Once when I were a boy, I knew very little of the world and the weight of what the things I spoke had truly carried.…
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Once when I were a boy, I knew very little of the world and the weight of what the things I spoke had truly carried. I spoke words that I didn’t quite understand; I threw around phrases that I now greatly find myself greatly ashamed of. I were never too careful of most things I said, quite curt and concise. I’m afraid the world ended up punishing me for that.
I suppose I should tell you how I’d gotten to understand that words are, well, quite detestable things- frankly. As a young man, I discovered that word could paint far more than colors and canvas ever could- at least, in such a concise yet- poetically interpretable manner. As I’m on the subject, I suppose many things, might I affirm- that happened in my youth, aren’t significant enough to mention. At least, in regards to the subject at hand. I suppose I’ll start by assuring you I weren’t always a loose-lipped dolt lacking in empathy. I were never aroused by any scandalously dressed young lady with an exaggerated bust or bottom; or, whatever human beings find in others that appease their more- primitive mind. I were a young man who had no appetite for such vices, rather, I were quite the curt and unpopular kind of man; disagreeable, as I’ve been described before. To be frank, I had very few acquaintances and even lesser friends.
When I were that young man I found myself rather repulsed by the arts, no honeyed word, dance, song, nor painting would make me think otherwise. Frankly, I fret I missed many of what would have been rather lovely experiences because of that. I suppose it cannot be helped; I can’t go and change the past. When I were still that man, you could’ve shown me Ruben or Davinci’s work, and I would likely respond with little more than a curt, disinterested nod. I weren’t much for words either, oh no, how I hated speaking. I could write if it were asked of me or recite a complete thesaurus- but I promise you that that young man hadn’t entirely understood a word in his life. Across this world, I’d trekked far from my home to pursue my goal. It weren’t of some dream cultivated by a young boy, of course not, because if it were I’m sure I’d have cared more about words and their less academic definitions; instead, I were a cold machine of a young man who simply allowed his aptitudes to dictate his decisions.
I took to my work, a professor at a university- and, if I were to continue forth, you’d likely get bored and leave. I wouldn’t blame you; most of my class had abandoned their studies rather quickly, whittling down from a grand three hundred students to a pitiful forty-three. What is it I taught, you ask? Well, the irony was that I instructed forensic linguistics. Indeed, a man who had never entirely understood what a word meant wanted to work with them. How quaint.
I made few friends in the duration of my life, but one lad I felt quite the affinity for, granted, he was the one who’d funded my degree and supported my life here. Like me, in every way he was, quite the father figure to me. If you were to ask me now how I felt about him, I wouldn’t say I have the same affinity now as I had then. He’d proved to be quite the repulsive gentleman. He worked as a medical examiner, and he’d allow me into his lab after usual hours to banter while he worked. I’m afraid I took it as no warning, then how at peace with himself he appeared with a scalpel and a corpse. I’m afraid I wouldn’t say I like reminiscing about him.
At the fleeting end of my time as a professor, when I’d begun working full time at the district’s forensics agency, I’d begun learning the truth behind words.
She were a young woman; well put together and quite bright-eyed. She gleamed with a sort of self-importance that never teetered into narcissism, which in some way, made her charismatic. She spoke firmly- like a speech at times- always with the same incredible and respectable dictum, but when you spoke to her directly, her voice fluttered and flirt- like the feathers of a bird. Her words danced and giggled, like a jaunt poem or song. On some days, she spoke somberly; she had days where her gaze stared through you, firm yet longing, and her words rang cold- yet beautiful and wise, like a choir in the hall of a great man’s wake. When I first met her, I thought her words were but a farce, a dream-driven young woman who wanted to sound wise and profound, and yet- I discovered, quickly, that they were not a pitiful veneer at all. They were art, her favorite kind of art.
