There’s nothing left. I have tasted nearly all the world has to offer, and still I feel empty. I suppose Nietzsche or Freud would have something to say about that, maybe even Schopenhauer. Doesn’t matter, I’m not much of a philosopher. All I know is since she left, I’ve tried to fill the void, with food and drink and sex, but none of those things measure up. Is it just that the victims of suicide continue to victimize those they leave behind? Or is it some flaw in my character, something fundamental, like a misfiring gene, or a misplaced atom that drives me to destruction?
I still see her. She haunts this old place, her footsteps echoing in the halls, her laugh in the air. Her shadow pursues me from room to room, a smudge in the corner of my eye. You think it’s the isolation, the grief. I know it’s her. Her shade reaches out from Hell and torments me. She’s trying to tell me something, and it’s just a matter of how to communicate that stymies me.
I think I’ve found it. Or at least stumbled on it. The alcohol helps – it drives away rational thought for a time, and opens the mind to possibility. Sin. Let’s assume for a moment Catholic doctrine is true. If so, as much as it pains me to contemplate, her suicide was a one-way ticket to Hell. So, to get closer to her, I need to corrupt myself. Flesh and mind and soul. I will start tomorrow.
Sloth. It was my first foray into deep sin. I took a week from work, rescheduling what needed to be, and leaving the company phone at the company. It’s a rarity, and sure to worry some – I told them there was no need to worry, just a need to unplug. Only partially true – if they knew what thoughts trickled through my mind like a sickly creek, they would worry. Still, it seemed to assuage their fears.
I spent the days with the television on nonstop, and did nothing that required more than shoveling sustenance into my mouth and using the bathroom to dispose of the waste. I lingered unwashed and unkempt on the couch, my mind a blank, my body sitting unused, like an abandoned factory. By the third day, my skin itched, and my hair was matted with grease. Still, I could not waver from my commitment. I added napping to my regimen, and was rewarded on the sixth day with a dream.
She came to me wrapped in a shroud, her skin pale and gray, her eyes clouded with cataract. Her breath was like the sea, and her hair like kelp. She pressed her lips to mine and I tasted the grave. Still, my heart leapt. It was first contact and full of emotion and life I had not felt for a while. I wept when I woke. There were no other interactions, and on the fourth I cleaned up and watched the fireworks from the boulevard.
I thought of her face lit by fires in the sky a long time past, and wept again.
Gluttony. I starved myself for a day, my stomach rumbling through two meetings before I had to excuse myself in embarrassment. I made it to the next day, lightheaded and ravenous. It started with biscuits and gravy with a side of sausage and fruit. I barely made it to lunch before I devoured two calzones from the local pizzeria, and a side of caesar salad. By dinner, I was no longer hungry, but my mission was clear. I wolfed two Big Macs, a large fry, and a large shake. That night, my stomach aching, I rolled into bed, and fell asleep – on my side – I didn’t want to vomit and choke.
She came again that night- bloated and wet, and embraced me. She smelled of rotten meat and hot garbage, and I basked in it. It was brief, as stomach cramps woke me, and I found myself in the toilet. Still, despite the wracking pain, a little joy beat in my heart. In the morning, there was a rotten plum by my bedside. A gift.
I find the ravages of these sins and the emotional toll of our meetings are forcing me to recuperate on a longer timeframe than I expected. In addition, some sins require planning. Still, I forge ahead.
Greed. It took me some time to figure how to properly personify this. In the end, I settled on the old standby, robbery. I bought dark clothes and a ball cap. I shaved. I dyed my hair. Dark glasses hid my eyes. I opted to skip the ski mask. It seemed cliche, and stupid to buy one in the middle of summer in the city. I found my spot, an alley that smelled of garbage and sewage off the beaten path, and waited.
They were an old couple. I almost didn’t stop them, but they were perfect. Frail and slow and well-off – I could see the Omega on the old man’s wrist. I waited until they were nearly on top of me, and leapt from the alley. They old woman shrieked, and I slapped her – hard. For his part, the old man saw the knife in my hand and handed over his wallet. I asked for his watch and menaced them with my knife. They handed over both the watch and the old woman’s earrings. It was exhilarating and terrifying, and yet I couldn’t shake the shame I felt for rattling their old bones. Money in hand, I fled. I hid in alleys here and there, and eventually ducked into a bar and ditched the disguise, the color in my hair washing out like day-old syrup. There was no pursuit.
That night, as I slept, she came to me. Something had changed. Her eyes were clearer, her flesh firmer and slimmer. She kissed me, and tasted of spice. For the first time, I stirred below the waist. The dream ended, and I woke, the watch glinting on the bedside table in the moonlight. Its face read 3:45. I remembered when she died, and a sob escaped me, my emotions traitor to my purpose. I threw the watch in the trash and slept fitfully the rest of the night.
Vanity. This was simple. I bought a suit and a haircut, a manicure and a pedicure. I spent time taking selfies and posted them online. I fished for compliments. In the end, she came to me, my reward a brief kiss on the lips, hers full and lush. She smelled of jasmine and honeysuckle. In the morning, I saw her ankle slip past the door into the bathroom, and though she wasn’t there, her scent lingered.
Envy. Again, easy. I spent time online, looking at beautiful married women and fast cars. At what wealth could buy, and who it could buy. I thought of the things others owned and wished them for myself. Maybe it was too easy. She did not visit that night, and I spent the morning in worry, thinking I had disappointed her. I plotted on how to steal one of the things I had seen, and could not concoct a way that didn’t end with me in prison or dead.
It was painful, to accept that I had failed the challenge, but I felt I could make it up. There were two sins left, and they were big. The MVPs of sin. I felt confident I could win her approval.
Lust. I had to wait until payday. Prostitutes aren’t cheap, and the things I intended to do with one only made the price skyrocket. I won’t go into detail here, except to say that the things I did – I only hope I do not pay some physical price – STI, or the burden of a child.
She came to me that night, wearing only strips of gauze, her flesh made whole again. Her breath was sweet, and her hair shining. We made love in a field beneath a honeysuckle. She was willing, and I was my old virile self. We are so close, the world between us as thin as mist. I could feel her weight on the bed, could smell her sweetness.
I wonder – will God forgive? Is there redemption for what I do if I do it in the name of love? Or is damnation the only path for me? Every sin I commit, every step I take on this path forges my chains, but can they be broken? If so, do I need to abandon her? I cannot.
Such a long wait, compared to the others. Wrath. It’s the last step on this road – the key to the door that will bring us together. I speculated before that I had been too weak for the things I needed to do to bring us closer. I still worry that my concentration, my devotion had not been great enough for the Envy step. I will correct that.
I’m generally easy-going. Sure, we fought, but never to the point of true anger. The fact that the last words we spoke before her death were angry still cores my heart. Some nights I simply beg her forgiveness. Is she capable? Does Hell allow her the freedom to forgive? It must. It allows her to be with me some nights. To haunt me. But it will not release her. I know that now. I’ve got to go to her.
I made a list. Those who I felt wronged me. Wronged her. I narrowed it by thinking of those who had done it maliciously, or out of carelessness. It wasn’t a long list, but it was a hard decision. How do you choose which life to take when you’re damning your soul?
The gun wasn’t hard to buy. I found it online. My hands are still clean on paper – they sent it to me as soon as the checks cleared. I have three boxes of shells, and wrongs to right. They don’t check your bags at work – why would they? I’ve been a loyal employee for years. Tomorrow will be a different day.
She’s waiting for me.