Friday, September 6, 2013
She forgot to take the chains off. I always thought she would take them off eventually, but now that I think about it, I'm not sure she ever intended to let me go.
We met on a subway. I was heading home from the park, where I played my guitar on the weekends for tips. She wiggled up to me, and bold as brass, sat on top of my lap. I thought about protesting, but I was seventeen, and she was hot. She ran a red fingernail across the black leather of my guitar case and formed four letters. “Anna.” The word stayed there, imprinted into my case with red sparkles, long after she removed her hand. I should have known that day that anything she did was permanent. But at seventeen, permanent is measured in months.
The first cuff came in the form of a gift. Our one month anniversary. It was a leather strap cut with an intricate Celtic pattern, and it looked more like a tattoo than a bracelet. Whenever I would pay for something at a store or shake hands with someone, I would angle my wrist so they saw the strap. Nine times out of ten, the person would comment on it, ask where I got it. I'd cut my eyes over to Anna, who stood silently at my side, and she would smile. Each one of those smiles felt like an eternity in itself. We were the only two people in existence, and the universe spun around with us at its core. Whenever one of those smiles happened, we'd excuse ourselves from our present company and find some place to make out. It didn't have to be private, so long as no one stopped us.
I realize now that each one of those make out sessions added another link to the strap. Kind of like Jacob Marley and his chain of evil deeds, only I wanted mine. I didn't care if the chain was a hundred feet long and a thousand pounds. I would have carried any weight for that girl. And she knew it too. She probably planned it from the moment she sat on my lap. Or maybe she had seen me playing in the park and sensed that I could be bought. I certainly loved her currency.
She didn't ask much from me at first. “Climb that tree and pick the top flower.” “Dig up this root at midnight.” “Kill just one little lizard for me. Pretty please.”
I could say I didn't know what she was doing with those things, but the blood under her nails gave her away. That's why she always painted them red, to hide the other stuff. Why didn't I say something? Why didn't I stop her? Why didn't I stop myself? Well, I could blame the chains, but really it was my fault. By that time, I knew they were there. That cuff choked my wrist day and night, but when I mentioned taking it off, she cried like I was breaking her heart.
“You're my inspiration,” she whispered into my ear. I felt down deep in my bones that she was right. She needed something from me, and she needed me to give it willingly. I let the cuff stay.
By the time her last request came, I had tried to take the cuff off 142 times. And I had failed at every attempt.
“Meet me under the old oak tree during the full moon and sing to me while I make something.”
“What are you gonna do, Anna?” The question felt like a snake coiling in the air between us.
“You'll see.” She touched a red nail beneath my chin and smiled.
Of course I met her. Of course I brought my guitar. And of course I sang.
The night was silent, just the chords and my voice, softly filling the air.
She held the ceramic bowl in her hands, sloshing the ingredients in a circle. She squinted into the bowl. “Louder,” she commanded.
I sang louder, using words I had written especially for her. Combinations I had found on the internet and in old musty library books.
“It's not working. Fix it,” she said.
I changed to a different key and sang louder. At the change, the wind picked up. It listened to me, obeyed my commands. Power welled up inside my chest and forced my song out in primal rhythms. With the very elements pulsing through my veins, I understood why she did such awful things. But it didn't excuse her from doing them.
Anna looked up at me with evil in her eyes. The smile that I had craved for so long was no where in sight. “What are you doing?”
I sang louder.
Wind whipped her hair, slapping it across her face. “Stop it!” she cried. “Stop it! You're ruining everything.”
My fingers picked up the pace. My voice matched it.
“You don't know what you're doing!”
Oh, but I did. I knew the ingredients she had. I had found the spell she was casting. My song intensified. My fingers bled, but they played on.
The wind encircled her, like her own chain link fence. Dirt and debris flew around her, knocking the bowl from her hands. “No!” she cried. She dropped to her knees and fumbled on the ground. But it was too late. The liquid had seeped into the ground.
I stood up. My song filled the night, overpowering her screams as the tornado picked her up and carried her away. I'm not sure where she went. The spell books didn't go into that much detail.
When the night was silent once again, I dropped my guitar into its case and closed the lid. Her name still sparkled in red letters. I ripped the bracelet off, placed it on top of her name, and walked away.
Picture by: George Hodan