I hadn’t understood at the time, of course, how could I? In her shadow, I were but a teacher, a man with a sharp tongue and an absence of secondary lyrical thought. I used words as they were prescribed and nothing more. I told those I taught that words were nothing more than a series of complex patterns that humans used to communicate- I spent my time dissecting them to understand the psychological profiles of those who wrote them! And in doing that and teaching her, I realized that, in some way, I envied her. I had no art; my words were no beautiful dance, song, or painting. To me, they were words. Objective parts. With meanings and definitions defined only by others like themselves cultivated from a lexicon that I now feel I had no right to use! Words! To me, they were descriptors. Blatant, cold. Just as I were, they existed without further definition than the one prescribed to it by some academic- and yet, I envied her. I envied her visage; I envied her mind; I envied her thoughts, her dreams, her everything. If I weren’t such a fool, then I would’ve realized that- I’d loved her. But I were a fool. I were blunt, curt, and cold. I thought I resented her because speaking to her made me realize she were everything I were incapable of being.
I hadn’t even known her name.
Of course, I know it now, and I think I understand why she loved them so; Words, anyway.
She and I found one another often at libraries, or at least, I found her often. I were sure that she’d never taken notice of me. Why would she? I were but a stranger to her, her glory, her perfection. Whenever I saw her among words, she seemed her happiest; sure, I’d catch her time and time again outside of the agency, humming in her gleefulness, singing quietly. By god- a man could find himself ensnared by her voice. The soft fluttering tone of her voice managed to lift a spirit into the sky and let it soar or pull a curtain over the hot summer sun and drown you in ruthlessly bitter cold and lonely despair. It weren’t those that I was entranced by, so much so, as the silent focus on her face, and the soft look in her eyes, while she sat, slumped over an ivory page with both her hands actively holding paper and pen, her wrist swaying as she wrote in a dance. How beautiful it was. Looking back, I know I simply scoffed and continued browsing.
One day, I’d gotten over my arrogance and approached her in a crowded library. In truth, that day I’m not entirely proud of. I was as cold and machinelike as I’d always been. I settled beside her dancing hands and focused gaze and set my books down for study. I’m afraid I don’t remember it perfectly, but I recall the subtle gasp she made when, a good hour or so after I’d arrived, she’d noticed me. I remember that bashful, embarrassed giggle like it were yesterday- No- like it were but an hour ago. I think that’s the first time I’d realized that maybe I admired her, but I were very imprudent in regards to such a thing as that, I assure you. I promise you that I never understood a damn thing that love were- or may have been. To me, love was like art. It was something I never understood- nor had cared to understand at all.
She spoke to me, and what a strange thing we spoke of. I wasn’t entirely certain she even realized we’d met before, frankly, but she asked of me a small favor in her sweet, lovely tone, while her pinked cheeks and dark eyes slipped me the paper she’d recently been, ever so contently, writing on.
“Would you mind reading this for me?”
To be frank, I don’t remember if I were star-struck or appalled. She hadn’t known me at all, and she asked me to look upon her writing as though she trusted me like a close friend. She smiled at me as I silently, and rather rudely, slid the paper along the cold oak table. I stared down at it. I could feel her intent gaze upon my face. To be entirely frank, I don’t know whether or not she was flirting with me or just intent on getting my feedback. At the time, I thought she found me attractive- that she were fawning over my mysteriousness, which wasn’t entirely uncommon. It is rather silly and saying that I sound quite arrogant. I were a well attractive man to many people, which now I suppose you may not so quickly assess. I had relatively unruly dark brown hair, and I still retain my sharp emerald eyes- but at the time, I wasn’t unfamiliar with being fawned over by the wallflower sort. Those who crave the cruel nature of stoic men seemed to never avert their gazes. I would describe her as many things, but not a wallflower.
She were a blooming morning glory, resilient and benevolent. I read the page she’d bestowed upon me: her handwriting, a river of cursive text. I were careful not to smudge the ink, still wet where it had overlapped. I recited the transcription aloud- at the time, I thought she would like to hear it in a voice other than her own. She hadn’t stopped me. It were a single poem, concise. I recall it word for word, even to this day.
“The man of glass,
Translucent and benign.
Wordless statue, covered in scripture.
Mulling, in his hand, a single page,
A single word.
