The Blind Man

Written by Jia Zhang


She trembles as she slid the small, gold brass key into the aperture on the front of the white, alabaster door—she turns the silver handle, and enters her suburban home. She is greeted by a shrill glee from her daughter, a small child of five years and eight days, with rich, ebony hair like her father, a poignant nose like her grandmother, and azure eyes too much in resemblance to her mother. The little girl embraces her mother tenderly, her smile full of an innocence and vulnerability she had not seen for months. She bends down, wrapping her stone arms around her daughter, laughing, smiling, putting back on that dual-coloured jester's mask, apologizing that she could not make it for her birthday, and divulges a gift, draped in shiny, multi-coloured paper, from behind her back. Her daughter smiles and giggles as she takes the gift, running into the parlor room to show it to her elder brother.

As she removes her black pumps, her husband comes by, greets his wife with a loving kiss on her lips, asking her how her trip was—she nods, and smiles, and says almost mechanically that it was a fine trip; Los Angeles was beautiful, and they should take the children there to visit sometime in the future. Her husband takes her long, taupe coat, and her bags, and brings them up stairs. Standing barefoot on the cool, mahogany wood floor, she is suddenly besieged by a sense of numbness, as if all her limbs were sedated with some elusive needle, or she was swimming in molasses quicksand—she couldn't decipher the difference. Her husband calls her name, and she is rekindled back into this queer veracity; she smiles, and acts contrite, before taking the long, agonizing voyage up the cake-layered stairs of her house.

She enters her bedroom to see her husband placing her suitcase down on the bed, opening it and removing its precious contents. He asks his wife how did the research go for her book; the writer is silent for a moment as she removes her black blazer and her white shirt. She suddenly makes a comment on the new painting above the mantel of their bed; she says she likes the colours, all the blues and pinks and yellows and greens, the pallet of a splendid summer garden. Her husband smiles, and says he purchased it at a yard sale for only five dollars; she laughs, the sound forced and hallow.

Her husband says that he will prepare the dinner for tonight; does roast beef sound good, he asks he as she changes her attire into something more regular, and she grins and says it would be delicious. He leaves the room, and abandons his wife in silence, closing the door behind him.

The writer gazes at her bags imperturbably as the vibration of her husband's footsteps disappear amongst the rest of the voices and noises of the house—the children's cries, the vociferous voices, the barking dog. Slowly, she moves through the quicksand around her, her arms and legs arduous in their motion. She unlocks one of her many bags, and hidden within a deep pocket, she removes a tiny, black tape recorder. She sits down on her bed and stares at that dark little monster in her hand; her breath was low, and any reverberations she could have produced was lodged tightly in her larynx, till she felt as if she would asphyxiate from the pressure of the reality she was so desperately trying to suppress. There was a tormenting pounding between the halves of her brain; she wanted to explode and implode, and have all those maddening sensations evanesce into obscurity.

Mutely, she presses the plastic button of the tape recorder.

It had been a typically tepid June day; outside, the Sun was half-sheltered behind a fog of white clouds, only illuminating itself ever so often when the wind decided to grace the ambiance of the Los Angeles area with its resounding manifestation. The museless writer tapped her pen aimlessly on the wooden table of the Los Angeles Mental Institute; she took a deep breath as she waited for her subject to arrive. She had been in this city of lost angels, artificial celebrities, and excruciating heat for much too long; she was desperate to return home, and this interview would be the last thing needed for her to complete her novella.

For weeks she has done much rigorous investigation on an iniquitous Los Angeles case—the disconcerting serial killings by a murderer whom the L.A.P.D dubbed the "Blind Man". Around six months prior, she had heard of the slaughters of this man, a teacher apparently, from her editor, who vacationed in Los Angeles during the time when the homicides occurred. The story fascinated the troubled writer, who, after writing numerous entrenched novels, could be provided with no new muse. But she became profoundly captivated by the story of this murderer and his massacre of Los Angeles whores—he was like this misshapen fusion between Jeffery Dahmer, Jack the Ripper and your regular Joe-next-door. The author's time soon became wholly consumed by the tragedy and mystery of this atypical predator.

