“I may be grown up but I’m only seventeen.”
The faded blue chairs were in rows, as could be expected. The building was old and the air was littered with dust; just like you would expect. The light shimmied through the draperies and tapestries and slithered across the floor in tiny slits that cut the room into pieces. The dark worn floors boasted years of scuffs and scratches. They were no longer mahogany for they were nearly black with age and dirt. The whole place was frozen in time. Even the air was reminiscent of years gone by. When you walked in you could expect to find memories nestled in corners or peeping out from one of the many books strewn around. The place breathed nostalgic fumes. Some might have called it “stale,” but many others would prefer to call it “alluring” or “curious.”
This was not her case. The door sucked the life out of the place as it slammed shut. The reverberations could be felt throughout the entire structure. Her anger fueled her along at a violent pace, sending chills up the drapes and swirling the dust into tornadoes of chaos. The floorboards rumbled and squealed in sheer terror under her feet. If you were here you would likely have tread softly and listened carefully just because you hoped the place was talking to you. But since this is her story and not yours, that is not the case.
She threw her body into the nearest chair and the force almost sent her backwards. The girl and the chair hung in time for a single moment, teetering on the edge of balance, but nothing happened. She kicked her feet up on to the chair in front of her out of utter disrespect.
Each breath that she blew carried venomous thought. Every air molecule expelled from her nose was laced with despise until it fell to the floor, devoid of life. You could feel the place shuddering with every breath. Or maybe she was shuddering. But it wasn’t important.
The girl let one lonesome anguished tear roll off her face, but since she was too strong for crying, she thrust her body out of the chair with every ounce of hatred she had inside. In one swift motion she swathed her face with her shirt to obscure and erase the tear. She stood there, filtering the air through her shirt, refusing to acknowledge everything the place had to offer. She dropped the weight of her head into her palms and bit her lip against the pain. She pulled her face back only to check the shirt. She knew it would be stained. She knew because every other time before it had been stained. She listened for a moment before she glided across the floor toward the nearest window.
When she finally came to a moment of rest, the place sighed in relief. The dust rested and the floorboards managed to quiet themselves. The drapes relaxed and everything paused again, settling back into a time of long ago. The place embraced her like the wind embraces a leaf. It helped her along gently as she was carried away.
Not wanting to be discovered, and not wanting to overstay her welcome, the girl carefully hid her soul behind the heaviest drape and emptily marched towards the door. She traced her finger along the scorch marks that marred the wood. The scars ran deep, evidencing a strong fire that had ravaged the place years before. The door oozed sympathy as the young girl shared her pain. Her heartbeat pounded out her sadness and resounded through the door and back to her. She clutched the knob in her hand and pushed it open. She slid through to the outside. She did not look over her shoulder. She did not carry a glimpse of hope within her. The flame in her heart was extinguished with the closing click of the door. She was outside. She watched as the place got smaller as she walked away.
His name was Devlin. “Dev” for short. It could’ve been “Devil.” It should have been “Devil.” He was the one who called the shots. This was his game; his rules. She was just a player who could be benched at any minute; suspended from the league in the blink of an eye. He knew the world. He had been learning it for years. As if the world was something that could be learned; that could be acquired. He missed the most important lesson for he never learned how to love. He had mastered affection and words spilled off his lips like honey. But love was not yet something he had come to possess.
Regardless of his material possessions, Dev knew he was missing something. He didn’t know what it was or how it could be acquired, or if it could be acquired. He only knew that the gaping black hole inside him was consuming him. There was no fulfilling this insatiable hunger. There seemed to be no solution. Only temporary fixes could easy the longing but with every dose the hole grew deeper.
She too, knew that beneath his smile there was blackness. Not emptiness. Just blackness. There was no value, no gradation. No. There was nothing to hold on to, nothing to hope for. She would have enough black to cover the entire world if she had wanted to paint. But she was honestly looking to survive.
Time had gone by, but only by the measure of light. Time had not elapsed to heal her wounds. She had covered miles on the feet of one thought. She had traversed only into one idea during her journey and yet she had already reached her destination. It was easy to fall to your subconscious when your body was tattered. When she stepped through the threshold she almost imagined the place. But she stopped herself because she didn’t want to take the chance of contaminating it.
