thehollowpartofme

Contact Mark Eagleton at
shakespearneeverdidthis@gmail.com or look me up on Facebook where I post about Satanism, Black Metal, Horror Cinema and assorted other weirdness.

thathollowpartofme:

I notice the bird on the balcony.  I am in the kitchen making a coffee and I notice the bird walking back and forth across the tiles.  At least it looks like a bird.  Like a vulture maybe, or a overweight turkey, but with an extremely long, curved beak.

As I approach the glass door it stops and looks at me with tiny black eyes.  It turns its head on an angle and studies me and I stop, a shiver running through me.  It is a disgusting looking thing.  Patches of feathers missing and dark mottled skin revealed.  It has an extended belly, stretched down towards the tiles, almost touching.

It’s beak opens in a silent screech and stays that way for a long time.  It has a long pink tongue resting in the lower half of its beak and as I am looking at this bird my hands are slowly approaching my face and I feel something building in my throat, some dreadful noise that I somehow manage to contain.

The beak closes and the bird steps closer to the door and begins to peck the glass.

Peck.  Peck.

I feel it’s eyes on me as I watch it’s balding, grey, stomach swaying slowing, back and forth, back and forth.  And I suddenly know that if I were to open the door and kick the bird, if I were thrust my foot into that pendulous mass, it would burst open and something foul and naseua inducing would rupture forth, spilling across the tiles.

Nothing would be able to contain the noise in my throat then, I think.

Peck.  Peck.

It’s eyes are on me.  What do you want, I yell at it, what the fuck are you doing here?

It cocks it’s head to the side, looks at me, studies me.

Get the fuck out of here!

Its then I realize I’m crying.  That I am standing in the kitchen crying and screaming at a bird and it’s freezing and I know something is wrong.  That the whole world is wrong.

Peck. Peck.

***

We are driving.  The road is empty here.  Sometimes a huge truck passes us and our car shakes.

This is a road stretching between places.  It goes from one place to another place.  And there is nothing to see.  Just trees and fields of grass, and cows and sometimes kangaroos.

There are dead things on the road.  So many dead things I’ve lost count.  Blood and guts cooking in the sun.

Do you think Snooki will be a good mother, she asks me.  The wind is in her hair, blowing it around.  I can’t see her eyes behind the huge black sunglasses she never takes off any more.  I can’t remember the last time I saw here eyes.

Well, I tell her, it’s hard to say for sure.

I think she might be.

Yeah?

She could be a good mum.

That’s….that’s a relief.

I mean I was worried about her there for a while, but I think she’ll be fine.

That’s good to know, I tell her, nodding my head.

The air blowing through the open windows is hot, but it feels good on my face, blasting it, making it tight on my skull.  Behind my sunglasses my eyes are tearing up again.  It’s hard to explain why but the idea that Snooki might be a good mother, that there is a possibility, brings tears to my eyes.

It’s possible there is something wrong with me, I think.

Can you pass me a beer, I ask her.

How many have you had?

Does it matter, have you seen any cops?

She passes me a beer and I hold it between my legs while I open it.  After I swallow a few gulps my eyes dry and I feel okay.  Not great but okay.

I wouldn’t mind living out here, she says, we could buy a house out here.

I tell her she is crazy.

You’re crazy, I say and drink more beer, you’re out of your fucking mind.

She laughs at this.  I don’t know why she laughs, what is so funny about this, but her laughing bothers me and I don’t say anything.

When are going to get there, she asks.

When are we going to get there?

Yes, when will we arrive?

I don’t know, I say, I don’t know.

We’ve been driving forever.

It’s hard to say, really.

She doesn’t say anything after that.  We drive in silence for a long time and the wind and the car engine are the only noise.  I am thinking about a time before this.  My father driving the car and my sister and I riding in the backseat with the windows down and my sisters hair blowing everywhere, whipping against my face.

The leather seats stuck to the back of my legs, but that was okay.  We were going somewhere.  A holiday.  Our last holiday before college.  My sister, fell asleep and I remember the feel of her head resting against my shoulder, the smell of her shampoo as her hair blew all around me.  And the sun, the sun everywhere.

