Right after my parents died, I met a girl. Her name was Sylvan—a name she chose for herself, she told me. She had silver hair, buzzed up close to the skull. Her ears were beautiful. Like her name, they weren’t her first. She’d cut off her old ones and bought herself a new pair, green pewter like grass froze by a first frost, with tiny flowers growing in their folds.
We met at a show. I don’t remember who was playing, didn’t care—that night, I was just there for the noise. The press. Something to keep me from drifting apart. If my parents hadn’t been freshly dead, I doubt I would have gone home with her that night. I don’t remember much of what happened at her place, but my bandmates were there; my singer Devin told me what happened. Or maybe I do remember, and it’s just easier to pretend the memories are someone else’s:
Sylvan crawled a hand under my shirt, to my spine. She turned me into a glove-puppet that jerked to her every command. When she invited me home—along with everyone at the show—I obeyed. I’m not sure I believe any of this; I’m human, not robot. Despite the mechanization of my day-in day-out. And she didn’t make me do anything. She was nice. I liked her. But Devin’s fond of stories.
There’s one thing I remember on my own: at Sylvan’s place, Fallin played on the exear all night long, so I left my headphones off.
And another memory, less important, but still significant because I claim the recall as my own:
After showing me some Blowup I didn’t really understand, Sylvan and I pulled at our clothes and tried to have sex. Maybe it was the drinking, maybe it was death still crawling beneath my skin (worms wanting out), but I couldn’t get hard for her. She laughed at me (not meanly), I apologized and stumbled into the bathroom, didn’t turn on the light, didn’t close the door, pissed in the toilet. Crawled in the bathtub, threw up. One, two, three times. Next, maybe I felt something cold on my forehead. A bottle. More alcohol. Exactly what I didn’t need, exactly what I wanted– For the cold, not the blur and buzz. (Right.) I took it without looking, kept it to my forehead. Glanced up and to the side. Some tall guy with wide shoulders and dark skin, pale orange hair snarling from his scalp down to his shoulder blades. (His name came later: Marko.) He lit a candle beside the tub. I think I remember being glad for the lack of electric light.
He sat in the tub with me, maybe even in my vomit. He was careful not to let us touch. He asked me what was wrong. I was quiet for a long time, but eventually gave him an answer: everything at home smelled like blood, but that was normal. Mom butchered goats. She used their skin to make drums.
The rest of the answer: everything was silent. There was blood in the air because there so much in the bed it had to go somewhere. None of it was goat’s blood. I told the guy how I ripped up the mattress just to see how far it went down.
Blood on knives. Blood gluing bodies together at the rhizome of their tangled fingers. Blood in the bathroom and on the door to the fridge. I still don’t know why.
I told my boots and the bathtub how I wanted to sleep forever, but not die—how pretending there was a difference was my pretense at weathering.
Then Marko made contact. Quick, just his fingertips against the back of my hand (which was hidden in my sleeve, cuff bunched anxiously in my grip). Then he said, please don’t die. Like my death might actually do damage. Though he’d never met me. Stupid.