Custom House Statue, c. 1936. Source: NYPL
The harshness of cruelty is a myth.
Cruelty is gentle.
Cruelty is soft.
You won’t hear it, but you’ll feel it.
The low hum in the next room, the steady pulse in your veins.
The soothing vibration that tingles at your nerve endings.
The imperceptible beating beneath your skin.
You are aware of it now but you cannot remember when it began.
It is a dull ache, not a stabbing pain.
You dip your head slowly into the boiling water.
The bubbles tickle the hair on your face.
I am filled a rage I must release. It festers uncontrollably, bubbling up like bile in my throat and I wretch, muscles convulsing as it erupts out of my mouth, the poison evicting itself from the cage in my chest. Smoke swirls around my head and my vision clouds. Tears sting in the corners of my eyes as the last of the blood drips down my chin.
I. I don’t go out unless I absolutely have to. I put things off. I almost passed out two days ago. I was in the shower. My hands were pressed up against the wall above my head. I tried to steady myself. I lost myself for a moment. I forced myself to keep standing. Somehow I made it to my room. I did not go to class that day.
II. Most of the time I feel all right, but occasionally a wave of nausea rolls through me, and I am utterly incapacitated for one terrifying moment. I panic even though I know that my stomach is empty. I struggle to keep the bile down and wait for the feeling to pass.
Crack your knuckles, crack your back. Get up and walk around. Survey the damage around you with a focused eye. Step gingerly over the rubble. Try to not kick up dust. You may feel your head start to oscillate as you consider the facts of the case, but don’t let it roll too far.
Angels Ribé, “Hide the Dolls, Here Come the Thieves, 1977
I can only really speculate at this point, but this seems to be the state of affairs: I am probably in love with you and I am also fairly certain that you would have your dog eat me alive if you were given the opportunity. I don’t know where you are and I don’t really care because reality doesn’t interest me. You exist in my eternal daydream and whether you are alive or dead is irrelevant to me and unnecessary for my purposes. Maybe you have a better grasp of the facts but that doesn’t concern me. When I attempt to picture you going about your day-to-day life I draw a blank because I don’t know you. I abandon the struggle and retreat to my archives.
I never responded to your letter. Sometimes I miss you so much that I forgive you. I try to remember the color of your eyes but the most painful memory is the feeling of your stare. Sitting alone in my room I am burning under your microscope and I wonder if you miss me.
Don’t think that I can’t recognize an imbalance of power. I was tentative at first. I stood on the ledge beside the pool and dipped my toe in; you cut off my foot. Over dinner that evening I apologized for bleeding in the water.
Water slides off your shoulder and down your arm. You are glossy and luminescent. Your eyes are black but not infinite. You are a fortress with an impenetrable façade. I would have thought that after all these years I would at least have been able to look at you.