When I look in the mirror I see a body that doesn’t feel like mine. A body that contains too many lives, too many loves, too many worlds to be bound to one frail, finite physical form. It’s not that these aren’t my eyes; it’s that my eyes are also emerald green and obsidian black and violent as the ocean in storm. And it’s not that these aren’t my lips; it’s that my lips should also be thinner, sharper, drawn back in a snarl or down in sorrow or up in a smile wicked and cold. I should be taller, thinner, stronger, paler; my hair should be white and black and tangled stiff with sea salt. It’s not that I’m not the girl in the mirror; it’s just that I’m not only her, either. So how can her body feel right, when it doesn’t belong to everyone I am?
Love is the most terrifying force in the universe, capable of tearing us apart on the microscopic level yet leaving us whole on the macroscopic, and I have consigned my heart thrice times over so that in the dark I wonder what have I done, what have I done?
Late at night I used to comfort myself, playing on repeat the same song, prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love, because it made me feel closer to you, like I wasn’t the only weak one and maybe you would love me despite that weakness, but this time it feels like you have left me, have willfully and carelessly broken the fetters with which you bound me to yourselves, and I could fill that holy fount will my blood or tears or heartache and you still would not care, you would not come hold me as I weep because you aren’t those kinds of gods, and I have chosen poorly, haven’t I, to whom I gave my immortal soul?
In the night she asks, “Why did you make me your champion?” and all the answers that come to mind are dissimulation. But she knows me too well to deceive her and so I answer honestly. “Because you are nothing,” I say. “You are no one. You have no name; Mage isn’t your real name, and even the first name I had for you is no longer yours. You are nameless, homeless, ageless. That makes you freer than us. Tanim and Daren are bound by who, by what, they are; the Sun and Moon, brothers and lovers. I am bound by who I am and always will be; my name is not so easily cast aside as yours was. Yet you cannot be bound by anything now. You’re free. That’s why it must be you. That’s why I need you.” I lay in the dark for a while, then add, “I’m sorry. I don’t think I meant it to be this way. It’s just, we all have roles to play. This is yours.” She doesn’t reply. I don’t think she minds, though. She’s walked so many roads for me, and this is just another. Really, I chose her because she has always been my champion. That is who she is.
If you are any city, you’re
New York Las VegasAngeles Soddom Gotham every city that runs on vice, every city full of dark alleys and broken glass, every city that smells like cigarettes and old whiskey and desperate sex, anonymous sex, bruising sex, that doesn’t want to know your name or your secrets because here you’re no one, you have no past and no future, you are every city where the nights last for years and the days taste like yesterday’s hangover.
If you’re any city, you’re Pripyat, city of dust and shadows, of crumbling walls and ghosts in filmy windows, a city so long abandoned it feels unreal, impossible, frozen in the second the world went wrong, an unwanted reminder of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-we, and yet still some brave souls cling to your outskirts, desperate to remain in the place they once loved, to eke out a meager life beside you, even as your corruption slowly alters them from the inside out.
That’s what I thought.