My Morning Star
VII: Starlight and Shadows
Our house is made of glass... and our lives are made of glass; and there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves.
— Joyce Carol Oates
What color are your eyes beneath those freaky blue contacts? Anael asked, sitting up in bed with the snow-white hotel sheets clutched to her chest, sheets worn from over-washing. Othello stood by the window, gazing out over the rooftops of the night city. He mourned the death of the stars, starlight drowned in clouds of orange when the streetlights faded on. He stared at the place above the horizon that Venus would grace with her heavenly presence at dusk and dawn. Darkness was pure in a way that light never could be, and Othello knew that better than anybody else.
The light cast shadows. It always would.
Othello turned toward Anael slowly, immodestly, and at the same time the full moon light punched through a cloud as if only to clothe his body in its cold luminescence. He glowed hard and smooth as alabaster, a true work of art, his prismatic eyes alight with some strange blue fire that may have been moonlight, or may have been generated somewhere within his mysterious depths. He possessed no secrets, and he was a secret. He was all the world’s secrets shut inside a singular form with no lock and no key.
Anael let her eyes linger on his body unabashedly. If she couldn’t touch his mind, and she knew she couldn’t, then she’d settle for that which she could access. He hooked his thumbs in the belt loops of jeans that fell too low on his hips in the absence of a belt that was strewn somewhere on the floor and leaned his shoulder against the frame of the tall window.
Other than his eyebrows and shoulder-length ebony hair, there wasn’t a single follicle visible on him. Arms, chest — nothing. Anael looked down at her own hairless arms. Maybe her mother was right; maybe she was only half human. Humans had hair, and lots of it. Maybe there was something deeper than fate or mere coincidence connecting her to this unreachable man, human, angel, or whatever he was; who shared this room and this impersonal bed with her once, and again.
When she looked up from her lap he was sitting beside her, on the edge of the bed with his legs crossed at the knee. When he locked eyes with her, she realized that she’d been foolish to think for a moment that eyes like that could be anything but real, and a much greater fool to wonder if she could win access to his inner thoughts.
I’m sorry, Anael whispered.
The truth is, I often wonder if any part of you is real or if I’m just making you up, the way my mom made up that story about my dad being an angel.
She touched his face; traced the line of his jaw where any other man she met would have a little stubble, but as always, his skin almost seemed too smooth. Flat, it lacked the grainy texture that human skin was known to have. Her own skin was of the same quality. She thought of all the nights they’d spent together, Othello and Anael, not saying words to each other but trading secrets, nonetheless, until they had none left to keep.
Othello looked at her with his electric blue eyes, startling, frightening; a color too pure to be innocent. Did he know what innocence was? Could he comprehend innocence, with those eyes? It was as if he could see through her darkness-dilated pupils straight to her heart, and through even that to the weakly fluttering butterfly thing that passed for a faux angel’s soul. Anael swore that she could see something remarkably similar hiding within him, afraid to come forth and rightfully reveal itself. His butterfly was afraid that it would wither and die if allowed to touch the light of grace.
Why do you keep returning to me? he asked, genuine curiosity in his voice, a desire for understanding.
I like your company, Anael replied.
Is that hard for you to comprehend?
He didn’t respond. Anael sat up straighter, holding the bed sheets wrapped around herself like a travesty of a wedding gown.
I like you, Othello. It’s been almost a year since we met, and we’re still perfect strangers. Maybe I’m just naïve, but I keep hoping that I can get to know you by spending time together. Is that really so much to ask for? She touched his shoulder with great delicacy.
Tell me if it is, she said, her face reflecting stars although there were none to be seen.
Othello took her small hand in both of his.
I am not a good person to grow attached to, he sighed.
And I doubt if I’m the sort of person you seem to think I am.
How about giving me a chance to find out? Anael asked. She stared deep into his remarkable eyes and something seemed to spark between them; something else that there was no word for. I am tied to you, Anael thought. And you don’t even know who I am.
Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.
— Albert Camus
What I try to nourish, I always somehow destroy instead. I know that, and I also know that I’m a very difficult person to reach with words or otherwise. I haven’t always been this way, but what I’ve been and what I am are hardly parallels. I was very frail in youth, and hurt too much far too easily. Silas Cray was able to reach me like no other friend or mentor, before he disappeared from my life without leaving so much as a ghost of a shadow blowing like leaves scattered in his wake.
Humans, unlike my kind, live from moment to moment. They don’t live long enough for time to fade their memories as well as it will surely fade mine. I didn’t yet know that although memories can fade with time if one allows them to, the scars of memory’s residue might not be so easily washed away.
Silas Cray would teach me that lesson much later in life, in his own way. The harder you try to forget an incident, the more surely you will remember it.
Just when I got my head together, my body fell apart.
