your face in shadow
your face in shadow
I still have nightmares about that night. Sometimes he collapses and hits the pavement before I can catch him, dying even as I drag him into my arms. Sometimes he’s already dead when I find him, lips blue and eyes glazed. Sometimes he’s still alive but when I set my hand on his shoulder he flinches, lashes out, and the thin little blade finds my chest or my throat or my eyes. Sometimes I bleed out on the wet pavement while he stares down at me, lips curled in a scowl. Sometimes I never find him at all, and all I do is wander through the dark city, desperate and alone.
Bradbury has followed me through the years, both companion and guide, close to my side as any holy book. I have read him in dorm rooms late at night and New Mexican laundromats at high noon; in hotel rooms in Switzerland and Portland; on trains down the continent, planes across the ocean, buses through the city; in the deepest wilderness and in bed by sick, slumbering lovers. I have read him when I needed rekindling, when I needed reminding, when I needed a rescue. I have read him desperately, ravenously, wondrously.
It’s ironic, now that I think about it; in a way, you are my fairy godmother.You revealed yourself to me when I was young and awkward and in need of a guiding hand. You gave me a cloak with which I transformed into the better version of myself: confident, brave, powerful. A little mysterious, too; the character in the shadows whose alliances are suspect, whose past is as unreadable as their gaze. I needed that. I needed to become strong by feigning strength, even if my bravery turned back to rags at midnight. I still do sometimes, actually. I still settle your cloak over my shoulders when the world is too harsh, too bleak, too much to face as myself. I wear your electricity and fearless madness like armor, your confidence my shield and your unrelenting ego my sword. You’re a nontraditional fairy godmother, but then again, I’m a nontraditional heroine.
Daren is like a venomous snake lost in the city. He doesn’t belong here, too wild and dangerous to exist among civilization, yet he has adapted as all predators must. He stays in the shadows, watching and waiting, patient in the way of coldblooded things. Give him a wide berth and he’ll leave you alone; come too close and he’ll strike without warning. No snake has ever shown mercy.
If my mind is a house full of hallways full of doors, then what is yours? I see an ocean, steel gray water stretching in all directions to touch a steel gray sky. There’s nothing to swim toward but if you don’t keep treading water you’ll slip beneath the waves, choking on icy liquid as you thrash and sink. Horrors lurk beneath those waves, just waiting to pull you down, down, down. No wonder you drink; it must be the only way to keep the chill at bay. To forget about the monsters.
If my mind is a house full of hallways full of doors, then what is yours? I see a forest in black and white, like a Polaroid taken at night; white snow, black skeleton trees, darkness pressing in all around. A bleak forest through which you move with a predator’s stealth, silent and alone. An empty forest in which the threat comes not from what may lay in wait within the darkness, but the darkness itself; it would be so easy to get lost within its depths, to walk so long you forgot the path back to yourself. Who knows what you’ve already left behind?