(For those of you just joining our show, this story is part of an ongoing series of stories based on titles given to me by people either here on the blog or on my Facebook page. For more info, see this post.)
dedicated to Kris, the namer of this tale
His name is Matthew and he was an architect and he loved to collect PEZ dispensers and he was beautiful and kind and his younger sister idolized him and he made the best omelets I’ve ever had in my life and he loved the sound of rain on a tin roof and his eyes were a gentle brown and he knew all the words to Lyle Lovett’s album Pontiac and he once told me that I was the most precious thing to ever come into his life after which he kissed my eyelids and wept silently until he fell asleep and right now I am cradling his head in my lap as he dies.
I slowly stroke the soft, month-old growth of hair on his head. Three weeks after shaving his head, he always started joking about how long his hair was getting. But I like it at this stage, soft and fuzzy. I used to make him rub his head along my whole body but particularly enjoyed when he rubbed up against the underside of my breasts.
I hear myself saying “shhh, shhh, it’ll be all right,” as I stare at the bloody hole in his neck. The bloody hole I’d torn in his neck. I feel slightly drunk on the taste in my mouth and the slow–slowing–pulsation of blood bubbling out of that obscene and vicious hole. I had loved to hear his voice, rich and deep and thick with desire when we made love. I had loved to hear him read me passages from Proust and Auden and Dickinson. Now, he can only gurgle, the remains of his voice in my mouth. That his flesh satiates a need and brings a thrill of joy to my body can’t be denied but I hate staring at the wreckage my hunger leaves behind. The exposure of torn muscles is too . . . intimate somehow. Yet I continue to stare into the hole because I owe him that much: to witness what I have wroght. To face my choice and to accept the intimacy that binds us together and that will continue to bind us past death. Which is the whole point of my brutality.
What they don’t tell you about becoming a vampire is that the transition is sadistically beautiful. You die.In death you find freedom and glory, a connection to the universe that cannot be described in words. You remain you but are more and better and infinite in your capacity to see and feel and experience. Some say that you become God when you die. The moment seems to last forever.
But when you’ve chosen, as I have, to accept the bloodpower of a Master and cheat death, forever is only about 12 hours. Soon you are falling back down, coalescing into a corrupted corpse, forced into unwilling meat.
We carry the secrets that humans have sought throughout our history. We have seen past the veil and realized that the face of God is each and every one of us.
And we can never go back.
I don’t know how, but every vampire knows that our choice has led to a metaphysical dead end. When we cease to exist we will not die. When our bodies are destroyed past repair, we simply end. No death to pass into, no universe to embrace, no stars to dance between. Nothing more than physical and spiritual dust.
And people wonder why we are so cruel.
Matthew stops trying to make sounds, but blood still burbles from his neck. His eyes, fever-bright, stare at me. I see hurt and despair and confusion. I see terror and rage. And yes, beneath the shock and the pain and the hatred, I see a splinter of love remaining.
I nearly close my eyes and refuse to take up the burden of his gaze. My Master doesn’t understand why I let myself fall in love with these men or why I take an act that is, for many of our kind, one of sheer bliss and abandonement and turn it to one of emotional pain and responsibility. Because, despite my brutality and despite my killing, I love Matthew, as I loved Alex and Stephen and Liz, and Dominic. The reason I fall in love? A silly affectation I can’t shake, even decades after my conversion. When I was young and warm and bright with life, I had a theory that every time we love someone and they love us, we place a piece of ourselves inside them: it might be a sliver of laughter, or a glimpse of a tear, or the way we touch the back of their neck, or how the smell of our sweat mixes with the tangy ozone scent of a summer thunderstorm. I figured this out because that’s how I felt about those I loved: that I was a puzzle piecing myself together more completly after each love affair, each broken heart. For me, this conceit wasn’t merely a romantic one. I truly believed that some part of myself was actually and eternally living on within someone who I loved and who loved me in return, even if that love had been lost.
Do I still believe such nonsense?
I’d like to say no. Like to take on the part of the cynical and studied killer that vampires are supposed to be. I’d like to pretend to myself that my committment to falling in love with my victims is simply to make the cruelty of their death all the more piquant.
But as I stare into Matthew’s eyes and see them begin to dull; as his blood no longer pumps out of his neck but pools there, drowning him; as I hear his breath rattle so obscenely that I cannot hold back a sharp gasp of sorrow and self-hatred; and as I lean down to kiss, softly, his terror lined forhead, I cannot lie to myself. The truth is that yes, I believe that his love, my love, our love binds us now in ways that cannot be undone.
In Matthew, in Shaun, in Stacy, in Darlene and in all the hundreds of others over the decades, in each and every one of them somewhere, beyond death, parts of me still live.