El Día de los
by Stacia Seaman
Time passed slowly without
Xena, and yet it passed quickly as well. Without her, there was nothing
to keep the days from fading into each other. One week turned into the
next as I made the voyage from Japa to Chin, from Chin to India. The
rocking motion of the boat, such a torment in the past, now soothed
me, enabled me to sleep despite the visions of Xena's headless, bloody
body that invaded my dreams.
As I stood up on the
deck of the ship, practicing the forms she'd taught me, I could sense
her presence. I could feel her as I trained--a reminder to watch my
opponent's eyes as I sparred, a subtle touch on my shoulder to correct
It wasn't until I reached
the markets of India that everything changed. The colors were as vibrant
as I remembered, the smells as sharp, the sounds as clamorous. I ran
a hand along a green silk tunic and turned as if to ask Xena's opinion
of it. It was only then that I understood that she was truly gone.
When I reached the stables
where we had boarded the horses, I stood in front of the barn for long
moments, not wanting to enter. We had left some of our possessions behind,
and I could hardly bear to look at them. Those reminders of everyday
life with Xena--our saddles, bedrolls, a battered frying pan--brought
tears to my eyes as they brought back memories of times past and made
me realize how very much I would miss her.
Tears streaming down
my cheeks, I brushed down the horses. Their presence was comforting,
somehow. In the end, I sold my horse. I cried as his new owner led him
away, but I couldn't afford two horses, and I knew that I could never
part with Argo. In a way, she was a living link to Xena.
I wandered through the
marketplace, buying what I needed for the long journey to the land of
the Pharaohs. From time to time I caught a glimpse of sable hair, the
squeak of leather armor, and I had to remind myself that it was not
Xena. Much as I wished it weren't true, Xena was gone.
The journey across the
desert was a long one, and for the first time I had only myself for
company. As I lay by the fire one chilly evening, I went through my
scrolls, trying to find some comfort in the familiar stories. But I
soon found that the actions that had always filled me with such love
and admiration now only aroused anger.
Over and over I read
the words she had said to me that day she fought the Persians: Even
in death, Gabrielle, I will never leave you.
"You lied, Xena,"
I shouted and stood up suddenly, heedless of the scrolls that rolled
onto the sand. "Im still here. Where the hell are you?"
I turned to face the
darkness and took several steps away from the fire. "You said you
wanted me to know what you know. Well, I dont. I dont understand,
Xena. How could you leave me like this?"
As if inside of my head,
I heard her voice saying, "If theres a reason for our travels
together, its because I had to learn from youenough
to know the final, the good, the right thing to do."
"No!" I covered
my ears. "I dont believe you. How could leaving me be right?"
be with you Gabrielle. Always."
My hands were balled into fists, and my voice was hoarse from shouting
in the dry desert air. "Just stop."
I staggered back toward
the fire and fell onto my knees on my bedroll. "Youre not
with me anymore, Xena. You left me. You had a choice and you left me."
I lay on my side, my
knees pulled up into my body, and cried until the sun came up.
The journey across the
desert was a bleak one. My speed varied wildly; on some days I pushed
Argo almost to her limits, while on others I barely had the energy to
rise from my sleeping furs. I was unable to stand another second alone
in the sand dunes that reminded me so much of the innocent nomad boy
Id killed, yet I did not want to reach a destination so filled
with memories of Xena.
My ability to sleep through
almost anything, including a fight, had always been a favorite joke
of Xenas, yet what I had always considered a blessing was now
a curse. I lay awake at night, afraid to fall sleep knowing that she
was not there to defend me. When I did drift off, I would awaken with
my heart pounding, looking around wildly for any sign of danger.
The whirlwind of my emotions
matched the unpredictable desert winds; sometimes they hardly stirred,
then suddenly they swirled into tempests of anger and resentment. I
alternately raged at Xena for stopping me from bringing her back and
at myself for listening to her.
If only I had ignored
her, had thrown her ashes into the fountain. I prayed to any god that
would listen to send me back to that day so that I could have a second
chance, so that I could make Xena understand that she had to come back.
So that I could make
her understand that I needed her. That I couldnt live without
Desert gave way to fertile
valleys, which in turn gave way to desert as I neared the land of the
Pharaohs. The season had turned; the blazing heat of summer was over
and the nights became colder. I built fires for warmth now instead of
for comfort, and piled my blankets over Xena's to keep out the chill.
I passed through the
major trading centers--Babylon, Damascus, Jerusalem. When I arrived
in each I went to the inns where I had stayed with Xena. As painful
as it was, the simple fact was that I knew these places, knew the owners,
and knew that Argo and I would be safe there.
I debated following the
coast to Alexandria, but decided instead to travel up the Nile. Although
our last stay there had been tumultuous and I had questioned her motives
at the time, my memories of Xena at the pyramids were happy ones, filled
with pride and admiration how far she had come from what she once was.
Setting a leisurely pace,
I rode slowly along the river, keeping my distance from the other travelers.
