What child is this, that does not weep or smile. This thing has extinguished its light, and what he was meant to be, will never materialize. He makes as if he laughs, but no sound is produced.
A weary head lacks the creativity to invent a valid excuse for avoiding a dinner date with the Minikin Circus. Although I almost succeeded after getting lost when my brain could not retain the directions to the restaurant. I breathed a sigh of relief, believing Avery and Cody would not come to a rescue I hoped against. Leave me on the train tracks; my ribs are made of iron! I had not slept well the night before, and was finding it difficult to manage my emotions. In fact, when I placed a call to Cody to inform him that I kept travelling through the same streets and was unable to see my way out, Juliet had to take the phone away from me, after I began to scream out profanities at no one at all. I was tired of putting up with sister. Tired of a snow-filled landscape. Tired of Portland’s misanthropic citizenry. Tired of discolored faces, partially concealed by scarves and irony. Tired of shitty coffee, I was supposed to pretend was superior to anything offered at a gas station. Tired of the sound and weight of chains, without finding where on my body they are attached, and what they will tie me to, if they have not already. They say that the shadow of the King of the Nine Hells looms over half the world, but he lives inside of me, and that was making me tired, too.
My body was beginning to shut down. It was resting in parts. Not only had I deprived it of sleep, but of nourishment. My appetite had been swallowed whole by the stress produced in that little factory dedicated to making sure sister stays safe and sober. Moments after the phone call, they succeeded in finding us stationed by the side of the road. Avery made his way to our car, and drove it to the restaurant in my stead. I drifted off into a light slumber, hoping they would respect my need for rest, and I wouldn’t be made to get out.
Sister tells me that when we arrived, we stood outside for a moment. I blocked that, not wanting to be part of an awkward scene. I recall being in front of a shoebox of a building, that looked as if it couldn’t host more than three people. I followed Cody inside, like he was a cult leader with no presence. Like he was the Dark Pope, without his robe and staff, and all other appropriate and impressive accoutrements. I wanted so much to not give in to the urge to look at him. When I finally did, his eyes were lost to me, as he searched for something on the walls. I looked to the pictures he was admiring, with the full understanding that what he truly wanted was to avoid looking at me. I became aware of all of my imperfections, and would have made a futile attempt at disguising them, had I not been struck by a sudden need to reach out to my nieces. Even far from them, I could not afford to forget that in the last year, I had become their mother figure. I half-excused myself as I telephoned the girls to wish them a good night. It was when I was away from Cody that I saw him perfectly. His eyes are steeled from a burden he carries, but are as blue as Maldivian waters. His cheeks are lightly tinted with a soft pink, from a sensitivity to cold weather, or genetic luck in either direction. His arms are well-defined, kept close to his body, as a means to protect himself from the world, from nameless witches, from those that enter magical worlds not through use of watchwords, but through trickery, and from women like me. I did not count exactly how many fingers he has, but considering he is closely related to Asmodeus, I would say it is no less than fifteen. His lips are tense from a lifetime of words he lacked the courage to voice. There is a timidity to him that is obvious, and somewhat endearing. His skin, slightly tan. Though I admit that he is handsome, he is as much a fig as I am. An acquired taste, an unconventional beauty.
I made my way back to the table, and found that my fascination with getting to know him, had not gone unnoticed by Juliet and Avery. They soon stood up to smoke a cigarette, leaving us to our own devices. Of the conversation we had, I remember nothing. What I do know is that every word he pronounces is carefully constructed. He makes gentle sounds to show that he is listening. Before there is a reply, there is a silence that allows for him to give well-thought-out answers. Frequently, he asks for an elaboration on any statement made. And no matter what I said, he did not look at me once.
My stomach remained empty, but it was time to leave. As we made our way to our respective vehicles, I thought about how much I had loathed to communicate with him in the past. We could not seem to get along, despite some effort. But now, as he stood beside me, I noticed two things. The first being, that our difference in height was obvious. The second, that it was surprisingly easy to have a fluid conversation with him. I wanted more time to examine him under the microscope. Perhaps the version of him that I could not stand, was constructed out of necessity. He became what he had to, and I saw him the way I needed to. It’s all a radical sort of defense mechanism.
Against my better judgment, I invited myself into Cody’s car, demanding more than requesting that he drive me to the nearest hotel. I want to say that it was a bold move, of which I rarely make anymore. Especially not when it comes to romance, or what can resemble it, if one squints hard enough. But it was no such thing. I simply needed a place to rest for the night. He offered no protest. Most likely because he did not want to upset a woman who was clearly unraveling.
Although not long has passed since then, my mind was able to hang on to little of the moments I spent with him in his car. All I have is broken images, and a fragmented conversation. There was a small pile of trash at my feet that he said was left by Avery. He was stunned when I told him that I had never eaten a vegan doughnut. I made the sign of the cross when we entered the freeway, and I could see that he thought it was a ridiculous superstition. We sat side by side, as if it had always meant to work itself out that way.
In front of the hotel, we made a promise to see each other later in the evening, at his apartment.