Eyes closed. Her hands were moving over the wet clay that spun rapidly beneath them. She didn’t smile. Her face was stoic. Chiseled, yet appearing soft. A look only the best sculptors can create; the gentle, careful padding of flesh over bone. The clay had gotten on her tank top that stretched tightly across her stomach. It splattered her lovely arms, pale enough that I could see the blue lines of her veins.
I can still remember the first time I laid eyes on Wren, down to the smallest detail.
I remember how her movements were almost impossible to perceive. How the vessel was formed, not with coercion, but with persuasion under the gentle caress of those beautiful artist’s hands. How I longed for those hands to form me, as well. To press against me and help me become whatever she desired.
They say that love at first sight isn’t real. It is only lust, infatuation, attraction. But there was more to it for me. I swear I could feel her soul in that moment. It wrapped me in itself and held me in rapture at her casual elegance. I was captive, and I was willing to do anything for her, before she had ever even opened her eyes to see me.
The only sound in that room was the spinning of her wheel. I watched her chest rise and fall with her breath. Her charcoal hair fell from the messy bun and laid like lace across her pale shoulders. Lips slightly parted. How I longed to kiss those lips. How I longed to brush that black feathery curtain of her hair away from her neck, if only for an excuse to feel her skin against mine.
I revisit that day often, when the creature has come and gone. It helps us both, I think, to talk about the way time stood still and nothing in the world mattered, if only for a brief moment. How we are capable of magic, however unintentional.
Our relationship grew from that moment with the same care Wren gave to her pottery. She carefully formed us, nurtured us into being, and our relationship was beautiful, just like everything else she touched in this world. We built a life together. We built a home out of some sad little studio apartment that we could afford, and she made it beautiful. Ours was a whirlwind romance, and it was perfect.
It didn’t take long, though, before I discovered that there was something else. Something dark that she hadn’t told me. The creature. How it pursued her for her entire life. Chased her, doggedly, and held her in its vile grasp. She tried to hide it from me, but eventually, it found her when we were together, and she could no longer deny its existence.
We sat, laughing, eating, huddled together on the tattered hand-me-down couch one evening. I could tell there was something on her mind all day, but when I asked about it, she denied it. I didn’t press. When I went to shower and she chose not to join me, I knew something was wrong.
I found her curled tightly beneath the bedspread sobbing so hard she struggled to breathe. Her face was red, eyes swollen, and as I pulled her to my breast, I could feel her body shaking. She couldn’t speak for some time, but in my panic I couldn’t stop asking what had happened. When at last she did speak, she told me of the monster. She called it “the beasty.” A pet name for the thing that had followed her all these many years. How like her to call it something cute and kind, though it wanted to destroy her.
From that moment on, I made it my goal to try to protect her. I made sure we were on the move as much as possible, so that it could not find her. We traveled as much as we could afford. I asked her to teach me how to make pottery, to give her something on which to focus, although perhaps the amount of failure that came with that pursuit was counterproductive to my cause.
Most of the time, things were still wonderful. Wren was the love of my life, of that I had no doubt. It was on those rare and dark occasions when the beasty would visit that things became a struggle. I got better at being able to tell when it was nearby. I learned to read the signals Wren sent, though she tried desperately to hide it from me.
The rims of her eyes would turn slightly red. She would struggle to look at my face. She became quieter, more reserved. I knew it was near. I would pull her to me and hold her tight. I would talk about the first time we met, and how I stood and stared dumbstruck. How her beautiful skin was caked in clay. I wished desperately that I could take on the beast myself. That I could face it for her, or that it would choose to pursue me instead. I knew it wasn’t an option, but oh how I wished it was.
There came a time when the beast was always there. Always lurking. It no longer mattered where I took her or what we did, it was omnipresent. I couldn’t see it when I looked for it, but I could see it reflected in the tears that bedewed her lovely face. The droplets gliding down her cheeks in delicate choreography indicative of its looming presence. Its exhausting “thereness” that never ceased.
I tried my best to help her. To cheer her up. To fight the beast with whatever tools I had available, but nothing worked anymore. It was winning. It was overwhelming her. It was going to take her away from me.
One evening when I returned home from work, I heard the shower running and waited for her to come out on her own. I knew that sometimes she used the shower to throw the monster off her scent. That sometimes she sat on the floor and let the water wash away the day. After a half an hour with no indication of her coming out, I became concerned and busted through the door to find her. I found her on the floor of the shower. Her face pressed against the tiles, eyes closed, lips slightly parted. Blood streamed from those delicate blue webs in her perfect arms and swirled down the drain, washed away by the cool water that rained down on her. Adrenaline overwhelmed me and I lifted her soaked frame from the floor and carried her. I carried her through the door of our apartment and down the hall. Down the stairs, out onto the street. I held her and walked mechanically. She didn’t move. Her body hung limply in my arms, dripping blood and water down my body. I did not cry. I could not cry. I felt numb.
I carried her until I reached the hospital and stood there, holding her while the nurses fluttered around us. I wouldn’t let go of her. I couldn’t. Eventually someone forced me to so that they could treat her wounds, but I held tightly to her hands. Those beautiful artist’s hands.
Miraculously, she survived. She received blood from donors, and was under constant surveillance until she had recovered. I stayed at the hospital with her for 3 days and 3 nights without sleeping until eventually one of our friends came and forced me to go home to at least get a change of clothes. I remember walking into our apartment for the first time without her and feeling like I was in another world. Everything felt so empty and foreign. Her wheel did not spin. There was no music playing. The TV was off. No soft smiling face to greet me, no arms to hold me. I walked into the bathroom to wash my face and saw, scrawled across the mirror in her lipstick “Goodbye little beasty...I’m sorry.” It was then that my own tears came.
The doctors ended up putting her on a medication to help keep the beast away. It didn’t always work, but whenever she took more, she was no longer Wren. One day, months later, I asked her why she wouldn’t take more of the medication, she pulled her hands away from the vessel she was sculpting and stared at me for a while before whispering “I don’t know who I am without...him.” Then she closed her eyes. Her face was stoic. Chiseled, yet appearing soft. A look only the best sculptors can create; the gentle, careful padding of flesh over bone. Her hands moved gently over the clay again. Lips parted slightly. A single tear rolled down her cheek.