Then, I hadn’t understood a word of what she had given me. When I looked back at her, her face was beet red; she fumbled for words as she plucked the paper from my fingers and looked at me, repressing what I could only guess was a smile. I raised a brow and asked stupidly, “What the hell is that supposed to mean? Don’t give me such arbitrary things and expect a good answer.” I recall saying that rather flatly.
She smiled and let out her entertained giggle; at this point, I think I realized she knew exactly who I was. Honestly, it was relieving to know someone like her had cared an ounce about someone like me. Now, I do know what that poem meant. Then I were so literal, so transparent, and filled to the brim with scholarly definitions that I hadn’t realized that the poem was about people like me. I weren’t the brightest man, to my disappointment, but of course, something like her work flew so far over my head- like a bird. Much so like a bird, I could look up and see it but never be able to fathom quite how it flies. Still, I’m afraid I may not be able to. Her words, her art, her poetry. To me, it was entirely unfathomable. Yet, here I am, reciting it today, knowing that I were the kind of person that she’d been speaking of. I know she was amused by that, but I took it as her being entertained by my inability to understand.
“If you’re going to tease me, then go somewhere else. I don’t have the time, or the patience, to deal with something so petty.” I recall my imprudent self told her curtly; I remember she had touched me for the first time that day. Upon my forearm, she rested her hand and assured me that she had no such intentions.
She told me, “I didn’t take you for the type, is all.”
I snapped back at her foolishly, “The type?”
She smiled, and in my arrogance, I stood up and gathered my books. She gripped me by my coat and said my name- “Luciel-” I hadn’t even known she’d knew it. I looked down at her with some level of resentment. Yet, when my eyes met hers, I sighed. I sat back down and asked her to elaborate. I swallowed my pride and listened to her explain the poem in those words of hers that seemed so benign.
I cannot recite what she told me exactly. She managed to speak such a lengthy definition that simply conveyed what I could state in a few concise terms; a scholar entirely concentrated on books is incapable of understanding beyond them. I knew this, even then, because I cared not to understand beyond them. They were all I deemed necessary, and today I’m revered as a genius. But, without her, I’d simply be as all academics, wouldn’t I? I listened to her talk, and talk, the unceasing fountain of honey-coated words on that sharp, yet delicate, tongue of hers poured into me. Eventually, though ashamed I was to admit it, I found myself enjoying her company.
I began sitting next to her at that library once per week, then twice, then nearly daily- until it were every time I saw her there. Some days, I’d sit next to her usual seat to read or research. I adopted that table as if it were my own. For a while, I’d let people sit where she’d typically, but I think out of respect for her- no, no, I know now why I did it- because my silly little mind would refuse to accept it- I saved her seat for her; because I’m certain now, that I loved her. Whatever that word may have meant.
Eventually, she and I had become rather close in our way. We didn’t sit next to one another everywhere we went, nor had we ever exchanged words frequently enough for people to be suspicious of courting- or anything of that sort. But, instead, we could coexist in comfortable silence for long periods at a time. We could glance at one another and have an entire conversation in complete silence. I’d never met someone I’d ever been able to understand in such a way.
After I opted to assist the agency as a homicide detective, I left my job as a professor. I decided to retire from teaching to pursue some relatively unimportant things that had transpired during that time. Lucy, that was her name, that I’d become very closely acquainted with- had become my roommate. That is a story in and of itself. Of course, your first assumption would likely be that we had some sort of scandalous relationship- as we shared a tiny one-room apartment in downtown Albus City, but I can assure you that there was no such thing. She and I were content in this tiny home of ours, and we were happy enough without the complexities of love and lust. I’m afraid I regret a fair number of my imprudent decisions, but living with Lucy wasn’t nearly so much a punishment as I thought it would have been.
I’d found myself amidst a good number of hobbies, much to Lucy’s encouragement. To occupy my free time, I’d adopted toy repair, much to her astonishment. I enjoyed fixing puzzle boxes mainly. I do believe I’m getting off-topic. The story she and I share is somewhat- complicated.
