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I had every intention of finishing February. Unfortunately (and fortunately) the birth of my baby girl got in the way of those plans. So this month, I'm going to cheat just a little bit. I will be recycling a few of February's posts. Not all. Only the ones that deserve attention. Those lucky few that for some reason (perhaps reasons not entirely based in sanity) I liked and want to share. The few that I can't bear to see lost in oblivion.
Please forgive me for cheating, and I promise there will be some new posts hidden amongst the old.
The trees are black veins against the peach-colored skin of the sunset. Leafless and twisted, they sink their sharp fingers into the sky and drain it of light. Down, down the light travels, through the roots, into the ever churning heart of the earth, and finally, spilling out onto a new horizon.
One side dark. One side light.
This is the network of the soul, the process of life. A forever changing, forever flowing, forever balanced act of give and take and give again. There is no magical number, no words of power. There is just all and nothing.
Before you, my life was dark, dangerous. I was suffocating in the deepest hell I could imagine. My mind had broken into pieces, and I didn't seem to control any of them. I was a vicious, vulnerable mess. I had no plans to live this long. I took great pains to insure I wouldn't.
Before I even knew you existed, I began to improve. I stopped wandering. I stopped contemplating the knives in the kitchen. I felt... almost normal.
The day I knew, I snapped back together. As one, we looked at you curled inside us and smiled.
I can see it, this falling in love that he describes.
It's so easy to jump into a brand new fantasy. I love fresh relationships. All shiny and flawless, they are absolutely tantalizing. I love the chase; to be the elusive prize; to be finally caught and wooed.
I can see the future he wants, but he doesn't want me. Not really. He wants the wild and unattainable creature he glimpsed in a lonely desert. He wants to tame me but will hate my domestication.
So desirable, the forbidden fruit. But the price is high, and the taste is sour
It scares me when you stare straight into the camera. I can't avoid your glance. I feel trapped, caught beneath the weight of a microscope. I imagine that you can see me sitting here without a bra and just washed, never combed hair. I imagine you judging me, sneering at my attempts to write something worth reading.
Please look away. I am immobilized by the intensity of your picture. I resent you for making me feel this way. I've begun to hate your image. Look away. Look away. Don't you know it's rude to stare? Your mother would be ashamed.
You have a face drawn of charcoal. Your coal dust cheekbones are deeply shadowed, and your tearless eyes look bruised and hungry. I imagine an artist tenderly smudging the dark lines of your lips into softness, and I am intensely jealous of that intimacy. I want to touch every corner of your face--to know flaw, every perfection, every hidden detail.
But I am not an artist. My pencils know only the messy scribbles of words. I cannot capture your essence with shapes and colors. I am only a writer, and, my love, you deserve the hands of a painter.
They said time healed everything, and technically, this was true. Yes, eventually the wounds she gave her lovers became little more than faded scars, but the time they took to heal was never proportional to the time those men spent languishing in her grasp.
It was a terrible imbalance. The price for a week at her side was two years of misery. Two years wrapped in her arms became three anguished decades. And those poor fools who had lingered longer? They would only find peace once their bones had turned to dust.
Turn away. You could never afford her love.
They laughed. "So presumptuous, this one." they'd say. "She thinks she something special."
They snorted when she explained her fear of hurting the men (and women) who loved her. Pens scratching over yellow legal pads, they pushed their glasses up higher on their noses and chuckled.
"Don't you think you're being a bit narcissistic? Do you really believe anyone has the power to destroy so many people so easily? You certainly have a high opinion of yourself!"
Except that that never happened. She never told anyone, and no one ever judged her for it, and her men continued to burn.
With her pacifier dangling from the side of her mouth and that swirl of white blond hair on her forehead that looks astonishingly like male pattern baldness, she has the air of an aging professor chewing meditatively on his unlit pipe. Her eyes--dark blue with the color sucked out at the center--are squinted with skepticism. Her left eyebrow is raised.
Who will she be? What will she believe? When will that look of disbelief change to one of awe? Of joy? Of love?
My god, such a tiny thing. So delicate.
Little one, you could save this world.
I loved a woman once. I loved a woman with lavender hair and aquamarine eyes. I loved a woman who changed as often as the skies--from dark to light to fierce to fragile, never the same creature twice.
"Will you help me with the back?" she asked once.
