The more I bleed, the more he drinks. Do you suppose there’s an equation to predict which of us will drown first? Blood is thicker, but whiskey burns all the way down. I’ve let my body waste, but he actively tried to destroy his. I wonder: if we could predict the end somehow, would we use that knowledge to change the outcome? Would he, knowing I might leave him behind, hasten his own demise? Would I, fearing to be alone again, attempt to tip the scales? Maybe it’s best this way, this camaraderie of shared misery, this fellowship of blood and pain. Maybe if such an equation did exist, could give an accurate sum, we’d only spend the time remaining trying to equal out both sides.
I have always been the Ice Prince: stark, barren, unyielding. It is a vast and empty land over which I rule, shadow and nightmare in shades of silver. Yet now you the Ice Queen too bear the iron crown, I see. Welcome to the kingdom, dear sister. Yes, we are kin, of a kind. We’ve the same black ice blood sluicing through our veins, the same bleak winter in our lungs. Your inheritance is ice and indifference, stone and storm. Did you think otherwise, when the depths and dark places have always called to you? There are no promises or platitudes here; only cold, hard, cutting truths. We can never offer enough, never fill the cup of longing, never sate need nor want. We are inert, hollow, unfeeling things, and even when we give it is always inadequate. We are inadequate. Frozen hearts, wasteland souls, impenetrable and deceitful. Do not disagree, you have carried this shard of knowledge in your breast all your life. After all, are the stars not hard and distant, no matter how brightly they shine? Constant as the Moon is fickle, yet both shed the same cold light, dead light, false light, are unobtainable all the same. So you. So I. So we. Do not deny the crown, Lady, should it slip and become your noose.
Do you know why the Moon first rose up to slay his lover the Sun? Some say it was sorrow or jealousy or fear that moved his hand, or that the Moon had gone mad in the darkness and did not know himself again until he knelt with the dying Sun in his arms. There may be a fragment of truth in all of these – does love not encompass all such emotions? – but I have glimpsed another sliver of truth. Perhaps the Moon raised his blade not to punish or sacrifice his lover the Sun, but to spare him. To save him. Perhaps the Moon wanted only a way for them to never be parted, to cease the chase which kept the lovers forever a horizon’s length away, and did what he must to change their fate. Can you deny that it is better to perish in your lover’s arms, rather than never feel their embrace at all? At least in death the Sun remained with the Moon, as the Moon would remain with the Sun when his turn came to embrace the blade and spill his silver blood. An ill fate, yes, but no worse than the agony of constant separation.
You must hold tight to the thing you love, for it can be taken from you without warning. Do you understand, now? I cannot allow you to be taken from me. It is better, this, than leaving our luck to fate. I spared you the blade, though, and I doubt you ever tasted the powder. (Though I wonder, darling, if even knowing, you would have drank anyway?) The Moon required suffering for his pact, but not I. You need not bleed, darling, only drift to sleep and fear neither pain nor loneliness; I am with you in this, as in all things, and I will hold you safe. You are mine, now, and only mine.
“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?”
This city keeps its own. The people here may die, but never truly leave; we are preserved with every cigarette inhalation of formaldehyde, every intoxicated exhalation of alcohol and ammonia. Each ingested breath of poison preserves another layer of our flesh, like mummies in a catacomb of glass and steel, huddled around our little flames in paupers’ graves. We shrivel, harden, turn to leather and dried bone encasing soft organs shrunk to black stones, but the city will never allow us to dissolve into dust and escape on an errant breeze. This is our eternity, spent clutching at our hearts in rigor mortise while the world stares in passing.
You ask why I flinch from you? I flinch because in the moment I sometimes forget where or when or who I am. I flinch away instinctively to keep you from glimpsing bruises or scabs or welts, all the shameful marks and reminders of my subjugation. I forget such physical evidence has long since faded because every time I look in the mirror it’s all I can see. Understand, darling: there is no future in my eyes. There is no present. I only see the past, relive fragments of memory or nightmare as if they’re all I’ve ever known and all I ever will. Can you blame me for my shame? Can you blame me for fearing you’ll turn from me in disgust if you see how tainted, how damaged, I am? Yours aren’t the first hands to touch me, and some things can’t be wiped from flesh or memory.
