A body dying is a body making its last attempt at a story, you think. The body in question doesn't care anymore and you say: kiss me, darling, I'm dying here. He looks at you with that look that means I don't think that's very funny and, suddenly, it's not, because if you have a tyrant, a king of this place and every other, an arbiter or everything, it's him: Henry-ocracy, and you're just the kid who shovels the snow.
You are dying here. You body opens up its holes and shuts them again in time with your breathing. The air is escaping from a hole just below your collar bone and another one in the no-man's-land between your ribcage and your hip. You feel it leave but you don't feel any more air coming in to replace it and this is how you know you're dying.
The other way you know is that Henry is leaning over you and his breath is escaping too. It is warming your face. His mouth is at a distance which you would estimate is around the width of three atoms. His mouth is the shape of everything you find impossible to describe and everything you have ever desired and everything you find lacking in yourself. He leans over, two atoms, then only one. He presses his eternity-holding mouth against your forehead and you think he whispers:
Please don't die.
Sometimes you wonder if he wants to kill you. Here is a bullet, here is a knife in someone else's hand (it only looks like mine), here is a boot on the end of a leg on the end of a man who doesn't like the look of your face. Here is a destiny, why don't you walk straight into it, why don't you do me a favor?
Other times you think that he loves you, really, he loves you, but the words are jammed, stuck somewhere in the throat that your hands want to hold, to shape the air around until somehow you comprehend what it means to have a body like his and to be the person who does not have it but wants it so much that it feels already theirs, so close that they can feel the need for it displace the air of their dreams. This comprehension never comes and words never come, but you really do think, sometimes, that he loves you.
In the room, you dream. That is all there is to do there.
Sometimes he is beside you, and sometimes he is far away -- making noise in the bathroom, banging on the faucet and cursing out the hot water, or, in the mornings that haze into afternoons while you aren't looking, he is 'away', buying the things you must need but never remember consuming, like food and water and bandages and light. All you remember is the slip from sleep to waking and back again, and the times when you wake up and he is beside you. Beside you, inside you, his fingers digging into you body, his hair in your mouth, his eyes open burning your eyes, and his mouth, his mouth red and wet and holding all your secrets on its tongue.
Anyway, you dream.
You have a few favorites: the best are cowboys, of course, but you've been playing that game since you were a little kid dressed in blue shorts and self-deprecation and anyway, Henry can't wear hats. Or the road movies, the Hitchcock thriller where there's something in the trunk of the car and it might be a body or it might be sports bags full of money or it might be the secret that blows you both to hell. What you like best about that one is watching Henry drive the car, his arms with the sun gilding the hair and his veins like swollen rivers flowing over his wrists, and his skin which is that color you can't describe. You like the road movie dream. You like the imagery. His body like a road map, like a country you once got lost in, long ago. Now you speak the language, even if your accent isn't great, and you know the layout of the city where you live and it's not the capital, not exactly a cultural mecca, but that's okay because your apartment is cozy even though your landlord's stiffing you on the rent, but you have a place where you sleep and sometimes you're not alone there.
But your favorite dream of the moment, here in the room, is the dream that is a monster feature. It's the same stuff -- running, always running, and then hiding, and then running some more. You catch a glimpse of the thing that's chasing you in your rear view mirror, maybe, or out of the corner of your eye as you're falling asleep. It's white and cold and all sharp nails and teeth and silver hate with the world on its side, glinting, perfect and unstoppable.
And it hates you; that is all you know about it. It wants to eat you up, consume you, burn you up in a cold blue flame. And, in the car, with Henry beside you, when he's not saying anything and the sun has stopped alchemising his hair, sometimes you feel like letting it. Maybe it would be nice to be eaten up; a cold touch is better than nothing at all, right? You have enough warmth of your own, enough heat being produced in the furnace at the center of you that never gets enough to eat itself, to snuggle a dozen monsters. You would take it in your arms and hold up against the punches, the kicks of its hatred and its fear, and you would hold on. Soon your skin would start to slip and melt, and, down to the bones, the monster can see your hollows, the dark places inside you that no one else can see but which you've always known were there. The monster puts his fingers into the gaps between your ribs. He wiggles them around in the void. The black mess burns his cold fingers and so he withdraws them and sticks them in his mouth, sucks the blackness off.
Here is the monster, biting his lip with pain. Here is your monster, waving his hand in the air, trying to get the pain off. Here is Monster, looking like a little boy in red shorts, his bat wings all in disarray, his whiteless eyes staring at you pitifully. You want to hug him, and so you do. Little monster, hard and red, his skin shellacked, the sun making gold coins of his black eyes.
Eventually he eats you anyway, of course. A three course meal, with wine and a selection of cheeses. Each piece tasted delicately, crunched through teeth or sipped through lips or licked at experimentally. You dissolve into him, still awake, and make him a blackness of his own. You make the hollow at the centre of him. You are finally warming something and he is finally warm.
When you wake up there is another body in the bed. A tired one, making heaving breaths against the mattress. Henry, who cannot breathe quietly. Up towards the ceiling you throw a smile, and as though a summoning, sun begins to stream in through the window, or you notice that it is streaming in, or someone drew the curtains. It really doesn't matter which.
On his chest the sunlight writes words. They are stories from your childhood, they are dreams you had forgotten, cards you never received, promises left unspoken. All the lists of grievances and all the other bodies that once you loved.
You dive into his skin, break it like water, your arrow-like fingertips spearing the surface, straight through his ribs. You burst his heart, you drink the blood. You displace his body with your own, and your hollows, the air pockets of disappointment inside you, buoy you both up until you surface, gasping, clutching on to each other, taking in air like flowers in the rain.
He says: Oh that was really something, baby.
You say: I know, wasn't it?
He says: It all feels like a dream.
You don't know what to say.
When you wake up again Henry is there, with all his clothes on and the runaway written on his face. Beside him, on the dresser, there is a little bowl and inside it is a little thunderbolt. It glints, like everything in this room, in the sunlight. When Henry picks it up, the bowl, the bullet inside it glitters against the china, making a noise like the breaking of a heart.
Going forward, not going backward, throwing yourself toward the horizon with Henry's hand in yours, both bodies flying on their desperate velocity, aiming for the sun, aiming to put it out or to see it explode. It doesn't really matter which.
Into the car, darling, lean on me.
Your body is a garden of pain and his fingers are opening up the flowers that have blossomed there; his breath is warming the petals and persuading them to open. You open. The door, your mouth, you heart, your body -- to him. He has the keys to the car and he turns them and the car starts up, then dies, then starts up; your breathing heaves and empties along with it. Henry turns to you and he grins as if to say, sorry, I know, sorry, give me a second here and he reaches over and he squeezes your shoulder.
The pain explodes, the flower disgorges its beauty under the sun, the sun begins to gild everything before your eyes. The car moves. The road begins to twist. Henry says your name. You feel the sun pin you down in your seat, open you up, an arrow in each hand and each foot, it pins you in place and opens you up and pours itself into you. And Henry says your name like it means something else and having closed your eyes against the sun you open them again and you feel the sunlight stream out, you feel the gold stream out on your breath and you turn to him and he is glittering and you say:
Henry, I --