Psyche, At Midnight, in the Dark
by Larry Hammer
She waited one full year and one day more but still he didn't tell her. And when for one more last time she asked to see the face that in the darkness she could only trace, he stopped her with a finger on her lips -- "You cannot." She could not resist love-nips or gulps -- they rarely talked in bed, love-caught -- and so once more surrendered. They had taught each other's bodies like a blind man learns his house, a tactile map of home concerns; she knew he wasn't human from his wings -- light, delicate yet strong, delightful things for flying bedroom games or wrapping her in pinions softer than an otter's fur. She knew the stories. After this sweet year in bed together, physically sincere, didn't he trust her with the truth? And worse -- why hadn't yet her kisses cured his curse? And so she'd gathered, bit by part, a lamp, forbidden in their house: the finest stamp of bathing oils, wick twisted from her loom, a shallow bowl, kept in the other room with steel and stone. Another week went by until she could no longer stand the lie, the ignorance, the guesses and surmises that flowed about her like a storm creek rises, and, now, she waited till he slipped to sleep, then slid from bed in silent midnight creep. Her quiet, wavering flame could barely dent the dark to show her way, and, so intent upon this shadowed form that she'd embraced, she tangled her foot in clothing, strewn in haste, and stumbled -- and to keep from falling grasped the bedpost. Breathe. Then she leaned close -- and gasped. He'd said plain truth about her seeing him: beyond the rainbow feathers, long and slim, and one red scratch, unhealed, upon his shoulder (as if an arrow'd scored a careless holder), her flooded eyes, to her arid despair, could make no mortal sense of face, nor hair, nor hollow of his collar, which felt smooth. He didn't look -- he just was. His own truth. No monster, no enchanted beast, no king held captive by a witch's conjuring or ogre with a ring of spelling crows. And in that time between a drop of rose and lily dripping from the dish, and splash on his bare chest, she knew how wrong, how rash her heeding her sisters' tales of love dismayed, of fairies, charming princes, maids betrayed -- for, here, two visions held her: one, she only, grown old without him, lone, alone, and lonely; the other, both together, as a sum of one & one, not two, not one, but some new number that's both one and two; and she, with certainty of pulse and marrow, she must live the latter -- she would give up all to hold that whole, do anything at all to stop tale-spinning -- learn in sincerity and sorrow, sere and seared, to clearly see his self, his him, his who he was, instead of keeping lives unshared outside of bed -- do any task of heaven's citadel, anything -- even harrow heart and Hell. And then the hot oil landed, burning badly. Eyes opened, grey. "Oh Soul," he whispered, sadly, then flickered out like candle in a gust, or Love in hoarded doubt and clutched mistrust.
Larry Hammer lives in the sunny desert of southern Arizona, where the days are very bright but the nights are dark. His favorite fruit is the prickly pear.
Back to Table of Contents