When the maid comes downstairs she is crying and her shirt is torn at the collar and as she rushes past me I reach out to stop her but she slaps my hand away.  ‘Don’t, don’t,’ she says.

‘Wait,’ I call out, but she is at the front door, tearing at the handle as though her life depends on it.  ‘My wife is going through…a hard time right now.’

When she hears this, the maid stops, looks back at me and for the first time in my life I see real terror in another person’s eyes.  She is scared of me, I think, of us.  I am about to say something more but I hear smashing glass from upstairs and I turn my attention to the staircase.

When I look back at the front door the maid has gone and I am standing alone at the foot of the staircase in my robe.  A drop of condensation from glass of scotch and dry lands on my bare foot and I realize I am in need of a refill.

I was on the way to the kitchen, I think, that’s what I was doing.

In the kitchen I take a fresh bottle of scotch from the cupboard and fill my glass with ice and ginger ale.  From upstairs a noise reaches me.  A thump and some kind of sobbing.  I sip from my drink and for a second I feel that I might vomit and I lean over the kitchen sink, my mouth gaping and my stomach muscles constricting, but nothing happens and I watch a long thread of saliva stretch down towards the silver sink.

***

My wife is having an affair.  She is having an affair with her boss or with one of her workmates or with the man who does our garden or the boy who delivers our groceries each Wednesday or with one of our son’s teenage friends.  She is sleeping with one of these or maybe with all of them.

It used to matter.  Who my wife was sleeping with.  It used to seem like a big deal, but now I don’t think about it much.  When I do think about it, it is in an abstract kind of way.

My wife’s black hair left on a white pillowcase in a hotel room with views of the city at night time.  A champagne glass with a half eaten strawberry in it.  A bruise on the white globe of her left ass cheek.  Smeared mascara as she cries alone in the bathroom.  Drying semen on mangled sheet.

I would like to tell you that when I think about these things that I am jealous, that I want to go upstairs and yell accusations, that I want to slap her around, but none of that would be true.  The truth is, my wife having an affair means I can sit around in my robe all day drinking scotch and watching Charlie Brown on my giant TV.

The effort it would take to go upstairs and say something, to say anything, well it’s too exhausting just to think about.  Being around her for too long is like being in a room without oxygen.

***

When our paths cross, my wife’s and mine, when I venture out of the entertainment room to fetch a fresh bottle of scotch, or when I forget where I am and I wander around our home trying to familiarize myself with my surroundings, my wife sometimes speaks to me.  It’s strange, because when she talks her mouth moves but no sounds come out and I can stand there for a long time nodding my head at her but I have no idea what she is saying.

I always tell her that I can’t hear her and she always gets this look on her face like I am going to do something horrible to her.  Sometimes she will cry and sometimes she will beat me with her fists.

But it is all an act and her fists are like pillows striking me.  ‘Who are you doing this for,’ I ask her sometimes, ‘who is this show for…exactly.’

But this kind of talk only seems to make things worse and I have learnt that it is always best to keep my mouth shut.  Sometimes I remember to keep my mouth shut, but sometimes I forget and it always ends up like that painting ‘The Scream’ or whatever it’s called, with my wife, clawing at her face and her mouth open in a terrible wail.

It’s at this point that I always expect an audience to be revealed, for cameras to become visible, a director to come out.  ‘Stop, stop,’ he will tell her, ‘this is rubbish.  You’re trying too hard and no one believes you.’

***

It was a strange time in our lives.  We’d become confused and sad about nothing in particular.  It was the world, life itself, that bewildered us.  There was no meaning, not in anything, and yet we felt no lack of meaning.  We did not yearn for it.  It was not something we yearned for.

We did not miss it in our lives.

I told her it was a passing thing, a phase, something we’d forget about.

It’s a phase, I said.

Everything is a phase for you, she told me.

Maybe if I asked her to elaborate on this comment I’d have understood what she meant, but I didn’t ask.  I poured another glass of Pinot and looked out the window.  Or at least I pretended to look out the window, because by then I’d perfected the art of appearing to look into the distance when what I was really doing was making my vision blur.

