• Published 11th Nov 2018
  • 787 Views, 19 Comments

Expiration Date - anonpencil



Berry Punch has a special date marked on her calendar, and she wishes she could forget about it entirely. That date has so much meaning behind it, especially for her future with her lover...

  • ...
6
 19
 787

A Little Fall Of Rain

~*~

There’s a date on the calendar, circled in red pen. I circled it over a year ago, in a fit of stupid panic, because I felt like I was running out of time, and I needed a reminder that there was a limit. Like it was some due date I needed to have a school assignment done by, or an appointment with a dentist I didn’t want to forget. I circled that day in red, like the ink was made from my own life’s blood, knowing that it would dry and crack as the weeks and months passed.

Over the last few days in particular, I have felt that little red circle staring at me. Waiting. It hasn’t spoken to me, not exactly, but it snatches at the corners of my eyes when I turn my head. It demands attention, and I always try to walk by, like I don’t notice it. It’s still there, though, to leap out at me when I least expect it, to try to whisper into my ear what so many Roman generals have heard before.

It’s my memento mori. Remember, thou art mortal.

As if I could ever forget.

I am reminded of my own fragile life whenever I bend down, and I can feel or even hear my joints pop and groan. I am reminded when I stand up too fast, and the world spins and threatens to go dark in a soft, fuzzy faint. I am reminded when I suck down sodium tablets, prescription painkillers, and various other supplements every day. And when they sometimes abruptly come back up. I know well that there’s something irrevocably wrong with me, dwelling there in my liver. I remember. I can’t stop myself from remembering.

And yet the calendar waits there, itching to inform me. Because today is different than the other times it’s tried to wave at me from across the room. Today is “special.”

Why in the fucking world did I ever think it was a good idea to circle that date.

My roommate, companion, and lover has no doubt seen me intentionally not looking at the calendar by now. Surely, he’s also noticed the conspicuous red circle there, but he hasn’t said anything yet, nor am I sure he will. Even if that circle is not for him, not exactly, it’s still a reminder to him as well. I know that, in me, he sees reflected parts of himself, his own fragile life and limitations. I know that when he sees me falter, he feels it. He feels his body aging around him and becoming used up, or waiting to malfunction. We understand each other so well that parts of our own sicknesses have begun to reflect one another. In that way, we continually hurt each other, just little pinpricks here and there under the skin. But it’s a pain I’m okay with, and I think he is too. It reminds us both that we’re still here. For now.

Maybe that’s why he hasn’t said anything yet. Maybe he doesn’t want to tempt fate or let himself remember how brittle we’re both becoming. Though, as it is with me, I doubt he can forget.

So, for now, we carry on with our day as if nothing is different. As if nothing at all is going to happen. I’ve tidied the house, always keeping my hooves moving so that my brain doesn’t have any idle time to plague me with unwelcome musings. He’s made dinner tonight, something basic and bland for my stomach, which has been particularly unsettled as of late. And as I seat myself across the table from him, I even manage to make myself smile down at the little blue bowl of pasta in front of me.

“That’s not very much cheese,” I say.

It’s meant to sound pouty and joking. I hope it doesn’t just sound like criticism from a picky eater. I glance up and catch him smirking at me, and feel a brief wave of relief that I haven’t offended him.

“Too much cheese might be rough on you,” he says gently. “All that dairy.”

“Could be more butter too.”

“Also dairy.”

“A good cream sauce would be great while we’re at it,” I go on, my smile growing. “With extra butter, extra cheese, and—“

“I get it,” he chuckles. “But if you want more cheese and it gets to your stomach, you’re cleaning up the bathroom.”

I glare at him, actually a little slighted by this. I still try to keep my tone light.

“Don’t I always?”

“Yeah, you do,” he concedes as he rolls the basic linguini noodles around his fork. “but I just figure that might be enough of an incentive not to eat a bunch of stuff that could make you throw up your meds.”

