Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, 'What is it?'
Let us go and make our visit. – T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
I've always loved the smell of death, how it settled so lovingly, so gently into the back of the throat, vivacious copper tang grading gently into sweet overtones of rot. I love the way the lips peel back from the teeth as the skin shrivels in a relieved grin. I love the way it cools, the corpse, love the way it tenses, then relaxes, like a lover.
But dying doesn't suit you, my catamite. Your skin was beautiful as cream, not as wax, and the blood of death that you bring up with every rough cough somehow renders your wondrous hair something mundane. Your cheeks, shrunken with the starvation of your ravaged stomach, are pitiful. You're the first I ever met who lost beauty on his deathbed. I should have expected it, though: you, love, are silver and crimson; death is gray and brown. You were vivid, my love, all through your life, and death is just a pale fading away for you, a sad corruption of brightness.
I would have thought your dying would have been something wondrous. You were something wondrous, after all. You surprised me. How often have I been surprised in the past years? But there you were, startling in your beauty, your coldness. You were new to me, even though nothing is new to me, nothing has been for so achingly long. So the most glorious day of your life should have been something for the ages to remember. But here you are again, love, surprising me as always in your pale fade.
I had been disappointed with you at first – I remember that. When I had first taken you, you had been so predictable. You had struggled when I first entered your room, your bed, you, shouting that I had no right to be in there, that I couldn't do just what I was doing. And your desperate fight to fend me off had been so laughably one-sided – a scholar, not a fighter, you. It was entertaining enough to see terror, pure, animal fear in your cold, calculating eyes, to see that collected mind utterly unable to act, only to react, to see blood, intoxicating, so different from that you now bleed, slide lovingly down your face, but I had seen it all before. It was entertaining in you only because of who you were, because of your pride – your arrogance – everywhere but there, in the bedroom, where you cried out and writhed beneath me.
I had left you bleeding and shaking. I had thought you broken. I had thought you finished, as so many before you had been. I had thought you, in all your rigidity, would lie shattered. But the next morning, you didn't keep sullenly to your room, as I had been so sure you would. You were just as cold, just as aloof, treated me with just as much contempt and said nothing about what had gone before, even though your cuffs were turned down and your scarf was wound about to conceal all of that proud neck, even though I could smell blood on you.
And when I came back – you made no comment when I came back, neither fought nor yielded when I forced you to the bed. You cried out in passion, and again you shuddered at what I did to you, and you danced to my every whim, but once I had finished with you, you merely sat up, silvery cold, thanked me cordially, pulled on your coat and went back to the papers you had been working on. You wouldn't allow me my triumph. That fascinated me.
That coat lies folded over a chair, now, not as pristine as once it was. You haven't had an opportunity to wear it, have you? And it has festered in the putrid air, like you have. It's turned yellow with neglect. Like you have. Every inch the patrician garment, yet gone sour with your ambition. You had to appeal to the people, didn't you? You hated them, those who were unrefined, just as you hated me, with my taste for blood and death.
You blame me for your death, I think. The three of us. You tell me, only half-joking, that it was your time in the Grasslands that did this to you. You had developed a taste for Karayan food, with its spices that linger on the lips and tongue. (I had always wondered what you tasted like after you ate spicy food, whether your kiss would burn – but I never kissed you.) You say that they slipped it in with Karayan food, when you wouldn't notice the burning on your lips. If it hurt after you ate it, if it felt like fire in you, you could blame it on the spice.
How do you remember me, my love? Am I like fire to you? You were my ice, silver as winter. That was what was so tantalizing to me. I loved to see how close I, fire and emotion, could get to the frozen you before you melted. It was sadism, at first, to see how you would fall apart...But somehow – I was the fire beneath the snow. I hadn't counted on how destroying you destroyed me.
Your ambition destroyed you, I tell you. I disavow all responsibility, taunt you – I had told you that you weren't made for this sort of war. I had told you to watch for the knife coming from all directions. But – one would never suspect your naïveté, looking at you. For all your disdain for soldiers, you were a soldier yourself, weren't you? Honest. Straightforward. You would employ the dirtiest tricks on the battlefield, but when it came to personal relationships, when it came to personal interactions – you could never have seen the poison being poured.
