I stripped, knowing this was the last leg of my journey, knowing he would come for me one last time. And he did. I saw is lengthy silhouette braced in the doorway before I even stepped under the warm running water. I saw him there, yet I went ahead with it, exhaling my fear.
It was only a dream I had, but I did away with him. It was only a dream, but Catherine, you were there. Your eyes told the whole story. Still, no one told me until it was too late, and then you too got swept away by the flood.
You wanted him because he was tall and intelligent. You met him on the internet, but you knew him before. You swear you knew him. You wanted him because he worked in theater, hi-brow theater, read his scripts out loud and highlighted areas of pure genius. Genius knows genius, right? Psychosis knows no limits.
At any rate you were there, in front of him. You put makeup on for the occasion, lined your eyes and dabbed gold in the corners. You always felt so pretty when you did that, yet careless and forgetful rubbing your eyes like that. You were not a natural at being a muse.
He wasn't paying attention to you anyway. Him, lying there on his back in his best Capulet outfit; elegant in his shallow shell. He was a model for Robert Cavalli once. How fitting; how rich. Him, with his distant green eyes and tussled, curly hair; his chiseled jaw line, his broad, slim shoulders.
So why did he want you? Short, wide legged, unrefined, you?
His mother was in the room. A small Asian women. Made you wonder. He seemed so needy for her. She did everything for him. Hired him a cook and watched that cook like a hawk. The cook was there when I arrived. Made a meal for everyone but me and no one seemed bothered that I'd come over on a dinner invite.
This was just the start, I thought. Run. Run now. But when everyone else left the room and it was just he and I, I joined him on the floor and we kissed and he smiled for the first time. And I thought there was something real there- a halo effect to my thinking.
We kissed like lips were air we needed, his lips on mine, like lips were a vehicle for all feeling, every feeling. He grabbed my face and destroyed the neat edges of my makeup, spread it along my cheeks because he liked me better that way- a hot mess. This terrified me.
And Catherine, you were there the whole time. Not in the room, but in the house. You'd known I'd arrived. Why didn't you tell me I was only a concubine? Why did you look upon us with those sad, knowing eyes and let me wade deeper and deeper into that pit of blood.
After dinner we were to go to a play. I was invited to dinner and a play. Thought it best not to complain about my lack of dinner, he liked me better starving, but I had been excited about the play. And as I put on my shoes, you came around the corner looking divine in a royal blue velvet jacket with ornate, gold detail; pearl earrings, Catherine, you simply looked divine. You smiled at me, but offered no other explanation as to why you were there. Came to that conclusion on my own when his mother gave you orders. Maybe you stayed on as a personal assistant because you liked the abuse, Catherine, maybe you liked the money, but when you saw my smeared black face, I felt empathy from you, like maybe you had wanted to explain. As if it was explainable.
At any rate, his mother did not approve of me, not with that smeared black face. Not that it mattered to him. I might as well have been an old shoe. I only had one old shoe on when you all walked out the door, not one turning back to say goodbye. Not even you, Catherine.
In a dark room I waited, staring at the vaulted ceilings, the sparse cream-colored furniture. I'd worn something smarter this time, something I couldn't afford, but I was so desperate to be a part of him. There was a party underway. He's invited me as his guest, can you believe it? Still, I've been sitting here for almost an hour and not one sight of him.
Eventually I was ushered to the porch area, the back porch, while the dancing and mingling went on inside. A few of us were out there, the ones that weren't good enough maybe, but I thought I was the special one. Aren't I always the special one? I watched guests dancing under the warmly lit ballroom lights. Music murmured through the cracks. Pleasure was the growing condensation on the inside of glass doors. You came out to the porch too, Catherine. You were assigned to watch over me I suppose, make sure that I didn't go crying and making a fool of myself at his party.
But I sat there like a statue, sipping a watered down drink while silk worms made nests in my hair. Silk worms, Catherine. And when I tried to pull them out, their webs were so sticky, my fingers became glued. It was then I cried out, reached my limit, I did. It was then you stood to your feet and before his mother could voice her command, you had me by the arm, whisking me away.
"Why didn't you tell me, Catherine?" was all I could ask through tears. "How could I have been so stupid?"
I couldn't. It was too dangerous.
"And now?" I asked.
Now, I'm getting you out of here. He's worse than you think. I'm going to get you out of here.
You never left my side, Catherine, as we wove our way through the thickest mess of debauchery I'd ever seen. Every person, every level; so many winding stair cases, so many people moving and laughing and leaning against walls. The smell was indescribable. The alcohol, the sweat, the smoke, the bathrooms were over-flowing. You warned me not to partake in any of the party favors, warned me explicitly, but when we passed a glass room and he was making out with someone else, could have been anyone else, I lost it, grabbed a joint from the closest person and inhaled. You smacked it out of my hand.
