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Who You Could Have Been

Updated: May 27, 2022

A short story based off the quote:

"How dangerous it is
To love a person
Not for who they are
But for
Who they could be."
—The Random Stories

Music to listen to while reading:

Romeo and Juliet (Dire Straits)

Take On Me - 2017 Acoustic (a-ha)

1,000 Years (Liza Anne)

slumber (Lewis Watson, Lucy Rose)


Fingers that trail effortlessly across strings, across keys, memorizing each note even though you’ve only just begun. The music springs from your soul. You see it in the way the grass moves under the summer breeze, you feel it when you canter down the stairs. It presses against you in the darkness of the night and settles in your soul like the dew of morning. When you find the time to sit at the bench, fingers trailing keys, or to hold the wood between your hands, swaying in a patch of light as fingers trail strings, it comes easily. You let go and it springs forth like a fountain.

Arms that wrap around another, holding them close, simply listening, understanding, living only in the life of the person who you hold. Your mind is clear as you nod and smile, tears glistening in your eyes because yes, you’ve felt that way too. You know what that pain is like. But even more, you know the light will come. And you tell them this, assure them this, that the morning will dawn again and they will have a new beginning. And when they need a tissue, you’ve already got one in hand, pushing a glass of water to them, whispering to stay hydrated, to blow their nose. You wrap a blanket and your warm arms around them, and you let their sorrow cling to your heart as your hope to clings to theirs.

Smiles that shine brighter than the stars. You glow in the golden hour of the sunset—that moment of majestic honey as the light hangs just over the tree tops and everything is all honey and gold and warm. “Stand there. Touch your face like this,” you say, praising the way the light hits my brown curls. “Like warm embers, burning with love in the heart of a thousand lovers.” You have such a way with words. I don’t believe your descriptions until I am on the other side of the lenses, staring at the image of me you took. It doesn’t look like me. It’s something…wholly other. So much more beautiful. “It’s the way I see you,” you say. And you smile again, and I wish I could capture the way I see you. Because the sun has hit your eyes and I’m drowning in their icy waves, seeing the flashes of that majestic honey that now hang their blue instead of the sky’s. But I haven’t the way with the camera like you do. I never take the picture. The moment is lost. The sun has set. You never see yourself the way I see you.

Because I only saw the way you should have been.

But now I can’t see you at all. I only see what’s left—a few etches in cold stone. It’s quiet here. Nothing close to what it once was like. Or rather…what it should have been...if only…

A tear rolls down my cheek as I kneel in the still freshly churned dirt. A small flower has sprung up next to the still monument that bears your name. You have something to say about this flower, springing up with color, with joy in a place so forlorn, so full of sorrow.

But I can’t hear you.

Because a darkness had always clouded your music and stopped it from springing from your lips and fingers. You were bursting to create but slowly the weight of that emotion grew too much to bear and it rotted inside of you, unable to escape, to be free. The sorrow that lived in your heart was too great to look past. You saw others hurting. You wanted to reach to them, but the only body your arms ever held was your own as you rocked back and forth, unable to stop the shaking, or the tears that burned your eyes.

My words were not enough. My pictures were not enough. You could never see what I saw in you. What I knew you were meant to be. No lens could capture it. No words could make you understand.

We had so many plans. “Let’s go see this. Let’s go there. Let’s do that,” I would say. “Yes,” you would answer, “but not today. Maybe…another day.” And I would nod. “Another day,” I repeated and onto it, I held as a promise.

But I knew. I had always known your darkness was too strong to burry the light. But I had hoped…against all, I had hoped…

If only someone had told me how dangerous it is to love someone, not for who they are, but who you know they could be.

If only you could’ve seen the soul I saw hidden in you. If only you had known that the person you killed when you pulled the trigger wasn’t only who you were—the version of you that you hated—but also everything you could’ve been…should’ve been—the version of you that I loved.

And now I am left wondering what it is that we could’ve been, and who I am left now to be…alone.

Before I can stop myself, I pluck the flower and lay it on the top of your headstone. If you couldn’t finish blooming before death stole you away, then I suppose neither should this flower.

Maybe now you are free. Maybe life itself is what tainted your soul. Maybe now in death you are finally at liberty to be what you were meant to. Or maybe my overwhelming love simply has no where else to go and is trying to romanticize this dismal reality I’m left in.

I stand from your grave and take one last look at the flower. The wind blows softly, like the way you would breathe whispers and dark secrets in my ear. The sun has begun to turn everything gold again. Blue petals, not quite yet bloomed, catch the majestic honey of the light and once more, as if you’re saying goodbye, I’m drowning in your eyes.


Thank you so much for reading! If you enjoyed this short story, you'll love Aphotic Love, an Anthology on the Depths of Romance. Available worldwide on major retailers like Barnes&Noble and Amazon. You can also order your copy from my shop.

May the suns smile upon your presence...

—Effie Joe Stock

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