Words, right- Words. I were a very stoic man before I’d met Lucy. I suppose, to one degree, I still am. I were cold and apathetic to many people except her. Somehow, that idiot changed me, and by a lot more than I often give her credit for. We’d been investigators faced with a myriad of terrible cases. The Albus City Hyena, the Specimen, the Wolf of ACI, the Mindbreaker- there was no end to the nicknames these killers had. Each is gruesome and terrible in its own right. However, contrary to all others, we were tackled by a case that revolved around very few words, four to be exact. “The Lady in White.”
The case reminded me of her poems, all of them- of how I adored them. I had realized it in that case. Someone- some monster- attempted to rip away the only thing that understood me. The only thing that I truly understood. He loved her as I did, with the same feverish tenacity that my morning glory harbored within herself that my heart bore for her. Her mind, her body, he’d lusted for. I’m almost repulsed to admit that I had as well. He and I weren’t so different.
It weren’t long before I’d been called to my birthplace for some similar cases, all of which proved baseless and was a waste of a long monotonous six months. I’m ashamed to admit I grew somewhat obsessed, having been away from her during that time. Eventually, she was all that I thought about, my mind revered as sharp- clouded by thoughts of her.
I wanted her there. I wanted her with a feverish desire that sent me boarding a plane in the middle of the night, flying back to Albus- back to where I could see her. It was nearly 2 AM when I knocked on her door. We had a ciphered message so that we could identify one another. When I finished spelling out the last character, she’d flung open the door and pinned me to the ground. In truth, I wanted to cry into her bosom like a child to their mother after being homesick- but she hadn’t known at all that I had loved her.
I slept on her couch that night, and after that, we’d shared a bed- without any lust, of course. Some days, she’d huddle against me while I read, deep in slumber. This rather humbled me. I feel any man would be. Some days, she’d wake cradled in my arms, whether that be on her soft, green, suede couch- or upon her bed. Those mornings were my favorite. My utopia, however, was quickly interrupted. The Lady in White had reopened, and I began to understand what the word dread meant.
Shortly after that, I discovered what fear meant. I found I was afraid of losing her. Of having her ripped away from me. Before, the case had simply been a string of eleven murders- all unrelated outside of a note- that read, “The Lady in White.” Then, the victims began to match. Petite women with dark eyes and hair, often in their early twenties. They were all killed in like ways, often put on display- stuffed and dried like taxidermied animals. We learned that it was only sometimes that they were dead before being mutilated. They were cut into a steady hand only an artist or doctor could perform with great precision. Most of them were alive when the scalpel sunk into their flesh. Drugged and paralyzed, but entirely aware.
Lucy matched the profile. I hated the thought of it, of her ending up like all the others. Because of that, I was constantly around her, following her every move. So much so that I’m sure she’d begun resenting me. I’d wait around for her like a dog and become visually nervous if she’d taken too long to show. Looking back, I was likely rather annoying. Unlike how stoic and cold I usually were, I’m sure she’d realized how I’d felt. Especially since, one day, she pressed a single page into my hand that read, “Poet.” I looked at it confused for a moment and- well- of course, I’d remembered.
She giggled that same little giggle from the first time we’d spoken. For a moment, I forgot about my terrors entirely. I forgot about the case and everything. All I could think of was the day I read her poem. Not the day where I first saw her- but the day I learned that- well, Lucy had seen me. At that moment, I remembered all those things about her that I’d, before, had detested. She smiled that very same smile and breathed her words into my heart.
“Luciel, I love you.”
To be frank, I was taken aback. I’m afraid I’d overlooked the fact that other people felt the myriad of emotions I’d only so recently had discovered. That day, while I watched her disappear, my heart and mind were sent aflutter. I found myself swept away by those four words- that day, I left the building looking for icons of my adoration. I hadn’t the words, but I wish to bestow icons upon her to return those simple words. However- that were the greatest of infractions I’d committed at all. I returned to her apartment and unloaded the tokens of my rampant affection.
It was then that my phone had rung, a coworker. She reported to me that I needed to go to the agency. I was confused at first. Quickly, all my feelings had returned. All those words I hadn’t used before- flooded my mind as descriptors of my emotions. Terror, horror, regret, loathing, resentment, anguish, hate, my furious fulmination! I’d let her go alone. I flew my way to the agency, and there, I found my team ready to raid their building. At first, I was confused, but I understood quickly.