Her eyes were closing and the soft carpet looking appealing in all its graying and deterioration. The couch and bed looked inviting but that was suicide. She was fighting the urge. She had too. She had tried to purge her mind but one insignificant monstrous thought plagued her. “Don’t go to sleep until I get back.” Her eyes lingered closed for a moment. How beautiful and welcoming this blackness was. It was gentle and comforting. Her eyes jumped open. How long had they been closed? Surely no more than a few minutes. Fate laughed in her face once again. “I told you: Don’t get to sleep until I get back.”
The first one was the most painful. Even though her eyes were blurred from pain she could still see the look in his eyes. She had to look. The simple thought of closing her eyes would earn her several more. She clutched the threadbare carpet with all the dignity she could muster and stood like a soldier before a firing squad. Every wince squeezed the tears in her eyes closer and closer to escape, but she held on through the miserable pain. It wasn’t even his hands that hurt anymore. No, it was the iron, or the bat, or even the brick that hurt. When it was his hands, he sympathized with the contortions of her body. He felt her pain. When it was some other object, there was distance between them. Six, five, four, three, two… She could time the blows. When he wasn’t so angry they came faster, just to put the girl in her place. When he was enraged, they came slower. Each hit was followed by an explanation or justification. “You have to learn the hard way.” or “How dare you get blood on your clothes?” The indignation in his voice made her sick. “Don’t look at me like that!” “I love you.” Over time she had learned to smile over time. To lessen the pain.
…Her face was burning. Every fiber in her body wrenched with pain. Every breath brought tears to her eyes. The shaking was uncontrollable. She never should
have fallen asleep…
You see on the inside he was just a child who never knew love. But that was her job. To love him. He was one of those “monsters,” or rather a vortex, something to be awed and feared. A display of powerful destruction. But that was the point. He was sucking up everything good while furthering his own self-destruction. He would eventually collapse in on himself. It was inevitable. It was not a matter of time. It was not some probability that fate would determine. It was not plausible to think, no matter what length of time you were thinking for, that time could, and would, heal all wounds. This was not something that would fade into the background and blend into a dull gray. This was not something that could be fixed by a miracle of God. There was no twelve step program with guaranteed results. The only thing that could happen was the elimination of time. If this happened, then there could be change.
She had figured it out some time ago. A long while back before she knew the place. The only answer was destruction. You might even call it murder. But since it involved no bloodshed or munitions or hatred, it seemed to be a good idea. Even the victim was ultimately willing to go through with it. The only factor stopping the girl was love. Her love for him. She did love him. She truly and justly loved him. She loved everything about him. She loved him for chaos and instability. The only solution was to destroy time. Without time, there is no way to measure. There is no structure. There are no rules. The only structure is what you make in your mind. That was the easiest way to escape, the easiest way to ignore the pain, to ignore the love.
However much she thought about it, she never thought about it enough. The hours she spent on the floor in utter stillness were useless. When her breath was shallow enough, she nearly died. Her shirt was stained with blood. It was severed from her hip to her elbow. Her face was swollen purple and blue. Four of her ribs were shattered. Her left ankle was swollen. Her eyes were sealed shut by dried tears. Her lips were pale and chapped. She could not breathe out of her nose. It was filled with blood. Her pants were a rolled in a crumpled bloody mess several feet away from her. Her legs were patched with bruises. Her fingernails had blood under them.
This was love.
Eventually. Not relative to time. Not relative to the beating, but relative to her. She crawled over to her pants and began to restore her dignity until a foot crashed down upon her hand, jarring her body into a fetal position on the floor. She forced her eyes to stare at her hand turning from pink to white to purple. She hung her head in shame and hoped for mercy or forgiveness. The crushing weight of the foot began to ease the slightest bit. “You didn’t learn. You never do.” She stood perfectly still, waiting. The foot lifted. He pulled her to her feet and bestowed a kiss upon her forehead. “That’s why I am here: To teach you.” He took the crumpled pants from the floor and removed her bloodied shirt. Then with jerk of his head he motioned to the floor. “You will learn the meaning of humble today.” She lay back down and tried to glean warmth from the carpet. She was cold. Desperately cold.