“For non-conformity the world whips you with its displeasure.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
After it happened, she said that she was an angel, and she said that she could fly. She would cry then, violent but silent, in a series of little shatters. I would pull her into my chest and dig my hands deep into her hair, and we would both shake from her crying. She cried because she wasn’t. She had been taken from inside herself and couldn’t be put back in, so her tears gave her no release, no comfort. That’s why her tears were angry, even though she wasn’t anything at all.
I cried because I couldn’t help her, not in any meaningful way. I’d hold her like she used to hold me, often when the blood was just beginning to crust around my nostrils, the metallic taste of it staining the inside of my mouth, and spit and snot and blood and tears would mix and I would feel disgusting. But she helped me because she loved me and I could feel it, because the me inside wasn’t gone but damaged. Hold me, heal me. I wish I could have done the same for her so very badly. But her pain was a different kind – consuming but muted, alien but constant. How do you heal that, let alone approach it?
Sometimes she would pull away suddenly and look right into my eyes (she always did that, looked right at you when she talked; it made what she said feel special and intimate). She would say that I came to her at night. I would come through her window, she’d say. I came through her window and I shined like I was made out of starlight. She would say that I was so beautiful that I had to be an angel, and when she touched me I was her and she would lay there with her brain all dizzy because she was so happy I was there, filling her up, and so happy she was happy. She would say that I promised to show her how, when she was ready, when I came to her made out of starlight.
She would say all this really fast, and it both scared me and made me smile because she would almost seem like herself. But then, the static would take over, and I would be holding her as she began to shatter anew, and I would want to weep myself because I wasn’t there, coming through her window, and she was an angel but couldn’t fly, and I couldn’t remember when we last laughed and kissed and touched and loved, I could only remember us crying.
When I found her, she looked like a martyr; she looked like the murdered Christ.
We couldn’t go to my house because my mother was in a prolonged state of shock and my father was a pervert. It wasn’t me that I was worried about; I’d be safe if she was there. No, it was her. My father hated me but he would love her. He liked to hurt me, but he’d want to fuck and hurt her. We couldn’t go to her house because she lived with her grandmother and her grandmother didn’t know and wouldn’t understand. So, we had our place. I’m not sure if it was beautiful because it was or beautiful because it was ours, but it was. It was this clearing by this old tree that looked burnt and withered (which is probably why we liked it, because no one else did). The tree was at the edge of an old rock quarry and when the light was just right the quarry looked like a gray-blue sea and the tree the hand of God.
I remember once after it happened she asked me what animal I would be and I said cat and when I asked her she said a wolf when I thought she would say a bird. I still don’t know what this means, if anything.
It was a love/hate thing, the way everyone at school felt about her. She was very beautiful, but her beauty wasn’t just physical or sexual. She had that indefinable quality that certain people just have. It makes them unique, and it makes them magnetic. They were jealous of me because I was with her or jealous of her because they weren’t her. The ones that did it, they did it out of fear. She made them feel powerless. So much of what we do is caused by fear; even love sometimes is a kind of fear. They even had a name for us: they called us “Cock Tease and Super Dyke.” It just made us laugh. We joked that we were superheroes.
Her smile was kind of crooked and she couldn’t say the word “specific.” It would sound like “spapific.”
The day it happened, I was late to meet her. I wasn’t worried though because I knew she’d wait and because it was the kind of day that starts thousands of paintings. Now, it seems like a deliberate lull, like fate’s sick drum roll. I reached our place and saw her sprawled out beneath our tree and thought she was dead. Her shirt had been ripped off and her breasts left exposed to the sun. Her panties were wrapped around her left ankle. Black-red blood stained her inner thighs. I don’t really know what to say about it, finding someone you love laying like a mangled animal. I’m not sure how long I stood there, but when I got to her I saw that they had written “slut” on her forehead with a magic marker. Her eyes were dead ones, glazed eyes that see but don’t. Her eyes were never the same. I wanted to scream so badly but I didn’t have the voice to do it. I just looked at her, holding her hand to my face, and didn’t believe in God.
I was afraid to go to the trial, as if hearing it would be the thing that made it real forever, and I was so afraid for her, afraid of what she would feel, afraid that she would be afraid, afraid that she wouldn’t be, and ashamed of my selfish fears. But I have never been more proud of a person than I was of her on that day. She did what no one should be asked to do – she gave a voice to the thing that destroyed her, and she did it with defiance. She was calm, and she told it, word for word, and answered all questions, and she shied away from nothing. But it was that day that took what was left of her. That day was both a purge and an elegy.
I felt like I needed to do for her what she had always done for me but there was just too much distance between us and I couldn’t quite seem to cross it. I’m not even sure she wanted me to. She seemed unsure of herself after it all and I hated the world for it. In the end, her grandmother decided to leave, and what could I say to stop it? I knew what a place could do to a person – a place can suffocate.
When she told me she was leaving, it was the first time she didn’t look into my eyes.
We agreed to meet for the last time the day before she left. I went to our place early in the morning trying as hard as I could to just be numb, knowing to feel would be to hurt, but I was so used to hurting by this point that it didn’t even really matter.
She wasn’t there. Instead, I found her clothes (she had worn my favorite jeans) in a pile at the edge of the quarry beneath our tree. They searched for her body but couldn’t find it, asked me if I knew where she was with lessening interest, and ultimately they presumed her dead but listed her missing.
I didn’t correct them, even though I knew exactly what had happened. I am the only one who knows. I knew that she had flown away. And now I don’t have to be angry or sad anymore because she comes to me every night. She comes through the window and shines like she is made out of starlight. She is so beautiful, my angel. And when I touch her she is me, filling me up, and I am so happy with my brain all dizzy because she’s here, and she’s her, and I can remember a time when we weren’t crying.