You're just a rubber band, dancing between the cat's cradle of my frantic fingertips. Ready to snap.

IT WAS THE LITTLE THINGS that made me adore you. The way your face buckled when people rubbed you the wrong way, the way your cheeks flushed when pretty girls would come too close to you, the way your eyes would weep salty tears to mourn souls who still had a living killer.

From the start, I knew that my obsession with you was nothing good; you were my forbidden fruit, my secret that grew between the branches of knowledge and evil, my dearly and deathly beloved mess of a man. My perfect mess. The only.

It started with the rumor.

I FIRST HEARD THE STORIES at a small, insignificant camp. It was no place worthy of mention, aside from the fact that it was where I first met you—but you didn't meet me.

The soldiers, ragged, dressed in their usual mesh of robes and armor, were gathered around a campfire. The tales they told were but temporary remedies for the things that plagued them; homesickness, light deprivation, battle wounds. Yet for me, a soul not yet touched by the bloodied hands of war, the myths were little more than just that: myths.

HE WAS A RUGGED FOOL, but the soldiers regarded him affectionately, crowding around him as he began to unfold his tale. A certain quality of mystique seemed to radiate from his body, as if he were an enchantress, weaving sinful magic into the tapestry of his very words.

A sparkle danced across his eyes as he waved his hands, describing, with great gesture, the setting of his legend: the wasteland of Hades, dotted by sanguine corpses, trailed by a single man in a tattered black cloak...

THE LEGEND OF THAT MAN had always fascinated me since then. I used to imagine what kind of person he would be: a sick fuck, massacring his own kind, from women and children to burly cavalry, all for the sake of his personal salvation. I used to run thoughts through my head of the black-cloaked man being so wicked and so evil that even Death wouldn't want to screw with him.

But when you finally met me, everything changed.

I WAS ON A MISSION. A quest to infiltrate the heart of the black-cloaked man. So absorbed in this task was I that I almost didn't want to believe it would be so easy.

You were a destroyed man. A far cry from what I had hoped. I had dreamed of meeting the black-cloaked man in epic battle, locked in tantalizing swordplay, swinging brutal remarks at each other with riddling tongues.

But what I saw from you was a mere shell of a man, haunted by the lives he had claimed, but too selfish to redeem himself.

DISAPPOINTMENT BECAME ADDICTION IN DAYS, and you were my newfound guilty drug. Exploiting you and exploring you turned into my pastime, and I spent nearly every moment of my waking life by your side, observing your every action and reaction.

I knew you better than I knew myself, which disturbed and excited me. Every colloquy we held together was an investigation. I thrust myself into the rhythm of your palaver, entranced by the blunt, rough, fervid way with which you put things, narrating the darkest tales of your heart with beguiling realism. Your past became my Bible, your words became parables, and your abasement became my covenant.

I believed I was in love.

WE STAND NOW WORLDS APART; I, buried in my bookish ambitions, and you, entranced by quixotic delusions of achieving redemption.

Both of us know that our aspirations take root in fallacies. In the end, neither of us will achieve our dreams, yet we still continue to walk these doomed paths.

I wonder, sometimes, what would have become of me had I never met you. I like to think that I would have destroyed myself. You were the foundation of my life, the soil in which I took root. You nourished me; you helped me grow and evolve into a hideous plague of a tree, and once you had realized what you had created, it was too late then.

Even still, when I gaze upon your face, I see the plaything that became the meaning of my existence.

YOU DESPISE ME, DEEP DOWN, and we both know it. My love for you can only be returned by hatred. And that is what we both expect, because my love for you manifests as torture, and torture can only ever beget torture.

Knowing that you hate me truly is a living hell. But it is a good sort of burn; it's the kind of burn that soothes your skin and gives you a new flesh when it peels.

I have reborn a phoenix, and you were the fire that snapped my humble bonds.