I never told anyone this but when the world appeared as a smudge I felt an unusual calm envelop me.  For a long time I practised it in front of the mirror.  Making my features dissolve.  Becoming a blur.  It’s a beautiful feeling, becoming a ghost, something insignificant you can’t quite make out in a photograph.

What is that, they’d say.

Is that a person?

I wanted to be a finger pressed against a lens at the moment a picture was snapped.  Something hovering.  Indistinct.

***

I called myself a writer once.  It made me look deep, like someone with a lot of thoughts.  But I didn’t think about anything, not really.  Even then, in my youth, I was perfecting that look.  The look of someone with big things to worry about.  The look of someone who had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

But, mostly, I was thinking about sleep or about sex.  Sleep more than sex.

I’ve always loved to sleep.  My entire life I’ve tried to focus on those moments when sleep would flow over me, flashes of molten colour when I am on the verge of unconsciousness.  That is the part I love most.  The hovering in-between part.

My wife fell in love with me because she thought I was ‘interesting’.  I didn’t say much and when I did say something it was usually vague.  I held no opinions, not about anything.  I was the kind of person who liked to hold a glass of wine and ramble and then pause and then ramble some more.

‘It’s difficult to express…the emotion evoked…it’s just…’

I rarely finished a sentence, never made a point.  There was nothing I wanted to say, nothing contained within me that was waiting for the opportune moment.  I simply existed.  A code impossible to decipher.

***

My wife and I spend a lot of time out by the pool sunning ourselves.  The sun feels good on our skin.  We sip our drinks and she reads her book and I pretend to read my book.

Sometimes I say something about the book I am pretending to read.

This is so…interesting, I say.

What’s it about, she will ask.

It’s about…everything, I will tell her, It’s about the whole…deal.

I’ll have to read it, she will tell me

But she never will and I know I am safe.

Sometimes I look at her body.  It is a fine body.  Bubbles of sweat sparkle on her brown skin.  Soon she will be leathery and old.  And old boot, used and worn.  Things will be cut out of her.  There will be biopsies.  Incisions.  Tests.  Doctors with masks, scalpels in hand, buckets of mutated flesh.

You look good today, I tell her.

She doesn’t say anything.  Behind her glasses her eyes are closed.  I think about waking her before she burns, but it is easier to say nothing, to pretend to read, to look at the words, the black letters, until they become ash rubbed on the page. Indecipherable.

He thinks about how strong he was then.  How powerful he was with her by his side.  When she said his name, breath against his ear, he felt an unfamiliar strength surge through him and he wanted to hear her say it all the time.

Drunk he danced with her between parked cars, a happy waltz, smiles all teeth, her eyes shining up at him.  He looked up at the stars and thought this is it.  His heart was racing and he knew it was racing for her and he’d never felt this way and he wanted to keep this feeling always.

Walking home they laughed, hands entwined.  No one was watching.

She took her clothes off and in the moonlight her body glowed and from the bed he watched and the world was distant then.  The world was stupid and mean and he was far away from all that and drifting further all the time and watching her he didn’t think about the things he used to think about or feel the things he used to feel.

He was right there with her.  And he realized it was the first time he’d really been anywhere, actually felt real, felt himself to be a physical presence, something more than a ghost, hovering.  He was no longer only an observer.

His father always told him he had to wake up to himself and he felt awake then, watching her undress at the foot of the bed, her eyes glints of silver, her skin a ghostly white.

Sometimes he sees her around town.  Late at night, dancing with the men at the bar, the music up loud and he sees her through the crowd, her eyes meet his over the shoulder of another man and he always holds his breath.  He can’t breathe.  He’ll try to talk to her when it gets late, but he’s always drunk and the words never come out the way he wants them to.

She always looks sad when she sees him and she always looks at the ground after a few seconds.

It’s always too late and she’s always too far away and it’s always too hard.  She’s always walking away from him.  Always moving in the opposite direction.  Always disappearing around corners or behind shadows.

