They wanted your blood. The scent made them delirious with thirst. They wanted to smear that dark plasma like strawberry oil over their puffy, tremulous lips. They longed to suck you into their bellies like jello, every pulse of every artery absolving every sin.
They were well-meaning dogs that didn’t understand their own needs, their own demands—how easily they could tear your cornea from your face with their horned and padded feet. They were…gregarious bears that could kill you with a happy swipe.
Or maybe they were not so forgivable as all that. Maybe they were hungry for the inner skin. Maybe they were wolves working a red velvet rope.
They’d say tell me the truuuuuuuth. And that means tiny red flowers that open across your face and forehead and chest and let all the air out of your dreams until you wake up drowning.
But no fear, they don’t really want the truth from you, anyway. She knew that. She’d tried that. She dared feel there was absolution in that path, but was soon disabused of the fantasy.
No, she was a monster, and she accepted that now. They would hunt her down and destroy her if she dared buy into their proletariat fantasies of community and friendship. They’d nail her to the confessional door.
All alone, unobserved, she fought with all her might against the Pulling Apart, against the Falling Away. She fought to keep it together, straining in a private shadow world where nobody else had eyes, where nobody could even see to sympathize with her contortions. But she did make progress. And she fought for every bit of ground gained. The effort left her with prematurely white hair. But it was that, or simply go slack. Uncurl the fingers and fly into the abyss.
It was that thought that scared her more than anything else she could think of. Maybe because it was so very appealing.
She made it make sense. That is what you do. That is what matters in the end, after all. Life is not that story on the screen where a brass ensemble trills and booms, marking a much-needed resolution to injustice. Life is chaos and chroma and relentless hunger, and unpredictable ragas of light and dark and at all times an energetic and hushed chewing, a wet chewing, a monstrous sigh of gratitude as everything eats everything else.
This thing you call the devil will deflower you as an infant if it wants to. (And it wants to). This thing called mother will hand you to him if that’s your fate. There will be no retraction or compensation. This thing called public education will kick the trapdoor shut on your mind when it is still trying to slide it’s gelatinous fingers around the hatch, and if that doesn’t get your face in the mud, then your so-called friends will finish the job before you are out of your 20s. And you can work it all out in college, but even after 12 years of school, there is no truth so strong that it cannot be shattered by the subzero waters of the unexpected and unmentionable.
Anticipate the drastic.
In a world like this, there is no sense to be had but what you make. If you are good at making sense of out things, you can walk on by. You can climb on up. But if not…if you lose your hold on the dates, and forget when to bow and when to put away the clown shoes, they will lock you into a room and maybe write you a card or two before it’s just too uncomfortable to keep penning your name across the envelope. Their laughter will fade more every day as you waste away and madness eats at your head, gulping huge mouthfuls of bone and swallowing everything that once made you appear beautiful to regular people.
And it was the regular people, after all, who were the beautiful ones. So she studied them. With attention so focused it might resemble devotion or tenderness to an outside eye, she learned. She replaced her own dangerous and glimmering world with the things and thoughts that regular people found notable and worthwhile. She understood that at the bottom of every person’s well of identity and rationale lie madness. She understood how close that bottom was. So she padded the distance between it and herself with items, notions, phrases, memories, pictures, and postcards that others found interesting enough to purchase and give to her or display in their room.
The truuuuuuuth? Vulnerability! Vulnerability. Well of course that’s what the wolf wants, sniffing at your belt, curling a thin gray tongue into the moist thistle of your tenderness. That’s all the wolf wants.
Why do you protect yourself so much? he’d moan. You can’t live in fear of being vulnerable. So said her last (whining and pathetic) lover, begging for another Honesty fix. Why won’t you truuuuuust me? Why won’t you let me truly knooooow you?
“You can’t hold my hand, junior” she said to the empty room.
She immediately laughed. Her words sounded ridiculous. Hello Morose Kitty.
Facing the large windows on the far wall of her apartment, she pulled her lips back to bare as many teeth as she could. Her clowning reflection leered back at her. Through the windows she had a rain-spackled view of the dim brick walls of the adjacent building. For a moment, she let her mind imagine herself getting to her feet, running across the length of the room and hurling herself through the window, sailing down down down to where the night met the concrete. She shivered, watching the movie play out in her head.
The strong overhead light cast dark shadows under her eyes, and rendered a grim image of the grinning girl. Her hair hung down to her waist, black (except for the thick streaks of white) and with bangs that looked as if they had been cut with a dull scissor. The dour aura was, however, somewhat contradicted by the opaque green tights under red corduroy shorts and the bright yellow T-shirt. Whiny-boy once told her she dressed like a box of crayons. She shrugged and replied that he dressed like a teenager from Ohio who had found his way to the island of Manhattan and thought he’d discovered the New Planet of Black Fabrics. Soon, she grew tired of his criticism and his constant demands. She felt enough stress from the outside world to behave. She wasn’t interested in coming home to live up to his requirements.
And that’s how it ended. Again. With her making faces to a silent reflection. With her, hours later, both crying and masturbating at once, sneering at the shadowed face in the glass as she hooked crooked, furious fingers into her starved pudding-flesh.
Or laughing at the TV in bed and turning to look over and laugh with him only to realize nobody was there.
She’d wake up with someone new. Many new Someones.
She craved touch like a desert flower thirsts for even one tiny drop of dew….and she stayed just as thirsty. No matter how many hands moved over her skin, she couldn’t make them stay, she couldn’t make it stick. She couldn’t feel the dent of those probing fingers; those clasping fingers; those wonderfully bruising fingers—down deep, deep, deep, where her craving bloomed ferociously. Where the itch threatened, every single day, to tear the lid off of her day to day pleasantries.
“Are you coming to bed?” asked a male voice behind her.
She didn’t say anything for a moment. Tried to conjure up a face to match the voice.
“Yeah,” she whispered. “In a minute.”
She walked to the window.
The rain swirled down from the sky, dashing itself into a million fragments on the glass and running down into the darkness below. The wind howled, and pried at the windows.
“Can you turn off the light?” she asked the man in her bed.
A few moments later, she felt his hands prying at her thighs. His lips, softly sipping on her neck. She turned, in the darkness and opened her legs. She let him rush in, like an eager boy, his hands shaking; his lungs hitching. She let the reflected moon lap up her hunger. There was more than enough to go around.