you seem more at peace
in the arms of your nightmares
than my own embrace
you seem more at peace
you seem more at peace
in the arms of your nightmares
than my own embrace
There is much to say, and no knowledge of how to say it. Forgive me for the lack of focus. I only hope you finish reading this knowing I am in your debt.
Much of my life has been spent struggling with this feeling, like a secret bursting at the seams to be told, but coupled with so much fear of getting caught that, ultimately, the secret dies in the keeper’s throat.
One year ago, I began to feel different. The fluttering was still there, oh yes, but it had moved from my throat to my chest. It felt like I was being torn apart on the inside, ventricle by valve. So what did I do? I fought, of course. The loneliness had been safely harnessed in my throat, effectively silencing me my whole life. Suddenly, the animal wanted out. I couldn’t let it. Because if I did let it out, there’d be nothing left inside me, and I already felt so hollow.
This was when I made a decision. I chose to let things happen. I opened my cage and closed my eyes and waited for the parades of tourists to mock the botched pieces that composed me.
But something happened that, in all my emphasis of claiming I knew myself, surprised me: I wanted someone. A girl. A girl I’d never met. A girl whose words flowed through my veins in place of blood. And the more I fought it, the deeper she got. I pulled away, but it was as thought I had bound myself to her, and she had no choice but to follow.
You know of whom I speak.
She is as valuable to you as you are to her, whether or not you are aware of it. She often speaks about you and your mate as though she owes her life to the two of you. I’d never tell her otherwise… but I wonder how much you two realize that she is vital to you. Yes, you two would live on regardless… but she has been nothing but a faithful servant. Please don’t think me insensitive. I know that you at least acknowledge her and the role she plays in your existence. But as her mate, it bears repeating.
You and I share a bond: we both serve the one we love. And perhaps that’s all I needed to say. My hand desperately had to write this, to write to you. I feel close to you in a way I’ve never felt close to anyone before. Do you think that means we owe something to one another?
There’s more, other things to say that, in time, will be said. But for now, it’s enough to thank you for this gift you’ve given me.
I trust we’ll speak soon.
- – -
Love bites. Love bruises. Beware.
I will not dissuade you from your path – it is mine as well, after all, and you no more chose to walk it than I did. But be cautious in your footing and do not rush overlong when you have yet to see what waits beyond the turn. Step lightly.
You are right: we have much in common, you and I, as do our lunar paramours. I too was blindsided by that feeling of being torn apart and yet knit together at the same time. The fear of hollowness; the fear of being filled and consumed. Neither could I pull away, drawn like a helpless magnet caught in an ancient force. Yet you have avoided the vices and demons which plague myself and my own, and will continue to do so if you are willing to fight for each other. Look to the one you love; she is yours to protect, from others and from herself. We are guardians and servants both, and you hold wells of strength of which you are not yet truly aware.
I know you would have us see the worth of her, and we do. I promise I respect the gravity of our debt. You must be patient, though. It has been just the two of us in this tale for so long, and such a tragic tale… we lose track of everything beyond our sorrow, sometimes. And you know He is not the kindest of men, especially toward those to whom he feels indebted. He fears her love, just as he fears mine.
Change is coming, Little Flame, and it is our duty to anchor our beloveds lest they be overwhelmed and undone. Have faith and hold fast.
You think I have forgotten who you were once, but I have not. I remember him, the one who was both god and beast, angel and demon. My beautiful monster, tragic and deceptive and deadly. We have lived a thousandfold lives yet still I recall that incarnation, oldest and cruelest, most clearly. I carry those memories with me like battle scars; memories of madness, of destruction, of desperation and sorrow. Memories of blood and ash, myself kneeling at his feet in the wasteland, the gun in my hand. The gun at my temple. I remember it all, and I love that creature still. I worship the shard of darkness he left within you.
