My heart failed a hundred times today – which is to say that your heart failed a hundred times today, and I felt each awful cessation with you. I felt your collapse, too, and the hands that fought desperately to restart the beating. Likewise, I tasted bile in my throat and tears on my lips as you suffered through withdrawal, and felt your feverish skin as I ran my fingers through your tangled hair. By the end of the day I can’t quite tell if my body aches from real pain or your phantom agony. I feel sick, exhausted, but why? Is this even my pain? Does my body even know the difference anymore? I feel everything you feel – so tell me, how many times can my heart break, stop, burst for you before it ceases once and for all?
There are times when I want to either be fully in that world or not there at all. Like now: I can watch him sink to his knees, but I can’t pull him away. His hands tremble now, no matter how steadily they held the blade a moment before, but I can’t take them in my own. I watch him bite back a sob as he folds over, hands fisting in his hair – wiping blood on black locks – and I can’t hold him or touch him or do anything of value. If I could, I’d fix him a drink; wash the blood from his clothes; get him in bed. Do… something about Daren’s body. If I have to watch this scene replay itself unto eternity, I at least deserve to be a player and not solely the audience. I wouldn’t stop things or try to change the outcome. I just want to clean away the blood so neither of them has to. That seems fair.
I know the things you call him when he is too far gone to argue. Angel, when you’re wiping blood from his mouth. Lovely, when you’re lifting his limp body off the bathroom floor. Darling, when you’re holding him until the trembling stops. Baby, when his eyes are bleak and far away and you aren’t sure if you’ll get him back this time. But always, at the end, just Daren. Daren, when you’re trying to wake him. Daren, when your hands are shaking too badly to find a pulse. Daren, when there’s nothing more you can do but weep.
I am getting very good at dying. Practice, after all, makes perfect. No, I will not tell you which methods are most painful; it is not the manner of death that hurts, but the person by whom it is caused. Nor will I tell you which method I most prefer; there are times when you want to feel nothing and times when you want to experience the death of every individual cell. And no, I will not tell you my most gruesome ends; death is a private thing, no matter how we treat it otherwise. (And besides, I have a biographer for that.) You ask how many times I have died by my own hand? Define hand. Define my own. Define died. You ask what was my longest death? But surely you know we are all dying from the first moment of our existence. How and why things accelerate near the end matters very little. Close your eyes and feel the cells in your body dying this very second, dying every second, dying every single day of your life. Do not worry about the hows and whys. Take it from someone who has died so many times I could not possibly keep track: only the devil is in the details.
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.