She studied him like an anthropologist studying a new and fantastic race of people that existed on some far away, uncharted tropical island. She poured herself into his life—his past and present. With a microscopic examination, she analyzed all of this man's weird history and manners. He was a man with a twin-painted jester's mask—pretending to be a census of normality, and all the while being a deranged, sociopathical murderer. She was astounded and enthralled by this man's tortured childhood, the abuse by his equally mad mother, the hatred he had for her and all those like her, and thus created in this "Blind Man" a hatred for himself—a thing born out of reptilian rape. The writer thoroughly studied his behaviour during his killings, the relationship with his victims, and the covering of their eyes before they were murdered—there was intimacy in his killings, hate and rage and love, all the same and bound together elegantly. And then, she studied his sanity—his love for a boy half his age, his obsession and anguish cured by this child-whore, and the ultimate tragic conclusion to this anti-fairytale story.

Despite the non-fiction premise of the "Blind Man's" story, the writer wanted to adapt it into a work of literature that was more than just a mad narrative by an equally mad man; which is why she made the arduous journey by plane into the space of Los Angeles. And that is why she was now sitting in this off-white room, waiting for this killer, this murderer, this lunatic—she was waiting for the "Blind Man", the object of her present obsession. She wanted to meet him, to empathize and see for herself the truth behind his story; the question everyone sought to know—why he did what he did…and most prominently, the story behind the last boy he killed.

The ink of non-fiction was easily smeared.

"Ms. Ritchler?"

The writer looked up. A male nurse stood at the door.

"Yes?"

"Mr. Clay is ready."

And there entered a man.

He was a plain man; not at all like the eccentric executioner one would think him to be, or like the manner of the Machiavellian and gruesome killer the newspapers painted him. He was just an ordinary man, no older than thirty or so years; he was dressed in simple, fawn pajamas that were an obligation in the psychiatric institution that was his residence. His hair was the colour of a light ash, which grew to a diffused hue of blond under any luminosity, from either the bright orb in the ceiling or the burning sphere in the sky. His skin was awfully pale, and matched accordingly to the texture of the walls; and he was quite tall, the writer had to note, standing at least a head above her. He held no smile, no frown, no expression of either excitement or contempt on his face. A pair of thin, silver framed spectacles sat on the ridge of his long nose, secreting his eyes. It was only when he sat down across the table from the writer that she noticed the hues and shades of his eyes; they were an endearing shade of blue—an odd shade of blue. They were the blue of a stormy, hazy, obscured part of a long stretch of sky; and they were the blue of vivid sapphire stones, drowned inside a pool of water; and at times, the author felt, they held a certain semblance to the colour of her own azure jewels.

There was a deafening moment of muteness.

Then—"Is it all right if I record this?"

He nods nonchalantly.

She pressed the plastic tape recorder.

"So…Mr. Clay, umm…my name is Alyson Ritchler. I'm the writer Dr. Tanner told you about."

He nods, and pauses for a moment. "It's okay; you can call me Adrian. I don't mind." He gives a small, gentle grin to the writer. "Only my students and the police ever called me Mr. Clay. And sometimes my students didn't even call me Mr. Clay."

The writer gives a small, stifled laugh. "Of course, of course…Adrian." The name sounded so foreign on her tongue; she had always thought of him as just the "Blind Man" and not as Adrian Clay, a former schoolteacher—a man who was once absolutely common, not much different than her brother or her husband. It was all so troubling, so confounding, so perplexing. "I'm very happy you agreed to this."

"Can I ask you; why did you want to speak with me, Ms. Ritchler?"

She is silent for an instance.

"I guess I really don't have a legitimate reason for seeing you. To be honest, I already have all the information I need, on what happened…from the recordings at the trial, your testimony, and the statements made by your former counsel, and I'm sure you recognized that. I even went as far as visiting Lawrence's parents, but they simply closed the door in my face." She halts, waiting for any response. She received none. She hoped for one. "But if I truly want to write this book as it was meant to be written, then I had to understand everything—not just be an outsider, looking at what happened with a stranger's eyes. I want to, at least to some point, understand. I want to understand why." She catches his eyes; and azure stared hauntingly at azure. "No…more than that, I want to experience why you loved Lawrence so much."

