tw: mentions of suicide, gore
Venera's voice was reminiscent of a nectarous drink, each sip piercing my palette with the crisp bittersweet aftertaste of perfectionism and initiative. I would watch with silent admiration as she poured her soul into the chatter that clouded the apartment gathering, every shred of static and discussion dissolving at the timbre of her remarks. This wasn't second-hand embarrassment playing at their undivided attention, but their respect for her. Some staggered at Venera's sudden outbursts took a seat to hear what she had to talk about on that Saturday. It was like a weekly piece of wisdom.
It wasn't intentional for her to shut off everyone and declare. Just a heated discussion led to riled-up opinions, which then folded into something a bit more interesting - Venera continuing her speech without barriers of entry for anyone else.
She usually sat on the edge of a sofa during her rants. Friends and casual acquaintances occupied the middle, hugging their knees to their chest to make space for her and her lewd hand gestures. If there wasn't any room, Venera would opt for a table where most would lay at her feet, as if they were to kneel and kiss her rings. Didn't matter what she was talking about - she could just flame the onlookers with no filter, and they would absorb her blessing. I would.
I identified Venera's phrases as a mirror of mine. Each syllable was as fleeting and hurried as if she was running out of time, still having some formality that I couldn't quite place. I could feel what she meant, even if the volition of emotion wasn't supposed to live; I could feel the anesthetic wisps of her being. Those words weren't entirely my own as Venera did marinate each break and pause under her tongue, but too familiar to ignore.
Can you send me the footage? Even something so basic, like a request to a fellow film student, had such a burning fire to my heart. I desired to send her tapes of the howling wind at one in the morning, the shaky window pane starting to squeak in a horrid symphony. I would've taken it to under my jacket as its protection, giving it to her like an offering for Venera to analyze and render in the crevices of her crackling intellect. I wanted her to capture my sorrows and cluttered headspace that kept me up until the crack of dawn. Each lifeless limb of mine and each minute that I lack in sleep - I could go on about how doctors have not found a cure for a restless psyche; even if there was, it couldn't work for me. Harrowing conversations between my unhinged mother and me, the kids playing catch a few blocks down, the ducks waddling by the pond - I would've provided every unmarried frame of my life only to see her turn it into something extraordinary.
And I didn't have any particular motivation urging me to confess to her, except hope. If only I could see her again. Even under the persimmon tree, where she was leveled in the dirt, eyes closed, I'd ask for her to take my humiliation and play with it as she did at the start, trying to test if she would wake up and climb out of her grave. I'd persuade her to forget about the night and the bullet perforating through the side of her head, to mold that end into a beginning. Maybe she could create a film of it if she didn't choose to ignore it - just of the thoughts that boiled through her head as she watched her blood drip so thinly against the concrete during her last seconds, with the ease of watered-down paint.
I could scrape something similar with a palette knife and rub it against the actor's head, only to mimic the wound left against Venera's temple. There is no accuracy needed to imitate blood dripping down a person's face. There is no accuracy needed to imitate my sobs, nor is there any accuracy needed to master the amount of imbalance in Venera's life.
I love you, but not in the way that you want me to.
It doesn't matter in the end. It might've not been reciprocated, but I hope she knew that I rooted for her.
I didn't know how much Venera's presence would scar me. Even after my first marriage with a redhead named Lucy, who had no sense of judgment, I couldn't stop talking about college and all the things that had occurred. Perhaps it was subconscious, an acquired impulse ingrained into my behavior. Yet she never said anything, but I knew that whatever she wanted to say, she suppressed it deep inside of her.
"She never liked to show her work, y'know?" I say through a bite of salad. "Like, she was so fucking confident, literally saying whatever was on her mind. But she never had any guts to show anyone what she made. She only showed her film friends or like, I can't remember . . a very specific group of people. I was glad I could be a part of that group."
A nod of silence was returned to me. Lucy looked down at her plate of chicken alfredo, pursing her lips in a solemn vexation. I gazed up at her. "Are you listening?"
"I don't want you talking about other women." She murmurs angrily. "At least not in front of my face." As if she pricked the needle into the balloon - trying to be subtle with her concern, but a pop of a balloon has no subtlety behind it.
My posture loosened with a slight stagger at her confrontation. It felt fair to let her say such, but I didn't have any pity in my voice. I cleared my throat awkwardly. "What . . What do you mean?"
"Were you two close?" Lucy hissed, a bitter molasses drizzling her voice. She tried her hardest to mask the fury, but I saw her grip on her utensil tremble.
"What the hell's her name? Ve - ner - a?" Lucy spat out each syllable as if each break in her name would make me recoil with irritation. "Were you two close?"
"Sure," I responded promptly, thinking that was the answer she desired.
"I was friends with her. She was in all my classes." I tilt my head, glazing my tongue over my teeth. "She . . uh, was a great friend." I condensed what I could into a pill that Lucy could swallow, but she never knew how to swallow pills.
"Oh." She squinted at my face, attempting to search for any sign of me favoring Venera over her. But we've been married for a year, and throughout all my college stories, I presented stoic. She then faced the other way, narrowing her gaze to the front door in weighty consideration of walking out or staying put.
I furrowed my brows, my eyes flickering between both the door and Lucy. I open my mouth to say something, but she breaks off the silence.
"Are you following her on Instagram or something? Can I see what she looks like?"
Black hair, draping down her back. A heart-shaped face. A slight gap between her two front teeth. No smile, but a smirk. Brown, almond-shaped eyes. A tattoo of a snake behind her ear. A wound in the side of her head. Blood dribbling down her face.
"She's doesn't have one." Not anymore.
"Does she have any other social media?"
"Not that I know of."
Lucy's authority was crushing down. Her breath hitched, and she leaned forward, inhaling and exhaling before continuing as if testing out a warning. "Be honest with me." Lucy plowed an index finger in my direction. "Are you cheating on me?
"Why are you pressing on this?"
"I just need to know! Are you lying to me? Are you cheating on me?!"
"No!" I brandish my utensil. "Of course not!"
"Then what? You seem to like her an awful lot."
A sore paroxysm of emotions glossed my throat. In those seconds, I had resented Lucy more than ever. "I'm not cheating on you with her."
"Did you date her before?"
"She's dead, Lucille. I never dated her."
Lucy's expression softened at the abrupt statement, registering the sudden crack of my voice, the surrender to her accusations. But despite the partly remorseful look into her food, she was satisfied. That was the night that I stopped talking about Venera or college, even to anyone else.
I never thought of meeting someone similar to Venera in all ways. I had a particle of a moral compass in the end, so I felt obligated to stay where I was. Infidelity wasn't ever going to be a route for me, even though Lucy and I were nothing alike. She did all the firsts too. The first kiss, the first I love you, the proposal. It wasn't because I was nervous, but because I never felt what she felt for me.
But no matter my similarities between Venera and I, the line was drawn at unfaithfulness. No shame would come to her if she chose to have an affair while in a relationship. Our morals were never aligned, and a quiet part of me was happy her feelings didn't requite.
If I were to make a film about us, I'd be the person to win Venera's heart, and we'd live happily ever after. If she were to make the film about us, she would painstakingly carve my heart out because morality had no bounds for her.
Yet I would wait and watch that film, engrossed in the mass of precision because every unmarried frame of my life would be formulated into something extraordinary under her fingertips.