He drinks beer and thinks about other places, other towns, dreams he once had.  People he might get to know.  And he sees himself in this new place and he is surrounded by people and everyone is smiling.  He dreams about long stretches of highway, loud music, his arm out the window, hair blowing.  A destination.  His past a point of reference.  The sun blistering hot.  The whole world opening up.

thathollowpartofme:

When the argument is over and the screaming has stopped and she has gone to our bedroom and shut the door and everything is so quiet and I can’t even hear her crying, well, that’s when I want to go to her.  That’s when I want to apologize.  That’s when I want to take back the things I said to her in the heat of the moment.

But I don’t or I can’t because I know it’s too late.

People will tell you that it’s never too late to fix what’s broken, but these people are born liars.  Or else they are fools or people who have watched too much Dr. Phil or they are people who have never stood across from a person they once loved and wanted to hurt them in ways you can’t even begin to describe.

It’s a disheartening realization.  The moment you understand that it is not salvageable, that there is no going back.  All the good things are gone and they have been gone a long time.  There is no goodness anywhere.

Trust me, if there were good things, I’d grab onto them with both hands and I’d pull them close.  I’d make sure that I kept the good things, that I didn’t let them go bad.  That’s the trick, I think, not letting the good turn bad.

But it’s not easy.  It doesn’t take much.

One minute you’re the best thing that ever happened to her and the next you’re her biggest regret.

'I wish I never met you,' she said before slamming the bedroom door in my face, 'I wish I'd never seen your stupid fucking face.'

'You're going to die alone.  You're going to choke on your own hate,' I screamed and then kicked the door twice, putting a crack in it.

Later, when I am in the spare room and I am trying to think about how I’m going to live the rest of my life, I keep thinking about how hard I fought for her.  I keep thinking about how I loved her so much and I pursued her in a way that I’d never pursued anyone.

I craved her in a way that felt unnatural to me.

It was like a sickness, the way I wanted her.  The way it felt that the entire reserve of my future happiness rested on her loving me.

Now I spend my time daydreaming about her having an accident on the way home from work.  The call from someone, a nurse, telling me to come down to the hospital.  The way I will turn up just in time to tell her that I’m sorry before she dies.  The way her death is like a release and all the anger and hate contained within my body is let loose in a gasping, tearful mess.

If she died I would never have to tell her I’m leaving.  I would never have to explain to her about how I get this feeling when I’m looking at her, this feeling that I am standing over some kind of disgusting insect and my immediate need is to crush it underfoot.  About how the last time we fucked I was so bored I pretended to cum because the monotony of it was enough to put me to sleep.  Or about the dream I had where a pack of wolves tore her apart as I watched from a second floor window, touching myself.

But neither of us will die.  Neither of us will go easily into the night.

Sometimes, yo go over your old things and find something you don’t remember writing and you wonder - who wrote this, who is this person?  And yet there is a feeling of recognition.  Some part of you that is trapped in that place still.  In the dark.  Waiting.

He dreamt of the end of the world.  He would be standing in the street, just standing there, not doing anything, and people would be running past him.  Running as fast as possible.  And screaming.  And he would just stand there.

When he looked up at the sky he saw that it was opening.  And he stood there.  He did not run.  He stood there, watching the end of the world.

***

The first time he kissed her.  He kissed her on the forehead, right in the center of that smooth patch of skin.  It was winter.  Her skin was cool and his lips were not especially wet.

The first time he kissed her they were at a friend’s place, on the veranda, alone on the veranda, everyone else inside, and he kissed her on the forehead.  It was winter and her hands were cold and pink.  He held her hands with his hands and leant towards her, forward and down, and kissed her.

After the kiss they stood there holding one another, kind of just leaning.  In the cold.  Her cheek on his chest.  Breath steaming.  It was winter then.

***

The first time he woke beside her he knew he had already lost her.  He could feel how far away she was.  Sleeping.  Be he couldn’t tell her that.  He couldn’t tell her that one day she would look at him and she would find him repulsive.  She wouldn’t be able to stand the the sight of him.  And it would come as a surprise to her, because she would love him also and not want to hurt him.

But it was inevitable.

***

The first time they met they were drunk.  They first time they kissed they were drunk.  The first time he stayed at her place, also the second time they met, they were drunk.  The first time they had sex they were drunk.

This, he felt, went a long way towards explaining what had gone wrong.  He liked to think that had they met under different circumstances, or if he didn’t drink as much, it would have worked out better.  It was a nice thing to imagine.

