Diane was no monster. Let me explain.
I worked at the theater for several years before ever really meeting her. I would eye her from the rafters as she floated through the stage, a solemn grace to counter all imperfection, it would seem. My boss would scold me as my carelessness became the best of me when I became more entranced, as the colored lights on strings would slip one-by-one and fall to the floor. Nevermind that, I told myself, these things of little consequence. Some days upon viewing her I would be astounded by the breadth of our senses, picking up a magazine at a newsstand to suddenly discover the text was in Sanskrit. We forget our childish notions of inferiority and shame in our sheer awe. Our eyelids become awash with a sea of stained glass. Decades would pass while we idled in our thought until our source of inspiration has disappeared without us realizing.
I was too shy to approach her. Are we truly so bent on our own magnificence that we are ashamed of ourselves? No, no, that was never the case with me. I was humbled at the sight of her. It would be an affront to her very being to reconcile my thoughts with the unforgiving reality I faced.
I would return to my apartment each night and cover my walls with her image. The misgivings of my perception were too much to bear. In furious episodes I would tear off all of my wallpaper in repentance. Although carefree streaks of color would grace my eyes upon her presence, my hand was no medium for their transcription. There was a terrible malevolence to the images, a thing of great evil. I would hum songs of her voice but my tone faltered, emaciated and useless. As a child I would write stories of myself as a great artist, a visionary, for my hands to tear into the hearts of my audience and bring them to their knees, crushed by their newfound insights into humanity. I sat on the floor and stared out the window as airplanes circled me overhead.
Let's stop this.
I spent weekends at the harbor, scribbling into a sketchbook. Allen lets me sleep on his floor on the worst of days, when I'd show up at his step too drunk to find my way home. As I laid in half-sleep I would let myself be haunted by the most elusive of images. In some twisted state of mine his walls would surrender their guise and float forth as spectres. I've always lied to him about my name. "Timothy," I picked. I always wanted to be named that, so it was an easy adjustment. I never let him see my apartment. For years now I'd approached him with some fabricated desperation as he groaned and poured forth sympathy. I didn't mind.
I found myself on Saturday still trying to capture some magnificence of the ships. They were always this thing of wonder, mammoths of steel tearing through the water without hesitation. There was some sacred benevolence to them as they moved with unerring grace through the harbor. I sit at the edge of the dock swilling gin, trying to let my pencil bring forth some labyrinthine beauty, but my fingers sway from the gin and I become frustrated and drink more. Nevermind this.
I wander through the streets until dusk is merciful enough to fall. The smoke hangs heavy on the buildings, some sick beauty we dare not delight in. Again I find myself at his step, a glint of hope in his voice fading upon hearing mine. He buzzes me in and I'm greeted by his door left ajar. He sits on his torn-up chair, pulling on a cigarette.
"I've gotta leave at five, so you can't stay for long," he mutters. He stares into a book, the smoke rising in tendrils from his fingers, convening around his face. He wanders to his bedroom and shuts the door.
The nights here are bathed in a thick haze of neon. The electricity in the walls and the water in the pipes are engraved with some tired anguish that burrows into my mind, and I stare at the walls in their immaterial dances.
There is no beauty in this place. Under my hands, awash in flames, the building has some hollow instant of divine grace, some wondrous symphony of color, some tired crawl towards salvation. Beneath the torches of righteousness is the building's ascent to perfection. There is some gift of martyrdom in their conquest of beauty, some greater use to this.
And so I leave.
The next week is easier. There is some grace in my fingertips, there is some color returning to my face. I see her still from afar, no less beautiful from the gods we may witness. To be as fortunate as a ray of light to brush her cheek and tear relentlessly into the sky is too much to ask. I doubt I will.
Diane sings me to sleep every night. In her voice is the tired protest of the battered harbor, the weariness of the sky from the sun tearing it open. Against her breast I find every tomorrow, some siren of dreams in the most tired of cities.