in the evening
Will it consume me? let me see it then.
--Titus Andronicus, Act III, scene i
I have been around. I have seen the splintered mess of bone and tissue that is the remnant of an animal chewing itself out of a trap. They escape, yes. But at what cost? There is always the torn piece left behind and of course the wound of it always carried.
In her room, I first remembered the things we did there. It was being surrounded by her scent that forced the stronghold of my memory to give up the pages of my life it had been holding back. Now I understand that it had released a sacred secret to me and now I understand that I have failed to honor it. I didn't know how far inside it went, my love for her. I just didn't know. I thought I could give it up, if I told myself I was doing so for her benefit.
Here is when I found out how deep and hot I burned for only her. When I saw the orange lightning that illuminated what remained of the dark summer night beyond the garish lights of the Strip. When, from the roof of the hotel, I could see it tumbling in the clouds over the desert, a silent sign of an approaching storm. How appropriate and full of meaning. When, as the new King was holding his political court—I an officer of it and vaguely following the proceedings on some Arkansas issue that meant fuck all to me—I felt it. Then I found out about the depth, the heat, the truth. I had made the break and it was not clean. She was the piece left behind. I felt the song of her heart, the voice of her life singing vibrations in my ears. I felt it spike like a fever and I ran, the room gaping in astonishment at my exit. I took to the sky, the one I had shared with her only a few nights ago, and felt that vibrating voice fade into quiet when she died.
That was the sound I did not know I was hearing until it was absent. Her life, a beautiful sound, too beautiful to stay for long in the brutish brain of a brute like me.
When I got there, I knew she was already dead. I knew it when I saw the wreckage, the flashing lights from the sky. I touched ground and walked around the black van and paused at the edge of it. My nerve had never faltered before and here I was, asking myself if I really wanted to see this. In one movement, I took the final step and palmed her forehead and focused every ounce of glamorous power I had on her. I scrambled for purchase in my own brain, clawing at slick surfaces for the ropes of our bond, but they were gone. She was gone. I fell. I feel. I feel. I feel.
I would have turned her if I could have, I think. It has never been something she wanted, but I could have lived with her hatred of me because I would have known there was time to turn it around. Time: that word for the world flowing around and on ahead of we who are frozen in grief.
She had always felt warm to me and I relished that feeling. Rejoiced in her warmth on and around me that summer night, the one with the stars, the heat, my shirt tossed away in the grass and the last words I said to her. And now. Still summer. I speak of her life as if it were much further in the past than it actually is. Or was. I do not know where to put her in the timeline of my own life, which is no sweet song in the brain. I want to know what I felt like to her. What I was to her. What sounds I made in her mind. She, my comfort, I her— What? If I had thought to ask her, I know she would have told me.
My Child still gripped her cooling hand. My cold fingers slid her eyelids shut. I looked across the way at her, into the eyes of my lovely Child and saw her fold inward, afraid of me. I knew the look she must have seen on my face. Others had seen it and died. I knew it was not her fault. I saw the red rimming her eyes and streaking her face. It was not her fault. When Pam turned away from us, I bent over her still form and kissed the last of the warmth from her lips. I feel I feel I feel. I had decided I would not die for her, so I will not cry for her, either.
The pretty fairy arrives, horrified at her failure. Her smell is just another layer of the memory of this night. Fucking fairies. Good for nothing but a high.
I did not return to Las Vegas. I went to her home. I told the witch, whose Were had to restrain her fists from beating my chest. The phone rang shortly after. It was Pam calling with the same news. I went to my home. I went to sleep well before dawn and slept into the next night. I have the dream again, but slightly different. We are walking together on a dark road, we do not touch. We do not look at each other. We arrive at the turn to her house. She moves to go down her long driveway. Only this time, she does turn around. She says, Follow me. And I do. In this dream, it is I who do not look back. At the end of the road, I find it. My heart.
She had told her brother and even made him sign a statement as a witness that she wanted a service at night. We gathered at the cemetery between her house and Bill's. I had pulled him away from Pam late last night, when I had finally made it to the bar not too long before closing. He would have killed her or allowed her to kill him. Pam still feared me. We had not spoken alone since the wreck and when there had been the opportunity for it, she had disappeared. I do not blame her.
At the service, we cast our eyes toward the ground. The coffin is lowered. With its drop into the earth, the stopper is pulled and I, the vessel, am emptied.
The living ones eat in her house. Every sinewy chew cracks in my ears. The bottled blood in my hand might as well be water. Piss. Solid gold. Who cares? What are the other vampires still doing here? I wave them out. Go the fuck away. I rise. I walk into her bedroom and shut the door behind me.