— A cup coaster
Maybe he can set me free...
XI: Missing Pieces (Othello)
A jigsaw puzzle that doesn’t know it’s missing so many pieces
— Albert Camus
I took my younger sister to meet Silas Cray once when she was a small child, and again as a teenager. I’d been dismayed to find that he seemed to rub her the wrong way for some indefinable reason Kaelin never saw fit to explain. I did, however, respect her wishes although I never would understand why she so disliked the only source of kindness I could find in my early years.
I have not seen Silas Cray in a few years short of a decade.
One beguilingly soft spring day, a day I remember as clearly as though it’d just happened, I drove back to Andromeda Falls. It was a place that I dreaded with every ounce of my soul, and yet I returned there periodically to visit Silas in his ancestral home.
When I arrived, he was already gone. Just... gone. The small stone cottage he inhabited beside the waterfalls of the small town’s namesake had been abandoned to wild chamomile and climbing ivy, and his 1998 Buick was gone from the long, narrow driveway. I found the vegetable garden out back a weed-infested tragedy, and the invasive oregano had taken over his herb garden. I used the sleeve of my black sweater to wipe the remnants of the morning’s frost from one of the living room windows and peered inside.
White sheets had been drawn over larger pieces of furniture, and from what I could tell, it appeared as though Silas had been gone for a while. I fished around in my pants for the front door key he’d given me an aeon ago, and tried it in the lock. The key still worked, but the door’s mechanism was badly in need of some oil. The protective runes around the doorframe flared gold in recognition of my energy signature, but I was not stopped from entering.
Dust motes swirled through the air and blanketed every surface. I found every room of his modest dwelling sheeted and immaculate save for the attic, which wasn’t worth the effort of trying to protect it from the touch of time.
I deduced that Silas must have expected to return at some point, judging from the fact that he had gone through the effort of protecting his furniture. He had also obviously known that he was leaving for a while. He knew, and he didn’t tell me. I wouldn’t admit to myself how deeply that cut. I respected Silas Cray immensely, but even more than that, I trusted him.
Despite my near reverence, the peculiar man never showed me much of anything of himself. My knowledge of Silas Cray as a person amounted to little more than his love of philosophy, and the depth of heart I strongly believed him to have. If he didn’t have this second thing, I like to believe he would never have shared his time with me in the first place.
I have my very own urban legend, you see. Occasionally when I’m in town I will visit the local tavern to see what kind of gossip is going around. I always pretend to be a traveler passing through on the way to or from Boston or New York City, keeping my blue, mirrored sunglasses on indoors to obscure the unusual blue of my eyes. Occasionally I overhear local kiddies who can’t be old enough to drink but do it anyways arguing about the tales their aunts and uncles tell them. They ask each other how my story went according to different folk who tell it differently, or how much truth is stored in those words if any at all. There are as many different versions of the tale as there are people to tell it, but all have one thing in common. They say that Leila Spade with her younger brother conceived a devilish creature that had the bluest eyes in all of creation, as blue as the marriage of heaven to hell, and that it drove them both to insanity as punishment for their unfathomable sin.
This last time I’d been in Andromeda Falls, I found a book with my name on it stuffed in the space between the microwave and the wall in Silas’s cozy kitchen. Just a regular old book with a nondescript blue cover, the words long since worn off the binding. I’d thought that was a strange place to keep a book and so I’d pulled it out of there, opened it up to find my name and a short inscription inside the front cover in my old friend’s familiar cursive. Silas Cray was one of very few people who knew that my middle name was Sandalphon, or what that meant. I’d tucked the book inside my jacket with a silent promise to read it later, locked up the house again, and left on the three hour drive for home with a halfhearted hope that I might miss rush hour traffic.
People fall in and out of our lives, like the tides. Often they may stumble across our thresholds in a time of need as if propelled by higher forces. Then after we’ve had time to make spaces in our hearts to fill with their presence they drop right back out, leaving us with those empty spaces reserved for them only.
I don’t usually allow myself to grow attached to people.
Did you ever find out what happened to him? Kaelin asked, watching me leaf through the blue book now for the hundredth or thousandth time.
No, I replied.
I shut the book and held it in my hands for a moment, struggling to sense the fading remnants of Silas Cray’s unique touch that had once so strongly permeated those fragile words on still more fragile pages. Then I opened it again and ran my fingers over the inscription.
Othello Sandalphon Spade,
I am with you always if you know how to look with more than your eyes, as eyes are not always to be trusted.
Yours, Y. Silas Cray III
I shook my head. I had no way of knowing if the man who tried so hard to save my life after it had already been taken from me was still alive or not. They call us Immortals because we have no pre-determined lifespan, but that isn’t to say we can’t ever die.
I found out about him, soon enough.