Now you've done it.
"Oh who cares!" said I, like a proper masochistic in my undoing.
But your panic brought me some clarity, Catherine. I felt your heart rate rise through your fingers. You tightened your grip on my stupid little arm. The crowd got thick and you pushed harder. He saw us then, the only two running, the only two leaving, the only two fearing.
We made it outside, though I can't know how. Seems I blacked out and you carried me, Catherine, you cared for me. Sacrificed yourself for me. Why?
Outside was a flood, the waters simply raging; the wind whipping in all directions, traffic lights swaying and electrical poles leaning this way and that.
Keep running, you screamed.
And I looked back to you as we crossed some street that was now a roaring river. Some man yelled towards us in the distance. He was angry about what, I don't know, but I yelled back, in my stoned stupor; gave him the finger; lingered in that apocalyptic flood. It was only a dream, but you disappeared then, Catherine. Your last words to me were, Go! This is not your fight anymore.
And then you were gone. Did you go under, Catherine? Were you swept away? You were just gone. The angry man was gone, too. The panic was gone. Sound was gone. The water still raged, but I grounded my footing and I managed to keep going, to make it out alive.
Refuge was the door to his work out room, that little guest house set back some distance from the main property. He'd never find me there, right? And though I was soaking wet, once inside, I felt this urge to shower. I needed to shower to fully cleanse. It was the last step.
Emboldened by your sacrifice, Catherine, I stripped, knowing this was the last leg of my journey, knowing he would come for me one last time. And he did. I saw is lengthy silhouette braced in the doorway before I even stepped under the warm running water. I saw him there, yet I went ahead with it, exhaling my fear.
You have no power over me. You have no power over me, my eyes tightened shut while I uttered these words and for a time, no movement was made. Enveloped in darkness, only the water ricocheting off the porcelain tub had any presence at all.
"I saw you there," he said, face still in shadow.
I hadn't even heard the curtain open. He was just there, sudden as a thought. The water beat on my skin and I found it difficult to breath.
"Did you think you could get away from me that easy? Did you think I wouldn't notice?"
Through my terror I still wanted so badly to love him, to render his devilish, tortured soul, good. But he was beyond hope. Hope was my survival alone, the severing of him from my soul, the last act.
Strange that I could feel his hands strangling my neck. It was only a sensation, instinctual. He was thinking about it then- ending me, that is.
"I loved you," I said, shivering even under the heat. "Why do you do this to people? Catherine... she's..."
"It was the ecstasy," he said, "I was on three pills of ecstasy."
"Then you are still under its influence."
"I'm not. Not now."
There was silence while he stared at me; silence when he turned his back and began rummaging through a duffel bag in a dark corner.
My mind raced. "Please let me go," I begged.
He said nothing.
Turning off the shower, I grabbed a towel, stepped lightly on to a carpeted floor, and waited. Fate was guiding me now.
"Here," he said, handing me a circular disc. "You'll need this."
"What is it?"
"A recording. You'll see."
He turned from me again. Maybe it was the come-down from Ecstasy that rendered him too depressed, but danger melted from his demeanor.
"It's your power over me," he said. And by his tone I could have sworn he registered regret, disappointment, unrequited love even; something human, anyway. Dark and defeated, distant as ever, his figure rounded the bend and was gone; left as quietly as it had come.
How anti-climatic, I thought.
Skin still damp, clean, naked and new, I felt relief, the relief of six life times- a deep karmic burden finally lifted.
I returned home, a place that was my own anyway, and listened to the recording. It was indeed a spell of power. Some arrangement of words that were mine and mine alone. They were the picture of my soul, indescribable, but audible speech; a sort of speech that formed symbols like alchemic formulas materializing from the ether. They mended my broken parts, my spirit; the elements he'd hacked, absorbed into his own.
In the end, I suppose he did consider me special, because he chose not to destroy me.
Was it only a dream? We do our deepest work in dreams. I awoke with a new sense of clarity, like I'd killed off a very ancient demon. But I could still conjure him, like an old memory, an amalgamation of past lovers, dangerous souls, those that prey upon weakness and hi-jack what good we have left.
Yet I distinctly felt he no longer had a hold on me. I'd finally done away with that darkness.
But the urge to find Catherine haunted me. Where had she gone? Was she alive? And who was this Catherine? In dreams I knew her- but a face only partially recognizable in my waking life. Why had she helped me? And if I should search for her, will I tempt the darkness once more? Would I meet him again?
In life there are only risks, 'less we become complacent and rigid.
A phase had been reached and I knew I needed rest, a quiet room and warm fire to retreat.
Winter was upon us and there was much to learn and prepare for the journey ahead.