But without booze he had no confidence.  He was nervous.  With a few drinks under his belt he could pretend he wasn’t afraid.  But it meant she didn’t really know him.  She knew him drunk.  When he was sober she accused him of being too quiet.  She didn’t realize he was quiet by nature.  That he was shy.

How could she know?

***

He wished that he could have been a better person for her.

***

He eventually came to accept that he was to blame for everything.  That whatever he gone wrong had been his fault.  He had thought it was her, but it was him.

He allowed it to become what he didn’t want.  Allowed it to become a fling.  He should have never have slept with her when drunk.  He should have told her it was too soon.  It was not the right time.

They had been drinking.  Still, he should have known better.  He should have known that it would ruin everything.  How could he be happy?  It was exactly what he didn’t want.

***

He thought it would be romantic.  He thought it would bring to mind all the things he never had.  He thought it would be special.  He thought he would remember it forever.

He should have known better.

It was gross and awkward.  In a dark room with music blaring their bodies did not fit the way they were meant to fit.

He should have been used to disappointment by now.  He should not have been surprised.

***

She reminded him, not all the time, of another girl and it scared him that all girls might have similar characteristics and that he might be constantly reminded of this girl from his past.

What he had thought was special and unique only to her may not have been and thinking about this worried him.  He thought about it all the time.

***

He went to the bathroom because he thought he was going to vomit.  He stood over the toilet bowl until something filled his mouth.  He spait it out.  No beer, but blood.  And then more.  Moutfuls of it.  Thick dark streams.  He could taste it and smell it in his nostrils.

Holy shit, he thought. But he washed the taste away with more beer and then kept on drinking.  And the next time he felt that he was going to be sick he held it in.  He kept the blood inside him.

She doesn’t mean to hurt me.  I reassure myself with thoughts like this.  But the kitten is growing by the day and she waits for me around corners and behind things.  And she jumps out and bites hard with her white teeth and cuts deep with her clear claws.

She waits for me.

She is only little.  She doesn’t mean to draw blood.  She is playing.  It is all a game to her.

And I think about how if she was a tiger, if she was not black but orange and black, she would play the same games and when she killed me, finally, it would all be an accident.  It would not be on purpose.  My gushing throat would confuse her.  My still body would not respond to her touch and maybe she would feel some kind of regret.  A kittens regret.

Of course, none of this would stop her from licking up the warm blood from the tiles or chewing on my flesh when no one came to feed her.  She is an animal after all.

***

In my dream I saw a forest fire.  I was driving on an empty highway and on both sides of the road tall pines blazed in the night time.  The smell of burning pine filled my nose and it was a pleasant smell.

I have always loved the smell of burning pine.

It looked like the whole world was ablaze.  The sky was dark with smoke and it glowed orange as far as I could see.  I felt the heat of the fire through the glass and my skin felt tight on my skull.

I am driving, but I don’t know where.  It is far and it won’t be good when I get there.  I know this.  I feel it the same way I feel the fire through glass.  I watch the road and the night is alive with fire and embers rise towards the sky, towards the stars and the fire is everywhere.

Someone is waiting for me.  They are saying my name over and over.  And I don’t know if I will make it time.  There is fire everywhere.

***

When she takes the fork out of the boiling water and places it against my bare back and I scream out in pain she does not mean to do this.  It is an accident.  It is just something she does.

I never know when it is coming.  It is always unexpected.  The pain always comes out of nowhere.

And she always apologizes.

She always says, I’m sorry.  ’I’m sorry,’ she says, ‘I’m sorry.’

My back is on fire and she is sorry and it was an accident and she didn’t mean to do it, but it is in her nature and she is punishing me for something I haven’t done yet.  She is sure I’m going to do something and I am paying for the crimes of those who have come before me.

When she bites me so hard my skin breaks and my veins bleed I am paying for something.  I am being punished.  I will not be angry.

I could get angry.  I could yell and I could throw things around the apartment and I could throw her around the apartment.  But I will do none of these things because I am being punished, and even though I haven’t done anything there is a part of me that deserves to be punished.  There is a part of me in need of punishing.