I groan, and set my head on the table next to the bowl like an impetuous toddler.

“But cheese is so good,” I whine.

“So is the pasta. And there’s some parmesan cheese on there.”

I continue to pout as I raise my now bony chin and stab at the noodles with my fork.

“Stupid pasta,” I grumble.

“You love linguini with parmesan and you know it.”

“No,” I snap, trying to maintain the sour expression as I stuff a noodle into my mouth.

But it’s so hard to frown when my tongue is being caressed with food made lovingly, skillfully by the hands of someone who cares about me. I can feel my traitor lips slipping into a smile, just from the first bite. Anon raises an eyebrow at me.

“No?”

“…yes,” I say sheepishly, my smile spreading to my voice. “It’s wonderful, thank you.”

He shrugs.

“You’re an easy date, Berry,” he says lightly as he takes a mouthful of his own.

“Did you just call me easy?”

“That’s neither here nor there.”

“So you don’t deny it?”

“Do you?”

I hesitate.

“…I mean no, but still, so rude at our dinner table!”

He laughs outright, and for a moment, just hearing him laugh, I get to forget. I forget that my hips feel angular and sharp to the touch as my lower abdomen has changed shape. I forget that this meal is so bland because anything with more flavor could spell actual problems. I forget that the calendar is still there behind me on the wall. There’s just that laugh, that joy which I was able to cause just by being the snarky, crude pony that I am.

I love moments like these. They never last, but maybe that’s why they’re so poignant.

We eat the rest of dinner swapping verbal jabs, sparing in different areas of strength in our intellects. We briefly speak only in film references to see how long we can do it for, and he makes me groan with a truly terrible pun. He shows no signs of shame at this, and only laughs all the harder when I come up with a possibly worse pun in rebuttal. There’s no serious talk here, no real life. Just the dinner table, him, me, and two bowls of bland pasta.

We both need it to be like that, and I know the mood could crumble at any minute and we’d both be okay with lying in the ruins of it together. For now, though, neither of us wants to stop, because if we do reality might creep back in. Holding a red pen.


We call it an early night, as we sometimes do. That’s not to say we go right to sleep or anything, but we still do crawl into bed together to relax until we slip into dreams. Maybe we read together, or more often he just reads to me until by brain is so overwhelmed by fantasy that it shuts off for the evening. Sometimes we cuddle. Sometimes we… more than cuddle. Either way, us doing that usually helps me ease into sleep without trouble.

Tonight, though, in the near dark left by his reading lamp, I lie on my back and stare up at the ceiling without speaking. It’s taken a lot of effort to get through the day like a normal pony, but now that it’s time to sleep I find myself reluctant. My brain refuses to turn off. Every muscle in my body is ready to twitch, like I’m under attack. I feel like a rabbit in the bush, scared by a hunter but unsure how to flee. Just vibrating in anxiety, waiting to see what happens.

I can’t sleep. I won’t. Because what if I close my eyes, and I can’t open them again? What if this is fate, and it’s going to happen right now, before I even have the chance to fight against it? It seems like a real risk this time, not just a silly, morbid musing. And I don’t want to chance it.

Anon has been mercifully silent, just reading a book on his own, and I hope that he believes I am falling asleep. He’s polite, hopefully too polite to disturb me if he thinks I’m almost out. Maybe I’ll get lucky and this uneasy silence will continue, so I don’t have to worry him.

My luck doesn’t hold.

“Berry?” I hear him say from his side of the mattress.

“What?” I almost snap back.

I’m none too happy that he’s decided to start up a conversation now, but the tone is still uncalled for. I tell myself to ease back, but it isn’t that simple.

“You doing okay?” he asks after a slight hesitation.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You promise?”

I could lie. I could lie just this once, it’s important enough after all. I could tell him I’m alright, kiss his cheek, roll over, and shut my eyes so I can pretend I’m asleep until the sun peers in through the slats in our bedroom window. But I can feel how sour the lie tastes already, how much like vomit it fills my mouth in a disgusting way. And I know I can’t.