one glance, I go cold
heart straining against stiff flesh
your basilisk gaze
You’re born into this station like royalty, your blue blood thick with money and power. High society’s a modern court all its own, with an unspoken hierarchy based on the subtle messages sent by your clothing, your mannerisms, how efficiently you speak the language of feint and parry. This is the privileged world into which I was born, heir of a financial dynasty whose value was determined at conception by ancestry and last name. Like any good prince I began my training for the boardroom throne early and took my lessons to heart; I was nothing if not the dutiful son, proper in all ways, a model courtier. And while blood cannot truly bind, and names may be cast off like an ill-fit suit, even a renegade of high society cannot escape its influence completely. Years have passed since I led the stifling, affluent life of capitalist royalty, yet not a day goes by that I don’t move subconsciously to slip back into the role I abandoned. More than the ingrained habits or nagging memories, it’s the sense of judgment, of being watched and weighed, which seems impossible to shake. I live in fear some member of that court might spot me one day and know, by the way I act or look, that I too am one of them; fear that someday I will be dragged back to take my unwilling place beneath the detested crown.
Sometimes I dream I am trying to talk him down from the ledge. He stands facing the drop, body stiff against the wind, toes hanging over the edge of the roof. I can’t see his face but I imagine his eyes are open, staring out over the sleeping city with neither interest nor fear. I want to grasp his wrist and pull him back yet some instinct urges caution (to protect him? or myself?). Instead I bridge the space with my voice, begging him to stay, promising I can help if he’ll just give me a chance. He never answers me, though, nor acknowledges my presence. He doesn’t even move until inevitably I falter and fall silent, at a loss for more persuasive words, and even then it’s just the barest scrape of his heel moving over the ledge as if he might step out onto the air itself. He won’t, though, dream or no. He always falls, just as I always wake with the need to cry out a name I do not know; the newspapers never revealed the man’s identity. I am left haunted by the ghost of some stranger’s suicide, unable to shake the guilty suspicion that I could have helped him, had I come sooner into his life than the last few seconds of his plunge to the pavement.
You think about it too, don’t you?
I feel helpless, like I came too late; like I failed her.
I’ve felt that guilt as well. It can be… weighty.
What did you do about it?
First I fed it to my sorrow. Then I fed it to my rage.
…how would you do it, if you could?
We’ll never get that chance.
No, most likely not. But for them the willingness counts as much as action. It’s a rage sparked by love, fueled by the urge to protect and avenge. They understand. There’s meaning enough in the desire.
It still haunts you, though, that you weren’t there to save him.
Just as it will always haunt you that you couldn’t keep her safe.
If I ever had the chance…
I know. So would I.
I don’t even see him draw the blade; one minute my mouth is on Daren’s collarbone, one hand tracing his hip while the other gently circles his wrist, and next I know his fingers are fisted in my hair, forcing my head back as he presses the honed blade to my throat. Oh, no, no, I think, oh love, what did I do? Where have you gone? What are you seeing? because when I glance up I don’t see my lover in those hard black eyes, nor any measure of sanity, only the feral snarl of a caged beast for its tormentor. The knife bites at my skin and I know I’m trembling, heart pounding in my chest, my temples, but I can’t stop. At one time in my life I might have found this exciting, even stimulating, but not now. Now it’s only heartbreaking and terrifying to look into Daren’s eyes and see nothing of the man I love. Now I truly can’t predict if Daren will draw the blade away or dig it into my flesh, he’s so far gone into the nightmare where I can’t follow. He utters a sound half a growl, half a hiss, inhuman and yet so clearly a warning he needs no words anyway. I lower my eyes, lay my hands at my sides; I am weak, I think to him, I am not your enemy, you could cut me to ribbons and I would bleed out for you, I won’t fight you, I won’t hurt you, you know me, I’m not that man, you know I’m not... Daren’s hand clenches, bright stars of pain blooming where he tears at my hair, but I don’t dare risk a glance. Instead I let him feel my shaking, smell my fear, a wolf exposing throat and stomach to his alpha. But this is a wolf who’s been caged before, who lashes out still at the hand which feeds in memory of the hand which hurt. I murmur his name, “Daren, Daren, come back,” and above me the ragged breathing becomes a whimper, a strangled moan, and when I chance to look up the grimace on his lips is a twist of misery and rage, but at least they are human expressions. The knife wrenches away as I meet his wide eyes, swear “Darling, I’m here,” and catch him, trembling, choking on the wail he refuses to release, as he collapses into my arms.