I only saw deceit in you three times. You lied to that self-righteous bishop; you lied to us; and you lied to your brother. The first brought to you condemnation; the second reprieve; the third misery. I could feel it in you every time you lied. I knew. You'd be surprised to learn that, I suspect, that I knew of your betrayal – and even more, that I knew of your love, what your cruelty cost you. But I did, and I did.
I saw your eyes, love, when first you woke. I saw the hope in them, quickly quashed. I am not the one you want to keep vigil over you – but I'll serve. You could have written to him. Could have apologized. I have seen his type a hundred hundred times over – forgiveness is in his soul. But pride is in yours, and so you remain irreconcilable.
You were the first one for many things, my love. You were the first one to make me actually take time to think about what we were. You were a good fuck, but there was more to it. You were the first one to surprise me. You will be the first one who has left any impact on me.
You bring up a laugh that bubbles red from your mouth, and I focus on your eyes. You were the last one I expected to be here, you say. You're the only sentimental one in the whole lot? I take offense to the comment on sentimentality. Don't be ridiculous, you say. You never cared about me enough to take offense to anything I would say.
You're wrong, though. My scoffing to the contrary, you were the first ever to make me sentimental, boy. Sentimental for me, that is – don't get me wrong. I didn't love you. I can't. But...you were enchanting to me. You were more than just a fuck.
The night wears on. I wait for you to speak. You spent your time with me in reaction only, as I battered your body and mind into corners. I'll let you act for once. It takes a while – perhaps you gained some measure of complacency, even of comfort in the way things were? – but you do speak, at length. I'm scared, you admit. You're scared of death, you say, of your legacy. I laugh. No man is afraid of death, though he may think he is. What every man is afraid of, and you more than most, is obscurity. You burned so brilliantly, my love – you're afraid that that dazzlement you scorched into the eyes will fade away, aren't you? You're afraid of the tragedy of the fading. Well, love, so am I. Your beauty only comes rarely, and that it was destroyed so meaninglessly...Perhaps that is why you lie so hideous now. Ugliness, love, is the denial of beauty. How much beauty was destroyed when someone decided your ambitions were too great?
Dawn is approaching, now, and you lay cold and sweating, terrified. Transfixed, I reach down to touch your hand, and you grasp at my touch. There is no strength in your grip, but I don't pull away. Find my brother, you beg, and don't elaborate. But I knew every time you lied, and I understand your request now. I ask you what else you wish of me, and surprise myself with my own sincerity.
You changed me, boy. I cared for you. I became almost...romantic, much as I loathe the word. You made me infuse you with what you did not, could not have. I gave you all the qualities of the divine, because you made me love the contrast between us. How could you live up to that image? But your failings never disappointed me. They only surprised, and so in your failing, you succeeded.
You beg me to forgive you. In your despair, I suppose I have taken on the mantle of all humanity. And what, my son, shall I absolve you of? Your mortal ambition? Your beauty denied?
You were crimson and silver, the intoxication of blood threading down a cold blade. You were life, the pulsing flight of mortality. You were beauty incarnate. You were humanity, my love, in all your faults and glory.
You beg me to spare you. I suppose in your delirium I look the part of Death, and were I he, I would spare you, boy. For all your arrogance, all your shrewdness, you're nothing but a boy, and a boy of such potential, able to ensnare Death's proxy himself. You're too young, boy. You never even had a chance to become jaded.
Something burning kindles just below my eyes. Tears, or dazzlement? Both? I take your coat once your glorious green eyes lay dull and glassy, and I breathe the benediction I have no right to give.
I had expected, somehow, that your last days would be as extraordinary as your first. I had expected that you would die a death fantastic. I had expected to see angels with fiery eyes and throbbing wings soar down from their heavenly loft to bear you off. I never thought you would die in a tiny, airless cell, poor, obscure, alone but for one. You always did surprise me, love.
Hm. This turned out morosely. I like it for the most part, though I wish it had more focus...Anyway. I always wanted to do a Yubert. Tee-hee.