"Of course. Of course."
So I zipped her into her brand new skin--watched as the silken flesh closed over the ivory corset ribs; marveled as it smoothed over the muscles; let my fingers linger on the freckles on her neck.
I loved a woman who could never stay the same.
I love you. I love you already. I love you beyond any love I've ever loved.
The image of your face is so engrained in my mind, I wear it like a mask behind closed eyes. Your touch remains long after you are out of my arms, leaving phantom warmth in the crook of my elbow; against my cheek; snuggled into my chest. Even in my deepest sleep, you are a glow at the edge of my awareness--illuminating my dreams and keeping me grounded in a safety and joy I never knew was possible.
Oh darling, I love you.
The Witch slips into the darkened room, and the shadows gather so thickly around her that she becomes a nearly tangible being. She waits for the girl-child to sense her presence, waits with what she wonders must be pity for the first tremor of fear.
And the girl is afraid. So afraid. Feeling the brush of shadow-hair against her cheek, she snatches her stuffed animal from the bed and runs out of the room.
"Go away." she whimpers.
Remember, the Witch whispers as she seeps back into the night. Remember there is a dark side to the moon.
We are all looking, but no one knows what we're looking for. So we--lost and alone--wander the endless expanse of a world either too barren or too crowded to sympathize with our plight.
You are a single painting hung at the farthest end of an empty, white room, and I must admit that I do not understand your abstract lines. Where did you find your color? Where can I find mine?
Sleepless night are best left for the owls, for they, in all their infinite wisdom, know better than to fill the air with anything but questions.
I will finish. I will. I know I made this promise in December, but this time I mean it. I have to finish. I have to prove to myself that I still can. I have to leave these final etchings in a place that they might someday be found. When will I get a chance to write again? Will I still want to? Will I still feel the need?
I am afraid love will change me. I am afraid I will be made new. I am afraid I will be forced to leave behind the things that never really mattered.
I am happy for you. Happy to see those lips I had only briefly experienced trace the lips of another. Happy to see you smile without any trace of sorrow in those grey, poet eyes. She wounded you deeply, the one who came before me, and I slipped my knife into the cut she'd already made. But this one... This one has a healing touch, and to my (grateful) surprise, I am not the least bit jealous you found her.
Somehow, you rid yourself of me. Please tell me how you did this. Tell me how to save the others.
He said her kiss tasted like gingerbread. Not the hard, stale kind used to build houses. No. The real kind. The moist, homemade kind. The good stuff.
Such a strange creature she was. Unpredictable. Like a child sometimes--soft and vulnerable and almost cuddly. And then, in a blink of those dark green eyes, she became something else. Something hot and angry and so very, very hungry.
Yes, her kiss tasted like gingerbread. Gingerbread and alcohol and that deep, dark burn of sin.
He spent more than one night with her body pressed against his, but he never touched skin.
To he who loves another,
I want you to write about me. I want to be the one you love, the one you mourn, the one you yearn for with such poetry. I want to be the main character in your stories, the one who, after all those years, you can still describe with such heartrending clarity. I want to fall in love with the way you've fallen in love with me.
But we will never meet. We will never fall in love. You are destined to forever be my impossible fantasy, and I your lovelorn reader.
She chose the park (because nothing naughty can happen in a public place, right?). Long legs tan and bare, she tried to pretend she hadn't dressed up for him. (She had, of course, but on that day she wasn't ready to admit how much she loved him.) The park, unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your outlook), stood lonely and empty in front of another park. A more appealing park. A park full of cacti and mountains and miles and sun-baked rocks that touched her skin in ways he couldn't. Yet.
"I won't leave," she said. "I promise I won't."
She didn't want to go back. She didn't want to leave the small shelter this hungry, angry desert provided. Anything was better than home. Anything was better than heading back toward the hazy outline of the city she hated so much. But the sun was setting, and her phone was ringing, and it was time.
She didn't intend to see him again, just as she hadn't intended to wander into the wilderness with him in the first place. No, she didn't intend to see him again, but she begged for it anyway.
Don't leave me alone. Don't leave me alone.
And there, bright and blinding against the sky, more intense than the sun, full of colors the eyes could almost-but-not-quite see, was the first tear in the fabric of reality our world had seen in centuries. No one noticed it, of course. No one but those lucky few half sleeping at just the right moment. Or those unlucky few, those poor babbling fools, who are trapped at all times in Between.