The man is quiet in his response; he looks over at the tall, burly nurse by the door. The writer's sees this.

"Raymond…it's okay; you can go."

"But Ms. Ritchler…"

She smiles kindly. "It's all right; I know you're busy. We'll be fine."

Tentatively, the nurse leaves, abandoning the writer and the mad man to inundate into a bleeding silence in the premise of the white little room.

"I assume you have questions."

She nods.

"Go ahead then."

The writer flips through the abundant number of notes, carefully and quickly reviewing certain episodes within this disastrously fanatical story—the mother, the boy he loved, and the tragedy of this man's sanity. She had inquired and discovered so much about this strange man's history, to the point where she became in all probability the sole individual who could perhaps understand him and his actions. But there was still much for her to learn, she knew. And she knew what she wanted to know.

"…there's so much I want to ask…so much I want to understand that I barely know where to start," she speaks honestly. She looks up from her crystalline papers, each lined with thin black inked letters. "From the reports that Dr. Tanner made…"—she takes out a photocopied version of the psychiatrist's report—"she says that: 'much of Mr. Clay's behaviour was due to the severe emotional abuse caused by his mother. His mother's emotional detachment from him when he was pre-pubescent may have also induced his homosexual behaviours, as that he becomes unable to identify sexually with members of the opposite sex due to the trauma of his mother's abandonment. His preference for sexual partners who are of a young age can also be deduced from the fact that he witnessed and was associated with his mother's brutal murder when he was a child.'" The writer pauses for a moment, glancing up at the man cross from her. "I think Dr. Tanner may have given your mother too much credit to your psychosis…Adrian."

Without looking at her, he smiles unconsciously. "Maybe."

The writer nods. "…and do you think…that your mother is the reason you did…what you did…?"

The pale, ashen-haired man is silent, a specter juxtaposed against Time, severed from this strange veracity, lingering in his thoughts, as if unsure how to answer her, as if he was hunting for the answer himself, as if he could not comprehend where his actions originate. His hands are placed neatly against the wood of the table, the fingers entwined together like that of a child playing cats-cradle.

"…when I was a kid, before my mother died, I used dream a lot," he smiles, "dreaming of those Norman Rockwell paintings of perfect, perfect families, with their white picket fences that ran all around a span of green, with funny looking gnomes on the lawn, and this really bright white mail box that had the little red flag popping up. I used to dream about that family—a kind mother, who'd make large, hefty meals, and the father who smoked a pipe and took the kids to play baseball on Saturday afternoons; and I used to wish that I had a younger sister, someone I could protect…" He laughs. "And I used to dream about this really funny old dog, this Retriever named Porch, because he slept so much on the porch…" He looks up at the writer across from him, his eyes so rapt and absorbed, so unlike how they were when she first saw them—those blues, they spoke such a dangerous degree of sorrow, and the writer felt her heart convulse at the site of him. "You have a chance for that kind of life; your kids…can have that kind of life, and your grandchildren can have that kind of future…but for me, always, it was just a dream…a child's fantasy…

I guess, from those shrinks…and Dr. Tanner's perspectives, I am the result of my mother's abuse, and my behaviour is a consequence of the trauma I endured; but sometimes, I really don't know. Sometimes, I think, if I had that Norman Rockwell family, I would've turned out like anybody else. And sometimes, I think, that even if I had everything, I may have still turned out to be this monster." He smiles rather forlornly, his face wilting from bitter nostalgia or a crude understanding, the author did not know. "But what I think doesn't really matter at all; it happened…But I don't think I would've wanted it any other way…"

"Because of Lawrence?"

He nods.

The writer is unsure how to continue. "Dr. Tanner also says that: 'Mr. Clay has fits of normalcy and fits of insanity; sometimes, his mental condition reverts back to when he was a child, and sometimes he is completely sane. He has moments of amnesiac behaviour, though they are infrequent and brief.' Do you ever realize…that's these things are happening?"

"Am I supposed to?"

"I don't know."

