Pillow of Stones

He found her when no one else was looking. He promised her dragons and delivered her glitter. Talking never of what he came to say his mind wandered as did her own, never quite meeting up at the meadow in the middle. She never really saw his face, the shadow cast from the bulb above her door stunning it into mystified brilliance. And he was always cold. So cold. And smiling. Always smiling.

Dressed in black and always standing his laughter filled her head and made her body want to crumple to the floor. How cruel to place two such likely souls within a fingers grasp only to place a plateau of indifference between them. And how cruel to spin such a yarn of unbridled adoration only to cut the tethers and free the fear. And he was smart. And she was sad.

They read the same books and watched the same films, their tastes invariably the same but miles apart. He spoke to her for a moment like she was a person, a real walking talking breathing living human person, not the drunken marionette she had come to see staring back at her from sun slicked puddles on blindingly hot but brutally damp days. And he laughed at her jokes.

A part of her, a very large and honest part of her, wanted to tell him to run from the others who wore black and trekked the streets in search of lost sheep and riddled cattle. This part of her begged her hands to find his to take off the gloves that perpetually clad them and throw them into the street, bringing him inside into the warmth where all the good things about life – food and art and love and laughter and sex and wine and incense and music – lay dormant waiting for his spirit to wake them.

And there was spirit there. He had labelled it one thing and she had come to know it as another. How strong could she have pulled before he snapped like a brittle twig beneath the boot of her tyrannical paranoia? And how far could she have gone to keep that smile near her, where she could coax it out at a moments notice to light the darkness that sometimes crept in and all around her whilst she lay unable to fully drift away, her head sinking into a pillow of stones?

And how long will he be there in her mind? This translucent dream of an encounter that as days pass becomes more like a dream, a chance meeting on a train platform, a strangled hello in a coffee shop, a burnt scaffold of what it is to be young and to be reckless and to have within you the power to change a person for your own warped and sometimes selfish realities?

Another time and another place come to the forefront of her mind and she recalls in solemn prayer an alternate plain where he wears white as bright as his teeth and she laughs as loud as the thunder.

And where he is available to adore.

When I Dream of Snakes

His hair was thick and rough with an earthy scent that hung in my nose and smothered his presence. The smell of sweat. The smell of stress. I had emailed the video off that morning, unbeknownst to him and there was nothing he could do to undo what I had already done. It would be there waiting in the inbox the following morning, a blinking envelope of pixels and promise waiting to be unearthed by an uninterested clerk with sleepy eyes.

And it would be going to the tribunal. Any day now I would be called before a jury of my peers, people who didn’t like me a whole hell of a lot and then the discussion would commence. The decisions about my future at the institution would be divvied up between a group of human beings, in the loosest sense of the word, that would come to convince old men who had never met me, and probably never would, that I was a bad person, a person deserving of punishment of the gravest degree.

I looked down at him chewing on his bottom lip, his face washed out by the grey green colour of his computer screen. He looked more worried than I did. I kissed the top of his head and wrapped my arms around his neck. Silence befell us.  We said nothing because there was nothing left to say, nowhere left to go and nothing left to do.

I turned to leave the small book lined room that among the scent of sweat and worry, was laced with the antiquated spice of old paper and forgotten fables. It smelled like home to me. As I left he reached out for my hand and I allowed him to take it, hold it and squeeze it ever so slightly, a reassuring glimmer in an otherwise grease stained evening. I allowed him to take my hand even if  I wouldn’t allow him anything else – even the chance to save me.

He told me that he was raised was snakes and that no two were ever the same. He told me that he could teach me this, this snake like demeanor, his eyes wide and alive and blue with want. I told him I was raised by wolves and that there was nothing waiting for me in those hallowed halls that I couldn’t defeat, nothing I would come up against that I could not beat. I didn’t believe my own words. I don’t think he did either.

And as he watched me leave I could have sworn I felt his heart break in perfect time with mine.