A Most Stormy Life
Disclaimer: - I don't own Connor or Tracy. Mr Whedon does. I don't own the poem "Alone." That belongs to Mr. Poe. Tshaya, however is mine.
Summary: - A Post-Home Connor tries to sort out why he's so estranged from the world with unexpected results.
Rating : - FRT
Spoilers: - Post Home
Author's Note #1 : - Written for the Stellamaru's April Poetry challenge, and is an open ended one off. My challenge poetry fragment was:
Author's note #2: - I actually had two stories started for this. But April isn't just poetry month. It's also finals and thesis due month so…if I get a chance to finish the other I will.
As others were - I have not seen
As others saw - I could not bring
My passions from a common spring -"Alone" - Edgar Allan Poe
I'm not like other kids my age. I've been different since I was born. No matter how hard I try to play at belonging, I don't. Dad's rich, made his money the hard way and only now was getting upper class thoughts. So, I didn't fit into the rich world if Dad would have even thought of putting me there, but I didn't fit in with the middle class either.
I went to public school, everyone looking at me sideways because they all knew Dad had money. Some wanted to be my friend because of it. Others hated me, jealous of everything I had. I tried not to let it hurt but it did. I played at being popular because being short, scrawny and not particularly attractive had a grimmer outlook in the high school climate than rich weirdo did. I could live with the latter. I painted, listening to opera. I played Dungeons and Dragons and I avoided sports like the plague but I wasn't in the 'pin a target on him for daily beatings' crowd because of the money. I shouldn't complain. Money might be the reason I've always been different but at least I had a safe, happy childhood.
That internal voice had been getting louder by the day. My nights grew more and more restless, the dreams coming almost nightly. It began during my first semester of college. By this, my second semester, it had grown so troublesome I enrolled in a psych class just to get a handle on my inner moppet. All I did was scare myself and the dreams got worse.
When I closed my eyes I saw that yes I had been different from the time I was born but instead of a having a big roomy house plus the cabin in the woods, I'm living in caves or under the stars which match nothing I know of the heavens. No silk shirts and sheets of 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton so fine and soft they feel like clouds, no lobster from Maine and Kobe beef from Japan. I'm in leather scraps that barely cover me. I shiver in the cold. My own stink is so much a part of me I barely notice it. The sky is the red of blood clots, ripped by lightning. I know it's not real, just nightmares but when I woke, drenched in sweat, it felt more real than college.
Tracy suggested I keep a dream journal. What else could I expect from her other than New Age pap? I did it just to humor her. She read it once and didn't speak to me for a month after setting me up with an appointment with the school shrink that I never kept. Her not talking to me was just fine. My taste for my high school sweetheart had long since turned to ash.
Did I ever love her? Maybe a little but probably not. I never just looked at her in class and gotten hard, wanting her and only her. A teenager and having to work at being aroused with her? Maybe that should have been a clue we weren't right for each other. Maybe it was her New Age dribble that irritated me. I've nothing against people who believe in magic. Hell, I believed in it. It was just that Tracy never once made it sound like she believed in it. She seemed to think reading Silver Ravenwolf and wearing silver Celtic jewelry made her trendy and she missed the whole religious part of it. Ditto with her being a vegan.
Our parents had put us together. Dad finally realized he was rich enough to run with the big dogs but no one wanted him. He had earned his money, got his hands dirty. He wasn't coasting on the wealth of his forefathers and his family name. It didn't help that Dad made his money in prepaid burials and funeral homes. His business took a hit when Sunnydale fell into a sink hole but he had funeral homes all over California, Arizona and Nevada and a big fat contract with some law firm in L.A. that steered a lot of employees and clients to his prepaid burials. Dad had millions. Tracy's dad had the name, important since Victorian times but the money was long gone. And so like it's been done for centuries, we were pushed together by our parents. Tracy would get my money and the O'Shaughnessy's would get linked to old money and the corpses of hundreds of Blue-Blood WASPS would be spinning in their graves over the inclusion of an Irishman into their closed ranks and not even a lace curtain one at that.
I hadn't minded much. Despite the T-shirt I bought at Hot Topics, chicks didn't dig scrawny pale guys. It was nice to have a girlfriend to do stuff with. I knew exactly where I stood with Tracy. No wondering if she was with me for Dad's money. The answer was yes. We were both Daddy's little pawns but hey, I was getting sex out of the deal and I always planned to do my own thing once I got to school.
