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.
His lips curl in a sneer as he pulls away, though I cannot tell if the disgust is born from my touch or his unwilling reaction. I know I should ask him what happened in his past to make even a simple caress cause such revulsion. It would help him, at least in the long run, to talk about it, to desensitize himself to the memories. I know firsthand the harder you fight some dark aspect of yourself the more it haunts you; yet face it, accept it, and you render it powerless. But I can’t bear to rip open his old wounds, infected and leaking though they may be. I swore to protect him, to be the one safe, stable, trustworthy aspect of his life. I’m not supposed to cause him agony or remind him of the traumas from which it seems he’ll never be free. If I force him to give voice to all those wretched memories then every time he looks to me they’ll surge back and I’ll become another nightmare, another revenant, another horror he flinches from in loathing. I know my fear is selfish but I spent so many years believing I was a monster – it would break me to truly become one in his eyes. I can’t risk that, even for him.
fallen for winter
his eyes iron, his voice stone
I’m gladly frozen
How is it possible to be both apathetic and ravenous? To feel at once hollow and full of hunger? I know I was not always this brute beast yet I cannot recall the man I might have been before. I am a thing of impulse and extremity, willingly suffering prolonged despair to grasp brief moments of furtive, illicit passion. Even then I’m never filled, though, never completed beyond that fleeting shudder of ecstasy. As sweat cools on my skin already that sense of peace and rightness is draining, and in its absence there remains nothing but aching emptiness. My body bends so easily to another’s will yet I have no power of my own to reign in the desire which drives me to such madness. How will I ever find peace when these baser demands supersede every other want and need?
[ I shouldn't love angsty Tanim, but I do. Oh god I do. ]
I felt no hesitation after that first time and when he drew me down by the fire I surrendered eagerly. Even in my wildest fantasies, numerous and varied as they were, I had never quite given myself leave to imagine he might really share this hunger, let alone act upon it with such intensity. Whatever aches and rug burns I suffered the next morning were worth it for the sight of Daren’s pale skin lit by the flame’s glow, his eyes glittering down at me like hot coals. He’d looked as wild and regal as a god of fire and burned me to ashes like one with lips that melted me, fingers that carved me, hips that pressed and molded me into a shape of his own desire. I had been wrong about him; so blessedly, wonderfully wrong. He was cold, yes, remote and reserved so much of the time, but he harbored a beast kin to my own and saw in me someone worth claiming. And so trembling, gasping, I gave anything he wanted and everything I am to this beautiful dark god. Afterward he chuckled, a sound deep in his throat that made me shiver, and held me as I caught my breath. “It’s different, isn’t it,” he said, a note of wonder and a wealth of meaning in his sparse words. I could only nod; my mouth was busy showing my own wordless thanks.
[ I haven’t written anything from Tanim’s point of view since September? Damn, boy, you gonna let Daren get all the attention? ]
I want to fuck you up; I want to break you down. I want to turn you on and suck you off. I want to loathe you and love you, deny you and fulfill you. Can’t you see it’s an honor, darling? I am this man because of you. I am this man for you. This is the proof of my devotion. I would never hurt someone I didn’t love, after all, and I would never surrender myself to someone who didn’t understand the significance of such submission. A body can be given a hundred times but the will within? That can only be given once, and never taken back.
[ This one has been sitting in my “remnants and fragments” file for a while (too long), so I figured it wasn’t meant to be expanded any further. That happens sometimes. ]
My lover laughs around a sneer, mocking the trembling in his hands, the night terror which has reduced him once again to this wretched state. “Which do you think will go first,” he asks, “my body or my mind?” From where he sits on the cold bathroom tile his gaze lifts, bleak and black, untouched by the cold laughter. “Shall we place bets on the nature of my demise? You would collect in the end no matter what.”
I start to open my mouth but can’t manage an answer; still reeling from the nightmare or not, Daren will sense a lie if I attempt one and detest my cowardice. Yet how can I admit to either of us that, knowing I must lose both, I find myself praying his body fails before his mind? I am more desensitized to the reek of blood on his breath than I am to the gleam of instability in his eyes. Instead of answering I can only shake my head and beg with weary patience, “What do you want from me?” Besides, of course, to push me away so he may die alone, as if mere distance will soften our separate agonies.
“I want you to be a hallucination,” For just a moment that dazed gaze sharpens, pierces me. “Or maybe you already are one…” His eyes narrow as if by concentrating hard enough he can glimpse frayed edges, wavering lines, any evidence that I should not be trusted, that I am nothing more than a kinder version of his mind’s conjured terrors. “How do I know you’re real?”