“I’m scared. I’ve done it before, haven’t I?”
Do you see what you’ve done to him?
“I remember… I remember how the rope felt around my neck; how the blade felt slicing into my flesh. How the metal against my temple was so cold and the gun so heavy in my hand. I can remember, and yet I can’t. I don’t understand.”
The memories leak through, you know, like radio frequencies bleeding into each other. No wonder we feel like madmen.
“I’m afraid I’ll do it again.”
And he will. He always will. Are you proud of this, the spill of blood and tears? Is it poetic enough for you?
“I wasn’t always this damaged. Why is this happening to me? What did I do?”
Yes. What did he do? What did we do to deserve this?
[ I know it’s silly to be afraid of one of your own fictional characters, but fuck Daren’s scary when he’s mad at me. ]
I wondered, in the beginning, what you saw in me. Not beauty, of course, or grace, passion, possibility. Certainly not a future. I thought perhaps the challenge intrigued you, but you remained long after I assumed you’d lose interest. So why me? What did you see? What could you want from someone so lacking?
I understand now, of course; you’re an addict. Addicted to guilt, to shame, to lust and loathing and longing. Addicted to pain and intoxication, masochism and asceticism. You’re addicted to anything that punishes you or lifts you for even a moment out of your detested body. So of course you’d be drawn to me. I am your greatest punishment, aren’t I?
Like a strange, warped mirror, somehow I showed you the self you could be with my help, the hideous new forms your addictions could take under the twisted influence of your love for me. You knew what I would deny you and what I would force on you without consent; what I would reject and take at will. How did you know?
How did you know?
Perhaps an addict can always recognize a new stimulus.
Do you know how often people disappear? How easy it is to snatch someone from their life and vanish them away forever? Every day. Every hour. Every minute. Gone. Gone. It’s so easy. Yet hope persists among those whose loved ones have been taken; a hope that somewhere these people still exist, that the world has not swallowed them whole but temporarily misplaced them and they may one day return to fill the ache of their absence. A false hope, this. Comforting and useless. The vanished loved ones are dead. Their bodies lay in ditches and dumpsters, at the bottoms of basements and lakes and ravines. Even if they live and by some miracle find their way home, the ones they were are dead. You do not return the same, if you return at all. You are still in your grave. You are always in your grave. Once you are stolen, you can never return. You are gone. Gone.
Do you know why you succumb always to violence, my love? Why you strike so willingly to draw blood and tears and apologies? Why need cripples you like an addict? You are unsophisticated, darling. You’re vulgar. Crude. Primitive. You are ruled by your baser instincts, your hunger and lust and envy. You take what you want and destroy what you cannot take. No grace in you, no, nor patience or honor. You’re no more than a feral dog biting blindly with foam-flecked fangs. Intimidating? Hardly. You’re pathetic.
I have never raised my hand against you, dear beast. I know where that path leads, and it leads nowhere good for me. I am no match for you in brute strength, but what I lack in muscle I more than surpass in wickedness. My weapons are sharpened words, frozen silences, aching absences. My power lies in merciless truth and cruel deceit, quick cuts and slow bleed outs. I am refined. Elegant. Precise.
I am dangerous.
Tell me, my sweet – do you think the hound can stand against the serpent? Do you think the hound can sever the serpent’s head from its body before poisoned fangs sink into its flesh? Can mere brawn trump agility, blind instinct best cold calculation?
Let us test that theory, beloved. The winter solstice approaches.
[ Written while listening to Johnny Cash’s song “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” on repeat because this video is bad ass. ]
I can hear your footsteps on the stairs. You’re not nervous yet. Why would you be? No, you have no reason, you who place so much misguided faith in a cruel world. Leave it to me to shatter all your fragile perceptions. I’ve always been good at that, I guess.