In her room, I first remembered what we did there, the loving things, and she was right. I was sweet. Clinging to her in the hot dark of that night. It really had been too long. And now it was too late. Now, surrounded by her scent again, I realized. It was so fucking over. The last things I said to her will beat their metal wings inside me until the day I finally die. It is correct in many ways that I am dead already. To love is to bury. Love her enough to let her go, to leave her be. What the fuck was I thinking?
I smelled myself in this room, too. I followed the sharper trail to a box on her dresser. She was not there to yell at me so I opened one of the mismatched jewelry boxes on top of it. There it was, with traces of my blood still on it. The Dallas bullet, that devious bullet that first got my blood in her, the sign of the wound, carried always. There were two others. One I matched to the night on the road after meeting her great grandfather. The second… Then I remembered. I had taken this one for her, too, in the heart. Well of course.
There was more of me there. I pulled at the edge of the pillow on her bed, the one I remembered as being hers when I shared this same bed with her. Underneath was the t-shirt I wore, the one I left here when I stalked away for good. I laid on her bed with my head on her pillow. I crunched the shirt in my hands and pressed my face into it. A salty smell I recognized: her tears. I am the stupidest fucking asshole on this planet. What if I had just told her the truth? Would it have been worse for her to know, for me to know and then suffer her death? I dropped the shirt on the floor and jerked abruptly off the bed and went into the bathroom and came back out immediately. It was too clean. She was not in there at all.
I slipped the three spent bullets into my pocket as I walked out of her bedroom and shut her door behind me and left her house, for once not knowing where to go or what to do next.
I ended up at my house, in the study, staring at the computer screen, aimlessly clicking through the news, the weather, the top five tropical vacation spots, thirteen ways to know your spouse is cheating, tips to improve your resume and many other things that did not matter. This was how the second night ended. I have started keeping count, the cold landscape of nights piling in aimless drifts like flakes of snow. A wasteland of want. And there have only been two.
The third night, Felipe called me from Nevada, sending his regrets from afar. Fuck me if he did not sound absolutely sincere. He asked after her arrangements. I told him it was already done. Was there no one near to turn her, he asked. No, I said. No one. He then asks me when I can come to Las Vegas again to meet with him. I may take my time, but there remain loose ends to tie up. That I may not take too much time is understood. I am extremely tempted to tell him to go fuck himself, but now. What purpose would it possibly serve? If I had said Fuck you, we're moving to Canada, a week ago, the "we" would have meant something and the "fuck you" would have been for a good cause.
Now I have buried her. I have buried everything. I was wrong. Loving something means keeping it close. Keep one loved thing closest to you. Then enemies, then friends. The question rises again: what was I thinking when I pushed her away?
Pam has begged off for the night. I have allowed it. I do not blame her for wanting a little distance from me. I do not care. I sit in my stupid fucking chair on the stupid fucking stage in my stupid fucking bar, surrounded by vampires and throngs of eager donors. They reek. I hate them. I am not hungry. I do not feed. Last night, I drank a bottle of that synthetic horror in her house, after she was buried. To love is to bury. Love it and let it go. How could I have been so fucking stupid?
Lightning touches down. My body seizes with sudden awareness and I stand. There is something moving in my brain, waking up and clawing its way out of some deep, dark hole. Its fingers are electric. My Area vamps are all on alert, fingers arched to tear, looking for the source of my alarm. The humans in the bar do not move. Some of them have crouched on the floor at the rise of tension in the room. I barrel through all of them to reach the sanctuary of my office, door shut and locked, before the pain of this brings me to my knees. There is screaming at an unholy pitch and silence. There is choking and a deep ache in the pit of my stomach. Hunger. The scent of my favorite Child. The scent of animals, trees, earth. I look at my hands. They are small and delicate, pale by the light of the moon. Straight ends of blond hair wave into my vision. These clothes are not mine. I am covered in dirt.
I am none of these things. I am alone in my office, on my knees with my forehead on the edge of my desk, my fingers gripping the edge and nearly splintering the wood of it. Her vibrations start up again as the turning of an engine, different this time but it is her. My senses, sightsoundsmell are full of her, my lost love, stronger than ever. And I know. She is rising.
She is in a dark forest place. She always said she did not want this. This, the storm the desert lightning signaled the night she died. I feel her and I will find her, though she is not making this change alone.
I understand now. The distance, the curve of her lips like a secret these past three nights.
My Child. What have you done?
More to come in this series.