You were the first, weren’t you. Emerging from their caves in the dawn of time, the earliest humans must have blinked tears away as they stared into your brilliance. Huddled at the mouths of those same caves at night, they must have tracked your progress across the awesome night sky. Rising, setting, waxing, waning, you before all else must have first captured the attention of the collective human psyche. Thus you have been in our blood, our bones, our very DNA since we first began preserving our mythology through cave paintings and storytelling. You are the precursor, the archetype. You are older than the oldest, gods of a thousand times a thousand names and a thousand times a thousand forms. And yet you have but one story – summer to winter, night to day, life to death to resurrection, the great wheel ever turning.
“Don’t call me that,” you say. “I’m no angel.” But you’re wrong. You think I call you Angel as a term of endearment, homage to your sculpted form or unearthly eyes. That isn’t true. I call you Angel because you are like Lucifer himself, so determined to remain free, abhorring any kind of fetter. You jealously guard your autonomy; you covet free will beyond all rationality. You love me, I know you do, and yet the moment you feel less than absolutely in control you fight back, sometimes with words, sometimes with absence, sometimes with a blade. At even the barest hint of a future theoretical threat you make sure I understand in no uncertain terms that you can, and will, disappear from my life without a trace. That is why I call you Angel. Not because of your beauty; because beside you even Lucifer would feel shame for letting himself be cowed.
I had the sudden urge to touch you today, an overwhelming desire to take your face in my hands. My hands, not anyone else’s. I imagined it the way a mother might cup the face of her son when he is grown, knowing he is long past protecting but wanting still to smooth the worry lines from his brow and the corners of his eyes. I saw it so clearly, my raised arms, your bowed head. I could feel the hint of stubble on your cheeks and the light tickle of your hair. I touch you through proxy, I know the shape of your mouth and the curve of your jaw from another’s fingers, but this was different. The hands I used were not borrowed, but mine; small, beringed, unsteady. The longing came and went in the space of a second, but the memory of what my own hands touched lingers.
I know what you think. You think I want to fix you, or at least change you, make you something or someone other than what you are. That’s what your paranoia tells you, at least, isn’t it? I can almost see it whispering in your ear sometimes, twisting my words before they reach you so what you hear is only a queer shadow of what I said. But try to understand my meaning when I say I don’t want to fix you. What I mean is, I want you as you are: sick and mad and broken. I mean I want to be at your side for all of this, even the nightmares and the blood. Even that crippling paranoia. I mean I want to watch you die, and I will do so unflinchingly. I can’t offer you much, but I can offer you that. Someone at your side until, and past, the inevitable end. Someone with you in the dark. Your paranoia wants you to believe I only love the parts of you I think I can fix, but that’s a lie – I love most fiercely the parts of you that cannot, will not, ever be fixed.
More beautiful than Lucifer and twice as mad;
my feral lover, serpent-tongued.
What was it like, to be one so young and shoulder a burden so heavy? Were you frightened? Were you angry? They make it sound like you accepted your task with grace and humility. In all the paintings you look like a woman grown, experienced and capable and wise, but you weren’t. You were just a child. How could you not be afraid? I think you were probably terrified but you couldn’t say no, could you? Neither of us could. You don’t get a choice with that kind of destiny. The angel appears to you and suddenly everything is different, forever, and you are drawn along the journey whether you like it or not. And in the end, I guess I wouldn’t change any of it, anyway. There were probably nights when you cried yourself to sleep too, or lay awake wondering if you were mad, if you had made it all up. They’ll never tell that side of the story – they need you to remain the quintessential mother figure, meak and mild – but I think I know the truth. I know how long those nights can be. I know how crazy you can feel. Yet I bet you wouldn’t have changed anything, either.
Sometimes life is not the better choice. Sometimes nothing can be done to save someone because there is nothing left to save. I am a walking corpse, and I will find a way to cut myself free from this rotting body eventually. To argue or pretend otherwise, or to offer me well-intentioned falsities, is a waste of time. Daren is gone. Nothing will change that fact. He will still be gone if a therapist gives me antidepressants to stave off the crushing sorrow. He will still be gone if my family has me committed so I cannot harm myself. He will still be gone whether I live another thirty years or die tomorrow. Given that immutable fact, what does any of it matter? He is dead and I am alone.