I hear the key in the lock, now, the turn of the knob, hear you push open the door and place one foot upon the threshold. You must freeze, then, temples pounding like a panicked animal sensing danger. Something’s wrong, isn’t it? The heavy air tastes of fear and blood. As you move through each room, searching for the source of your discomfort, you long to call out – a question, perhaps, or just my name – but can’t find a voice with which to speak.
And then you’re in the doorway and I can hear your sharp gasp as you go rigid. You shake your head, eyes glazed with alarm, refusing to believe, convinced this must be a dream. Yet even your worst nightmares aren’t this detailed, are they? No, even in dream you couldn’t possibly fathom something this traitorous. This cruel.
“D-Daren…?” You stumble forward and fall to your knees, moaning incomprehensible agony, and I’m dimly aware as you gather me into your embrace, body pressed close as if I will fade completely. You’re sobbing against my hair, voice a feverish panic. “Why? Why?” You demand answers for this crime, this betrayal, this useless bid for freedom, but I can barely hear you now. The blood on my skin is cooling, staining your hands, our clothes. Your words trickle away to pitiful whimpers.
“Please, darling, don’t leave me…” You cling to me as darkness descends. While my blood pools beneath us you confess your love for me, your need, and only now do I realize with what thoughtless abandon I have thrown away your grace. How foolish could I have been? How blind my heart? It is only now, bleeding out in your arms, sinking in your tears, that I finally understand.
Fuck, I don’t want to die…
[ Another angsty high school poem turned angsty prose piece. There’s only so much I can do to fix it up and stay true to the, ah... source text. XD ]
I am my own ghost
haunting my own decayed flesh
never free from pain
I am dead and yet I breathe
suffer and yet still persist
tainted by my touch
your love makes you a leper
He’s never had a name to say before; his previous encounters were all anonymous by necessity or preference. Mine Tanim breathes now like a prayer, a mantra, moaning softly with the rhythm of our union.
His breathless voice binds me to this moment more firmly than the fingers gripping my shoulders. I’d never thought about the power of names before I met Tanim. It was easy to forget I had one sometimes, so rarely did I offer it and rarer still did I hear it on someone else’s tongue. But I remember now, oh yes. Tanim recognizes my name for the gift it is and utters it with wonder, love, honor.
Names have such power. Tanim savors the thrill of murmuring mine with each trembling exhalation but I withhold his until the very end, until he’s gasping in climax beneath me and we can’t possibly be any closer, any more intimate or vulnerable, and then I press the precious words into his flesh.
We got the fairy tale wrong. It’s supposed to be Beauty and the Beast. See, Beauty is able to look past the Beast’s gruesome visage, even his frightening manor and actions, and to the goodness inside. Beauty’s love acts like a mirror to show him the man he can be, the prince locked safely inside the heart of a wild thing, and at the end of the tale the Beast is freed of his curse and they live happily ever after. But Tanim and I aren’t like that. We’re not Beauty and the Beast; we’re just two beasts of a different kind. I can see the goodness inside Tanim, beneath the fear and the doubt and the self-loathing, but I’m too tarnished to mirror it back to him. There might be something worthy inside me as well, a flicker of warmth within this cold barrier, but Tanim is too gentle to break the ice apart and set me free. We may be in love but we’re both enablers and so there’s little hope for a transformation from beast to man, monster to saint. Instead, we feed our beasts with excuses, platitudes, comforts. We tell them they are good. We tell them they are beautiful. In our eyes, they are.
We argue too much. “You’re not mad,” you say, and I know you’re not lying because the honesty in your eyes is painful to face. But I am mad, darling, so if you’re not lying then you must be blinded by stubbornness. Your denial is in itself a kind of madness, a compulsion, and I wonder if you’re merely fooling yourself to protect us both. Maybe you, my dear, my love, suffer a madness not so unlike my own, and to deny your own brokenness you must deny mine as well. Does madness love company as much as misery? Is that why we are forever drawn to one another? If so, then it is better to be mad together than alone, and better to be honest in our madness than driven to further depths by self-deceit. We are a simple case of folie à deux, beloved. A madness shared by two.