Xena was not there with me, but she was always in my thoughts, and I
wanted to keep this time for myself and not share it with anybody.
At last I saw the tips
of the pyramids on the edge of the horizon. Argo sensed my excitement,
I think, because she tossed her head and whinnied before breaking into
a canter. Two days later we arrived and after finding a stable for Argo,
I set up my camp slightly to the east, in the desert, so that I could
watch the sun set over the monuments.
Later that evening I
sat by the fire, thinking of Cleopatra, whom I'd never seen in her native
land. It was a land of contradiction--endless sand dunes and the fertile
river valley, the slums of Cairo and the majesty of the pyramids. Somehow,
from what I knew of her, it seemed to fit.
Xena's words echoed in
my mind. "Cleopatra always put the well-being of her kingdom ahead of
her own. Respect this. She died in the hope that the Egyptian people
might, for the first time, choose their next great leader. She was Egypt."
"I wish I could have
known you better," I whispered, then wondered to whom I spoke.
After I arose the following
morning I went to the marketplace and bought a large cloth that I could
use as a canopy against the sun. I planned to stay in the area for the
next several days, but I did not want to take a room at an inn. It seemed
wrong to me, somehow, to sleep indoors when I could set up a camp in
the shadow of the pyramids.
I built a makeshift shelter,
sort of a half-tent, so that I could sit in the shade yet still have
a magnificent view of the valley. For the first time in weeks, I unpacked
all of my belongings and arranged them around the campsite, then built
a fire. The only thing missing was Xena.
Pushing that thought
aside, I settled down in the late afternoon sunshine and picked up a
scroll. I had not yet recorded the events that had taken place in Japa;
the one time I had tried, while still on the boat, the memories had
been too fresh, my emotions too raw, and I simply could not write.
Now, however, the words
flowed, and for the first time since that fateful day on Mount Fuji,
I felt that I could finally do justice to Xenas deeds, to explain
the ultimate sacrifice that she had made.
As the sun set, bathing
the pyramids in pastel desert hues, I read aloud the lines I had just
As they stood on the
ship, Gabrielle spoke. "A life of journeying has brought you to
the farthest landsto the very edges of the earth."
"And to the place
where Ill always remain: your heart. So, where to now?"
"I think we should
go south, to the land of the Pharaohs. I hear they need a girl with
a chakram," I said, echoing Xenas words.
"Where you go,
Im at your side."
I closed my eyes tightly,
not allowing myself to believe what I thought I had heard. This couldn't
be real. There had to be another explanation. Things like this simply
didn't happen in reality; therefore, this wasn't real. I wasn't in Egypt,
thinking about Xena; I was in some sort of twilight zone, speaking to
It sounded like Xena,
but her voice was tentative, holding none of the strength and confidence
I remembered, and thats what finally made me look.
There she stood, my proud
warrior, with the dying rays of the sun playing through her hair.
"Xena." I stood.
"Its the Day
of the Dead, Gabrielle," she said softly. "On this day only,
the barriers between the worlds dont exist, and I can be with
With a sob, I stretched out one hand, then pulled it back. I wanted
so much to believe that this was real.
walked over to me, then put a hand on my shoulder. "It means I
can touch you."
I had so many words that
I couldnt say a single one. Instead, I traced the lines of her
face, the tips of my fingers lingering on the silky smoothness of her
cheek, the warmth of her lips.
She put her hand over
mine, then placed a gentle kiss on the inside of my wrist. "Im
so sorry, Gabrielle."
She pulled me back toward
the bedroll, and we sat down beside each other. "I know how hard
this has been for you."
My eyes blurred, and
still unable to speak, I nodded.
hard for me, too, watching you and not being able to..." A lone
tear traced a path down her face as she stared into the fire.
"Xena," I whispered,
and turned her face toward mine. The barriers broke, and we held each
other as we cried.
about your horse," she said after several minutes had passed.
In spite of my tears,
I burst out laughing. The comment was so very Xena that I couldnt
imagine her not having said it. "I had to keep Argo," I said,
sitting back so that I could see her face.
"I know." She
put an arm across my shoulders and pulled me close. "Thank you."
I began hesitantly. "You said this is the Day of the Dead? Does
that mean that we have...?"
"A whole day,"
she said softly. "Until sundown tomorrow."
A shudder ran through
my body at the memory of a similar deadline.
"I know youre
angry," Xena began. "I understand"
I said. "I understand. You had to make that choice."
"I hated putting
you through all of this, Gabrielle, watching your pain and knowing I
was the cause." She stopped for a moment and looked directly into
my eyes. "But if I had to do it again, even knowing what it would
do to you, Id do the same thing."
"I know," I
said, my voice breaking. "I know."
We sat in silence, side
by side, watching the moon rise over the pyramids. As stars began to
appear in the night sky, Xena lay back onto the sleeping furs, pulling
me down beside her.
"Twilight zone, huh?"
She smiled at me. "So, I found a few new animals up there."
tilted my head so that I could see her. "Going to share?"
Pointing with one hand,
she clasped mine with the other. "Always."