Her Him, His Her
She leaves the laundry on the floor. Scattered sweaters and jeans, usually thick and protecting, in useless piles. She's just shaking so badly when it happens.
There are moments like this, and there always will be. The marks are indelible. Ink on her skin. She lives her tattoos every day, and hiding them deep in covering fabric is just another way to show they exist.
She sits down-next to the basket, next to the proof of the disruption-and holds her knees. It helps.
He is learning shame. It is a difficult instruction, but he is good at hating. The trick is to turn it inwards.
Most days, he wants to ball up his fists and strike whatever is in reach. If this creates more victims, then so be it. He has a little bit of darkness in him, and maybe if he can share enough of it out with the world, it will become somehow diminished.
He tells himself this, because there is no other way of accepting the crimes that his body has lived.
She feels uncomfortable in the coffee-shop; not from the looks she gets, but from the way she sees herself in those looks. Being mirrored back on herself like this is torture. This other her-the one shown in silver and glass-is an unhealed scab. She orders a tall and retreats to her corner and wishes she could fade away.
By the roadway outside, there is refuse and debris. Discarded soda cups, food wrappers, and scattered change. There is also a broken umbrella that looks like a bird. She finds some comfort in that.
If there is still some mystery left in that shattered thing, then she can endure the looking of strangers.
It is only three more days until her appointment, anyway.
He leaves the apartment screaming and storming, a terrified cat crawling under the dresser to hide. His control, on days like these, is imperfect at best. He wishes he was four again, and that he could slough off the rest of his life, like some bottom-feeder leaving its shell.
When he gets this furious, he walks. Shoulders hunched, head forward, overcoat wrapped tight, he blazes his way down sidewalks and past pedestrians, willing them to bump him. Wanting the excuse. And scourging himself all the more for it.
He is propelled, flashed to combustion, moving at a speed that brooks no steering. His conscious mind surrenders control, and disgust is at the wheel.
Back home is emptiness, and an animal waiting in fear for the click of the door latch.
She can heal. She almost breaks every time she hears this, because the risk is too great. The set-up is so perfect that only a calculated misery can follow.
A part of her trusts this doctor, but only in the way that you would trust needles or lab tests. He is an apparatus. A function of medicine being used to help her get well. He cares no more for her than she cares for herself.
She always feels better afterward, in the busy-ness of pulling together the pieces of her mask, and of making sure that nothing he said has embedded itself too deep. There are splinters in her hurt, ones that ache all the more fiercely for her wanting them there. This is healing, her rational mind tells her.
This is another defilement, insists the rest.
He lives free, but on the rock of memory he is Prometheus: shackled for his trespasses, exposed to a circling unkindness that daily lands and tears his organs out.
The charges pressed and dropped, they validate him. Sometimes he can cling to them like mercy and say that he is only tarnished.
And sometimes they are the noose around his neck. The final evasion of justice that damns him fully. He screams down the corridors of time at all the other hims, the ones that misstepped and faltered and were weak. He rages at his past to correct itself, because there is no cure for sin in the present.
They are, together, a completed cycle. The breaking and the broken. The brand and the burn. Victim and victim and victim.
In incinerated photographs they stand, side-by-side, hands clasped. Eternal.
Like a snake caught a hold of its own tail, the pain cycles, spinning into infinity and legend.
Their children bear the marks of its telling, and so it continues.