He laughs. "You know, the reason it took you so long to get your interview was because of these 'fits' and 'amnesiac behaviour' Dr. Tanner speaks of. I don't remember anything, to be honest. A lot of times, I think I'm dreaming again…dreaming of my mother, not how she was when she was alive, but how mothers are supposed to be; and sometimes, I dream of Lawrence…his smile, his voice, his eyes…"

He lapses into a despondent silence, withering in those contemptuous memoirs; he seemed to be most alive inside this precious, bejeweled memory box. In the air of the tiny, white little room drifted this tormenting pressure of anguish that crushed the bones and pounded at the brain, and took the oxygen out the lungs with a potent asphyxiation—and all around was this sense of drowning, inside a profuse purple miasma of misery; there was love and pain, and love, and pain, and pain and love, and the most illogical of all emotions. The writer could hear the flow of the blood inside of him, trembling and quaking and waking and feeling. And the writer, she could feel it—his suffering, his apathy, his love, his adoration… his insanity and sanity. It wasn't a moment all engrossed neatly within vibrant coloured papers, fashioned with an ebony ribbon—it was an instance in Time that was spilt carelessly on the ground like a mass of cherry liquor, smelling both sweet and fetid.

The author swallows liters of air into her lungs as she gazes into the eyes of this madman of a thousand shades of taupe and crimson. The azure gems endorsed each other in hue, with flickers of luster and flickers of discoloration. Inside those whirlpools of cerulean, the author recognized something—the image of tenderness and woe, lament and sorrow; and then, just briefly, inside a gleam in Time, she saw the possibility of something ancient, primal and reptilian, instinctive with need, and something, something that echoed her own hollow heart. The air rushed from within her; and she suddenly felt as empty and futile as he did—the resonance was ever so vociferous.

"You loved him…very much…"

He stares at her honestly and vulnerably. "More than you could ever know, Ms. Ritchler." Silence fluttered injudiciously amid the two. Then suddenly—"Ms. Ritchler, are you married?"

Startled by his query, the writer is tentative before finally answering, "Yes. My husband and I have been married for over ten years."

"That's wonderful. Children?"

"Two. A boy and a girl."

"Lovely, just lovely."

"Lovely, just lovely." I watched him place the manuscript neatly back onto the table; all around was the sound of buzzing human traffic, waiters and waitresses, the moving bodies of customers. The aroma of moist, warm coffee drifted through the café air, and I couldn't help but smile at him. With those long, slender fingers, he lifts the mug of coffee to his lips and consumes that rich liquor of russet and white. "It's really your best, Aly. I've got to hand it to you; you really pulled it off."

"You like it? You really like it?" I smiled at him skeptically. "You're not teasing me again, are you, Jules?"

He grinned at me, flashing those lustrous, white teeth. "Now, why would I be teasing my gal?"

I reached across the infinitesimal café table and shoved him in the shoulder, mischievously. "You bastard," I laughed. "You are teasing me!" I crossed my arms almost angrily. "Was it that bad?"

"No, no, no, sweetie, it's not bad at all!" He grasped my hands in his. "I really meant it! It is a lovely piece. Just lovely."

"Really?" I smiled.

He grinned, and nodded in reply. "It's great, baby."

I laughed, and grabbed him and kissed him. "Is it good? Honestly?" I kissed him again. "If you say it's good, then it's good…and god!" I placed my hands on my face, and shook my head profusely. "God!" I wanted to scream in glee.

"Send it to Laurie."

I peered at him from above my fingertips. "I don't know. I don't know. You think it's good; Gordon thinks its good; and I think I did good on it, but I don't know."

"To send, or not to send, that is the question, ain't it?"

"Jerk."

"Oh you know you love me." He smiled impishly.

Those large, slender fingers of his took my hand, and intertwine them perfectly together. He kissed me; and I would always remember the taste of his kiss—the taste of bittersweet coffee, with only a touch of cream, a kiss that was warm and sent shockwaves across my skin. I would never have a kiss like that again—this was the man I loved more than anything in the world. My best friend, my lover, my soul mate.

"Listen, love, it's a great story, a great novel. Laurie'll love it. She can't but love it! You've worked too hard on this to give up and abandon it now. Send it to her. Trust me. She'll love it."

