The Figurehead That Never Was

I can’t give you half of myself.

I won’t.

There, on some far-off bank, I can almost make us out. Bleeding out against the foreground of the waves in the distance. There are seashells underfoot, just here. Each step, little coral ridges cutting into your soles. A slow stripping away. So many of them! Not one snowflake is alike, they told us. Who they were, matters not. These are just the same. A lot of things are.

I can’t tell the time. The sun didn’t bother to fling out its wings of rapture this morning, didn’t bother to skulk out from its self-prescribed, nightly prison, didn’t bother to lick away the dew from any leaf-tops, shake away the mist from the sea-top, burn away the froth from the sky-top. It didn’t bother.

Why bother at all?

Perhaps, that hour between dawn and day, day and dusk – the golden hour, or so they say. When the shadows crawl out from their hosts, taking root as foreigners on a plane they know nothing of. Truth. If I asked them for it, what do you think they’d give me?

More than you, I suppose.

There’s a precipice behind, some sort of far-flung cliff, a jagged wall of stone and intimidation. It’s just a glass wall, as impenetrable as it is transparent. We remember from where we came. Isn’t that the problem? Miles upon miles of sand, on either side. Safe as houses, they are. You can see what’s just ahead, just behind, beside.

Three months through the sieve. Six months. A year. There’s always more sand to fill the depression you dug in a fit of what if? A millennium of fine, coarse grains to stuff between parted lips, throw back like a philosopher to hemlock. A hand on the neck? A pitiful reminder of the honest deal, this stuff you force further down your throat with each passing month. Suffocate yourself to silence yourself. It’s a petty price to pay for safety, don’t you think?

But the seas are fair. You’d know. You’re out there, somewhere. Such a shame that I’m far too near-sighted to make you out. Different ground, we stand on. The middle does exist. But to meet there would be an unsustainable arrangement. Whose catchphrase was it? Mine. I learned it from you.

It’s just there, at the edge of the coast, where the waves break against a bed of sand. You’d run aground, wood shredded from frame, bones snapped from foundation, sinew stripped from flesh. And I’d drown. Naked as I am.

But don’t you see, sitting there with the sail’s tentacles wrapped about your wrist, content to allow the whims of the wind to guide you in whichever direction it sees fit. Don’t you see the error of your ways? To defer to the will of something else? Paranoia is a tangled web. Cameras in the eyes, arsenic in the chocolate chips. It gives more flavor, didn’t you know? I have my strain of the stuff, you have yours.

But yours, is untrue.

Call it control when you have none, to soothe the tingling scars of years past. The tighter you wrap that coarse tail about the calloused skin of your wrist – you’re not ignorant – the better bite it is. The wind would rip the nailbeds from your fingertips, the knuckles from your fist, the syndromes from your palm before you’d think to change course. Control? Don’t make me laugh. A psychosomatic sting, a tremble in the psyche, a blip of static lightning in the stained glass of your battered heart. What do I know? Fresh and lively and unread. Of inflatable unicorns and luxury vinegars. But this?

And still!

These fine grains scorch the flesh of my feet, my fingertips, my collarbone. Whenever I reach into my pockets these days, there’s but a new handful of the stuff. It pours from the lining of my sleeves, the crevice between my sternum and collarbone, the indents in my nails. Hansel and Gretel’s quaint, little trail wherever it is I go, seeking out the point of no return so as to turn me back on the path to sanity.

It’ll take me back to the beginning, after the end.  

See, the thing is – I can’t give you half of myself. I don’t deal in bits and pieces, quarters and cuts, shreds and slices, scraps and quotas. I give all or nothing, in all and nothing. I’m not much for tempering and censoring. Let the wind whip some fresh welts onto the flesh of my arms and back, let its shackles drag me from the brink of the bank, let its claws slice away the retinas from my eyes, to keep them from wandering to more. I’m not afraid.

They’ve built us a million deaths to die.

Let’s die them, together.

Oh, that you had unraveled the rope from your wrists, then! Repurposed the crass braids, strung them about my own. Hoisted the binds to the bow of your ship. Your figurehead, I would have been. In totality and without recourse. A quick death to run aground, crushed between stone and impossibility. But this – such slow, stinging misery!

The flesh from my cheeks, the sea’s spray scrapes back, flinging it into your palm. The eyelids from my eyes, the wind’s talons pluck, to drop them at your feet. The sinew from my bones, the seagulls here, scores of them, claw, to let fall between your fingertips. A finger or two, a piranha in the waves gnaws away, to return to you with. Such slow torment strips me away, bit by bit, just so that you can have me in the only way you want.

Bittersweet, that I let it.

I let you.

Leave a Reply