>>MOON OVER MARIN — CHAPTER ELEVEN::
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.
I was standing in the doorway when I found her.
Lying in the bathtub, naked, her eyes beginning to glaze as they stared back into mine.
It's all gone. Vicodin. OxyContin. The leftover pills from when I had broken my forearm. From our honeymoon. The three orange plastic bottles lie empty at her twitching feet.
It doesn't look like they're doing her much good.
From my spot in the bathroom doorway I can see the slight glimmer of a box cutter in one of her hands. Her arms are contorted in an awkward cramped state, like a retarded child, and her mouth seems to produce an endless amount of semi-opaque drool from the corners of the lips.
And still she stares.
Large, deep gashes trace along every corner of her body. Desperate slashes across her face, neck, arms, chest, stomach, waist, thighs, knees, and ankles. I've seen drunks in knife fights place better cuts than these. She had a plan but had no idea where to start, and as the pain worsened she became more desperate, slashing at whatever point on her body wasn't yet stained with her own blood. The fur across her body is crusted against her, the bottom of the tub a milky pink. As her chest rises with every breath the deep cuts on her breasts crack open like long, thin mouths gasping for air.
And still I stare back.
She almost looks embarrassed.
I walk towards her, the tile like ice beneath my feet, and I kneel down next to the bathtub. I want to ask her why she's doing this. Why she didn't let me know. She knows I hate being out of the loop but the truth is that I'm already aware of the answer. I was aware of it when I first saw the unusually high phone bills. The supposed collect calls from old friends. Or the supposed customer service hotlines for that new PDA you had just bought yourself.
You took me for a fool, but the truth was I was just letting you. I was waiting for the day when you would finally snap. The day when you would burst into tears and confess and I would hold you tight against my chest and run my fingers through your soft hair and tell you that I had always known and that everything would be all right. That we would work things out. That I loved you enough to forget about this whole ordeal and start over.
I waited. But the day never came.
Every month you gave me an excuse. Some of them believable, some of them asinine. I accepted every one without a second thought. I figured the guilt would get to you. Or bet everything on the slim chance that you were actually telling me the truth. That I was paranoid.
But I'll be honest, Gloria. I never saw this coming. Never in a million years.
I slid my arm under her shoulder and lifted her upper body up against me. Her head seemed too heavy for her neck and she slumped against me, a small trail of drool dripping down into the porcelain. I rest my chin on the top of her head, the last place on her body where there isn't the filthy tinge of drying blood. I take in a deep breath and the back of my throat starts to sting.
She reaches towards me and grabs my hand. I feel the warm metal of the box cutter on my palm. For a few minutes I just stare at it, turn it over and over in my hand. Her eyes pierce into mine and start to well up with tears. Her breaths are slowly becoming wheezes and her body is beginning to twitch more violently. I can't imagine what all of those painkillers are doing to her system. If it's even worth calling for a paramedic. Her mouth starts to slowly move and I lean in, her dry lips touching the side of my face.
I open the box cutter with one hand and tilt her head so that it's over her right shoulder. With two fingers I search the clumps of matted fur for her pulse. After a few seconds of searching I find it, faint but consistent and her breathing picks up as I move the blade against her.
The short box cutter slips into her flesh like butter. I drag its raged edge down across her jugular in one quick stroke and the blood pours forth like a fountain. Tossing the knife aside I quickly clutch her close to me as she begins to panic with the overwhelming sensation of her body beginning to drain onto her. My forehead is pressed up against hers and I'm clutching my eyes closed to fight the tears that are threatening to escape from them.
"I love you, Gloria," I tell her between sobs. "I do, I love you, I love you, Goria, I'm sorry, God, I'm sorry I love you."
Her blood is cascading onto both of us, my arms and chest now soaked, the bathtub slowly draining crimson. Her hand comes up and brushes faintly against my cheek, and I feel her cracked lips press up against mine.
"Thank you," she whispers, growing pale, her eyes distant and dissolved, unmoving. I gently laid her down onto the porcelain, crossing her arms over her stomach, her feet over each other. Her chest stopped rising and falling and her pulse faded, the blood flow slackening until there was none left to bleed. For a few minutes I simply stared. She seemed so calm, so uninterested. I had seen a lot of people die this way but none of them with the grace and beauty that she had. They were always twisted and contorted like someone had rearranged their bones, their faces frozen in fear.
I wiped the tears from beneath my eyes and stepped back into the bedroom. Picking up the phone, I slowly dialed, leaving bloody fingerprints on each of the numbers, bloody stains on the carpet beneath me. After a few rings the operator picked up, addressing me with a calm, concerned voice.