"All right!" I beamed. "I'll send it." Kiss, and kiss, that insatiable kiss saturated all my veins with this addictive romance. "I love you so much, Julian…"

"You loved him so much…and Lawrence…loved you just as much, then why…" she pauses, carefully choosing the words that she should articulate to convey her troubled inquiry. "Why would he allow himself to be killed, and worst of all, allow you to be the killer? Didn't it occur to him that you would be left to carry the burden? Didn't it occur to him what would happen if he died?" This was a quandary that festered inside a thick cover of curiousity; the museless writer was so desperate to understand, even a little bit, as to how that child could do what he did—Adrian's love was evident, his actions had reason (even if they lack substance in sanity)—but that child…remained a jumbled group of puzzles on the floor.

"How could he…" he echoes, "that is what you want to know most, isn't it?"

"Yes. I don't have his story—that is why I came to you—because there is no way I can get the truth from a person six feet under."

He nods, carefully, tentatively, thinking, pondering at her request to allocate her all the bejeweled and gold treasured secrets of his most beloved. Could he do that?—disclose all those precious furtive enigmas from within his mind; release them into that hazy, azure part of a queer Heaven like a dozen white doves. Could he revisit those painful memories, that wondrous location in time when he was happy, truly happy? Could he do that? Bare his own sanity in order to unveil before a grand audience of a thousand a most tragic affair, far more dangerous and violent than Romeo and Juliet—a tale so sweet and bittersweet and bitter, and much more potent than the Sun's benevolent light.

All the world would be the stage for this Shakespearean tragedy to be performed in a five act play. In this tale, there was the jester, le fou, a thing of beauty and a thing of ugliness, and a most fantastically tortured love affair, and it was all set in a Sin City of former Angels, where the stars were as dull as gluttony and all around was the false promises of a better tomorrow.

In the end, it was still a child's fantasy—and he had to overcome it, to tell this wretched story to this woman with azure stones for eyes, who had also drowned, as he could see, long ago, inside a womb filled of noxious crimson dye.

Azure stones clashed against azure stones.

Should he tell her his dream, he wonders; he dreamt a lot.

In his dreams, he would walk amongst a veiled forest, where the trees were as black as the cavern in his heart, and all the leaves were emerald jewels of glittering green.

In his dreams, he would recall all the chronicles of his laborious tragedy; at times, the mere notion of those thoughts were like an iron sword being plunged into his wretched, wretched festering heart.

In his dreams, he would recollect the site of a marvelous carnival, with multi-coloured stands of games and trivial toys and things, pastel teacup rides that spun around and around in a dizzying velocity, and all around was the smell of saccharine caramel candy, pink and blue clouds of cotton, and fresh crystalline popcorn. A big red and white tent rested in the center of all the calamity and commotion, and in the distance there was a towering clockwork ferris wheel, spinning frantically in a spherical motion. In his dreams, there was a jester, with multihued garments and his face painted black and white. He stands before all the wicked festivities, holding a bouquet of red balloons, his hand outstretched towards all the tiny children.

The jester would smile in a most sinister manner. In his hand there magically appeared a gentleman's ebony top hat. In the hands of this farcical man, the garland of crimson balloons frayed into the dismal, gray sky, and there emerged a long, elegant butcher's knife, its edge sharpened like that of a samurai sword. The jester would laugh haunting, and pull from the little black hat a tiny toy rabbit, bandaged where his flesh rotted from leprosy.

"Adrian, Adrian," the jester would call, his voice full of a venomous kindness, "your mother is this carnival…and you are a child born from this hat."

And the jester would laugh, and hand the bespectacled child the jagged razor plaything.

"Adrian…"

Another voice would call to him, the voice of something not of this wicked, twisted world. It was dulcet with a queer softness, a childishly singsong voice that reverberated in his ears; and the voice was ever so sweet and beautiful, ever so innocent and pure, the voice of water, coursing through the path of a petite river in some fantastical, ornamented forest. The voice sang to him, and he would turn, away from that sharp little toy and that cruel jester, to see this object of beauty and hideousness staring, smiling at him.

In his dreams, Lawrence would always smile, his hands full of those red balloons, his body hidden behind a veil of white velvet. And he would smile of love, and a happiness that seemed so sincere; and he would smile, of a place that was far from this blasphemous Wonderland of Mad Hatters, lost little white rabbits, painted bloody roses, Queens with iron hearts, and Cheshire cats that never smiled. And his smile was ever so bright, and much more intoxicating than the Sun—and that smile, that beautiful smile burned into him and marked him for life.