This tear? This gaping rift? It will only grow. Grow and encompass the world. Everything we know will change. Everything. And only a few will notice.
She wouldn't invite him back. But she did. She wouldn't sit close, closer, to him perched high on the cliff face. But she did. She wouldn't kiss him while buzz, buzz, buzzing with alcohol and sunlight. But she did.
And oh, that kiss. That kiss that finally explained what kisses should taste like. That kiss that made the world feel like it was falling and soaring and spinning around her. That kiss that was full of sin and guilt and sorrow and so, so wonderful.
She wouldn't leave. But--tumbling back to sanity, to her bleak, lonely reality--she did.
Of course I miss it.
I miss the half chemical, half burnt-leaf smell of the smoke. I miss the sweaty weight of the night air; curled up in the passenger seat and weaving myself into each line of music as it slipped from the speakers and into the sky. I miss sitting at the picnic table with its bright polka dots that bounced if you stared too long and the itch of summer grass against our ankles, taking more hits than we should and watching cars pass by with equal parts fear and defiance.
But I won't go back.
I had a talk with the Devil. He came over for tea, but all I had was Dr. Pepper. We still used the good china. After a moment of silence punctuated by the sound of soda fizzling musically against the sides of the teacups, I finally cleared my throat and asked him the question that had haunted me for months.
"Who is she?"
He pursed his lips, "hmmm," smiled, "ah-hmmm," and stirred his drink with the sugar spoon. "Are you sure you want to know the answer?"
"Are you sure you're ready?"
The devil never lies, contrary to popular belief. So now, with our Dr. Pepper going flat in our floral teacups, I could only watch him nibble daintily on a potato chip and wait for him to say something that made more sense.
"These are good." he said and grabbed another from the bowl. He finished before he spoke again, patting his lips dry with a pink Power Ranger napkin. "You are waiting for me to explain, I assume, how you and the Witch--one of my favorite mistresses, by the way--could possibly be the same person?"
"Well, yes, obviously."
The Desert knew before she did. He sank his claws into her ankle and fought to pull her back from the decision she had already made.
"Stay!" he hissed with a voice full of poison and neglect.
She shook it off and stumbled back to the house she no longer called home, back to the bed she had long since found cold, back to the place her heart had left months ago. She walked out the door just as the sun crept in through the windows, and though she couldn't admit it to herself, she had wouldn't be coming back.
"You were one person. Whole. A masterpiece, really." The devil sips at his soda and grimaces. "A perfect balance of good and evil in one splendidly unpredictable package."
"So what happened?"
"No one knows. God likes to believe you tired of the evil in your heart and cast it out. I have a different theory, of course: you had something so terrible to do it ripped your soul in two. The question is," he pauses to pull a bottle of vodka from his pocket and chug it, ("Ah, much better!") then leans closer, "what was it you had to do?"
I suspect my daughter sometimes forgets she isn't supposed to know the English language yet. When she is especially frustrated, I will occasionally catch her muttering things that sound astonishingly like real words.
"Alright. alright, alright!" she'll say, much like I might when trying to convince myself that I'm being unreasonably emotional.
Or a furious "Got it! Got it!" while trying to bring her uncooperative limbs to order.
She reminds me of an elfling, a fairy, something more than human. Oh, I have no doubt this is the child I carried inside my body, but she is no ordinary infant.
The Devil left without another word. Stood up, shook my hand, winked, and disappeared. Left me, my questions, and my porcelain teacups behind.
What was it you had to do that was so terrible it tore your soul in two?
I knew I shouldn't have asked the Devil. He never gives a straight answer--always gives you more questions that you started off with.
Who is the Witch? I am the Witch. Murderer. Sorceress. Villain.
I am also me. Human. Flawed, but essentially good. One half of a soul and unsure whether I am willing to know more.
The rest of the story is full of shaky, barely-there memories. Drug fueled memories. The blurry, furry memories of the clinically insane. It was a dark time occasionally punctured by moments of astonishing happiness.
She fell for him the way he had fallen for her long ago. And though she spent her nights wandering through empty streets and deserted parks, he always found her. Always wrapped her in safety and brought her home again. A new home. A better home.
Things were not how she expected them to be, but in the chaos, she had found an imperfect perfection.
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