I shoulda sold out when the devil came for me I'd dig a hole, and throw it out to sea Break the code How happy I could be I still wave at the dots on the shore I still beat my head against the wall I still rage and wage my little war I'm a shade, and easy to ignore.

From "Buying New Soul" by Porcupine Tree


How could you show her you loved her? What did it mean to try to stuff the feeling into words? There was no embrace strong enough, no kiss deep enough to transmit the truth that everything inside had changed. You weren’t the man you used to be. And you were terrified and thrilled at the same time.

You tell your best friend Nolan, “It happened somewhere I don't remember.” Words are failing you. “Carpeted floor, somewhere. Maybe I was watching television. Reading a book. Staring into space, wondering what to do next? What comes after 'I love you?' What then? Drag home the slain dragon? Slap buffalo carcass on the table and demand she bears you an heir?”

He watches your face as you talk. You speak slower. Quieter.

”Was I supposed to drop the chest of gold and jewels on the floor and watch the small pieces fall out and dribble into the dark spaces beneath the furniture? Hope she makes the next move something that thaws all the frozen things that don’t move anymore? Or just hope?”

Then you stop talking because you’re there again, on that floor, carpet rough on your hand so the palm burns. You think, "I want to breathe again."

Talk to Nolan so it isn’t so real, so you don’t have to relive it. “I couldn't breathe.”

You can’t move anymore. You’re there twenty years ago with her.

She sits on the floor beside you hip against thigh, so close you can smell in her warmth the strawberry shampoo she used that morning, the flowered scent on her neck, the moist darkness on her breath.

She touches your neck and you're frozen. Warm ice.

She touches your hair and you struggle to keep from telling her to stop. It just makes everything worse.

Don't dig tiger traps and then walk away from the captured tiger.

This is a need so vast it could consume you and leave nothing but burned rind and the pits. If this is what love does, maybe you don't need it.

"What's the matter?" she says more than asks.

"I dunno," you say. Maybe a lie. Maybe the truth. "I feel...I don't know how I feel." And for an instant you think it would be better if you'd never started. Never said you loved her. Never took it this far.

Then go back and reconstruct the walls of your paltry life.

Go back to your basketballs and fried egg sandwiches.

Go back to ogling couples at the movies.

Go back to hating the gaping hole that's more than half what you are.

"Do you still love me?" she asks, smiling. You know you could corrode that smile in the beat of a bumblebee's wings. Be an asshole. Say the wrong thing. Show her how powerful you are.

Go on, boy. Do it. Be a jerk. Unfreeze your goddamned self and get on with life. Don't sit here dangling at the end of the rope, twisting in the gale, waiting for her to make up her mind.

But there are other things in life she has shown you. Being angry was one of the easy things to do. Let it go for a minute. You can be angry later if you want. Just wait and see where this will go.

So swallow the lump of anger that comes from the pain, and you say before you know what you're saying, "I'd love you if I'd never been born."

And now she touches your cheek. She lowers her chin and locks of hair fall from behind and frame her face. Eyes narrowed, lips purse then open, "If you had never been born, I would have waited till you were." Her shoulders raise slightly and elevate the energy in the air between you until you think you can see it.

This is how it feels to be wanted. This is how she circles what she desires. It's the first time you realize what she's doing. Anna's hunting. Now you know that if she didn't love you she would kill you, and you'd sit frozen while it happened.

And then she moves and you follow her eyes until she becomes a blur becomes a feeling of her warmth so close you don’t need to remember to breathe because she'll do it for you.

There were arrows and baseballs that flew in arced glory across spaces, tracts of green, diamond blue skies and drifting clouds, your feet upon the cool dewy grass, you ran when you were young. You followed a path, a distance traced by all God's creations, like footballs thrown, disks flipped the dog's chase, the same place she moves from to you.

When Anna approaches to kiss you she rules the air and the space between you. She commands the clocks that run the planets. She alone propels the muscles that squeeze blood from your heart, and holds the power to stop it in an instant.

And you know: this is what God wanted when you were made.

Anna kisses you and the ice melts.

There never was any ice.

Anna kisses you and you're free to speak.

You always were.

"Please marry me," you say, because you don't care how she answers.

Because you don't doubt how she will answer, she answers.

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