“…no,” I admit.

“Want to tell me what’s wrong?”

“No.” It’s not a lie, but he very gently persists.

“You can talk to me,” he urges. “We’re okay, I’m not upset at you, and you’ve just seemed… off today. Like you’re forcing yourself to be alright. It’s okay to not be okay, you know?”

It’s my own line I’ve said to him countless times, used against me. At hearing my words from his mouth, I feel irrationally frustrated with him, nearly angry.

“I said I don’t want to talk about it, okay?” I snap, and begin to roll away from him.

As I do, I feel a very soft hand brush my shoulder, and I go still. I lie there, trying to keep my emotions in check, trying not to throw myself at him and just scream into his chest over and over until this stupid, nameless feeling overwhelming me has finally been exhausted. I remain so quiet and so stationary, that I might as well be…

No. Not that comparison. Not today.

Even though I’m not looking at him, I know he’s studying me. I should look back, say something, do anything. But I’m the rabbit again, and this time I am actually beginning to shake.

“It’s today, isn’t it,” I hear him say in a low, hollow voice.

Not a question. I was right, he did notice.

“Yeah,” I respond flatly.

There’s another silence.

“Doctors don’t give you dates on which you’re supposed to die,” he says after a moment. “They’re actually pretty against that, so where did you get it from?”

I shrug, but his hand doesn’t leave my shoulder.

“I looked it up,” I mumble. “I found out the life expectancy for someone with liver failure at my age, checked the stats. Then, I figured out which day that would be, a little over a year ago. It’s the low estimate. I didn’t want to over-guess how long I had left. Would have been a disappointment to die early if I was hoping for longer.”

“But you don’t know that for sure,” he says. And you’re still here, so…”

“That doesn’t matter,” I say bitterly.

“Doesn’t it?”

“No,” I can hear how hard my voice has gotten, “Because now I know that I’m living on borrowed time. Before, I had more time, weeks, months even to get my shit together and do something enjoyable with my life so I could feel like I wasn’t a waste of flesh and breath. Now, it’s literally any day. Any time now I could decline rapidly or just drop dead. All of this from here on out is just fleeting luck that could crash down at any moment. So why try to make plans, why look to the future? I can feel it, like I’m dragging each extra day I get behind me wherever I go. And it’s all so heavy, Anon. It’s so, so heavy.”

There are obvious tears in my voice. None are arching down my face yet, I won’t let them out of sheer spite. But my tone is so laced with impotent anger and grief that I can’t even hide it. It’s like I’m mourning myself while I’m still alive.

I feel a more firm pressure on my shoulder, and I allow myself to be turned in bed to face Anon. He’s sitting up a little, and looking down at me with that careful, calculating expression he sometimes wears. It’s like I’ve tied myself into a massive knot, and he’s trying to feed bits of me back through to undo it with his eyes. I glance up at him, then down, unable to maintain eye contact for fear my resolve will break. I expect him to pull me into a hug, kiss my forehead, brush my mane off of my cheek. Instead, I hear his voice in a surprisingly light request.

“Give me one of your hooves.”

I look up at him and hold his gaze, registering bewilderment. My hoof? Is he going to kiss it like some prince charming, slap it for my silly worrying, put it somewhere inappropriate? I extend one of my front hooves, and he takes it in both his hands.

“Anon, what—” I start to ask, be he holds up a finger to silence me.

“One moment, let me focus,” he instructs.

I’m silent as he peers down at my hoof, turns it over to inspect the frog side, then brings his face very close to it in scrutiny. He runs his fingers over it searchingly, almost tickling me enough that I want to jerk my hoof away.

“Hmmmm,” he says absently, “Interesting.”

“What is?” I ask, now looking down at my own hoof with him.

