I regained consciousness in a discarded heap tossed haphazardly on an old flea infested bed in some cheap room, hotel, apartment or something of the like, it didn’t matter. I would’ve thought the torture and abuse had all been a dream if it hadn’t been for the condition of the room I had been disposed in probably left for dead.
I breathed in deeply and stretched laying down then stopped mid-motion, frozen with realization. I didn’t hurt. My eyes weren’t swollen shut. I ran my tongue along the inside of my teeth- all present. I sat up with a jerk and looked down at myself, dried blood caked my torn clothes which really couldn’t be called clothes anymore, but there was no fresh outpouring. Half patting, half punching myself in areas I knew should have been in pieces yielded nothing other than the dull pain I inflicted upon myself.
I leaped off the bed to the pane of plain glass mirror glued to the wall and took further assessment. Hair still matted but no swelling, no bruising. Some more dried blood but its source had completely disappeared. In fact, I looked good, really good and for a while I was fascinated with myself. My eyes, they looked so…so….they were pure and they shone like his. I traced the lines of my new self confirming its real existence and there I found only one scar perfectly healed on the top of my hand between the thumb and forefinger. I remembered the wound- a protruding bolt had torn its share from me when they had first pushed me down the emergency stairs. It was still slightly pink- a new scar.
With a painful pop my ears opened and the quiet I had thought was simple silence revealed the farce it had played on me. A loud commotion outside made me think of a riot and then in a flood it all returned to me. Jesse!
Of coarse, the dried blood, the scar, your body will be new. All this registered instantly and I raced to the window. Two stories up. They were all down there! Where was he? I couldn’t see him but the small sea of people boiled like waters infested with agitated piranhas and I didn’t have to guess to know that he was down there beneath them all drowning.
I screamed out for him and tried to open the window- stuck fast, so I turned around and bolted for the only door on the opposite side of the room. Locked.
“No!” I shouted out loudly yanking fiercely on the doorknob. “No, no, no, no! Let me out! Let me out, you’re killing him!” I tried kicking the door but to no avail. A quick scan of the room revealed no blunt instruments that I could use to aid my escape. I screamed out my frustration and to the rising crescendo of the noise outside I ran back to the window pounding it with my fists, all my shouts bouncing back to me in futility.
The crowd finally gave way where I could see down through them and there emerged my love. The image of what was left of him dropped me to my knees with a sob and robbed me of all strength. He was barely recognizable, nearly naked from what I could tell and streams of blood ran from his eye sockets. The crowd closed in again before I could really see what that correlated to. Any scenario that fit made me want throw up.
With the coordination of one they pushed him up against the brick wall of the alley and held him there. They grabbed up his left arm, palm up, and it was Marinda who put a plank of wood against it and brought forth a slightly bent, rusty railroad nail and a flat rock. Without hesitation a thick looking man I had seen many times before began beating the nail through the wood and Jesse’s flesh and into the brick beyond missing the mark every second or third hammer. The crowd jeered and went into a frenzy greater than before drowning out his cries of inconceivable agony. Then a chain was produced, hung over the nailed board so that it draped as a loop no longer than eight inches. They grabbed up his foot of the same side and forcefully stretched it up and wrestled it into the chain so that it looked like he was high kicking his hand like a cheerleader would. It was humiliating and the crowd loved it.
They moved towards him with more crude instruments of torture to do something else to him but I could watch no longer and I was crying so hard it was all a blur anyway. My fingernails had broken from clawing the window and my throat hurt from crying so constricted had it become. I crumpled to the floor and curled up and wailed until exhaustion over took me and I slept in a puddle of my own tears. This is my fault. I am the traitor, I am the betrayer. You love me more than life but I need you to live this life!
I remember waking briefly with an overwhelming thirst. As some point someone had brought in a pitcher of water, some food and a pile of clean clothes. I left the food, drank the whole pitcher and changed out of the blood crusted clothes into the new ones. I didn’t check the door to see if it was unlocked. If they hadn’t yet come after me again then I was safe here. My heart kept hammering that I should be dead too and not restored to bear this burden of my consequences. Hopelessness bore down on me and I curled back up into a ball and let sleep take me again. I wanted to find my box again….
The third time I awoke I instantly knew that something had changed. The air swept past me in soft breezes fresh and invigorating. Beneath me was plush, cool grass and a stray stick had imprinted itself on my thigh I noticed with a grimace. A handful of birds chirped to each other in the trees that as I blinked my eyes open noticed surrounded me. As my eyes focused I quickly found that I was in our…mine, again, I reasoned, field. But most striking of all was the lack of the ache in my heart. It was light, alive, pleased even- “happy” felt too sacrilegious to use so quickly.
So I was dead then. They had come and killed me as I slept in that room. I was dead and heaven was a projection of where I last experienced what heaven must be like. No weakness. No hurt or pain, no suffering. You hold me now, I thought with bitter sadness. But to my astonishment I felt no bitter sadness. The love of my life had died terribly from my betrayals and others’ hate and peace was reigning so that it all felt like a distant bad dream. Maybe it was all a nightmare all of it. But when had reality stopped and the dream begun? Was my love for Jesse all a part of it too? If I turned and looked behind me would he be there waiting for me to wake or was there going to be emptiness? Honestly, I was afraid to look. Heaven or a dream?
Rediscovering the small scar on my hand didn’t help at all because I had memory of tripping as a child onto a sharp rock. I debated with myself for a long time then finally decided that if Jesse wasn’t there that still did not solve the mystery because if I had died he probably was someplace else. I remembered hearing something about heaven being pretty big. So whichever way I looked at it, nothing was going to be solved just propped up on the ground too afraid to even look behind me. So I stood up. In that I felt like I had just accomplished something great. Step two, I turned around and,
“Hi!” I jumped and screamed from start. It was him! “I’m Jesse.” With a light hearted grin that reached his eyes he extended his hand to me in greeting and I noticed instantly a large round scar on his left forearm. I didn’t know what I was to do. Was he playing around and I should encase him with my affection, or take his hand and introduce myself as though for the first time? He was giving me no indications either way and although his mouth didn’t move I heard his sweet voice in my head, More than life. That is how I love you.
With no concern for heaven or dreams words flowed out of me as though they were as real as breathing, and I knew that they were. “And that is how I love you, my love.”
I want to deeply apologize for not getting this last part up on Friday- circumstances made it difficult.