"Adrian!" Lawrence would call.

He would run; and he would run towards that brilliant and burning smile, towards the object of his obsession and affection—and he would run, his arms embracing the only thing he could ever love.

Always, and always, suddenly, he would be forced back into this strange veracity.

Did he want to meet this novel reality?

He had no choice.

"Why?" he echoes. "Strange question. Why? Sometimes, I am not even sure. But I know that he never meant any hurt for it." He gives a small laugh. "I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, and the refuge of art. And that is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita."

"Humbert Humbert."

He smiles. "My mirror." He sighs, and turns to gaze out the barred window of the asylum; past the stale, white steel bars of this impregnable prison, he sees a world drenched in toxic liquor. But there is the Sun, always shining of this incomprehensible beauty.

"I don't know Lawrence's reasons; but I know what he wanted. He hurt, even more than I did, because at least I could endure it. I learned this strange therapy through all this blood I spilt, and I found that I could, at least, pretend I was sane. But he never could. Lawrence knew…in this world, he could not belong to me. In this world, there was always this wall built between us, no matter how much we felt, how much we bled, no matter how much we hurt. In this world, I could not rescue him, even if I wanted to. In this world, he would never be free. In this world, whatever was real about our bizarre…love…was only an infection of bad memories; for we could not be like grand paintings or marble statues that stood in infinity. He knew, that if he died, that death would etch into Time our most extraordinary love—and etch into immortality and make real this leprous adoré." He gazes back at the troubled writer. "That, is why he did what he did—so we could, for eternity, belong to each other in this strange way of Death."

She breathes deeply as she places her hand on the papers, gazing at all the documentations of this madman and a strange boy's passionate love story. "Existing in one—two. In death, he binds himself to you forever. A curious way for inertia."

"Perhaps," he smiles.

A queer hush dances in the air.

"Do you understand, Ms. Ritchler?"

The writer is quiet.

"Have you ever loved someone so much that you would anything to be with them? Ms. Ritchler."

Silence.

"Have you ever loved a person so much that you would die for them?"

Silence.

"Yes…I did. A long time ago. But he died."

Silence.

"And now, he lives forever in you."

Silence!

"Julian!" I called his name, but his face still remained all pale and placid, ashen white, and covered in this sticky, crimson liquid. Frantically, all the doctors and nurses carried him on a moving stretcher into the emergency room. I ran with them. I moved with them; they move with me. We moved over I; I moved over we. We moved together, this mass of bodies merging into a single celled and singled minded organism, implausibly absorbed in this man who lay so comatosely on this insipid stretcher. My heart was caught between my throat, lodged tight, causing this nauseous breathlessness. My mind pounded with a queer and nearly incomprehensible suggestion—no, I didn't want to think about it.

"Julian…" but he would not wake from his Briar Rose dream.

Strong hands grabbed me and pull me away from him as all the doctors and nurses took him away. "Aly…Aly…" someone called.

"No…Julian…" I sank to the floor in wretched heartbreak and anguish. There was nothing that could describe my sorrow. If I tried, the feeling would swallow me whole and never allow me to escape. My whole body trembled and quaked. My breath was fast and haunting—the world felt as if it would explode. I felt as if I would implode, and fray away into bits of nothingness by some strange, torturous osmosis. This feeling—this convulsion of agony. I could not stand it.

"Aly…"

"It's my fault, Gordon. It's my fault. He was coming to see me. He was…he was…" My hitched, and it was suddenly hard to breath. My machinate lungs have broken into pieces. I must be shaking terribly, I thought to myself at the time. But those strong arms and hands do not let me go.

"It's not your fault, Aly. It's not." He held me from behind, and I could feel his beating heart against the hollow of my back. "It's not your fault, Alyson. It was raining. It was bad. It wasn't your fault. It wasn't. It was the other guy—he crashed into Jules. It's not your fault."

My eyes held no weir against the ocean anymore. "H-He was so badly hurt…there was blood…everywhere…Oh God…what if he? I couldn't stand it. I couldn't. Oh God." I couldn't speak. I didn't want to think. I didn't want to feel.