“I thought this would be easier.”
“The pictures are lies. Clearly.”
“This is the most frustrating experience of my life. Why would anyone put themselves through this?”
“How does it get so hard? What the fuck is the point of that?”
“What do you mean? Mine’s so soft I can’t do anythi– dammit!”
“Yeah, that happened to me, too.”
“Do these even fit together?”
“According to the diagram.”
“This is fucking impossible. I give up. Nothing is worth this amount of effort and mess.”
“Hey, don’t look at me like that! I didn’t know it’d be this bad.”
“Well, it was your idea. I’d never think of something like this.”
“I just thought it would be fun to do together. Which it might be, if we weren’t so bad at it.”
“Oh yes, that’s the problem; our inexperience. Right. Darling, next time you want to do some bonding, why don’t we skip the making gingerbread houses part and go straight to the sex?”
“…I like that plan.”
[ Okay, so this scene isn't exactly canon - sue me. My girlfriend and I recently tried to make gingerbread houses from a kit and things... didn't go well. We couldn't resist wondering if Tanim and Daren would have fared any better. ]
“It isn’t fair! We’re never given that chance! We’re never given that life! God, we’re not even given a chance to glimpse that life, to see and mourn what we’ve been missing all these years, all these endless repetitions of the same fucked up story–”
[ We always come back to this moment. ]
“No! I can’t do this, not again, not for the same damned ending. I always lose you. Always. I’ve gone to Hell itself to bring you back to me and I still lose you, we still suffer for nothing!”
[ I would give you what you wish, you know, if only I could. I thought… ]
“Then for what? What possibly balances out our misery? And why must we continue to suffer at all? It isn’t fair, it isn’t our fault, we shouldn’t–”
“I know. I know.”
[ …but no. That’s not how your story goes. ]
“Doesn’t it hurt you, though? Aren’t you upset? Don’t you want better?”
Sometimes when I lay awake in bed at night, I imagine stabbing myself in the chest. I know it wouldn’t be easy, that I’d have to break through skin and muscle and bone, but in the middle of the night it’s so hard to remember I’m not utterly hollow inside. It feels that way, like the blade would face no resistance, just plunge through soft flesh and right into the gaping cavern of my chest. It wouldn’t hurt. I wouldn’t even bleed. And even though some small part of me knows that isn’t true, in the dark of the night I still long to take that blade in my hands and slice myself open. Even if it did hurt, even if I did bleed out, it would be worth it to feel something instead of this aching, mocking, consuming nothingness. I fear one of these nights I’ll…
I see you in everything, darling. The angle of your sharp jaw, the arch of your cheekbones, the curve of your lashes. Oh cruel, lovely monster, was it you who thrust your blade-thin fingers into my chest to pluck out my beating heart? Or could I, hopeless fool that I am, have broken open my own ribs and placed my heart in your waiting palms? You are a selfish master and every precious piece of myself I surrender to you leaves a bleeding hole. You are a reluctant god and every sliver of myself I offer you aches yet I cannot stop giving, cannot turn away, cannot avert my gaze. You are everywhere, everything, everyone.
[ I started a Tumblr (basically for personal use) where I post art that reminds me of Tanim and Daren, for writing inspiration and whatnot. Y’all can check it out if you like; it’s really just lots of purty pictures of purty boys. ]
“You always were my favorite,” my lord whispers, breath warm against my ear. My lips quiver and curl back in both a grimace and a grin. His slender fingers tilt back my head to bare my throat, laced even now with the marks of his affection, then glide through my hair and clench—
As I grunt, a swallowed cry of pleasure and pain, Daren forces me to my knees. A distant part of me weeps for the sin of our love, the perversion of our union, but my darker, dominant side shivers, pleased at being deemed worthy of his attention. I may be a monster, but I am his monster, his servant, his slave.
