A deleted story from my novel: THE BUSHMAN
You were dark when we first met, at least I thought you were. A picture hung out of place in an otherwise normal room. You had, as far as I could tell, an insatiable desire to be black. Not black in an ethnic way, but more of a fashion statement. To drape yourself in night, somewhat Gothic but not quite. To paint your world in broad strokes of angst and anarchy. A performance artist of sorts, not starving by any stretch, but most definitely—hungry.
Indifferent and objectionable to love, you spoke as someone genuinely hurting with a bent for alienation and some fractured self-awareness. Guided by voices and the latest trends, in tune with present chaos, but out of touch with reality. I didn’t care at first because I was so attracted to you. But it was all persona, as I recall, or maybe a cult of imitation, what you wanted to be or by sheer force of will, what you wanted to become. In retrospect, I was the reaction you expected, or you inspired. Conforming like a chameleon to your condition.
So, there you were, the dark and mysterious creature created by disaster, heartache, and persecution. Framed in anxiety and abuse like some psychotic fairy or misunderstood muse. You wrote heavy words on feather weighted pages laden with the blood of your rants and rages, or so it seemed at first. In hindsight, it was simply paper, pen, and ink.
You drew me inside a circle for sure, that much I know is true, an attraction like some form of glue, or better yet, a drug of choice. A secret smile and smoky voice with haunting green eyes and bright crimson pierced lips. I was intrigued in varying degrees, and for a while, we were having some fun. Then as chance would have it, I bumped into acquaintances from your past. Some somebody that knew you well said that you had hurt them with a lie. They told me all about you, and I thought it didn’t matter at first, but then again, it did to some extremes—the subject of my musings not exactly what she seemed.
I discovered that before dark, everything you had desired was handed to you. A lovely mother and loving father you had, as I recall. You said he was a monster and your mother was a devil. In fact, that was not the case at all. By contrast, they were perfect by definition, normal. In every way, they beamed with color—not the least bit dark. A perfect family with a perfect house, manicured lawn and manicured fingers and toes, brother and little kid sister, country clubs, bright cars and trust funds, wealthy neighbors and perfect hair, perfectly groomed dog, cat, and ferret.
But you, like some changeling poet from bygone days, you were living your life in some slipstream summer haze midnight movie, nameless until you chose a name, speechless until you found a voice, lonely until you chose a fool who would believe you in a word, me. And in your quest for identity, you left behind all your colorful friends and replaced them with dark acquaintances, one black and white Kodak moment after another. Isn’t life twisted when we practice and pretend to be the things we’re not, to live the life we want no matter the cost? Reinvention, the final word.
Then again, you were dark when we first met, but you quickly turned to gray, a tiny bit of black is lost in every word you say. The attraction begins to fade like all those colors in the wash. Eventually, the past will rear its head to make you hurt the ones you love on many levels, to call you out by name, your real name, make you wish that you would die. The darkness that you seek, the way it makes you speak and feel to protect yourself, will eventually catch up to you, surrounding you, conquering you, and then you will be black by fate, by lies, by hate, alone with something real.
There is a fine line between persistence and performance, existence and demise, the people we adore, and the things we despise. Darkness is attractive, proactive, and destructive. Black is a color you cling to, a state of mind or point of view, like clothes you wear, the bag you carry, a well-worn pair of Doc Martens. It’s a way of life, a way of thinking, its fashion, and sometimes from an emotional standpoint, fatal—a point of reference or place in time, comfort in adversity. Black was a color you wore so well, an attitude that you exuded effortlessly, naturally, and deceptively.
When we first met, you were black, but soon you turned to gray—the devil in the details found in every word you say. Deception is a practice, like medicine, perfected in the testing; it’s a process like a language, eventually becoming second nature like skin, like hair. You were dark when we first met. Gothic in your image, Gothic in your fashion, somewhat pretentious and not as interesting as your tattoos. You wrote about pain and sorrow like some leper outcast of society. I believed what you said. I watched you on the stage slamming everyone and everything with the conviction of rages from the beat poets’ bygone days.
The weight of the world was on your shoulders—your childhood was miserable—or was it? Unlike you, I know where my darkness dwells, the well I draw my pain from—It’s just a part of me—part of who I am. Sometimes I’m dark, sometimes I’m happy or sad, I have joy and anxiety, I love people, and there are people I dislike. I used to wear a lot of black, but I also like royal blue shirts and the color purple. Dark is just a portion of my mindset, and I call it up when I want—I put it away when I want—it’s not a fashion statement, you see, it’s like fuel or something to burn—no big deal. I use darkness, so it doesn’t use me. I sold my Docs and bought a pair of black Alexander McQueen Chelsea boots—Everybody wants to be dark and mysterious, be an outsider, a rebel. Just tell me something I don’t know, tell me something new, tell me something true.
You wore your darkness like a badge of honor like it was something you earned, like some warrior returning from battle. But the battle was all in your mind, imaginary dragons, held captive by fantasies, a slave to fashion. Reduced down, a fake. In the larger scheme of things, you were a hiccup in time.
You wanted to live like Sylvia Plath with a treasure trove of pain, black in nature, black in name…your demeanor black in your disdain…but then again, who am I to question…who am I to judge…I wanted a great push forward but settled for a nudge. My pain comes to meet me just as water seeks its level—and black is just a color: nonconformity—a condition.
Deleted story from THE BUSHMAN