they don’t know that I carry you everywhere, always, but I want them to, I want them to see you flashing behind my eyes, an anger that isn’t mine, a danger I don’t pose, they should see you somehow, I should cover myself in black ink, the stuff of your lifeblood, I should tattoo your words of bitterness and illfate on every inch of my flesh until I’m covered, overlapped, a Rosetta Stone to decrypt the ages you have lived and died a thousand terrible existences, if I carry your weight on my shoulders and your sorrow in my heart and your rage like a firestorm in my blood then why not my skin, why not your thoughts and threats like graffiti on this vessel to show them I am the scribe, the keeper, the conduit for something so much darker and more terrible and beautiful than myself
After the nightmare ebbs, Tanim holds me close while I tremble and it’s as if his arms are the only things keeping me from physically breaking apart. Without his unyielding embrace I might shatter into so many discordant fragments I could never be made whole again. Would it really be so bad, though, to shatter? To crumble into the separate pieces of myself? A shard of anger, another of bitterness, yet others of fear and pain and claustrophobia? Grief and loathing and exhaustion? They are hardly unified within me; perhaps the pieces are so jagged because I was never meant to be whole in the first place. Perhaps it would be easier to break apart. I doubt even Tanim’s firm hold can keep me together forever, anyway.
Sometimes I forget I am not an old man, weighed down as I am by the chains of regret and guilt. It feels like I have lived a lifetime already; could I really have had a home, friends, family, scant years ago? Could I have really once been the man I now barely remember? I feel so old, yet we are still so young. I’m reminded of this when Daren whimpers and trembles in his fever sleep, face twisted in a misery he otherwise masks. The child he was not so long ago surfaces in these moments, angry and helpless and afraid. No matter how this illness ages him physically, or how his bitterness ages him mentally, he is still young. And that is the part which breaks my heart the most; he finally has a chance at some sort of life, no matter how dysfunctional we may be together, and that life is limited to months. Maybe a year, if we’re lucky – but when are we ever lucky? A year at the utmost and then this one chance is gone. How can we not feel so old when our time is so short?
[ Daren doesn't usually react to things on my side of reality, but something about the story of that imprisoned transgender teenager who escaped from a treatment facility (only to be soon caught) rubbed him the wrong way. Interesting... ]
I carry your lighter in my purse, scuffed and dented silver, the one I like to think you left for me to find, but for what reason? As a sign to wait, to stay faithful despite my doubt? Or to seek you out in alleys that reek of tobacco and piss, in dark places where I am not safe, not wanted? Were you telling me I am necessary, linking me to yourselves with this single found object? Or that I am a beggar at your feet, scrabbling for your castoffs? Were you trying to show me the flame has guttered out or that I should raise my hand and set fire to… what? The world or myself? The past or the present or the future? I have never claimed to know you, specter. I only see what you want me to see. So what were you trying to show me?
Don’t blame him for his choice. I’ve seen what that place does to a man. I’ve seen the ruddy glow of life pale beneath harsh fluorescent lights and ammonia stench. I’ve watched plastic tubes siphon the will to fight back. I wouldn’t have wanted it either, had I known it would do no good; had I any warning or choice or power at all in those final days. I didn’t, though – but you do. So honor his choice. We aren’t meant for our last sight to be cold white walls, the last sound we hear shrill machinery, our last sense a thin mattress and linen washed to tissue paper. We aren’t mean to pass our last moments in a place where our loved ones can’t hold us. Don’t let that place take him from you even before death does.