"Nothing's going to happen to him! Listen to me, Alyson, nothing is going to happen to Julian. He's going to be fine. You know him…"

I shook my head. "He's not fine…H-He could—Jules could—oh God!"

I screamed. And I screamed.

It was too much. Too painful. The thoughts were like an immensely consuming tidal wave, washing over me and sheltering me inside this womb of torment and crying and tears and hurt. I couldn't stand it. I couldn't.

"It's going to be okay, Alyson. Whatever happens, it's going to be okay. I'll protect you. I promise I'll protect you, always…I'll protect you."

"I couldn't protect him; no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn't. I could save him from all the follies and evils of the whole world, the real world, but I couldn't protect him from his fears, because I could never protect myself from my own fears." The pale man smiled a little as he gazes at the writer before him. "We protected each other, Lawrence and I. We protected each other, because we could only do that. Neither of us was strong."

There presents the stage—the question prodded and probed her, annoyed her, seeking for its ascension into existence, for her endless curiousity to at last be quenched of its insatiableness.

"Why did you love Lawrence?"

Ah, a whisper, and whisper, the most desperate, desired and dreaded words are spoken. She will now learn the truth—the reason of her being here. It was the last shard of glass to her smashed window.

"Why did I love him?" He smiles that sad and lonely smile. "That's like asking why does it rain, why does the Sun glow bright, why is the grass green, why does chocolate taste sweet. It's a terrible question, Ms. Ritchler. Terrible. And I am so cliché with those sayings." He laughs, the sound empty, like a vase void of any substance.

"How could I not love him?"

It's just this way that I love you…kill you.

In this twisted world, above all others, you were the ugliest…and the most beautiful.

Adrian Clay, with his azure orbs, gazed into the sapphire eyes of the only woman who could ever appreciate his feelings—he stared, calmly, openly, into the eyes of this person who could, would, be his parallel reflection.

"I can see it in your eyes, Ms. Ritchler, that you, too, have loved as I have loved," he spoke. "You had loved someone so great that being apart from him makes you hurt and ache, physically. You do everything you can to forget them, to lose them inside the past, so you can, at last, move on and be free—so you can be emancipated from all the pain, all the hurt, all the fear that you will never see that precious person any more. You do it, just like I, every day—but we can't. We can't, because Death immortalizes them inside of us—and no matter how much we want to lose the past, we can't, and I'm not sure I want to. Losing the past means I would lose the one true person I can and will ever love." He pauses, letting the good writer reflect on his words. She remains silent, adjacent to reality.

Silence!

"So, Ms. Ritchler, I can't understand how you can ask that terrible question, for you know exactly why I love Lawrence. You have loved as I have loved."

No, I have forgotten. I have forgotten that awful past. I have forgotten, which is why I ask. She wanted to say. And I ask, because despite everything, I want to remember. To remember was to understand. I want to, despite all the pain, I want to.

Smiling, the man continued, as if knowing what she had wanted to articulate.

"I loved him because he loved me. I loved him because he could love me, when my mother couldn't love me, when I couldn't love myself, because I hated and despised the very thing I was. I loved him because he was kind, and his smile would scare away all the nightmares of my dreams. I loved him because he did not ask any questions. He did not judge. He understood—with those eyes of his, he could see through me, as if I were bare all over, as if my heart was on the floor. I would hate him for seeing all the things I didn't want him to see, all the things I didn't want the world to see, all the things I wanted to hide away from the world—all the parts of me I was so frightened of, he was not. I loved him because he liberated me from all the pain of all the years I had lived. He allowed me to let go, and so, little by little, I began to feel whole. I loved him because he forgave me, when I couldn't forgive myself, when I was so utterly caught up in this insanity that I lost sight of everything. I loved him, because he was the only person I could ever love."

Je t'aime.
Je t'aime.
Je t'aime.

I loved him because I loved him and in loving him I knew I was alive.

"It is a puzzling emotion, love—some think it a sin, because it moves more people than any other force known to Man. Love contorts and corrupts the mind, love embraces you and refuses to let you go. It is a tide that washes you over, and floods all of your sense till you're merely a speck of nothing. We hate love, and we love love. It is…a most confounding paradox. And we would not give it up for the world."