‘I’m sorry,’ she tells me this and I believe her because I am sorry also.  Sorry for all of things that I cannot even begin to name.  I am in need of forgiveness.

I am paying for something.

***

At night I stand at the bedroom window in only my underwear and it is cold and she is asleep behind me.  Restless.  I hug myself for warmth but there is no warmth here.

I am looking up at the stars and out at the lights glowing in the tall buildings and I am thinking of fire of embers rising up towards the heavens.  I know that one night I will wake to the sound of sirens and the world will be on fire, people will be falling from the tall buildings and I will watch them fall, counting them, one, two, three.  She will sleep behind me and she will not wake.

She never wakes.

Often there was the feeling, the sensation, that she was there with him.  The ghost.  At night he would wake from sleep certain he had felt someone settle into the bed beside him.  He woke reaching out for her.

Sometimes he was sure he felt some kind of lingering warmth where her body had pressed into the mattress.

Don’t go, he once said, his face pressed into the place where he thought was the warmest.

The next morning he experienced a kind of sad embarrassment that he had done this, that he had weakened himself in front of her.  Someone who might not even exist.

But he began to speak to her anyway.  He told her things.  Secrets.  Sad little stories about himself he hadn’t shared with anyone else.  The things he felt.  Nightmares he had where the world was falling apart around him, literally coming apart at the seams.

I’m terrified, he said, all the time.

He felt her there, listening.

She didn’t seem to mind that he was lost and weak.

His words entered the atmosphere and he felt sure that there was someone on the other end receiving them.

There was comfort in it.  A feeling that she understood him.

He woke one night, the hairs on his arms standing up, the feeling that she was there, right there, close enough that he could almost smell her skin.  If she’d had skin.  He heard the ocean in the background.  The waves sucking sand back out to sea.  And beneath it, maybe, the soft air of her breath, close to his ear.

thathollowpartofme:

She goes out in the mornings and doesn’t come back until late in the afternoon.  I don’t know where she goes.  I tried following her once but I lost her while waiting for an opportunity to cross the street.  Scooters sped all around me, horns beeping, and I couldn’t keep my eyes on her without the possibility of being struck down.

What do you do, I ask her.

Look at things, she says, shrugs her shoulders, not interested.

Do you meet people?

Sometimes.

What people?

She shrugs again, just people.

I want to ask more but I know it will go on like this for as long as I ask.  There will be no answers, not really.  She looks at people.  She had Pho for lunch.  She drank ice-tea in a park and ate a nice pastry.

Sometimes she buys things.  Dresses.  A jade Buddha she keeps by the phone that never rings.  A small conical hat made for a small child.  She places the hat by the TV.  It stays there for days and then one morning, when I wake, it is gone.

I want to ask her what happened to it but I don’t.  I remain silent.

There is a slow disintegration taking place.  She is disappearing.  Vanishing.

At night she closes her eyes and falls asleep immediately.  A deep unconscious state.  Stiff as a board.

My hands hover her, unable to touch.

I want to tell her things.  I want to tell her secrets I have never shared with anyone.  I want to whisper esoteric magic into her deaf ears.  Spells of protection.  Spells of truth telling.

But the truth never passes her lips.

When she is in the shower I make myself coffee and wait for her to say something.  But she never says anything and by the time I have the coffee cup in my hand I am alone in the hotel room and it was as though she was never there.

I take breaths so deep they echo through the room as though it were a cavern.

This is not everything, I tell myself, this is not all there is.

But nothing answers me and I am alone and I wish I were not alone.

It’s okay, I say, to no one, as though she was there with me.

But it’s always an empty room and there is always the feeling that someone is watching me and that I’m doing something wrong.  I sip my coffee and feel as though I am failing at something, failing her, and there is never a way to correct myself.

This is it, I think, this is it.

Some nights he would take that first step into the house and know, he could feel it, that something bad was heading his way.  She’d be standing in the kitchen, under the bright light, a glass of wine dangling in her small hand.

Lips stained purple.  An almost smile.

Broken glass.  Wine dripping down his face onto his white shirt.

He didn’t have to say anything.  His appearance was enough.  The way he looked. Or something.  The way he moved.

