enter his room sometimes, to give him a kiss on the cheek.
By the time he is five years old, he has grown so large you buy us a new home and I buy us a new cat. This one, though, will never leave, for it knows it knows the secret about secrets. It knows Charlie is a sunflower, too loud and bright and beautiful to have secrets within.
So it stays, and he stays, and we stay. Happy.
We are dancing when it happens.
The lights are dimmed, he is at school, and the bags full of cats are silent, lulled by iridescent music. Step step turn is the rhythm, our used dancing shoes keeping time on our car horn floorboards. Time seems frozen in our house, save for us and the record player. Yet outside clocks spin and destiny on its black horse rides on the interstate, in the form of a blue Toyota, which would soon morph into a blue, totaled Toyota with yellow and black and blood red splashes on the paint.
Step step turn, step step turn, on and on with no regards to time until you stop, frozen in a half step. I ask you what is wrong as the cats begin to stir. They wail as you mechanically walk to the television, turn the power knob.
Onscreen is a secret. The cats claw through their paper cages, and for once I need not set them free. This time, they need no assistance.
I cannot remember why we were dancing, now that I've realized why we've stopped. You are hypnotized by the screen, face pale and eyes red, as if you are responsible for this.
As if you are responsible for the crash, the death.
We need no secrets on this day, for fate already has one.
You are broken and I have compulsive cat-liberation tendencies and we both have secrets, but that doesn't matter because now everything is already shattered and all cats are already free, their brown paper cages torn up. Now only one thing remains.
It isn't the little secret of the universe we found on our doorstep, the boy with the glossy blue eyes that you used to hate because he didn't need secrets. It isn't him, because you loved him too much, and I loved him too much, and it is no secret that if you love someone enough they'll have to leave.
It isn't us, me with the diamond promise and you in the black suit. You are broken because of secrets, I collect them only to set them free. We are built on secrets, secrets that are still needed, but gone. "Us," we find out too late, is the oldest trick in the book.
So all that is left are lost diamond promises and secrets, many secrets. Shards of what the past are scattered across the floor, and we fumble with them, step step turning as we try to pick them up. Luminescent music and yowling cats are can be heard in the background, and the memories of a secret of the world and the secret of us are playing over and over again.
It is then that I realize secrets never last.