[ It’s probably not a good thing that watching NBC’s new show Hannibal gives me writing ideas, eh? But it’s so good. ]
When I wake in the middle of the night Tanim’s back is pressed to mine, a solid warmth in the darkness I’d never have guessed I would find so comforting. We’re still shy and hesitant with our affections during the day but Tanim seems to gravitate toward me when he’s asleep. No matter what positions we begin in, I always wake to find my companion curled against my side, a possessive arm often thrown over my chest or back. Moments like this offer a brief glimpse into the lonely, needy part of Tanim he tries so hard not to show. He told me once that he only wanted from me what I was willing to give and it’s touching how careful he is not to cross that line. He would never pressure me to take our relationship any further yet I know he longs to submit himself to me. It’s the ultimate expression of love, he says, but he never asks me outright to take part in such an intimate act. I doubt he even considers it a possibility for us, guarded and damaged as I am. But could it be? Could I be that person for him?
Tanim stirs in his sleep at my side, burying his face in the pillow as a dreamy smile curls the corners of his mouth. His blissful expression makes my heart flutter and my stomach clench. While I brush a lock of hair from his forehead I wonder what I’m willing to give this man who has already promised so much of himself to me. Am I ready to both give and take, I who have never wanted anything from anyone? I imagine what it would be like to undress Tanim, to run my fingers over his warm skin and touch him in places I’ve never even allowed myself to think about before. Could I do this? Could I take him in my arms and make him mine? Could I sacrifice my own privacy to give Tanim the opportunity to open himself to me?
My hand drifts down to Tanim’s hip and he curls closer as if my caress translates to some pleasant occurrence in his dream. And it probably does; he’s not such a skilled liar that I don’t know he dreams of us together, has fantasized about the very act I’m currently struggling to accept. Even this small step makes my cheeks burn, though it’s hard to tell whether they flush out of nervousness or desire or something else entirely. It feels good to touch him like this. A little strange, but good. Right. It feels like my hand has always belonged here.
Just a few weeks ago – fuck, a few days ago – that thought would have disturbed me. I’m starting to think I’m not the same man I was when I met Tanim. After all, I’m not one to give or take willingly, but with Tanim none of the old rules seem to apply. I think I can do this. Moreover, I want to do this. I want to give Tanim the love and safety and acceptance he needs to be completely vulnerable, to in turn offer as much of himself as he can. I want him to be mine in every sense of the word.
I’m not quite bold enough to act on my decision just yet, though. Instead of letting my hand drift down to touch more private regions of my companion’s body, I loop my arm around his waist and draw him close. He wakes enough to return the embrace, nuzzling his face into my chest and muttering my name, but otherwise Tanim remains in contented slumber. And this, too, feels right. Tanim belongs here in my arms. He belongs with me. To me. And soon I’ll prove that to him.
I’m already lying awake in the darkness when I hear the tell-tale clink of glass. The sound’s faint but I’ve learned to recognize it as a signal to intervene and so I gather my scattered clothing, dress, and pad barefoot through the midnight gloom. Ambient city light illuminates the living room well enough to spot Tanim’s dark figure passing back and forth before the tall windows. I perch on an arm of the couch and wonder aloud, “Does the pacing really help you sleep?”
“No, but the drinking does,” When Tanim catches the frown on my face and my pointed glance to the full glass in his hand he adds sheepishly, “I’m joking. This is my first, I promise.” But it isn’t a joke, not really, and we both know it. I nod to the couch. “Want to talk?” Tanim slides his gaze away from mine so his eyes won’t betray him as he offers the weak excuse, “It’s a conversation we’ve had before. What’s the point?” I only shrug and settle onto the couch, patting the cushion in invitation. “I don’t mind. You listen to me complain about the same things over and over, too.” I assume Tanim will brush off my offer, claim he’s fine and that I should go back to bed, but after a moment’s hesitation he acquiesces and sinks onto the couch with a heavy sigh. While he stares into his glass I sit in silence, trying to exude the same supportive patience Tanim has so often provided me in my own times of struggle. It’s the least I can offer when I’ve no true solution to his problem.