After another second, he releases my hoof back to me with a simple pat on the side of it. Then, he smiles warmly at me and shakes his head.

“Nope, it’s not there,” he says officially.

“What isn’t?”

“An expiration date,” he says. “I looked all over, but there’s no ‘use by’ date stamped anywhere on the bottom of your hoof.”

I want to laugh, and I also kind of want to punch him.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” I demand.

He sighs good-naturedly, and scoots down in bed so we’re eye to eye.

“You’re not a food product,” he says gently, “You don’t come with an automatic expiration date. Nor does anyone, for that matter. All anyone has, from the day we’re born, is borrowed time with nothing promised.”

“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?”

“I would hope so,” he goes on, now reaching up to cup my gaunt cheek with one hand. “It means that the date on the calendar? It’s just another date. Nothing has changed from yesterday, and tomorrow is no different either.”

“But—”

“Yes, we’re both dying. I’m not denying that. But we don’t know for certain when that will happen, and trying to make an estimate or guess? That’s absolutely insane. Not planning for any future is just as insane. We can, and should set goals. To be healthy in a month. To improve diet and muscle tone for you next week. For me to not get any respiratory infections this month if I can help it. Little things like that, though, not a ‘final day alive’ goal. Hell, if you want, we can even set a date for over year from now where we can pledge to have an anniversary party for ourselves or something.”

He has no idea how much I want that. Or… maybe he does. Maybe this little speech is something he’s told himself before too, countless times when I wasn’t around. Maybe he needs to hear this out loud just as much as I do.

“So,” I say haltingly. “What you’re saying is we should completely ignore the odds and just… keep living?”

“I don’t see that there’s any other choice,” he says, drawing my face closer to his own. “We just keep living, seeing how long we can go for. Even though the odds are out there, and maybe they’re not exactly optimistic, there’s a chance we can surpass or beat them. And I don’t want to count us out. We’re pretty awesome like that.”

I shut my eyes, and I feel him rest his forehead against mine. Our noses almost touch, and I can hear him breathing in and out in a steady sign of life. He’s alive, and I’m alive. He’s right about that. And he’s right that the red circle is just a date on the calendar. I’m not a jug of milk or a summer squash or anything like that. I’m a living, breathing, fighting being who wants to be here with him not just today, but tomorrow and for as long as possible. I want to live. Damn it and damn me for wanting it, but I want to live.

“What if…” I stutter out, and swallow hard before I complete the thought. “What if I’ve somehow summoned it into happening today. What if I go to sleep, and I don’t wake up, and this is the last day, just like I thought it would be?”

It’s a childish though, but one I can’t shake, and I feel like an idiot admitting it. Anon draws his face away from mine and his eyes flick across my face from my lips, to my eyes, to my cheeks. Then he moves his hand to raise my chin, and I shut my eyes as he kisses me. His lips are so warm, the sensation so tender, that I feel on the verge of breaking once more. But when he pulls away, I wish that he hadn’t.

“I love you, and I won’t let that happen,” he says, and it sounds so sweet that I can taste sugar on my lips. “I’ll be here, and I can hold you all night if it’s cold enough and you want me to. And when you wake up, I’ll be right there with you. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. Okay?”

I feel like a child being told there’s no monster under the bed. He’s made no promises to me, and I have no reason to just trust him at his word. But I do. I know that I will sleep in his arms tonight, and that when I wake up I’ll be able to reach over and mess up his hair, and kiss his cheek until he’s awake too. And then maybe we can make breakfast. Something with cheese. And life will go on, because it has to and I want it to. Looking at him, I just know there will be a tomorrow. That much is a given.

“Watch over me?” I ask in a whisper.

“I will.”

There’s still a meekness in my chest as I nod and turn my back towards him, some irrational fear. I nestle down against his chest between his arms, feeling so small there, so easily damaged. But I know that he will keep me safe, that I don’t have to fear the voice in my head telling me I’m mortal. Life can put the damn red pen away for a while.

