Breaking from the prison that had been constructed around your mind was like being born a second time, slow as spring in the mountains. It left your skin tender, your eyes blinking against too many lights, against racing pictures and a face more familiar than air. Men had become like birds in the time you had been brutally sleepwalking – metal-feathered, lightning-bright.
(You thought of Icarus before his fall, how you had read about him aloud to a coughing boy once, your voice adjusting its volume like waves to his struggled breathing with practiced ease and hidden worry, Brooklyn’s noise ever present behind frail windows.)
Women were firing death from their bare hands, blood-red and fierce in ways that told you some things hadn’t changed after all.
Your anchor looked mostly the same as he used to, still dressed in a blue suit three shades darker than his eyes. He still closed his fingers tight around the handles of a shield whenever injustice came knocking on his door, attack and defense becoming one.
(You remember watching those hands in dusty April sunlight, adding final touches to the drawing of a neighbour and her girlfriend. People knew they could come to him, back then, to put memories on paper that were precious to them and vile to most others.)
You didn’t pretend to understand everything that happened after your waking, or anything at all, really. You still don’t. You are slowly getting used to magic now, to space and catastrophes bigger than human imagination. You live everyday with guilt, with fear, with wonder.
That, you understand.
You have support, you have a new arm that feels less cruel than the last when you run the fingers of your other hand over it in silence.
That, you understand.
You have a place that becomes home for a while whenever the coughing boy, the drawing boy, the shield-wielding, honest-eyed man comes visiting. You have – him. Until you don’t. Until he leaves, after the battle of centuries, after your short-lived reunion, because duty tells him he has to, just like gravity told you the same, one wintry day on a fast-moving train.
That too, you understand.
You didn’t come back to him for a long while after that moment when you fell like snow. Neither does he. You didn’t come back because you were kept from it with force, held in cages, metal and mental ones. He doesn’t come back because – why? Why did you hug him goodbye when he was supposed to reappear in a matter of seconds? Because it wouldn’t feel like seconds to him. Right? And if you hugged him for another reason, because of knowledge nestled deep into your bones, then why did you stop?
Why did you let Steven Grant Rogers leave the circle of your arms, the circle of two lines touching, two lines melting into something round, two lines with no end – that, you do not understand.