“I…” Tanim stumbles, fingers clenching around the glass, then closes his eyes and lets out a second shaky sigh. When he speaks his words are chosen with great care to keep his voice steady. “I truly don’t believe there’s anything perverse in my desires now, so why…” he swallows, “why do I still experience the revulsion? The loathing?” Now Tanim glances back up to me, searching my eyes for an answer or perhaps merely the comfort of understanding. His own churn with raw desperation as he asks, “Why do I keep slipping back into this old pattern? I feel selfish, like I’m not even grateful for what I have now or how far I’ve come. How far we’ve come. Why can’t I shake it once and for all?”
“Oh, darling,” I take the glass from his fingers and set it carefully on the floor. Tanim doesn’t protest, only lets his hands hang limp until I capture them in my own. “Of course you’re grateful. You prove to me a hundred times a day how grateful you are. This thing is a part of you, Tanim, a brokenness like my own. You can never be completely free but that doesn’t mean you’ve let it defeat you.” His hands tremble in mine and I draw him close to soften the bite of my words, true though they may be. “It’s okay to let yourself hurt tonight, love,” I murmur into his hair as he rests his head against my chest. “I’m here. In the morning you won’t feel this way. It’ll pass; it always passes. You know that.”
“Two steps forward, one step back, huh?” Tanim manages a tired, bitter laugh as I parrot his own words back to him and from the way he relaxes in my arms I know the worst of this night has passed. I look to the untouched glass of whiskey – a small victory, but a victory nonetheless – then kiss the crown of my lover’s head. “At least we’re moving forward.”
Don’t bother knocking; you won’t wake him tonight. There are two bottles on the nightstand, one of drink and one of drugs, and like Sleeping Beauty he will be lost to a long and dreamless slumber before he wakes again. This medicated coma is a temporary escape from the past and present, a postponement of the inevitable future. The years stretch on in both directions, featureless and repetitive, but here in this fleeting respite the depressants numb both body and mind until he drifts in a senseless darkness. It isn’t comforting, yet neither can he remember for what he needs comfort in the first place, so this choice seems the lesser of two evils. He’ll wake eventually to the brightening dawn or fading dusk, it hardly matters which when all hours feel the same to him, but for now he’s far away from the aching emptiness. It isn’t enough, but it’s something.
“When will I stop having to prove myself to you?”
Eyes bleak, voice hard, Tanim spits the accusation in my face. His lips twist in a sneer but I can’t tell which emotion dominates, the rage or the misery. Is it better in this moment to honor his trust by telling the truth, no matter how painful it may be, or would a well-meaning lie ease us away from this edge on which we find ourselves suddenly balanced? I know which answer he wants but it’s not one I can give. I won’t lie to him this time and so I’ve nothing to say, nothing to offer, and when I don’t reply Tanim drops his gaze to the hand clenched white-knuckled around my wrist. I can see the struggle in his eyes between the need to vent his wounded anger and the desire to give in this time as well, to just let the moment pass so we can go back to being unhappy together instead of apart.
“Right,” Tanim exhales and the anger seems to dwindle to mere exhaustion, the inferno cooled to a burning coal. “Fine.” His fingers unwrap one by one, as if he’s loathe to relinquish this one chance to demand answers, to be the one in control for once, but then my wrist is free and he turns from me; retreating or leaving me behind, I can’t be sure. Either way, I know he’ll push this moment away. Tonight we’ll still sleep in the same bed and we may even hold each other, albeit in a heavier silence than usual. But the words will still linger, both the said and unsaid, and neither can be taken back.