"What's the emergency?"
I turned and took one last look at her, taking in every detail. I knew it would be the last time I would be able to see her.
In excelsis deo.
"There's been a murder."
I woke up cradled gently against Falco's chest. The tavern below was now silent, the band having left hours ago. The young avian stirred awake as he felt me shift myself away from him. His eyes fluttered open and locked on me in a confused bewilderment as I got to my feet and searched for my coveralls.
"Hey," he cooed with a slight smile. "Something wrong?"
I found them lying in a mass at the base of the mattress and began to slip my feet into them.
"Hey," he asked, growing more vocal. "Talk to me, here. What's the problem?"
Sliding them up to my waist, I struggled to tighten the straps. A crude wooden cuckoo clock on the wall chimed once, twice, three times. As if to mock me. I wanted to reach over and slam it to the floor, see it dashed into a million pieces.
Falco's wings run down my arms and grab onto my hands, pulling them from my waist. He presses his warm body up against my back and craned his head down so that it's level with mine. Nuzzling me with his cheek, he asks me to stop and tell him what I'm doing.
"Do you know why she killed herself?"
He grows eerily silent. His hands remain clenched on top of mine, our fingers entwined.
"Because I changed. I wasn't the same person she had met on that bench reading Bukowski. I had become somebody else."
"That's not true."
"I wasn't good enough for her."
"She had issues, Leon. Things you could have helped her with but instead she locked you out."
"She was suffering. Every day she was with me she was slowly dying."
"Stop lying to yourself. You have to let it go."
"No. Not this time." I pull my arms away from his and slip them through the sleeves of the coveralls. "She didn't think I'd ever understand. That's why she did what she did." I look down over the raised scars across my chest. "And that's why I'm doing what I'm doing. I need to know. I need to prove to her that I know exactly what it feels like to die inside. Then maybe she'll forgive me."
I head for the door.
Pausing in the doorway I turn. He's standing in the middle of the room, his body shimmering blue in the dull moonlight seeping in through the window. "Don't go."
"I love you."
I say nothing. I'm afraid to open my mouth because I know that the minute I do I'll lose my nerve. I'll snap. I'll tell him I love him, too, but it will only be so many useless words. Because I know that sooner or later I'll just end up throwing myself out of a window. And then what?
Falco stumbles backward onto the mattress behind him. He reaches across the floor for his jeans and digs in one of the pockets, pulling out a crumpled case of cigarettes. Placing one between his lips, he looks up at me one last time, his eyes shrink-wrapped in tears. I start to close the door behind me, going against my better judgment and peering in through the crack between the door and the frame. He looks back towards the moonlight, flipping out the lighter and coaxing the flame towards the end of his cigarette. Only he's sobbing so much that he can't steady it enough to light it. After a few seconds of struggling he closes the lighter in frustration, tossing it into the darker corner of the room, wrapping his wings around the back of his neck and bringing his head down to try and muffle the sounds of his own weeping.
I made my way up to the recreation area. The halls were still quiet, still errily devoid of guards. I climbed the warped wooden bleachers, sitting myself down on the highest one, the usual spot in the usual corner. The air was frigid and kicked up bits of dust as it blew by, stinging my eyes. Everything seemed to glow a dull blue under the cold watch of the full moon that sat lazily in the night sky above, accompanied by a plethora of stars.
I reached into the front of my coveralls, but the paper was missing. Maybe it fell out on the way to the tavern. Maybe I left it in the room. Maybe it fell out on the way back.
I didn't know and it didn't really matter to me anymore.
As I stood up, dusted off the back of my coveralls, and looked up at the big white glob of shit in the sky, I recited the rest of the poem from memory.
but finally when I think of her
and compare it other lives
more dazzling, original
I realize that she has hurt fewer
people than anybody I know
(and by hurt I simply mean hurt).
she has had some terrible times,
times when maybe I should have
helped her more
for she is the mother of my only
and we were once great lovers,
but she has come through
like I said
she has hurt fewer people than
anybody I know,
and if you look at it like that,
she has created a better world.
she has won.
I make my way back to my cell. To the cold walls and the metal sink with the hot water that runs cold, the small mirror and the lumpy old mattress. The bars clamp shut behind me and I collapse onto my bed face-first, smell the faint musk of Falco on the side of my pillow, and wait patiently for the round, middle-aged guard to come by and rattle my cage.
"Hey. Get up. Breakfast."