Waiting for him.  Brooding.  Her eyes glossed over.

Afterwards he sat out on the front lawn, the grass cool and moist underneath his ass.  He looked up at the sky and threw questions at no one.   Sometimes he laughed or wept or did both at the same time.  He lay back in the grass and imagined a flying saucer hovering above him, a stunning light all around, swallowing, lifting up and carrying him away.

A beautiful dream.  Octopus arms probing him.

Take me anywhere, he thought, do anything.

For years he begged her to love him and then she did, but now she hated him more than anything and he wondered if the things you fought hardest for were the worst things.  Things you shouldn’t have in the first place.  Only thought you needed.

When you got them they gleamed strong for a little while and then went dull and gray when they were still warm in your hands.  It was all too quick.  All of a sudden you were here.  The front lawn – a haven.  A secret room.

He didn’t blame her.  There had always been a little something disappointing about him.  Something he was born with.  Skilled at letting people down.  A disappointment artist.  In his DNA.  Even if it was unclear what he was doing wrong or how he failed.

But it was there.  Always.  The way they looked at him.  His father’s confusion – how did I create this?  The sense that, maybe, he had somehow tricked a person into loving him.  Or else, they had no choice but to love him because he belonged to them in some way.

She never followed him outside.  Maybe he wasn’t worth chasing.

Wanted to be rid of him.  Couldn’t stand him in the same building.

In the morning she would find him in the spare room.

What’re doing in here, she’d ask.

I’m sorry, she’d say.

I didn’t mean it.

Her in the doorway.  His back to her.

I love you, she’d tell him.

And, his heart, it was hers.  It wasn’t even that he forgave her.  He didn’t have to.  When she crawled into the spare bed with him and curled against him, her body up against his, he counted the seconds.  If he breathed as slow as possible it might last forever.  This.

There was a warmth there. An unexplainable thing.  A wet, curling thing that repulsed him and drew him deeper.  Lungs full of water.  Little bubbles of air escaping his nostrils.  Her fingers, needles.

In the kitchen, blood, where she’d stepped on broken glass.  Drying now.

When he was alone, he would get down on all fours and lap it up with his tongue.  A gift.

The closeness was unbearable.

She goes out in the mornings and doesn’t come back until late in the afternoon.  I don’t know where she goes.  I tried following her once but I lost her while waiting for an opportunity to cross the street.  Scooters sped all around me, horns beeping, and I couldn’t keep my eyes on her without the possibility of being struck down.

What do you do, I ask her.

Look at things, she says, shrugs her shoulders, not interested.

Do you meet people?

Sometimes.

What people?

She shrugs again, just people.

I want to ask more but I know it will go on like this for as long as I ask.  There will be no answers, not really.  She looks at people.  She had Pho for lunch.  She drank ice-tea in a park and ate a nice pastry.

Sometimes she buys things.  Dresses.  A jade Buddha she keeps by the phone that never rings.  A small conical hat made for a small child.  She places the hat by the TV.  It stays there for days and then one morning, when I wake, it is gone.

I want to ask her what happened to it but I don’t.  I remain silent.

There is a slow disintegration taking place.  She is disappearing.  Vanishing.

At night she closes her eyes and falls asleep immediately.  A deep unconscious state.  Stiff as a board.

My hands hover her, unable to touch.

I want to tell her things.  I want to tell her secrets I have never shared with anyone.  I want to whisper esoteric magic into her deaf ears.  Spells of protection.  Spells of truth telling.

But the truth never passes her lips.

When she is in the shower I make myself coffee and wait for her to say something.  But she never says anything and by the time I have the coffee cup in my hand I am alone in the hotel room and it was as though she was never there.

I take breaths so deep they echo through the room as though it were a cavern.

This is not everything, I tell myself, this is not all there is.

But nothing answers me and I am alone and I wish I were not alone.

It’s okay, I say, to no one, as though she was there with me.

But it’s always an empty room and there is always the feeling that someone is watching me and that I’m doing something wrong.  I sip my coffee and feel as though I am failing at something, failing her, and there is never a way to correct myself.

This is it, I think, this is it.