“I didn’t mean for it,” he said. “I’m sorry.” Who does that? Who professes their love to someone, then apologizes for it in the same breath? That’s when I knew I had made a mistake. I realized then that all these months I had underestimated the unhappiness in Tanim’s eyes. I had assumed, perhaps because he wished so desperately for me to believe this façade, that Tanim could handle himself. I suspected from the beginning that he was a troubled man but I thought that since he made it this far he was in no true danger; miserable, yes, but harmless in his misery. Yet watching as he fought back tears and said he would give me everything he had, that it didn’t matter if I returned his love, I finally understood the depth of his self-loathing. In his mind there was no possibility I might desire him, only the unshakable dread that his longing would repulse me and I would turn away.
I wanted to ask “Do you really think I’m that cruel?” or perhaps “Are you really that dense?” but even those words stuck in my throat, to say nothing of the ones I had wanted to speak now for weeks. Instead I drew Tanim close and kissed him, pressing all the stubborn words trapped on my lips into his mouth, letting him read them like braille. I was cruel, it’s true, to wait so long, and I swore in that moment Tanim would never have another reason to hold his own love in such low regard. That kiss was an apology and a promise and a confirmation of who we were and what we could become; everything I couldn’t say to him but needed him to understand, for my sake and for his.
He doesn’t speak as I slide the skin-warmed ring from his finger and inquire softly, “Why do you let them bind you like this?” Next I loosen the silk tie and toss it onto the floor, and it seems his chest swells with a relieved inhalation. “Why do you let them control you? Are you nothing but their puppet?” Now his shirt, button by button until the cloth slips off tense shoulders. “No, Tanim,” and his belt, his pants, until there is nothing left between us but bare skin, “this is who you are. Right here.” His body is eager and pliant as I press him down, hands sliding from his shoulders to capture both wrists. I can feel his hunger as he moves beneath me, desperate to mold our bodies close as possible, and yet still he argues, “I can’t…” so I tighten my fingers around his wrists and lean over, feeling the bones shift as they take my weight. “You mean you shouldn’t.” His lips part for mine as I shape the words against his mouth. “Forget them, Tanim. In the morning you’ll go back to that world. Tonight you’re mine.” The groan rising in his throat softens to a sigh and he breathes, “Please…” as he strains to taste any inch of reachable skin along my jaw, down my throat, across the wing of my collarbone. He doesn’t say please what but he doesn’t need to. I know what he wants, what he needs. Here he is mine; mine in the darkness, in the heat of our entwined limbs, in the silence stirred only by our wordless moans, and only I can give him the release he craves. This is where he belongs, not in that other world of judgment and inescapable duty. In the morning he will return there but tonight he is mine and I will make the most of the precious, fleeting hours we share.
“You are… stunning…” His words fall hot against my chest, heartbeat fluttering beneath my fingers as I touch the damp hairs curled at the nape of his neck. Instead of replying I kiss the crown of Tanim’s head and let the gesture speak for itself. As he shifts closer I wonder if anyone else has ever seen his true self, this loving, vulnerable, beautiful creature. But of course they haven’t; even Tanim barely realized what it was he longed for, at least not until we began… all this. No, no one else has seen the man who rests in my arms, as relaxed beneath these thin hotel sheets as in the most expensive suite in the city. I have the honor and privilege of being the first and only person to see Tanim for who he truly is. It’s sad, really, when I think about it. He has friends, family, a wife, yet none of them have ever bothered to look past his fixed mask of normality to the wounded man inside. I know who he is, though, and who he could become if he only had the chance.
I can’t tell him which choice to make. It isn’t my place, not when the role I play in his life is relegated to that same strict secrecy. Yet he’s tearing himself to pieces trying to live two lives, forced to deny the man he truly is except in the brief stolen moments we share – moments that must inevitably come to an end. This farce can’t be worth the sacrifice required to maintain the lie. I know I could make him happy, or at least happier than he’s ever been living the life of someone who doesn’t exist. He should choose me. He should choose himself. He should choose us.