When the blade slides into my skin, cold and sharp and beautifully painful, I can only shudder and moan. Even such degradation, when delivered by my master’s hands, becomes a blessing. Tears burn my eyes, heart hammering in my temples and chest, yet nothing matters as my beloved’s fingers fist in my hair and he growls softly, “You will always be my favorite, Tanim.”
[ I promise this is the last of the terrible high school poems turned terrible prose pieces. ]
I promised. How could I have known what a mistake I would make? After all, isn’t all life precious?
I was born to serve, to obey, to submit. I am meant to bind myself to another. So when my light touched your darkness, when your pain became too overwhelming to ignore, I reached out my hand and I promised. I promised to protect you; to love you; to heal your wounds and rekindle your frozen heart. I promised.
But how could I have known? How could I have known there are wounds which never heal? Traumas which never cease? How could I have known you should have died, that cold cement a more fitting grave than the warmth of my arms? I was wrong. So, so wrong.
Forgive me, my lover, my obsession, my fate. If I had known you should have died in that black alley, storm raging all around us, should have pulled back the trigger and ended the pain… I wouldn’t have stopped you. I would have gone with you.
[ Another prose piece reworked from a poem I wrote in high school (hence the nauseating angst). XD ]
“Daren, you promised me…” I plead to the man I love, the man who repeatedly breaks my heart, but my lips barely move. Somewhere along the way I lost the will to force the words I know won’t reach him anyway. Go to him, I urge myself, there’s still time, there has to be time, yet I remain frozen.
“Don’t put words in my mouth,” Daren sneers, black eyes blazing into mine. Exhaustion has settled into their haunting depths but he won’t let his fevered mind find rest with me. He could collapse at any moment and yet he’s still determined to run. He always runs. “I never promised you anything, Tanim.”
“You…” I falter, sickened by abrupt understanding. “You never did, did you?” Suddenly it’s all so clear. God, what a fucking fool I am. I promised. He didn’t. Daren would never bind himself, even to me.
“I never promised you a thing,” my beloved spits again as he opens the door. He glances back over his shoulder but this time refuses to meet my eyes. “I only said that I loved you. I never said I would stay.”
Isn’t that a promise, though? Isn’t love itself a bond? A commitment? A covenant?
Daren is gone before I can reply.
[ This is a prose piece reworked from a poem I wrote in high school. No, you can’t read the poem. It’s awful. ]
The one who summoned me this time is young, just a child really, though I can sense a weariness to his soul which makes him seem far older. It takes only one glance into his defiant black eyes to understand why he has called me to his plane. I see the past he barely recalls already: the whorish mother, anonymous father, physical and emotional neglect. I see the present he wishes desperately to forget: the foster father who ravages him, the system which turns a blind eye out of necessity, the hopelessness which drove him to draw the chalk circle and call one of my kind. I see the future he can’t predict but must, somewhere deep inside, already expect: the homes and institutions he will bounce to and from, the years he will spend struggling to survive despite the physical and mental scars, the disease which slumbers even now in his cells and will one day awake to rot him from the inside out. I see him choking on his own blood as the fever finally burns the life from him. I see it all and it… hurts.
I don’t need to ask why the boy summoned me, yet I do anyway. I want him to speak the words aloud. Those hard eyes narrow as he hisses through split lips, “I want you to kill him,” and I nod. I will do this thing. I will extinguish this one source of agony, free him for a time at least. The cost of a life is high but I will not ask my normal price. Instead I will bid this damaged, aching boy to break the circle and set me free. In return for the taking of one life I will ask him to let me remain in this world at his side. I cannot prevent the thing growing in his body from killing him – a demon can only destroy, after all, never heal – but at least I can protect him from all the rest for a time.
It’s not that I’m a bad person, so to speak. I never go out of my way to cause someone harm, nor do I wish any particular malice upon anyone. It’s just that the only person I care for on any level, even that of basic human kindness, is Daren. He’s my world to the exclusion of all others, so I certainly can’t help that I have no concern to spare for anyone else. And neither, of course, can I help that the man I love is not so much a man as… an agent of the apocalypse. It’s not my fault Daren would burn the world to ash and rubble, though, so why should I be blamed for caring more about my own lover than the deaths of millions of people I’ll never even meet? Really, when I think about it that way, my love and loyalty for Daren in the face of all this makes me a good person, not a bad one. Is that so hard to understand?