He thinks he’s clever; I expected this question, though, and at least for this one have an answer. “Because I’m not perfect. If I was only another hallucination, wouldn’t you imagine someone better than me? Someone who isn’t as flawed?” His gaze slides from mine and his mouth twists in an expression I want to interpret as shame or guilt, but with Daren it’s impossible to tell. It occurs to me I will lose him forever before I even learn how to read his face. “You aren’t flawed,” he mutters, grudging but honest. “And you aren’t going mad,” I counter as I kneel on the tile. “No matter how much you want to cling to that excuse.”
The only proof my words do more than slide off his chill exterior is the twitch of his fingers. “It would be easier,” he argues, but the fight has gone out of his voice and I know the desire to hurt and be hurt has passed. Now I can risk touch and so I lay my hand over his, nodding as I agree, “Yes, it would. Now, will you come back to bed?”
“I’m not tired,” Stubborn unto the very end, he shakes his head and feigns a strength he just doesn’t have anymore. I could argue but it’s easier to play along, so instead I head off to the kitchen to make us coffee. When I return with two mugs in my hands, however, Daren’s forehead rests on his drawn up knees and he’s fast asleep. The coffee goes down the sink and I carry him back to bed like a sick child.
The last time I see my lover his eyes glitter with such defiance I fall in love with him a second time. He insists on standing to face the officers whose heavy boot steps precede them up the stairwell, despite the fact he has been bedridden for days and even now trembles on his feet. As the first sharp knock raps against the door I spare a glance and flush hotly at the bitter smirk which draws back his blood stained lips. I am no doctor, but even to my untrained eye it is clear he has little time left. Even if we had not been betrayed, if we had never been forced apart, I would still have lost him in a matter of months, maybe weeks. At least now we go down together, side by side.
There is no second knock. The door swings open and here are the officers we have been expecting, those who have taken so many of our friends and will vanish us away as neatly as all the others. The one who must be the senior, for cruelty and arrogance waft from him like a predator’s musk, barks questions at us but his lackeys never record the answers. He does not care what we say; our word is meaningless against the law which already condemns us as deviants and criminals.
Despite the accusations hurled from the mouths of these men who seek to humiliate us before we are carted away, I find myself strangely calm. Resigned, perhaps, or simply too tired to fear anymore. It is only when one hulking brute lurches toward my lover with a pair of handcuffs in one fist and a cudgel in the other, eyes gleaming with the promise of violence, that my blood suddenly roars in my ears like a thunderstorm. I lose track of myself, my thoughts, my impulses, my control, and become only a body hurtling at the bully who dares harm the man I love. I land one solid blow of my own before I am thrown to the ground, boots striking my legs and back and chest. The thunder becomes crashing waves of pain.
The last time I see my lover it is through teary eyes as I lay stunned upon the floor. A fist buries itself in his stomach but he only laughs around the gasp of pain and spits a glob of bloodied saliva into the face of his assailant. He knows there is no true harm they can do him now, that he is far beyond their hatred, and he wants them to know as well. I have never been more proud of him than in this moment, nor have I ever loved him more fiercely.
I witness then the retaliatory blow which crumples my companion to the ground. The frail, unmoving body I have held against myself through so many nights is the last thing I see before something strikes my temple and I too sink into temporary darkness. When I regain my full faculties again I lay in a small, cold cell, and I am alone.
“I’m sorry; I never meant for it to become this.”
My feeble apology is not half of what he deserves. Beside me my weary muse, my worn metaphor merely shrugs, resigned.
“Character is destiny.”
Should I be proud of the creation who goes willingly to his fate, or ashamed of myself for setting him to that course? Tell me, Lord, which were you?
It was his fault, really. Have we not all at some point or another, staring through the clear glass to its motionless contents within, longed to reach out one finger and let it tip? Have we not all wanted just once to exert our will upon the defenseless and watch the cup tremble, hesitate, then succumb to gravity and tumble down to shatter its ruins upon the counter top? There is such beauty in the whole made undone, the fractured remnants lying useless in a pool of their liquid cargo. From stasis to chaos, chaos to stasis. Beautiful.
His fault, you see. His fault for bearing such porcelain flesh, such carven features, for skin and hair and teeth all tempting canvas white. Any other would have wondered, as I did, how one drop of color might mar or complete that image. Any other would have desired, as I did, to break the vessel and spill forth its precious essence. How can I be blamed when it is he who entices so? Beauty is not meant to remain static lest the eye grow accustomed and therefore bored; it must be in constant change, growth, decay. It was thus with him, for look how through blood and ruin he is transformed beyond the limits of mere mortality.
His fault, in the end, for not understanding. For not seeing soon enough, as I did, his latent possibility, that like the brimming glass he awaited only some force to push him from potential beauty to kinetic glory. My hands served the job well enough, with the tiles’ assistance.
out of love, my love
I will tear you asunder
for love, beloved
I will anoint you in blood
devour and possess you