But I know he won’t.
branded by desire
leper, deviant, outcast
why remain condemned?
throw yourself to the wolves
at least our bite you expect
[ Wrote this while listening to The Pit by Silversun Pickups. Not quite sure this is what I meant to write to go along with the song, but I think it fits anyway. ]
he would follow me
by knife, perhaps, or by rope
love makes fools of us
in the dark days we used blades to wound each other and measured our victories in warm blood, in the slowing of heart beats, and claimed the final struggling breath as a token of war; but now we strike with words that cut twice as deep and bleed out something far more precious, our triumphs the averting of eyes and trembling of lips which can shape no retaliation yet gape as if for breath that will not come
There comes a moment in every man’s life when he must decide between the easy way and the hard. It seems I have faced more than my fair share of these moments and my preference has always been to choose the path of least resistance. Not out of laziness, I assure you, or uncertainty, but simply because the leaf which allows itself to flow with the river’s current worries far less than the one striving for shore. It is safer to become an anonymous component of the greater whole than draw attention by pushing upstream.
This, too, was the easier path, though I doubt the man at my feet would agree. He took the hard way every time; that’s why we would never have worked. We were always pulling each other in different directions like prisoners chained at the wrist, one wanting to run and the other to stand and fight. Sometimes the only solution in a case like that is to hack off a hand and be on your way. Might hurt, sure, but it’s better than being bound to someone else for the rest of your life, vulnerable to their influence, their fallibility, their loves and fears and cruelties. That’s the ultimate hard path and not one I desire to walk any longer.
“It’s easier this way, darling,” I explain, forgoing metaphor or elaboration; there isn’t much point in either now. His reply is the bubbling of blood out his lips, the slight twitch of fingers that may long to wrap around my neck or pull me close for a final embrace, who knows? Those expressive eyes are already dulling over, fear and confusion faded to a kind of understanding, or perhaps simply resignation. Maybe he does understand. A knife in the chest tends to clarify things, or at least clear out all the unnecessary thoughts and worries you’ve held onto for so long. Maybe now he’s seeing how much easier, how much better it is to let go, to stop fighting. Not that he has much choice.
“Love’s a bitch,” The sticky blade in my hand feels strangely light for all a man’s life gleams and drips from its edge. “One way or another it ruins you. I’m just hurrying things along.”
[Another winter solstice, another bloody death for poor Tanim. You gotta love tradition.]
“The first time I let him suck me off was behind the locked door of his office. He called me beautiful and I knew he meant it. Did he ever mean that when he said it to you?”
Sometimes, in the night mostly, I rehearse what I’ll say to her when the truth is finally revealed. The tone depends on my mood at the moment, rational or bitter or triumphant, gloating or pitying even, but most times I like that start best. A little harsh, maybe, but in the middle of the night when I’m alone in bed, the sheets cold on either side and the apartment so empty and silent, I don’t feel particularly charitable. So she spent nights alone, wondering, waiting? Well, so did I, and suffered more through each one than she did in all the years of her sham marriage. She can feel embarrassed and betrayed when the time comes but she gets what she wants out of Tanim: money, social status, connections. All I want is Tanim himself, just him, and I can’t ever really have that. All I get are risked glances, fleeting moments, stolen hours covered by lies. I hadn’t known until him how good a liar I can be if I have something to lose. Still, it’ll all come out eventually. These things always do; why not be prepared? She thinks she has a wicked tongue but I’ve been sharpening mine for months.
“Even if he was never truly mine, he was never really yours, either,” I’ll tell that bitch, “and that’s something at least.”
We’ve had it wrong all these years. You don’t linger as a restless spirit after your death because of some unfinished business or emotion you can’t let go of; you’re forced to remain behind because someone else can’t let go. It’s their grief or anger or fear that holds you, not yours, and you are helpless to change anything. You’ve no voice with which to speak, no hands with which to touch, no way to show them the purgatory they bind you to. You are merely silent witness to a world no longer yours. You ache when they reach for the bottle but it’s a distant ache, just the memory of pain and the hollowness of loss. No, we’ve been wrong to think we’re the ones being haunted; it’s we who keep the ghosts here and mock them with the past they long to abandon.