I cannot help but think of my favorite poem as I burned down that cabin in the woods where you used to visit me.
After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs
I am flooded with memories of you as I watch my haven burn to the ground along with every memento I have of you. I watch it burn all night and come the morning I feel the truth of Good Old Emily Dickinson’s verse
The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
A Quartz contentment, like a stone
Truly my feet did mechanical go round as I poke the ashes with a stick, wondering if any of your letters survived.
I turn my attention to the trees. How dare they watch something so sacred and not pay some price, I thought. I spent the rest of the morning chopping one of them down. A fine old one. I fall down in exhaustion and say, “Let that be an example to you all.”
I pass out on the floor of the forest and dream of you. I dream of the first time you came to the cabin – blindfolded, handcuffed to the door of my pickup. You gasp as the handcuffs click closed. “What if there’s an accident?”
I am tempted – for a brief second – to feel disgust toward you. But I know it was just a short time earlier that I was just like you. Instead of disgust, I think, you need me worse than I thought. “What’s worse? Living a safe lie or dying in the search for the truth?” I ask. You don’t answer. It doesn’t matter. I have the key and you don’t.
After I wake from my dream of you, I take the only things I own, all stuffed in a hiking pack, and head toward my pickup truck. I drive southwest trying to catch some breeze that will land me somewhere that I won’t think of you too much. I am not hopeful.
As I drive hour after hour, I mull over some more of the poem.
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived
Yes, Emily, this is the hour of lead. I don’t know if I will outlive it.
After several days of driving I find myself renting an apartment on the outskirts of one of those cities I never dreamed of living in – not so much out of disgust or fear as out of shear alienness. But it will have no traces of you. Just a big city in one of those big states filled with big people and big highways.
I hate it.
I fight the temptation to hate you for driving me to this. It is not easy. Lust turns into hate so quickly. But I don’t want my memory of you to be besmirched. So, I fight.
The landlord doesn’t mind the cash payments. In this neighborhood, cash payments are not unusual. Neither are fake references, I think as I sign the lease.
I don’t know how long the cash will last. I’m not a big spender, so it might last a long time. If not, I can go back to my wicked ways, I suppose.
I find some trails nearby. The remind me of the mountains where we dallied. I spend most of my days there. That’s where I first saw them. Their mouths full of sharp teeth. Their hideous, gaunt appendages surrounded in expensive suits. They call my name, but I’m good at hiding. Their eyes speak of hatred and their smiles point toward some torturous domesticity whose secrets are revealed in the strange missives I find at my apartment each night. I burn them, unread.
I dream of you again. I dream about the third time you came to visit me. By now, you trusted me. Your mistake, I guess. I knew you wouldn’t have put in all those fail safes – all those “If you don’t hear from me” messages you left for people the first two times you came.
You were tied to the bed posts when I pulled out my knife. I dreamed of its peculiar design – weird cut-outs and such a strange shape. Peculiar, but still deadly, I thought. I dreamed it one night years ago and found it lying on my doorstep the next morning. Since then, it has been my constant companion in all my misdeeds.
I press the knife against your naked flesh and instead of inducing fear, it seemed to drive you wild as you bucked against the ropes, you body inflamed by the cool of the steel.
Would you have run if you knew I was going to kill you? Or would you have been willing to die now that you knew the truth?
But I didn’t kill you. Instead, I show you my scars. Your breath almost stopped when I took off your blindfold. “Where did those scars come from?” you ask.
“I have a special talent for hiding scars,” I say and then I enumerate them. One by one, I tell you each of their stories. I cry, sob like a baby as I got deeper into the list.
The next morning, I let you go. That was the last time I saw you. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. You saw my scars.
And now they are getting closer to me. I hide in the trees, but I know they eventually will find me. Miss Emily was right.
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –
I miss you.