When hung over, all her cards lay on the table. Face up. The clumsy mannerisms — remnants of the backwater lineage she had worked so many years to shed — rose to the surface like the bloated dead. A nasal strain in the voice, thoughts dismembered running one into another, a manic need for connection and acceptance that fell in upon itself … ratty little tells that bore the legend “shame and self-loathing.” It was like being in a room full of mirrors, with a body full of swollen wounds.
It was not so much the alcohol that was her Achilles’ heel. Truly. She had considered it. For she never had blackouts (anymore) or did anything she deemed regrettable. Rather, it was the psycho-physiological aftermath that left one feeling like one’s own private, war-torn landscape: vitiated, laden with detritus.
Last evening had shaken out to be an uncommonly besotted pursuit.
She had loved him in a way she had never been capable of loving a man. Purely. Selflessly. Because of the trust.
So innate, wild, and lavish a trust, it felt as though they were deities arisen from mythical times — beyond even soul mates. He had been her Shaman, her Warrior King, her Knight in Psychedelic Armor. It was a perfect faith that bred immense passion, a surety that allowed not even the slightest charade.
But all of that was gone now. In the proverbial blink of an eye. A latter-day heartbeat. In this case, exactly one click of the mouse. A single movement of her index finger and another world unraveled, one in which she was naked and cold and on fire at the same time. A world in which the man next to whom she awoke that morning, made love to moments afterward, was not the answer to her prayers but a creature that bore an alien hollow into the core of her soul.
There had been women. There had been girls.
That that was what he had been doing — all those nights she lay blissfully in love in the adjoining room — was paralyzing.
She almost could not comprehend … accept … believe. And decided to wait before confronting him. Partially because she so desperately wanted to understand, to downplay the thing, dismiss it as some sort of character flaw. Or addiction. He was an addict, after all. Partly because it would mean exposing herself — her pettiness and jealousy, the hypocrisy-ridden manner in which she had come to realize the depth of it, when in shocked desperation she was reduced to a dirty spy, a cloying woman, a lover scorned. And of course, of course … because uttering the words would make it real, and that could mean one thing and one thing only: that he did not love her the way she loved him. That was what it came down to. In the end.
In the end it amounted to the stark realization that they were not mythical deities, not even lousy soul mates. That the relationship she thought she was having did not exist, and the one that had been ushered in — in this harsh and sullied light, in its place and stead — was not one she cared to have.
It had been an illusion. A deft sleight of hand, or of heart. And the sublime swell of wonder and promise she felt in her breast each day fell fast and hard, into the depth of her stomach, to be washed away by her tears. An anemic ghost light left behind to hold vigil where an ardent fire once glowed.
It struck her like an earthquake. And by the time she regained her footing, the terrain beneath her had changed immeasurably and forever. Her knight in psychedelic armor fallen face first onto the ground at her feet, her respect for him scattered in the dust of the impact.
How easily we crush another’s dreams.
And so began the fall of … not a deity, not an angel … a broken, misshapen demigoddess — one who had not the fortitude to survive the human world — a used goddess. Yes, that was how it felt. Powers diminished, wings broken, heart forlorn.
And he, nothing more than a charlatan.
It occurred to her that she might have become a very different person had a new daddy not come into the picture all those years ago. Sun in Sagittarius, Year of the Dragon. The picture had looked all right. A newborn weighing in at nearly 13 pounds surely was poised for a life of overachievement. That was the auspicious interpretation. A life of excess, the not-so-auspicious.
Between her fifteenth and twenty-fifth years, excess was indeed the name of the game. When she looked at snapshots from that time period, she was unable to connect even the fingers that held the photographs to any atom of the smudgy, overweight slob they displayed — beer can resting between its legs, the remnants of a cigarette dangling from its lips. Being undone at so early an age had worn hard on her, turned her into something she never thought she could have become, despite all: a slovenly, pilfering whore. But it had been beyond her, truly out of her control — as though her heart had rotted and fallen into the depths of an acrid well. A cancer of the soul.
It would take a miracle, a hero, to recover its putrefied remains, to restore her heart to the golden hue that once was its own. Harrison had been such a miracle. Such a hero as that. Such a one as she had never before known. He had understood every piece of her. Her Prince Harry.
And so when her fallen prince bent on humbled knee in his ragged coat of arms, confessing all and opening so widely to her that her heart cleaved in two — though now barely able to meet his gaze — her whole being heaved with the wellspring of Love she knew eventually would give way to forgiveness.