He’s sick. It’s an illness. Would you abandon your loved ones if they were sick? Just because it might complicate your life? I couldn’t. I won’t. I’ll take care of him, even if it ends badly. The middle part will be worth it. It has been worth it. 

Would my life be better if I hadn’t met him? I wondered this only one time before deciding, no. There’s no use in overthinking a decision you’ve already made. They say ignorance is bliss. But think about the word “bliss” and the contexts it’s used in. “This is bliss,” they say when getting into a scalding bath. “This is bliss,” they say when they let the acetic whiskey slide down their throats, burning their chest. Bliss is not the syrupy lull of perfection. Bliss has some sting to it. Some venom. That’s what makes the good part good. If bliss were a color, it would be a deep burgundy, the color of bittersweet wine. Ignorance is bliss because it comes with a consequence. You don’t even know what you don’t know. 

Bliss is what I crave. Not the lukewarm kind from ignorance… I want a bliss that takes me to extremes, a bliss that takes me to the top of the most beautiful mountain and then pushes me over. The kind that comes from living. I wouldn’t say I’m happy. But I’m not unhappy.

I made my bed. It is lumpy. Cobwebs weave around the poles and trap my night terrors like dream catchers before expelling them back into my head when I rest. But for the most part, I like lying in it. It’s better than my old bed, which offered nothing but a restful sleep of mundane dreams and complacency. I used to live in ignorant bliss. My youth was filled with sunshine and swings and daydreaming under cotton candy clouds. It almost never rained. I took the sun for granted, something I never do anymore. I’ve already lived that life. Now I live in reality. 

Normal society has words for people like him. “Sociopath.” “Narcissist.” “Serial killer.” Well, psychology says that almost all serial killers are sociopathic or have antisocial personality traits. If that is true, how can I abandon someone like that? It’s a sickness, just like depression or cancer. I’m here to help him and to protect him. 

We fell in love. At least, I fell in love. He loves me as much as he can. He says he feels the most for me, more than he’s ever felt for anything or anyone. I know what your questions are. “Does he still kill people while he’s with you? Doesn’t it freak you out?” Yes, he does. Maybe lesser than before. I try to keep him calm and fulfilled as best as I can. But he has his own dark needs that perhaps no one and nothing can rid him of. I feel for these innocent victims, but it is his burden. His sickness.

They say that there are few solutions for people like him. Therapy? Medications? That’s a joke. I think about it like any other currently incurable disease. Alzheimer’s. Muscular dystrophy. Huntington’s disease. Depression never fully goes away. So many people have died at the hands of AIDS. Are they undeserving of love? Of course not. This is his incurable disease. This is his addiction. Only, there’s no rehab for it. All we can do is manage it as best as we can. But there will always be a relapse. 

You’ll say, “this is different from a disease, depression! Serial killers don’t have any remorse!” How do you know that? You’ve never known a serial killer. You’ve never lived with one. He just doesn’t show it in a typical way. But sometimes, I think I can see it in his eyes and the lines around his face. I think I can see it in his movements. It’s deep in his muscles, weighing down his bone marrow. And if he truly doesn’t feel remorse, that’s just another symptom of his sickness. But like any other illness, perhaps some love can ease the pain. That’s what I’m here for. 

If the people from my old life knew about us, they would think I made a big mistake. At least, that I settled for less than I deserve. I don’t agree with any of that. I know my worth. Not to sound conceited, but I could easily have any other man. And I have. I have had them all. In my past life, I had the brooding artists and the executives living in penthouses. I’ve had athletes, the cream of the crop. I’ve had geniuses and philanthropists.

Stay at home dads and men who jet off to do business all over the world. I’ve had men who could and would give me everything I ever wanted in the physical realm. I’ve had men who had nothing to give me but their hearts and a poem scribbled on the back of a bar tab. I didn’t want any of it. I’ve turned down every proposal, every chance for long-lasting commitment. That’s my definition of not settling. He may not be right for everyone, but he is right for me. I know what you’ll say next. That patience and time would lead me to find the perfect partner one day. I don’t want the perfect partner. I want him. And if that makes me mentally unstable, if that means I perceive things incorrectly, I don’t care. Maybe that’s my sickness. Only I am not asking for help. 

