The Dust is the Limit

By: the YU Writers’ Guild  |  November 21, 2023

By the YU Writers’ Guild

Each month, the YU Writers’ Guild accepts submissions for a short story following a specific theme. This month’s theme was “left in the dust,” focusing on a character who is left in the shadow of the typical protagonist. Members of the club voted on a short story to be featured in the YU Observer. For the month of November, “The Dust is the Limit” written by an anonymous author was selected.

The Dust is the Limit

Do you remember those days when we lay underneath the big blue sky and just talked? 

In those days it felt like we were infinite, like we could reach out our hands and touch the clouds and be one with the vast galaxy above us. 

We were seventeen back then, young and innocent, unsure what the future held and unsure if we cared, knowing that the sky was the limit if we dreamed and worked hard enough. 

“Would you want to ever fall in love?” I asked you one day as we pondered aloud all of the possible timelines we could create. 

“No,” you said, no hesitation. “Would you?”

I paused. “Not in this timeline,” I finally answered. “But maybe, if things were different.”

You smiled at that. “Okay, Gale,” you said, knowing I wouldn’t understand. 


You rolled your eyes. “It’s from The Hunger Games,” you said, and then I rolled mine. You used to be way too obsessed with that book. 

With that out of the way, we went back to staring at the sky. But we felt a little bit closer. 

(And then I fell in love with you, which ruined everything.) 

Do you remember the five years of our lives after that day under the sky? How we promised to go to the same college, how I got into a top school and you didn’t, how I abandoned you? That’s a major theme of our story. I abandoned you over and over again, and I think that’s why neither of us got the happily ever after that we each deserved. 

I left for college a full month before you did, and your eyes were teary as you hugged me goodbye. I’m ashamed to say that my eyes were dry. After ten years as best friends, we weren’t on the same page for once. 

If only I had cried that day, would things have been different? What if I had held a bit of you in my heart even as I went on to make new friends in my new school and new hometown? Would things have turned out differently? 

Do you remember? If you don’t, I’m so sorry for reminding you. I’m sorry for reminding you that I ruined our relationship. I’m sorry that the day you told me you didn’t want to fall in love, a tiny piece of me died. I buried that piece in a grave deep in my heart, but it always came back to haunt me and control me. 

You don’t know what we meant to me. You don’t know that when we went our separate ways, I felt so lost that I did the only thing I could do: I found a new me. 

We had always been me-and-you, you-and-I, but suddenly I was me and you were you, and we were separated by a hundred miles of physical distance and a thousand miles of my stupidity. You stayed close to home for college, and each time I came back to visit, you were the same person I had grown up under the sky with. 

But I was different. It was only because I wanted you so badly that I treated you so badly, it was because of the pain of not being we that I couldn’t even be me. 

And I’m sorry. 

I’m sorry that we never healed our relationship, that you went off to study abroad with a rift in your heart wider than the sea you crossed. 

I’m sorry that you fell in love; I’m sorry that I made you think that you needed to fall in love. 

I would have stayed myself for you, if I had known how desperately we needed each other. I would have tied my heart down with metal cables to keep it from jumping up each time I saw you, I would have stitched the pieces of my broken mind together if only we could’ve remained me-and-you, you-and-I, under our wide wide wide blue sky sky sky forever and ever and ever. 

But we changed, and we grew apart, and neither of us ever found true happiness. 

We needed each other, you and I, but I left you. I left you. And I’m so sorry. 

I’m so sorry that the first time I spoke to you after five full years of silence was the day that you died. 

I’m sorry that I built my defenses up so high, because that meant that I had so far to fall when the shards of your last words wormed their way inside my heart and twisted and broke me. 

I’m sorry that you ended your life in the dust, although I can imagine it’s a peaceful place to be. From dust you came, to dust you shall return, it’s fitting to die with dust billowing into your eyes and ears and mouth, altogether hugging you as you sink into it. 

I’m sorry that I’m feeling your last breaths so vividly. 

So vividly, in fact, that it’s as though I’m experiencing it myself. 

And I am. I turn my head, and there you are next to me, your lungs empty of breath and your heart empty of emotion. You are my Romeo and I am your Juliet, and I cling to that cringe cliche as I try not to remember how we got to this place. 

How I left you. Over and over and over again. 

How I found you lying on the ground on our cliff, underneath the big blue sky, and how we argued in a place in which we had once felt so connected. 

We argued and argued and argued, I think because neither of us knew how to express that all we longed for was to go back to being seventeen, or seven, and have beautiful, unruined lives ahead of us. 

We argued, and somehow one thing led to another, and somehow we made it to the very edge of our cliff, and somehow we paused to reflect, to look at the sky and think of the life that we could have had together, or together-while-separate, or even completely separate but peaceful if I just hadn’t. Been. So. Stupid. 

“Would you want to ever fall in love?” I asked you quietly, hoping the question would be enough to magically transport us back to better times. 

But your answer had changed since we were seventeen. “I wish I had had someone who wanted me,” you said. 

I’m not sure who broke first, who twisted their body toward the edge and surrendered to gravity. But I do know that we now lie in the dust at the bottom of the cliff upon which we once discussed our boundless futures, you dead, me almost there, our futures now established and immutable. Even after life, it is still me-and-you, you-and-I, under our wide wide wide blue sky sky sky forever and ever and ever, the only difference is that now the dust is the limit rather than the sky. Neither of us had wanted love, and yet we both died because of it. 

I’m sorry.