Still, even then I think I knew it wasn't good sex. By the time I had a year of college under my belt, I knew just how bad the sex with Tracy had been. Tracy and I went to the same college - thanks Dads - but we only had occasional sex. Word around campus was Tracy liked women. Maybe it's true. It would explain a lot. I just hoped it's real and not something she thinks is trendy. Tracy'd shave herself bald and paint her twiggy body blue if it was the in thing to do.
As for me, I was learning my passions didn't come from the same wells other people drew from. Man, if my parents had a clue they'd faint or disown me or both. I met my muse in psych class. I was there to figure out just how fucked up I am with the dreams and all. Like how I always saw another woman's face when I was doing Tracy.
In my mind's eye Tracy transformed into a woman in her twenties, lush, dark hair, dark eyes. She haunted my dreams. She meant love and pain, confusion and comfort like a goddess handing down all sorts of gifts from above, glowing with a soft white light. She was one of two goddesses that lived in my head. The other was like coco, warm, loving and terrible, my own personal Kali. There was nothing sexual about my dark goddess, not like my goddess with the glow. When my dark goddess smiled, even the worst things were all right.
Tracy couldn't stack up against my dreams. She couldn't even take on my reality. The best part of my reality was busy putting seals at the four cardinal points of her back yard. I rested back against the old oak, watching her. She had taken my breath way at first sight of her in psych class. Tshaya had taken the psych course to help her get a handle on human nature. She wanted to be an investigative journalist. She made me miss huge hunks of class because blood was no where near my brain. Nothing distracts you from class like having one hell of a boner.
It went beyond the physical with Tshaya Grey. She had no idea how beautiful she was. I don't know how she could look in the mirror and see those huge sloe eyes, generous cupid lips, dark curling hair and skin with its kiss of olive and not know she was gorgeous. She was brilliant, curious and not the least bit interested in material things, so unlike Tracy.
I had taken one look at Tshaya's tall, lush body and told her that I had to paint her. She thought it was a line to get into her pants. She didn't believe me until I proved I was an art major, something my parents didn't approve of. I had a business double major. Dad expected me to take over his business someday. At this point, it just needed someone to hold the reins and let the sales people and morticians do their thing. I could probably live off interest alone from what he had in the banks now. Maybe my sister would want to run the company. I'd be happy to let her. I had no interest in it other than to live in the style I had been raised in, but I wasn't a salesperson. It was dead to me. I had to feed my soul and my art was my way of doing that.
Tshaya understood. She and I didn't see things like the rest of the world did. Tshaya's mom had been a Rom and they traveled all over the country immersed in the Romany culture until her mom died. Tshaya went to live with her horse trainer Dad in Ocala, Florida after that. She convinced him to take the horse business to Hollywood with the Gypsy Vanners, big beautiful draft horses that had served her mother's people for a very long time. Their black and white massive frames would look good in the big screen. She taught me how to ride and she was teaching me the Kalderash dialect. It was important to her for me to make an effort to understand her culture. I was cool with that since all I knew about my own Irish culture was the melancholy and the drinking. Being Rom had given Tshaya a unique world view.
Me, I differed from the world in that I can't see well in shades of grey. Things were too black or white for me, often the former. There was a darkness in me. I don't know why. It's not like I'm a serial killer in the making or anything, but the dreams, those are the portals into my darkness. They spill out onto the canvas.
Tshaya understood my art. Tracy wouldn't even look at it. My favorites were the surreal one that Tshaya had modeled for; her glowing white and beautiful in a sky of crimson and lightning over a primordial forest ripe with eyes, teeth and claws. She had posed for another of my favorite, her sitting down to a family dinner where the normalcy of the scene was being nibbled away at the edges by demons.
Tshaya loved 'self portrait of a hollow man.' My face wasn't visible, obscured by a scrawny rat-faced woman who was cutting me open from neck to groin. My ribs hung open like a shattered bird cage with nothing inside but a swirl of red and black. Tracy thought the twiggy woman was her and insisted I destroy it, like that would happen. It wasn't her. I knew the woman. She was in my dreams but I had no name for her. Besides, the painting had already won in its class at two local art shows. It was the essence of me. I couldn't destroy it.
There were other pictures, mostly of a heavy browed man with what looked like a dead beaver on his head. His eyes were intense and no matter how I painted him, those eyes looked into your soul. Tshaya didn't like him. She called him a trushalo odji, a thirsty soul. She said he was beng, evil, a devil. I wasn't so sure. He was another dream figment. I saw him most nights. It was seeing him as a recurrent theme that made Tshaya decide there was some kind of bad magic in my life. Like I said, we didn't see the world like everyone else. When Tshaya mentioned magic, I believed it. I had no doubt magic existed when she talked about magic, something Tracy had never been able to do. With her, magic sounded dumb and impossible.