Lucy had lived her own life beyond me. I always seemed to have forgotten that. She had other friends and acquaintances. She’d always been far more popular than I had ever been. She was loved. More than just I loved her. She was that man’s shimmering gold. That man who I once- stupidly- deemed my friend- my father. I was angry, I remain angry. In all my time, I resented nothing. But, as we raided that building- as I saw her paralyzed form on his damned operating table, stripped bare and blank-faced. It took all I had not to shoot him on the spot. It was torture, watching the pitiful drip- one tiny slight drop of crimson- slip down her face.
I looked at him, that man who I considered a friend. I looked him in the eye and listened to him cackle. He dared to laugh in my face and call me a fool. “You should’ve stayed a husk, Luciel,” I recall his detestable voice saying in his sickly charming tone. His features were soft, his eyes completely- and entirely- serene. Her blood. On his scalpel.
“If you hadn’t gotten in my way if you hadn’t thought to feel-” I remember his laugh and how I abhor it. “If she hadn’t taught you how to feel in the first place-“
He chuckled, “she’d already been dead.”
I knew that. If she hadn’t taught me how to understand the words I spoke, she’d be nothing more than a statistic to me—another corpse left in his wake. I stepped back, and he turned towards her.
I detested his voice.
“I wonder- if you think about all the other girls I had to go through to get here.”
I detested his words.
“If you were less a husk, would you have done unto Lucy as Titus to Lavinia?”
I detested his reference.
“And, with thy shame, thy father’s sorrow’s die.”
I detested his quotation.
“There’s no likeness,” I recall saying. “She is not shame.” My shame is my curtness.
Even as I recall this horror and this beast- I hate him. He laughed- again- he laughed. “You haven’t changed at all, Luciel.” And he walked away. I wanted to lodge a bullet in his skull. The man next to me motioned to put my weapon down. With shaking hands, I did. I watched him walk away.
I went to her. Lucy spread bare and weak across the table. I took off my coat, the same one from all those years ago, and wrapped her in it. I lifted her and held her tightly to my chest. The rest of the team took her to the hospital. Of course, I was still arrogant. No matter how often they told me I wasn’t at fault- I continued to blame myself for this. Time and time again, I blamed myself for this.
It took a few weeks for her to get out of the hospital. Honestly, I hadn’t cared if it took longer. Frankly, I didn’t feel I could face her. I didn’t feel it was my right to face her. After all, it was my fault in the first place; at least, I believed that to be the case. I finally mustered up the courage to speak to her again the last day she was there. I remember entering the hospital. It felt as though all eyes were on me. Granted, the bouquet of roses hadn’t helped. I asked for Lucy White. The woman at the reception desk exclaimed, “You’re the guy!” and I’m still awfully amused by that. She kindly gave me direction, and I made my way to her.
She, the one I loved, truly and deeply. I made my way up the stairs- and- I saw her, looking out the hospital window: her beautiful eyes, her beautiful hair, her beautiful existence. I’d approached her as bashfully as a teenage bachelor. She snickered, and before her lay pen and paper. Somberly, she spoke the poem’s soft reprise. As though she’d been waiting for me, and me alone, to enter the door. I neared her as she recited her poem in its beautiful eloquence.
“The man of glass,
Translucent and benign,
Broken statue, covered in scripture
holding, in his shattered arms, a single page,
Understanding a single word.
In his heart transcribed, Poet.”
I smiled for once and spoke my truth in a silent conversation. My words are conveyed only in a single action. I hadn’t needed any word nor definition to describe what I felt for her. I pressed the bouquet to her lap and my lips to hers.
How I remember the sweet smell of roses and the feeling of the soft skin of her cheek warm in my palm; How I remember the softness of her lips against mine. Her arms wrapped around me as she forced me closer, and we kissed for the very first time there. I felt her shoulders shake, and one of her tears ever so delicately fell against my rigid thumb.
I think that was the first time I had ever seen her cry.
I pulled away, and I wiped away her tears. I breathed my love in a quiet breath.
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