Adrian stares at the author silently as they basked in each other's presence.

"Do you remember the man you loved, Ms. Ritchler?"

Yes.

"Do you know why I loved Lawrence, Ms. Ritchler?"

Yes.

"Do you understand, Ms. Ritchler?"

Yes.

Yes, she spoke as she looked up as she heard someone call her. She was suddenly awakened from her memory world. She stared around her, at the dark hues of fabric within the taxi, and the green of the grass outside the window of the automobile. A puzzled gaze transpired over the rich, brown face of the taxi driver. He told her they had arrived at her destination, and she thanked him in response. She gave him thirty in fare, and did not ask for any change as she stepped out of the vehicle.

She stood wordlessly, transfixed on the luxuriant emerald face of the memorial park; and she felt bemused, vaguely confused as she listened to the hum of the yellow automobile speed away into anonymity. She held in her arms a garland of white lilies and a hardcover novella that was her latest book. Leisurely, she sauntered into the cemetery. She ambled past the large, ebony gate and found herself in some odd Eden—a place where all the world was jade leaves and sumptuous trees, and the hills stretched over for miles an endless sea of emerald and tombs of gray marble.

She knew where her destination existed, and most determined, she made her way along the stoned path. She allowed her mind to waft in the memoirs of the past, back, back, into a world where she was most forlorn, back and back, to a time where she was rekindled with the fires of what once was. She remembered.

She remembered of a man, a plain man with an overwhelming pair of azure jewels, and how she met him one tepid June day in Los Angeles. She remembered how he was the center of her world for over half a year, how his story inspired everything in her life, when she had been so fraught for a muse. She remembered the misfortune of his past, of his love, of his sanity—and how dreadfully emulative they were to one another. As her heels connected against the cool pavement of the pathway, she heard in her ears the echo of a heart, trembling and beating, waiting and hoping, disoriented within all the maddening sorrow.

Then, she arrived at her destination.

She was drenched in élan ebony, this writer, standing on a mounted hill of opulent emerald, buried deep amid the vale of the charming little mortuary. All around were the sepulcher of those who loved and were loved once upon a midsummer's night; but now were austerely sharing a dwelling with worms between the cake-layers of soil six feet under. The ghosts of this peculiar cemetery watched in absolute fascination this woman, this woman who, too, had loved and lost one day, long ago—whether or not she perceived the vigilant gaze of these impalpable, translucent specters is a mystery to all others but her and those most formidable spirits. She is silent; gazing emphatically at this man buried beneath her feet.

At the base of a green Maple tree's fingered-roots was a cool, marble tombstone, entrenched in the emerald of the grass. It read—

Adrian Clay
1969-1996

She placed the white flowers and the completed novel down on the skin of the marble grave. She is mute as she stared at this man—even in death, he moved her. She closed her eyes and cleared her mind of all thoughts—of her husband, her children, her novel, her past, her future, of all her worries and fears. With her mind clean and her heart open, she thought about this man who made her remember; this man and his story, that made her remember what it was like to feel, and what it was like to love, despite all the follies of the world. With a deep, sincere empathy, she said a prayer for the souls of Adrian Clay and his most beloved Lawrence.

She stood in the peace of this green sepulcher, in a city of forlorn aurochs, before this man who had once loved and hurt and lost, this man who mirrored so much of herself—and for the first time since the death of her Julian, Alyson Ritchler allowed herself to cry.

And that, dear reader, is the ending I leave you.

THE END


Author's Note:

(sigh) It took me so long to finish this. This is, by far, one of the most difficult fics I've yet to write; however, it is also one that has tested my skill as a writer. It is actually based on one of my former (failed) screenplays entitled Boys Next Door, after Kaori Yuki-sensei's ingeneous manga. This is a story that has dramatically shaped my view towards writing and defins a climatic moment in my life. Since fanfiction dot net has no BND section, I believe Angel Sanctuary will be the most appropriate since fans of AS have heard and read of BND.

I hope you enjoyed this story, and that it was not too confusing.

Jia Zhang


© February 28, 2006 by Jia Zhang. All rights reserved.