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|When You Come Home|
September 23, 2013
when you come home
- A voice said, Look me in the stars
- And tell me truly, men of earth,
- If all the soul-and-body scars
- Were not too much to pay for birth.
- —"A Question", Robert Frost
- A Witness Tree (1942)
i | nightfall
Over the vast expanse of the Si Wong Desert the setting sun burns dull, painting the sky with smoky, undefined strokes of muted reds and dark oranges while a hot breeze howls down, carrying in the acrid stench of smoke.
Somewhere in a twisted, wrecked hunk of scorched-black metal, there lies a motionless corpse folded underneath tons of iron, the barest hint of a weary grin stretched across its bloody lips.
A shattered photograph depicting a laughing teenage girl and boy is crushed in the broken carcass's fist.
ii | sunset
When she leaves, she does so quietly and without warning.
She also takes a piece of your heart with her.
You find yourself drifting through the world like a ghost; days and nights slip between the cracks of your cupped hands like swirling water as you vainly try to keep the pooling liquid within your crumbling grasp.
Your formerly vibrant green eyes, now dull and devoid of even the smallest spark of life, stare into the distance: glazed over, fixing its leaden, flat gawk up upon the sky without really seeing the soft blue and purple streaks that lap across the horizon to announce the arrival of dusk.
You think you can catch the tiniest hint of a smear of her clear cerulean irises in the colors of the darkening heavens, and your eyes drop down, down towards your lap, a nameless and late prayer upon your lips, for what could have been, what would have been.
What is left of your soul shatters into a million pieces.
"If you could do anything, what would it be?"
She smiles at you; a dazzling white grin that has never failed to blind you and does not disappoint now, either. "I would fly."
You look at her, puzzled. "But...you do fly. You do it every day with airbending."
A peal of laughter rings out through the air. "No, I mean with actual wings. Like the birds, see. I like to think of it as a release." She throws a tentative look your way, the crooked smile still curving around the bottom portion of her face. "I just...want to let go of all this responsibility for one day—just one day—forget about all of it, and fly like I don't have a damned care in the world."
"You mean...you mean, you wouldn't rather spend that day with me?" No matter how hard you try (not that you're trying that hard), you can't stop the pout on your face from appearing.
She chuckles at the hint of bewildered chagrin in your voice. "Well...I'm not exactly flying right now, am I?"
Dark brown locks swish gently through the air along with the amused shake of her head while her tanned, tapered fingers pluck at the grass before carefully pinching a white and fluffy weed at its stem. A lazy silence settles over the two of you like a comforting blanket, and you watch a dragonfly lethargically weave its eccentric pattern through the air before it drops down and out of sight.
Out of the blue, she nonsensically states, "Did I ever tell you that I like dandelions?"
"...Dandelions?" you question, completely befuddled.
"I know that they're not the prettiest flower," she continues softly, head bending down to examine a small piece of white fluff that has landed on the tip of her calloused pointer finger, "but I like them just for that. They're simple, they're easy to understand. They have no secrets. Not like this hopelessly tangled world of politics and sabotage that Republic City, or metropolises such as Ba Sing Se and Omashu, is always caught up in."
And you wonder why she is so enraptured with a single weed that used to be the color of the midday sun.
But now you know.
A bouquet of yellow and white flowers are clutched in your grip.
The simple blue granite headstone blankly stares back at you.
(souls sinking into shadows)
"...Congrats, Korra." The soft flutter of your breath emanating from your lips set the seeds twirling, bobbing through the warm breeze that shakes the orange autumn leaves from their perch on dry brown branches.
"You're finally flying."
iii | starlight
He begins to drift away: away from you, away from his best friend. Just like the little seeds of a dandelion flitting through the air that you know (and he knew) she loved to watch so much.
Oftentimes, you wake up prematurely in your bunk at the Air Temple Island to a sound outside your door, and your palm lights up with orange flames that dance through the air—
(like a leaf in the wind)
—and then you realize that it's your broken and moping mess of a brother, who reassures you every night ("Just taking a stroll, Mako," he says, but you know better than to believe the words of a heartsick boy) that he merely needs fresh air, and you and Asami have long since realized that those words translate to "looking for Korra."
You can't find it in your heart to tell him that—
"Korra's been dead for six months now, Bolin."
You find the green-eyed boy at the entrance of her old room, forehead pressed against the flimsy bamboo-and-paper screen that covers the door. He's motionless; standing as still as a bare tree in the frozen depths of winter.
Part of you wonders how long he's been standing there like that.
The other part doesn't want to know. Because seeing him like this will only make you want to cry, too.
The Order of the White Lotus has the nerve to ask if your brother would, pretty please, become the newly recognized Avatar Liang's earthbending teacher.
Liang means bright.
But you suddenly remember Korra grumbling on about how the White Lotus were a bumbling bunch of fools, and you realize that where the floor meets the wall someone didn't paint it very well.
(this must be the epitome of cruelty)
Bolin shakes off your murmured platitudes and accepts the invitation.
The last thing you note about Liang is that the fourteen-year-old boy's first earthbending lesson starts with an unwilling game of hide-and-go-seek on your brother's part, and you think irritably that Korra never would have hid from her lessons.
