A chill washed over him, like icy fingers dancing their way up and down his spine, followed by a sudden emptiness. It was like the world had just left him, like his spirit had just vacated his body. He felt dead. Numb. He could have said he wasn’t feeling any emotions, but despair, utter, hopeless despair is definitely an emotion. If he was dead, then he probably shouldn’t be feeling anything. And he was feeling something. Though he wished he wasn’t.
All that remained now were memories. Cold, distant memories that hung on to him, leaving their marks on his soul even as he tried to push them out.
She had tried to take that too. To tear it out of him piece by piece and render it unexpressive and inert. When she couldn’t, she had shredded from within, piece by piece, dousing the fire that had enabled him to love, to express, to create, to be. She had known just how to do it, too; she was the one who had lit that fire, after all, so it only made sense that she knew how to put it out. And she had been merciless, unrelenting, methodical in doing so. That was her: cold, unforgiving, calculated, remorseless. For her, it had been a game, a measure of time in numbers, to see how far she could push him, bend him, stretch him, until she broke him. He was a toy, a source of amusement for her cruel sensibilities, and he was just another willing victim in a long line of them.
Oh, yeah, he knew what he was getting into. He saw it from the beginning. But he made the mistake of letting heart and hope lead him, against the advice of a critically evaluating mind. He made a choice. One that had only one logical conclusion: this one. He didn’t regret it, and he consoled himself with the knowledge that he’d do it again. Maybe that made him a masochist? Was there really even a question? He needed that anguish. He needed that pain. It drove him, fueled his work, his being. But he hadn’t been prepared for someone to actively and deliberately to take that away from him. And he certainly wasn’t prepared to find himself questioning his entire sense of self and being, and the rest of his reality.
Questioning reality—even his own—was something that was part of who he was. To him, reality was subjective, the sum of the experiences he lived through and his interpretations of them, but this… to find himself questioning his own memory, his own recollection of things… He questioned his own worth now. How could he be so wrong about what he remembered? About what he experienced? About what he felt? About the expressions of those feelings? That was where she had hit him hardest: his expressions. She had willfully and knowingly attacked his expressions with a barrage of anger and rage just because he had them and made them. And suddenly, he was afraid of them, afraid to make them, and afraid to share them with the world. To him, and anyone like him, this was worse than death.
Her leaving was an act of protection for herself, she said. And he challenged nothing about that, took no action to try and stop her. He knew she was lost to him. She had come and gone. And come and gone again. And now, she had made clear that though gone, she would remain just on the edge of sight, just on the edge of experience, just out of reach, as a means to remind him, to keep the wounds open and prevent the scars from forming, and to let him know that she, for all her beauty and now lost inspiration, was content to let him bleed and to leave him no peace in life.
Once, they were strangers, and now again, by her command. But such is the way of Muses: fickle mistresses who inflame the passions only to extinguish them in the harshest way possible with a will and a purpose. They come and go, speak and be silent, making, breaking, and taking what they will as they will how they will, until there is nothing left but the ruined and broken remains of a hopelessly hopeful man whose greatest sin was to feel, to be, to create, and to love.
Copyright © 2015 Rob Salem. For publication and permissions of use queries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.