‘don’t, please don’t touch me,’ he says, flinching back, sparking hurt in her eyes. she shows off her new skin and thinks he’ll find her beautiful. she can’t understand that she has burned a lifetime of memories he doesn’t want against the backs of his eyes. she stands in front of the mirror and sees an angel; he cowers from the devil.
‘please let me go,’ he says, because he knows and she knows this room is not his prison. because the ghost of a hand on his is enough to choke him. if she lets him go it’s because she knows he’ll never escape.
‘everything is so new and i am infinite,’ she tells him. she learns with lust, relishes the taste of even minor annoyances on her tongue. he sits in her shadow and wonders what it must feel like to start over. he imagines his brain unfurled like parchment: what would he erase first? he prays for a magical place.
she can’t reprogram his revulsion, the way her presence makes him retch. she can no longer draw promises from his lips. she doesn’t understand.
‘someday you will understand,’ he says. ‘but i understand the universe now. what else is there to know?’ she doesn’t understand why he craves the knife more than her caress.
to be human is to break and this is what breaks her: when his only action is to lead the team to her door, when he allows another woman to lead him out, when he does not once look back.
‘don’t, please don’t touch me,’ he says. she is still perfect but he has lost the right to the intimacy of her hand in his. her body is a warzone and he reads on her skin a mapping of his sins. here, he thinks, is where i betrayed you. here is where i will never forgive myself.
‘please let me go,’ he says, because this room cannot hold the weight of his grief, and she never agreed to share a bed with his demons. she does not touch him but remains tethered to his side, a string connecting their hearts, pulled as taut as it will go.
‘what i feel for you is so old and infinite,’ she whispers, ‘like we’ve been wrapped up in each other for so many lifetimes we don’t know where we begin.’ she is luminescent; he watches from the shadows and wonders what it must feel like to have only the burden of a single history. now he will always have lived a lifetime without her.
he begs her not to try; someday she will understand. ‘what will i understand?’ that her touch burns through him like consecrated water. that he’d never known rebirthing could be so painful. that he will pass through a thousand karmic cycles and never deserve the tenderness in her eyes.
she stands on the shore as waves crash against his body. he wants the feeling of saltwater filling his lungs, but she lifts him back up every time. he can’t let her keep rescuing him; soon they will both be too exhausted to fight.
‘we promised we’d get through anything together.’
‘yes,’ he says, ‘but not this.’ these are not in the wedding vows i planned, he thinks. you’re meant to be so much happier.
‘yes,’ she says. ‘this.’
to be human is to break. to break and to break and to try again. he hands her his heart, because she has always kept it safe. because he has lived without it before.