the dream we dream together here (Zutara Week 2017: Soulmates)
*shows up late with Starbucks* Anyway, this is my very late submission for ZK Week 2017, under the Day 6 ‘Soulmates’ prompt (namely: the idea that you see your soulmate as a ghost after s/he dies, which is… admittedly just a very flimsy excuse for me to write my two favourite things: snow and angst, but oh well)
hundred years from now, dear heart,
We shall not mind the pain;
The throbbing crimson tide of life
Will not have left a stain.
The song we sing together, dear,
The dream we dream together here,
Will mean no more than means a tear
Amid a summer rain.
- John Bennett, In a Rose Garden
A List of Things You Learn Growing Up in the South Pole
1. Things disappear.
Amongst the glaciers, transience is a concept everyone learns from childhood. Nothing ever stays. Snowflakes melt the moment you tip your face up to them, there and gone in a blink as they catch on your eyelashes. You wake up one morning to find half the village’s meat supplies gone, dragged by wolves into the tundra sometime in the night. Every year when the worst of the blizzards hit, there are always people who go missing, caught in the storm and unable to find their way home, their cries indistinguishable from the screaming of the winds outside the heavy folds of the tents.
Things disappear. Mothers are alive one moment, and gone the next. Fathers kiss you goodbye and vanish over the waves, bringing all the men of the village with him as they sail into war.
You dumb-dumb, Sokka says to her once when she is six years old, when he jumps triumphantly out at her from where she is hiding, giggling, behind the alcove where the Southern Water Tribe stores their firewood. That’s gotta be the easiest game of Hide-and-Seek anyone’s ever played. You gotta learn to hide your footprints, Katara. I followed them all the way here.
She sticks her tongue out at him. I hate snow! If we didn’t live in the South Pole, you wouldn’t have been able to find me.
Maybe, Sokka says. But I like it. I like seeing where people go, or where they come from. I like that people know where I am. He jumps away from her, sending a spray of snow in the air, his boots leaving a perfect imprint in the white. It’s like a stamp, see? I am here!
Yeah, I guess snow isn’t so bad, Katara says. If we didn’t live here, I couldn’t do this.
Sokka turns just in time for the snowball to hit him in the face.
(2. How to run from your brother.)
Later, they walk home, Sokka keeping a firm grip on his sister’s hand as dusk begins to fall, as the Southern Water Tribe begin to light their lanterns. Katara looks over her shoulder behind them to see the trail of their footprints already vanishing under the falling snow.
I am here, Sokka had declared, a wild and defiant clarion call. I am here! But Katara looks at her footprints which are already beginning to fill in, and thinks instead, I am disappearing.
3. Things reappear.
But the sea never takes without giving back. Amongst the glaciers, return is also a concept everyone learns from childhood. Driftwood you hurl into the ocean one summer washes up on the black shores the next. Star-flowers survive the ice and the hail to push their weary heads out into the weak sunlight every spring.
The Avatar, a hundred years later, turns up in an iceberg.
And three months after his funeral, Katara wakes up one night to see Zuko sitting on her bed.