When I at last make myself close my eyes, sleep comes surprisingly easy.

-END-

Author's Note:

"...You would live a hundred years
If I could show you how
I won't desert you now
The rain can't hurt me now
This rain will wash away what's past
And you will keep me safe
And you will keep me close
I'll sleep in your embrace at last"

Sometimes remembering you're still alive can be hard, as silly as that might sound. Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in thinking about how limited you are, rather than what you can do. I don't have any solutions or words of wisdom on how not to go down that thought spiral, and I understand how easy it is to get there. But I hope, sincerely, that you can find something or someone to make you remember that you're still here. And that means it's not the end yet.
I love you.

-anonpencil

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Comments ( 19 )

I wish I could say that the bland pasta was the worst part. :C

Why her!? Me no like:flutterrage:

ow my feels

Another Jolly fi.......well not jolly but...shutting up now...

(Basically another great story to add to my mind to read.....keep up the amazing work X3)

:heart:

Thank you, pencil.

These stories are always very touching and in a different way than many others.

I :heart: you, too.
Thank you for sharing your writing with us.

Such a good series, every single part.

This story is part of the Broken Love series, but can be enjoyed without reading previous parts.

Define "enjoyed".

jk I love it

Another wonderful addition to this marvelous series. I think I read somewhere once that love helps those in failing, struggling health to live longer. Not for any sort of "I have to live for them" way, but just... love, healthy love, helps.

I'm happy that Berry and Anon have that love. Sure, their date's are coming, as sure a clock marches forward or as the world turns. But maybe they can not only push that date out of their mind, but further away.

i love you

Dammit. I wish I wrote half as good as you do.

I :heart: these Berry stories. They are the weirdest mixture of cute and depressing, and they are perfect in every way.

this meal is so bland because anything with more flavor could spell actual problems

As someone with Crohn's Disease, I would just like to say this is my life.

9289030
I have GERD and IBS among other things. I feel ya.

9289033
Right back at ya.
Being strapped into a medical rollercoaster sure is exciting tho. The ride literally never ends.

And I've learned something today: GERD is called GORD in the UK, due to a difference in the spelling of a single word. The moar u know....

9289033
Do you have another one in the works or is this just where it ends?

9388377
There will be more. Absolutely, I can promise that.

media.giphy.com/media/NnGGHE0muVqpO/giphy.gif
This whole series deserves more. Well done.

Anonpencil you are a pedantic monster of bittersweet tragicomedy on par with nothing less that classic scale (this coming from a junior professor of history no less). You've managed to encapsulate the sheer visceral emotional maelstrom of not just chronic illness, but of terminal illness as well. Ex: The mania of the freedom of knowing you will die vs the abject existential horror of that same realization, the vacillation betwixt trying to milk every last moment for what it's worth vs hoping & planning for a future that may never come. For the especially vivid deconstruction of fully knowing that one's own damnation & salvation are both completely irrational, I must both compliment & curse you (for forcing me to face such an uncomfortable truth). In short, this chapter alone is a freight train of feels a kin to an entire season of Bojack Horseman that leaves one with a sense of desperate hope amid a torrent of sadness & anger. My only criticism, is that you fell to a number of common grammar & spelling errors which is not unusual given the heavily emotional nature of the piece. However, I would like to offer you my services as an editor to perform a set of suggested corrections for those more trivial details. I would hate for such a powerful work to be marred by such small things. Furthermore, I would consider it a great honor if you accepted this offer. If not, I will not be offended as all writing, but especially this writing, is incredibly personal. With joyful trepidation, I look forward to the rest of your Broken Love series. ~Most Sincerely, Capn. Seidon

9906397
I appreciate your kind words, I do, but I am deeply uninterested in an editor for this series. Thank you for the offer.

Completely understandable. Also, thank you once more for continuing this series!

Login or register to comment
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!