The sweltering heat, the characteristic stench, the crowds of people walking on foot as they went about their daily business—all of it was nauseatingly familiar to Hadrian, but the nostalgia was not fond.
Your presence is of the suffocating variety.
I wish I could say that I mean that in a metaphorical, poetic way, but I don’t. You literally make it difficult to get air into my lungs. Across the room, a single stare, a soft laugh. One tiny smile, and I can’t breathe.
It’s almost funny. How pathetic I am, I mean. I could be on my knees with my hands bound, my head bowed beneath the guillotine, and I still would be better off speaking like that than knowing you are in the vicinity. I could address the masses in the nude on national television more easily than I can respond to your witty banter or knowing smirk.
And it is knowing, isn’t it? You know all too well that your presence turns me into a hot mess, and I bet you get off on that.
No, I know you get off on that.
It shouldn’t be allowed, for such egotistical people to be so beautiful or so charming. You are the proof that if God does exist, he’s not a kind, loving God, but an asshole, because why else would he create someone as dangerous as you? Someone so efficiently destructive and persuasive, so unforgivably attractive and cunning? I bet you could make murder seem deeply romantic.
No, I know you could.
…I don’t agree with anything you believe in.
I don’t support a single thing you want to change in this world.
You’re a menace and a threat; you’re the most bigoted, irrational, infuriating person I have ever come across… and I have come across a lot of bigoted, irrational, infuriating people.
…But none who were suffocating.
Across the room, a single stare, a soft laugh. One tiny smile, and my breath is stolen as quickly as though the blade’s been dropped and cut clean through my neck – your laughter, the executioner.
At least my murder will be deeply romantic.
You are the rainbow after the storm.
You are a reality and a fantasy, you are the result of water and logic and a child’s wistful imagination. You inspire dreams and fiction, you cause people to stop and stare – to forget the torrid winds and lightning strikes that just tore their worlds apart.
I do everything for you.
I chase your spectrum for a gilded promise, only for you to vanish before I ever come close. I hunt storms and stand in the rain, waiting for the moment when the clouds will clear and you might expose yourself again.
Sometimes, you do.
Sometimes, you don’t.
I still chase, I still hunt.
I still stand in the rain.
Climb with two legs, four, eight.
Conquer my still body with every appendage, scale me with your tongue.
And when you crawl across my soft, closed lips,
Know that this I kiss you so dearly.
And when you trail over my soft, closed lids,
Know that I see you so clearly.
I’m dancing in my mind for you.
I’m celebrating the descent.
The first time I dreamed of my father, none of us spoke to him.
My mother, my sister and I were in our kitchen – in our old house, our first house. The yellow one where most of my happiest memories were made, where I found a dying butterfly in the snapdragons and we’d get our stuffed animals caught on the power lines; the house that was knocked down and made into a parking lot after we sold it to a car dealership.
It was that house, and dad kept trying to talk to us, but we ignored him.
My mom and sister wanted to respond, but I stopped them every time. ‘You can’t, mom,’ I’d say. ‘Don’t, Katie. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know he’s dead, and if you talk to him, he’ll go away.’
He got so pissed when none of us spoke to him, because it was so obvious we could hear him. My dad was yelling at me in my dream, and I ignored him then just like I did in real life. I wasn’t sad in the dream, but I woke up crying.
The second time I dreamed of my father, we were eating dinner.
The four of us, again. This time, we were in our second house, before it caught on fire. Dad had made us dinner and was serving it to us while we sat, which made me immediately aware that it was a dream, because that simply never happened. I think it was fish. I hate fish, but I don’t remember being disappointed.
My dad was being so uncharacteristically nice, offering to clean up some of the dishes before we’d even eaten. ‘No,’ we all said. ‘Don’t be silly. Sit, eat with us.’
And he did, and we actually had a normal conversation. Also strange, because in reality, my dad ate like a vacuum and would be finished before my mom had even gotten her tea and joined us at the table. This time he ate slowly, and we had a family dinner.
But we all knew he was dead.
There was this sort of unspoken acknowledgement that as long as we didn’t bring it up, as long as we didn’t say it, he wouldn’t go away. I was crying in my dream while we talked, forcing a smile like it was all okay, and crying when I woke up.
The third time I dreamed of my father, it was just me. We were in the family room sitting on the couch, and he was yelling at me for something I hadn’t done yet. A far more typical interaction.
‘Don’t name him that,’ he kept saying. ‘Give him a normal name, for God’s sake.’
‘Dad,’ I snapped, ‘I’m not naming anyone anything. I’m not pregnant.’
‘Not yet, but you will be. Don’t give my grandson a stupid name.’
I yelled at him for assuming I would have a child – a son, to be precise – and he yelled at me for a name I hadn’t even chosen yet, because clearly whatever I would decide on would be dumb. I told him it didn’t matter, it wasn’t happening, and he couldn’t send me passive-aggressive texts about babies, anymore. He said ‘Watch me’, which was as funny as it was horrifying.
I woke up panicked, checking my phone with my heart in my throat. There were no new texts, but I took a screen shot of the last conversation that we had like that because it suddenly seemed important that I always have it. Then I cried.
You have to understand, too, that I’m not much of a crier. I didn’t cry at the visitation, I didn’t cry at the funeral. I had one good cry on the night he died, by myself, holding the comb we used to fix his hair. I’ve been pretty statuesque since then. The fact that I sometimes wake up crying is fucked up and I hate it, and I’m not sure if I want to keep having these dreams or not.
Either way, I continue to have them pretty frequently. We sometimes fight, but more often than not, we just talk. I usually don’t remember what about, but it’s all so bizarre, because I have now officially talked more to my father in dreams than I did when he was alive. I suppose one could argue that I’m really just talking to myself, technically, but I like to think it might be something more than that. Maybe.
There’s no resolution to this rambling bit of writing. Sorry.
Happy birthday, Dad.
The history of Ostium was ancient, fascinating, and full of bloodshed.
Hadrian had been told the tale time and time again as a child born into the elite. The great Ostinite empire, its reach greater than any kingdom to ever hold power…
It all began with a chasm.
This is a snippet from the second chapter of a story which I am posting here:
“I want to drag my teeth down your spine, to count each bump of your vertebrae with my tongue… When we die, all that remains are our bones. Your skin will decay, your lips will rot; only your skeleton will last. So please, give me a moment. Allow me to worship your immortality before I return to your skin, your lips.”