Maybe that means I'm meant to be with Tshaya. I don't know. I'm not into the whole soul mate thing but if my passions didn't come from a common spring, neither did hers. It wasn't just that I was interested in a gypsy girl that would upset my parents. I already knew Tshaya's cousins and aunts and uncles didn't like her dating a raklo, a non-Romany, but once they met me, they seemed very keen on keeping us together, like it was important somehow to them. I wondered if they knew Tshaya's tastes. I knew what my parents would do if they had a clue about either of us.
To pay stuff loans didn't cover, Tshaya worked in a leather toy shop. When I first went there to walk her home one night after she had to close the store, I had surprised myself at being excited by the crops and flails. She touched my face with kid leather gloves, soft, no grain to the leather like human skin and I wanted her to touch me other places with those gloves. We both lived off campus which was good because that meant no one could push their noses into our private lives. Me, because my father was happy to supply an apartment, she because she and some friends had interests that couldn't be served in a dorm.
Her roomies, who kept out of our business, were professional dominatrixes. It wasn't sex for money. They didn't ever sleep with the guys, or so Tshaya told me. She wasn't into the work but she was into the dungeon scene. She brought my darkness out to play. We were still learning what limits we have. Tshaya likes mostly to tie and play, a little light whipping, nothing that would really hurt. I don't really want to be actually hurt much but being tied down, blindfolded, it was exciting beyond words. I wasn't into the whole dog pen thing one of her roomies had but a real cage, something I could prowl around in, the idea thrilled me. They were thinking about adding it to the dungeon.
I had gotten them one dungeon toy. Dad still thinks I was asking him for the deep discount on a coffin because a friend of mine had to bury her sister and didn't have any money. He cut Tshaya's roomie a great deal on a coffin he thinks was shipped to Boston. Instead it's in the dungeon. It's became our favorite place to have sex. I know it's wrong and creepy but like I said, there's nothing common or normal about us. Our passions come from a dark spring, uncommon and glorious in their shadows.
Tshaya knelt in front of me under the branches of the oak. "The seals are in place. The Duk rak is ready. Nothing can hurt us here. Are you ready?"
I nodded. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"I can almost feel the web of magic around you, like you've been cursed. I can help you," she said, kissing me softly. "Did you make your parik-til?"
I nodded and pulled a green leather bag on a rope out from under my shirt. I opened the parik-til and showed her the bundle of oak leaves, twigs and acorns tied with yellow thread. Inside the myrrh-perfumed bag was sunflower seeds, cinnamon sticks, a lucky stone and bit of broken gold from one of her chains. It was supposed to be help bring me luck and protection.
"Then we'll begin and you'll be free of this curse. Maybe then you can sleep." Tshaya's big eyes were sad. She knew about my nightmares. I was willing to try anything to rid myself of the dreams, even if they gave rise to some of my best art.
"I hope so."
She had me take off my shirt then sprinkled my hair with water infused with oak leaves from this very tree. She had been making the potion for weeks. She painted the seal of Solomon over my heart and an eye in the middle of my forehead with henna. She opened a vial of oil. "This is uncrossing oil. It will put your life back the way it should be."
It smelled like sun tan oil, coconut with an undertone of cinnamon and something I couldn't place. Lumps of lapis lazuli sat at the bottom. She dabbed some over my heart telling me to think on my strength, to wish for the spell to be broken and oddly enough it didn't even seem strange to me that I might be cursed. She made it seem utterly plausible. It was the only thing that fit. It would explain like I felt apart from the world, wracked with nightmares. Being cursed was better than being insane, which was what I had come up with to explain my life.
She stroked my neck with the oil then whispered words that I didn't really understand except for 'Devlesa' She was asking God for something as her finger pressed the uncrossing oil to my third eye. It was like driving a stake through my skull. My world spun and split open. I may have vomited on her but I couldn't tell. I was being flayed alive, reality shredding. I heard my voice chanting only vaguely aware the words were Kalderash. When had I learned so many words? "Amaro dat kaj san ando rraj." Our Father who art in Heaven…
Memories flooded my mind, too fast to process. My dreams sprang to life. They were the really real world. This son of a rich man college student skin I wore was the lie. As my eyes opened to Tshaya's worried face, I knew why I have always been alone inside my heart. My memories were mine again. There would be a reckoning and from the love and concern pouring down on me from my lover's touch as her fingers stroked my hair, I knew I would not walk the path back to my "family" alone.
Printed in Scribner's Monthly Magazine
by Edgar Allan Poe
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.