"She's going to come back from the Fire Nation next month," he cheerfully tells you, bright green eyes sparkling with happiness and delight in the golden glow of the summer sun.
You shrug indifferently, hunched over your rickety wooden desk as you struggle over the mountain of paperwork Chief Lin Beifong has practically buried you into. "That's what she said last time, and then she ran off to settle some drug trafficking incident in Omashu."
You can practically hear the pout upon the earthbender's lips. "But...she promised she would come back this time..."
And a twitch twists the corners of your lips up into a smile.
iv | sunrise
Yes, she promised you that she would come back after her trip into the Fire Nation.
"Six months, and I'm all yours."
One week later she's killed by a non-bender who is obviously still harboring pent-up resentment from the days of the Hundred Year War (and maybe the Equalists, too) who dives down in a biplane in what is obviously a suicide mission—
—and the worst part is that it works way too effectively.
She died protecting the Fire Lord, a voice whispers in your head.
She died and left me alone, you scream back with a sob.
It's raining, and the dandelions you put on her tombstone a week ago are wilting. Waterlogged black hair drips in front of your eyes, but you can't bring yourself to care.
She lied to you.
Mako slaps you right across the face.
You suppose you deserve this—after all, bending can only help you so much before you do something remarkably stupid and dangerous like intentionally trying to get yourself killed in the middle of escorting a few pedestrians to the City Hall. Mako's your brother and he's by all accounts annoying, but he's not an idiot. He knows there'd be something wrong with you somehow getting caught by that minor Triple Threat Triad member. Not to mention the fact that there was earth around you everywhere at that moment and you did absolutely nothing with it.
Your brother's furious, shrewd glance down at you makes you gulp—there's an emotional storm in his amber eyes, nearly the same one you have seen behind the depths of ocean blue.
Something shatters in you, a piece of your mutilated heart breaking a way just a tad little more, the dents in your inner walls expanding by the miles, and spirits, it hurts. It's suddenly painful to look at Mako directly because you don't want to have a complete meltdown before him.
"I get it, Bolin." Not "bro" or "Little Man" because Mako never jokes around with you anymore. "You're hurting and you want a way out of this life because there's no point anymore, but damn it! You need to stop acting like you're the only one who's been affected by Korra's death because you're not, okay? I miss her too!"
"Don't you dare," Mako hisses back, incensed. "I loved her just as much as you did. So, fine, maybe it wasn't always the same type of love you expressed for her, but that doesn't mean I loved her any less. She was like family to me and she was the only one—"
He abruptly stops to whirl away from you, quickly wiping away the tears that are threatening to fall from his eyes.
From the beginning, it starts off with KorraMakoBolin.
Now it's just Mako. Because you may as well be a dry and dead husk that is spinning away aimlessly in the wind.
So you do what you should have done a long time ago—you hug your brother; you hug your best friend. He sobs in your arms and you uncomfortably whisper Shh, it's okay, you'll be okay.
Mako's always been strong, so he'll get through within a fair amount of time. He'll get through this.
(you, on the other hand—)
Twelve and a half years later a fully-realized Avatar Liang dies in a skirmish between the old Ozai loyalists and the forces of Fire Lord Liqun.
You can't help but think of the fact that he died young.
Just like her.
Avatars come and go like water in a sieve, and you wryly notice that the average lifespan of the master of all four elements has become disgustingly short ever since Avatar Aang walked upon the soil of the Four Nations.
Sometimes you think—no, you know that you can see her in dreams, and your broken heart miraculously mends for those precious few hours until she retreats back into the shadows and—this always happens—the darkness envelopes her form once more.
And then you wake up with even more of a hollow feeling in that space around your chest than the day before.
She's in the woods right next to the mountains and you know it. You can feel it. You can hear her calling your name.
So you find it as a surprise when she's not in there and all you feel is the cold wind and you hear nothing and you're pretty much lost in the deep confines of the forest with no idea where the path to society is but for some strange, psychopathic reason you don't care because you don't want to associate with anyone but her right now.
And you're romping through the undergrowth, feet sinking into the bed of crackling brown leaves that cover the ground like a blanket—
—And it's getting cold. So very cold.
(Somewhere in the back of your mind, you know that you really should have thought of this before you ventured out into the unknown during midnight wearing nothing but a pair of basketball shorts and a thin coat over your baggy green shirt.)
You tell yourself that you're tired and that, Look Bolin, it's time to go to sleep, you can search for her again after a quick...
In your dream, you see her as you last saw her: a bright and curious twenty-year-old with a heart the size of the world, and your fingers instinctively reach out to curl tightly around hers.
Her lips brush the tip of your left ear, and in a soft whisper, she murmurs, "Found you," before she takes you away with her into paradise.
v | daybreak
Over the mountains the rising sun burns bright, painting the sky with brilliant hues of rosy reds and soft oranges while a cool breeze flutters down, carrying in the fresh scent of spring.
Somewhere in the swaying mass of vivid green foliage, there lies a boy folded against the length of a tree trunk, a content grin stretched across his colorless lips.
A crisp photograph depicting a laughing teenage girl and boy lies next to him.
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