I’ve never understood Romeo and Juliet. Am I supposed to be touched and sorrowed by a love so passionate these two shortsighted children were willing to kill themselves because of its supposed end? Should I weep with the knowledge of a bond which transcends life and death, trial and tribulation? Because I’ll admit, my eyes are dry. I just don’t get what’s so heartbreaking about two fools who chose the easy way out. That’s not love; that’s cowardice. Love is taking the blade to another’s neck, tilting the poison to another’s lips, protecting that which is yours by striking out at whatever may come to claim it from you, or you from it. There’s no promise of reunion in the afterlife or blessing bestowed for the ultimate sacrifice; there is only what victory you can wrest with blood and sweat and tears in this life. If I were to lay down my life for the man I love it’d have to be because of another’s sword in my breast or another’s bullet through my temple. Nothing less will ever take me from his side.
How pathetically dysfunctional we are. I know Daren too well, yet not the part that truly matters. He knows me too well but refuses to employ that knowledge when he needs it most. Would it change anything, I wonder, if we could switch places? If just for one day he could reside in my body and I in his? At least then Daren would understand the longing that cripples me, the ache of loneliness in my chest each time he turns away. I wouldn’t have to find words to describe the unnameable depression weighing me down. And in Daren’s body I could experience firsthand the physical pain and emotional trauma which torment him relentlessly until he lashes out or retreats. I could bear witness to his hell of nightmares and memories so that I know better how to combat their grim effects. I suppose it wouldn’t be a fair trade in some ways, but I don’t care. I would give anything to take my lover’s pain into myself for even just one day. One day with his pain, with his burdens, with his memories and madness, so he can be free of them for a time. I want to understand why he flinches from my touch as much as I want him to understand why I have to try to bridge that gap anyway. We’re pathetic, yes, and dysfunctional, but maybe that’s why we belong together.
We are not men; we are myth and metaphor incarnate. The sun and moon, the shield and sword, life and light and dark and death. Our words are scripted, our actions preordained. When I hold him the comfort of his weight is tempered by the knowledge that one day he will be taken from my arms. With every kiss or caress I wonder which one of us will break the other first. Like summer into winter, winter into summer, we are in constant motion toward some familiar beginning or inevitable end. Even our very struggle against this fate is written into the script of our existence. We are not men; we are so much more, so much less.
If I stick a knife through your eye, beloved, will the darkness within come spilling out to fill our lungs and drown us both?
If I put a bullet through your temple, darling, will the nightmares inside break free and raze the world as they’ve razed your mind?
If I crack open your sternum, angel, will the ice in your heart creep out to cover us over in an everlasting winter, freeze us in a grotesque tableau?
If I cut your throat, dearest, will the screams you’ve choked down all these years finally burst forth in a banshee’s wail to haunt me in waking and dreaming?
If I slit your wrists, lovely, will the sickness coursing through your veins infect my blood as well, rotting me from the inside out?
Would I drown for you? Be razed and frozen, haunted and rotted, for you? Oh, I would, Daren, I would infect myself with your madness to know just once the richness of your blood, the tremble of your whimper, the wet warmth of your last dying gasp. Let me cut you, my love. Let me break you. Let me rend and tear and open you wide. Let me know you inside and out.
[ Ah, another solstice. A good excuse for Tanim’s darker side to come out and play. There’s as fine a line between love and obsession as between the Sun’s heat warming one’s skin and burning it to a crisp… ]
I dream sometimes about the things that might have happened to him. Sometimes I’m standing by, watching in the helpless immobility of the dream as Daren is beaten, brutalized, broken down and open. Sometimes I’m witnessing this violence from inside, trapped within Daren’s panicked, paralyzed mind, and no matter how much I long to lash out in defense I can do nothing to protect myself. To protect him. Even waking to find Daren safe at my side does nothing to ease the crushing sense of hopelessness that lingers after the nightmare’s end.
