“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 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.
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.
We don’t talk about that night. Maybe I dreamed it. His fingers through my hair, my head in his lap… was that really him? Is he capable of such gentleness? Such selfless compassion? Withdrawal turns your senses inside out, so I could easily have hallucinated it all; it wouldn’t be the first time I lost the ability to determine dream from reality. The memory seems too clear, too complete, to be a fantasy, though. I remember the bad along with the good – my racing heart, the cold sweats, the vomiting and uncontrollable trembling. Surely if I had imagined his presence, I would also have imagined myself less of an embarrassing wreck, right? Wouldn’t I have at least omitted the parts where I wept like a child? But that’s what makes it feel impossible: I remember it all, and I remember him beside me the entire time. He took the bottle from me and could have left me to suffer through the storm alone, a fitting punishment for a pathetic addict like me, but he didn’t. He stayed. He held me as I shook so I didn’t bruise myself on the bathroom tiles. He murmured kindnesses I know will never leave his lips again. Could I have imagined it all?
If you haven’t noticed, this story is being told by an unreliable narrator. But then again, what does that even mean? If I’m the sole source, the primary source, then isn’t my interpretation the truth? If it’s not, you’ll never know otherwise. Maybe it broke my mother’s heart when I left, abandoning the empire I should have inherited from the man she loved and lost. Maybe my brother gritted his teeth as he prepared to shoulder it all as my shadow finally moved and left him alone in the spotlight. Maybe my father died disappointed in himself for carving me in his likeness, wondering only at the very end who I really was beneath his mirror mask. Who knows? Maybe they tried a hundred times to reach me but gave up when all they struck was my perfect smile. You’ll never know, though, and neither will I. My reality is the story’s reality, and my reality is full of drugs and sex and the hole inside me that nothing seems to fill.
“Aren’t you going to tell me not to do anything drastic when you’re gone?”, I asked him once. He had shrugged and said, “I won’t give a shit what you do then.” I wonder if that’s true, though. Do you give a shit now? Can you, wherever you are? And if so, are you disappointed in me? I know I am. I used to wonder what I’d do after you were gone, whether I’d pick something flashy like jumping from the roof or something classic like hanging. Turns out I just went back to what I did best before I met you: killing myself slowly with alcohol and painkillers. Not really flashy or classic, I guess, so much as just pathetic. There’s no urge to do anything else, though, you know? I don’t have the energy to climb up to the roof. I don’t have the desire to decide which tie would make the best noose. I don’t even feel moved enough to take the whole bottle of pills and wash them down with a tumbler of Crown. I just keep getting drunk, getting high, getting lost, waiting for the morning I finally don’t wake up. Does that disappoint you? Were you secretly hoping I’d make some grand final gesture, or at least that I’d find it impossible to slip back into my old life so easily? Or do you still, even now, not give a shit what I do or how I do it?