Hers are a sorceress’ hands, all silver rings and long white fingers. The left wields a saber or a stiletto or a pistol, whichever the moment calls for. The right once held a hook, but now arm and metal have melded into something black and many-clawed. Her hands are a book of shadows made flesh; they raise whirlwinds, call forth lightning, summon rain and ravens and monstrous things from the deep. Just as easily, though, do they steer a ship or climb rigging, lower sails and raise anchors, get dirty and bloody. Her hands weren’t meant for an exile’s life – they should know only the touch of silk and velvet, they should be adorned with delicate jewels – yet they serve her admirably. With her right hand she tears the light from the sky, and with the left she raises herself up a queen of wrath and ruin.
His are a sick man’s hands, slender and pale. In another life they might have belonged to a pianist or a violinist, but instead they belong to someone who cares not for beauty or creation. His hands prefer knives, small and sharp, though broken glass or shards of metal will do; it is the edge that counts, and speed. His hands make every movement a dance, whether lighting a cigarette or wiping blood from his mouth, and they might be beautiful if they did not seem so strangely menacing. After all, these hands remember IVs and wrist restraints, locked doors and starched sheets. These hands remember forced captivity and are ready always to attack or defend, fight or flee, to do what they must to retain precious freedom. His hands might shake with cold or ache from old wounds, but they know where and how to plunge the blade and they will be steady when the time comes.
His are a rich man’s hands, smooth and strong. His fingers could knot a tie in the dark and discern Armani from Prada from Dolce and Gabbana with just a touch. Crystal decanters, gold watches, diamond cufflinks, his hands have held and discarded more fortunes than most will see in a lifetime. These hands served him well in the world of blue blood and white teeth, where a firm handshake might speak more clearly than words. Having left that world behind, these steady, capable hands have learned to wield a syringe with care and how to make a stranger climax in a dirty restroom. His hands never cared for the money and riches that passed through them, but they strip clothing and grasp flesh with the hungry strength of the addict. So, too, do they twist hair in misery, hurl glasses in anger, light cigarette after cigarette until the ashtray is full and the bottle is empty.
I know the hallowed halls of your realm as if I have walked them myself. In the bedroom which is your battlefield, I watch you wage war between silk sheets; in the bathroom which is your ninth circle, I watch you speak prophecies through blood. In the apartment which is your palace and your tomb, I watch you dance through death and resurrection and death again. These places are the temple in which I was raised as your acolyte to bear silent witness to the private agonies of gods. Like your every word and breath, so I memorize and immortalize the places which have shaped your tale – the alley where blood and rainwater mix on cold cement, the roof where you dare the wind to pull you off the ledge. In the city which is your essence, the city from which you cast a thousand thousand shadows, the city where you live and die the unending cycle, I watch and I write.
I fight the desire to find some hidden hole in which to die, but it becomes harder every day. I made that choice once and he found me anyway, just this side of in-time, and look what that got me. He’d turn the whole city upside down searching for me if I did it again, and so would do me no good. But still my animal instincts urge me to hide somewhere, anywhere; in the closet or the bathroom, beneath the bed, on the roof, in the fucking walls if possible. Death is a private thing, and having been born alone and lived alone, I would prefer to go out the same way. There is nothing romantic about dying in your lover’s arms, of that I can assure you. Better to die alone and save them the misery of the aftermath, and yourself the guilt of leaving.
I dream about tarot cards. I hold a deck in my hands and draw a card – The Devil, perhaps, or the Two of Swords. I toss the deck into the air to let the cards fall where they may, all face down. I pick one at random – Death – and say to the figure beside me, See, all the cards I draw mean death. By which I mean, All the cards I draw mean Daren.