When I wake from those disorienting dreams I want to rouse Daren and swear I would have come. If I had known, if I had been able, I would have put myself between him and anyone who wished him harm. I would have taken those blades myself, or I would have turned them on his assailants. I would have done anything to keep Daren safe. I want to promise him a thousand times that it would have been different had I been there to rescue him from his own fate.
I don’t tell Daren about these dreams, though, because I wasn’t there. I didn’t arrive in time. I came long after he had already retreated inside his aching body and damaged mind. It does no good for me to tell him what I would have done when it changes nothing for him now. I can’t undo his trauma; I can only try to heal as much as I can, even when I know so little about his past. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough.
You allow me to call you darling and beloved, lovely and dearest. Those are safe, generic terms. But the other names? The ones I would speak in the dead of the night, in the heat of our moment? Those you do not wish to hear. You fear the burden and implication of their truth. I cannot help but think them, though, and so silently I name you angel and master, mad king and damaged lover. You are my world, my reason, my entirety. Would it be so wrong to say such things to you? To tell you I am hollow, having surrendered my heart to you? To make you understand what glorious, terrible creature you are in my eyes? You are more addictive and thrilling and torturous than any drink, any drug, any night of illicit passion. Why deny the control I gladly relinquish to you? If you would but let me breathe even one of your forbidden names against your skin I know I can prove to you who and what you truly are.
I guess there’s a theme in certain romance novels where a supposedly straight man doesn’t realize he’s a lover of men until someone comes into his life who stirs feelings he’s never experienced before. He’s unsure of it at first, maybe even outright denies the whole thing, but it’s a romance novel so you know everything works out in the end and they’re together forever. Lucky bastards.
Our story isn’t like that, though. I mean, the beginning is the same: I was married when Daren and I met, despite the fact that I’d never felt any real desire toward anyone, female or male. It was a marriage of convenience, of status, and I knew Catherine had no more love for me than I her; or, if she loved something, it was my last name and my connections. I tried to do right by her anyway, though, because all I wanted was to be the man my family and society asked me to be. My own happiness, or lack thereof, didn’t really figure in. It’s no wonder Daren’s mere friendship felt like the first spark of light in the years of dreariness that encompassed my life.
Whatever was between us didn’t stay just friendship for long. The more time we spent together, both inside and outside of the office, the more I realized my longing to see him had gone beyond the normal or appropriate. For his part, Daren tried his best to hide his own feelings, but soon neither of us could help the flirtation which quickly moved from harmless to serious. And the serious flirting quickly became… more than flirting. We both knew it was a mistake but I’d never been nearly as happy as when I was in Daren’s arms. I soaked his affection and acceptance up like a desert that had never known rain.
Daren changed everything. For once I felt something more than apathy. Even the burden of secrecy paled before the electrifying wonder of this strange new thing we shared. We never meant for it to become more than an amusement, a dangerous fling, but love doesn’t care if you make other plans. It felt like we were fated, and I would have done anything for Daren, would have sacrificed anything to remain with him. For the first time in my life I wanted something for myself and almost had it in my grasp.
It’s the ending of our story that’s different, because of course we don’t live in a romance novel. I didn’t leave my hellish wife to be with the man I love forever. He didn’t choose to remain my cherished secret out of love and loyalty. No, I woke one morning after a precious, stolen night together to find the bed cold and empty at my side. When I got to the office he’d already given notice and removed every trace of his presence. Empty, too, was his apartment, and his phone rang endlessly without ever reaching voicemail. I don’t know where he went. I don’t know where he is now. All I know is Daren made the decision to cease our illicit liaison and that’s where our story ends. I’d be lying if I said I hope Daren is happy wherever he is; all I hope is that he regrets his choice as much as I regret giving him the chance to make it.
