She was thirty-two years old and the world had been an avalanche for most of the last sixteen years. She wished for a return to the innocence of childhood. She wished for a new start in the world that would erase the persistence of her memories and remove the monkey from her back. She wanted to be young again. She did everything she could to keep the pain at bay. There was simply too much that stained the fabric of her life. Some of the things she had done to keep herself alive boggled her mind in retrospect. She could never feel clean. Nothing could wash away the sins she had committed against herself and others. It was simply easier to be alone.
She had been taking a long bubble bath when she decided to take the daily newspaper out of its plastic wrapper and unroll it. The headline shocked her. It wasn't just the huge print that covered almost the entire page. It was the words themselves and how they jumped out at her and told her the game was on.
GORILLA COMES FROM FUCKING NOWHERE
She threw the paper across the bathroom floor and it managed to land in the vicinity of the trash can. These sort of things weren't all that important and she was afraid to read the story that followed. It wasn't the first time she had been afraid to read a news story. Sometimes she even turned off the network news when it all became too much to bear. This time, however, it was personal.
She ran her fingers through her tangled mass of curly auburn hair and closed her eyes. His voice was coming to her again from across the void. The empty places and all the years that had passed seemed to converge into one green salad with invisible dressing dispatched from the memories of too many lost friends.
The monkey on her back had turned into a five hundred pound gorilla, but it certainly didn't come from "fucking nowhere." It had been getting stronger and stronger over time with taking control of every fiber of her existence being its ultimate goal. It was getting there.
She could not rise from the bath. She slowly sank under its surface as the newspaper burst into flames and ignited the candles that littered the room. The pounding in her ears became a cacophany of rhythms long forgotten that needed to be remembered once again.
I can feel you where you are
I can see you near or far
My eyes are always watching you
My soul knows what is true
No one escapes that easy
Soon, my darling, soon
In her mind his voice was always telling her "soon." It reminded her that she always had that escape hatch, even though she was incapable of ever using it. Passion can drive one mad, especially when passion turns to anger and anger turns to hate. There is no cap on the amount of hate one can feel for the ones they love. That hate, however, is nothing but a wall of protection that saves us from feeling what is truly alive in our hearts and souls.
Her eyes closed and her body submerged beneath the surface of the water. She traveled back in time. There was a tree lined road in the country and scenery was whipping past as she watched it through the passenger side window of his black convertible. Through the fog of memory, she recalled the events of that day and the weird turns their conversation had taken. She had been unable to go home or to go near the man who had injected that little life into her. Instead, she had to turn to the man she revelled in disappointing. Here he was, the man who loved her more than anyone else in the world and she was counting on him telling her she was beautiful. It made her want to cry, but more than that, it made her angry that he would give her all that he could and never ask for anything in return.
"You really are beautiful."
"You're such a geek. Why do you always say stupid shit like that. Why don't you get some balls for a change?"
"If it weren't for the fact that I am the only person who ever tells you that I would never say it again."
"Well, this is the last time I'll ever be beautiful, so you better soak it up while you can."
"I'm not sure, I might have to check my notes, but that might be the stupidiest thing you have ever said."
"I'm being serious."
It was the day she first lost control of the gorilla. It had appeared out of nowhere and it was bearing down hard. There was only one other person in the world that knew she had this life inside her. The father did not know and never would. He wouldn't understand how to process the information. He lived off his meager inheritance in a broken down house in the woods. He filled his body up with as many drugs as he could acquire to make life evaporate and get him closer to the end. The only thing that attracted her to such a man was the blank stare in his eyes. They were the opposite of the eyes of the man driving her through the country. His eyes threatened to look through her and peel away veil after veil until they revealed the most precious secrets of her soul. That was too dangerous. There was too much in there that she wanted to keep hidden forever. The gorilla was grinding her down, and sometimes too much was too much. She had to give him this one.
"I have to kill tomorrow."
It just managed to come out that way. They weren't the words she wanted, but it never ceased to amaze her that he knew exactly what she was talking about. That always made it easier with him. He just kept driving the car. He spoke few words on the subject, and none of them registered with her, yet she could feel the vibrations of what he really meant and really felt. That made a difference, but it wasn't enough.
Sitting next to the man who really loved her made it even more difficult. She knew that all she had to do was ask and he would do whatever it was that princes riding white horses did for damsels in distress. That was a burden she could not place on him. Although bearing all her own burdens made the gorilla come back bigger and angrier every time, her inner loneliness was the only thing that kept her sane.
"The last day I will be beautiful."
She said the words quietly, hoping he would hear but that he would think he wasn't meant to hear them. This drive could not last forever, even as she wished the car would go faster and keep going until there were no more yesterdays. If there could just be the present, then the gorilla would climb off her back and find a jungle somewhere, start a family and leave her the hell alone.
She opened her eyes and came up for air.
What would be the point now of contacting the one who loved her. Too much had happened since they last spoke and she knew from his letters, the ones she pretended not to read, that he had his own burdens now. She could never convince him that he was better off without her, just as she could never really convince herself that she was better off without him. What would any kind of reunion provide them with? It would be little more than a day of kicking up dust in the ruins of each other's souls. It was better to consign some things to the world of memories. It was better to be alone with a gorilla than to have someone throw well meaning pebbles at it and arouse its rage.
She still had the box beneath her bed. When she saw it there she laughed at herself. She detached herself from any sort of permanence in her life, and yet that dusty old box was the asterisk in that statement. Not that she ever told anyone what it was. She kept it locked for that reason. It was her secret. Inside she kept all his letters, all his gifts and all his poetry. When she blew off the dust and opened the box she felt beautiful again.