The second night, when the worst has passed and I no longer think I may lose Daren, he’s struck by another nightmare. There’s little I can do to ease the attack but murmur senseless comforts as I hold him close, afraid that otherwise he’ll hurt himself in his thrashing. I doubt he’s even aware of my touch or voice but I can’t bear to let him suffer alone. When he’s well enough to care for himself again he’ll have a choice to stay or go, but for now I’m all he has to keep the fever from taking him completely. When the terror finally subsides and the thin, feverish figure in my arms stills, I lay him gently back in bed. He shudders and turns into the pillow yet never wakes. It’s better that way; I know I’ve crossed a line, invaded a privacy Daren holds sacred, and the less he remembers of this, the better.
I’m at the door when Daren speaks, his voice a hoarse rasp. “What do you want from me, Tanim?” The question closes my throat and for a moment I can barely breathe, let alone speak. Swallowing down a hard lump of emotions I don’t even want to touch right now, I turn my head enough to glimpse Daren’s pale outline in the darkness. Even though his expression is lost in shadow I can feel the weight of his regard. What do I want? How can he ask me that? How can he expect me to answer truthfully? Not for the first time I wonder how much Daren suspects, if I’m as transparent as I feel. Is that why he cut off contact weeks ago?
“I don’t want anything from you, Daren,” I finally manage to mutter, trying to at once hide the quaver in my voice and feign a lightness I can’t feel. Daren makes a weak sound that might be a laugh or might simply be another ragged cough. The rattling in his lungs is worrisome but I have other concerns right now. “You won’t ask anything of me, you mean,” he corrects. “Wanting is different. What do you want from me?”
Even delirious and half-starved, he’s still a clever bastard. For just a second I allow myself to admit, at least silently, everything I’ve wanted from Daren for so long: not only friendship but companionship, love, intimacy. I want to surrender my body and heart and soul to him. I want to be his, and for Daren to be mine. I want so much I can never have and so I reply with careful diplomacy, “I only want what you would offer me willingly.” It’s as close to the truth as I can come without revealing myself. I would never ask anything more of him, no matter what I long for.
“Tanim…” Daren’s sigh is heavy with exhaustion and something close to disappointment, and I hate myself for the way I shiver upon hearing my name on his breath. “Please,” I know my voice trembles as I turn away but I’m too tired to hold it steady any longer. “Don’t make me say anything more.” As I shut the door behind myself I pray the fever burns this memory from Daren’s mind. I’m not ready to bare my heart to him when the revelation may turn him from me once and for all. He may suspect but until I say the words aloud I can pretend nothing has changed and I can keep this man in my life a few days longer.
precious little pill
what cost brief oblivion?
I shall gladly pay
We don’t fuck tonight, or even touch. There’s a gap between us in bed that our bodies can’t seem to warm and a silence I’m unwilling to break first. I’m lying on my back when Daren finally speaks, his own turned to me so his voice sounds softer than usual.
“I wouldn’t stop you,”
“Stop me?” I’m not sure I want to know what he means but the question comes out before I can think of something better to say. “From leaving,” he supplies. “If you left, I wouldn’t stop you.”
“This is my apartment,” I point out, hoping a little sarcasm can shift the conversation away from what promises to be a wearying discussion. But, “You know what I mean,” Daren sighs, unwilling to honor my attempt at levity. The mattress shifts as he rolls onto his back and whether he means it to or not, his arm comes to rest in the space between our bodies. I resist the urge to trace those fine bones with my fingers as he continues in that flat, steady voice of his, “You can end this any time, Tanim. It’s okay. I’ll honor your choice.”
Okay? It’s okay for me to leave him? It’s okay to abandon this fragile life we’ve forged together simply because things get tough? The thought of returning to the lonely, empty life I barely endured before we met twists my stomach in knots, to say nothing of what Daren would do if he was suddenly on his own again. I’m not sure Daren wants to be touched but I at least need the comfort of warm skin against mine so I lay my hand over his and swear, “You know I wouldn’t. I won’t ever leave you. Why would you even say that?”
“It’s a way out,” he explains, fingers motionless beneath my touch, “that’s all. An easy escape. If the time comes,” though I know he means when the time comes, “just end things. I’ll understand. Don’t feel you have to stay on my account.” Daren’s asking me – no, telling me – to get out before it’s too late to spare myself the heartache. He talks as if I’m only here out of pity or some twisted sense of obligation, as if my love is restricted by caveats and qualifiers. The insinuation would hurt if I thought he actually believed me capable of such disloyalty; instead, it hurts only because it shows how little faith he has in himself.
Fuck this evasive, passive talk. I loop my arms around Daren and drag him into a too tight embrace as I both promise and threaten, “You’re stuck with me, darling. Get used to it.” I expect Daren to twist away at this brazen invasion of his personal space but instead he buries his face against my chest. “I’ll keep pushing,” he mutters, fingers clutching at my body in counterpoint to the feeble warning. “Don’t worry,” I reassure the man I have sworn myself to a hundred times, and would gladly swear so another thousand, “I’m stubborn.” Though it may be my imagination, I think I can feel the curve of a bittersweet smile on Daren’s lips as he replies, “I know you are.”
Sometimes I suspect I use my hunger for touch and submission like a lightning rod, that without such an easy target I would merely find some other reason to condemn myself. It’s like an impulse to find flaws and faults, to punish, to play the martyr, and even before I commit the sin I’m already paying penance. Maybe that’s just who I am – who I’ll always be. Like those people who can’t control the urge to pick at their skin until they bleed, or rip at their hair until it tears off in clumps, I can’t seem to stop scratching at my heart and soul and psyche until I’m shredded inside. It’s not enough to bleed from a single wound; once one weeps blood and rot I move on to dig open another, desperate to keep my fingers busy so they won’t reach instead for a bottle or a pill or the heat of a stranger’s flesh.
In the beginning I was far too shy and tangled up inside to ever meet Daren’s eyes, so at first I just watched his hands. I fell in love with them before I ever knew his name and long before I summoned the courage to strike up some sort of stilted, stumbling conversation. I’d sit with my coffee and watch from across the café as he raised his own cup to his lips, the cuff of his sleeve pulling back just enough to reveal a sliver of thin, pale wrist. I felt like a voyeur but I couldn’t help myself; even that small glimpse sent a thrill down my spine and I couldn’t look away until I’d memorized every graceful curve and line. I’d watch those slender fingers slide around the cup and imagine them twisting through my hair, brushing over my mouth, digging into my skin as they pulled me close. I envied that cup for the sensations it could never appreciate yet for which I longed every night.
I was obsessed, I’ll admit. But I was right, too. Daren’s hands were certainly worth pining for all those hours and days and weeks. Now that they’re mine, or I theirs I suppose, withheld desire is merely foreplay. Of course, every second and minute is still torture – just one I’m willing to suffer.
[ On an unrelated but related note, I'm in such a hard core slump that I kind of want to just crawl into a hole and die. Uurrrrgghhh. ]
Like the moon Daren is in constant motion, always longing to leave, to go dark and disappear. I can feel him awake at my side in the night, rigid with the effort to remain in bed. He wants to run. He needs to run. I think on the surface he believes this impulse stems from the fact that it would be easier if he left, though I’m not sure for whom; me so I don’t have to bear his burdens or him so he can waste in peace. That isn’t the real reason, though, so I suppose it doesn’t really matter if the logic is flawed. I doubt Daren understands why he really longs to escape this life we share, but I do because I’ve succumbed to the same irrational desire. He needs to run because all his life he’s shut himself off from everything, become cold and unfeeling within, and now the safety gained from that withdrawal is no longer an option. Love forces vulnerability, requires submission to a greater force, and even when he retreats inside himself he’s never truly alone; there is a shard of my own heart within him now and no matter where he goes, no matter what he does, he cannot break free. That’s a terrifying concept, I know it is, and so I understand why he feels this compulsion to flee. And he may, one day. I may wake one morning to an empty bed, empty rooms, empty life. Yet even if that bleak morning does come I know he’ll return to me eventually, as the moon must always emerge from darkness to cold light. And when he does I’ll be here still, constant and unchanging as the sun.