I like challenges. And he is a challenge. All men are. But most of them are unworthy. Fragile egos and broken dreams. They want me to sweep up the shards. He doesn’t need anything so degrading and dull.  In fact, he is a challenge that I might never solve. And that’s what I like the best. I get bored easily. With him, it will be a lifetime of challenges. It’s exciting. I wasn’t made for PTA meetings and spin classes. I wasn’t made for careers that offer nothing but the potential of more money until you can afford to die. I simply wasn’t made for paint swatches and taking the kids to soccer practice and calling the electrician and wearing sensible shoes to work and paying my bills. You were, and it’s good you know what you want. I know what I want, too. 

In fact, I see my life and decisions as the opposite of settling. Every day is different. We don’t stay anywhere for a very long time. The longest was a year before you started getting restless. And I was too. To be completely transparent, it’s also just not safe to stay anywhere too long with what he does. I know my family and friends are worried about how I just up and disappeared. I think they’ve mostly pieced together that it was with a man and that he’s not what they would have chosen for me. Maybe they think I’m dead. I’m not sure.

But you’re the only one I’m telling about his illness. I want you to know that I miss them. And I miss you too. So much. More than everyone else. Sometimes, it hurts so much that I double over, snakes in my stomach writhing with guilt. I love everyone else, my family, my other friends, and I do feel bad for having caused them concern. But I know that they wouldn’t have understood at all that I needed to do this. I think you might have. At least, you would have tried. And for that, I feel like the most selfish person.

I know my parents suffered immeasurably. I know Layla stayed on the police’s back until they told her with finality that I was a grown woman. That I couldn’t be a missing person and that they didn’t have enough evidence to do a kidnapping investigation. I know she bottomed out on pills and booze and almost lost her kid. I know Daman had to quit his master’s program. I know that his boyfriend left him because he couldn’t escape his fog for years. I know none of you hang out anymore because it reminds you all of me. And that means you all lost each other and the majority of our school years together.  

But I know you were torn apart. I know you went through the shredder, and no one could glue you back together. See, I know things. I didn’t abandon you all completely. When I can, whenever I can be in the right area, I try to get a glimpse. I try to be an omnipotent presence in your lives, watching from above.

When I was in Tallahassee, I anonymously delivered cash to Luci because I saw she was getting evicted. I’m sure you’ve seen the signs of me looking in on you too. Unfortunately, the only people I can’t help are my parents. It would give them too much hope and break them all over again. It’s better if I’m just gone for good. A few times, I was able to watch them deliver the plant I send you anonymously every year for your birthday. I saw you, every day at 6 pm, water the plant and sit by it with your glass of white zinfandel and a Manhattan for me on the table like we used to. That’s why I know you know. And I know you won’t come looking for me.

But I know I robbed you of the most. We were supposed to grow up together. Just as we shared books and lip gloss and fake IDS and sleepovers and even cribs sometimes, when one of our moms was just too tired, we were supposed to share first jobs and barely being able to afford rent and finally partying under the Swarovski chandeliers of the Cavalli Club in Dubai. Whenever you get married to James, I’m going to miss that too.

But I love you guys so much. And we won’t be able to retire together, millionaires, at some country club-type retirement home. I’ll either be gone or dead. That’s just the fact of life. But I’m sorry I left you missing half of yourself while I went and crookedly sewed my half onto someone else. That I left you for a man. I guess I obliterated the girl code. But I think a part of you understands because you know who I am and what I really need, crave, in life. I ache and ache for you, but I think somehow, we will always be connected by gossamer weaved with cheap extensions and summer camp friendship bracelets. 

I won’t tell you where I am right now, but it’s not too bad. A lot of the furniture is made of fake velvet in deep blue, which I think you would find adorably guache. As I said, we don’t stay anywhere that long. Our nicest house was almost manor-like. And our worst was near a crack den. Money isn’t necessarily the problem. He seems to have enough. I’m not sure what he really does for a living, other than that he makes some deals, but he’s always able to provide. He has family money. They’re dead- I never asked how. I think it’s better to not know.

So, we have more than enough for a nice home. But location always matters, and sometimes we have to hide. No one has really seemed to catch onto him yet, but we’ve had a few close calls. I think he keeps most of it hidden from me, but I have been involved in some manner or other at times. I will never let him go to prison. I don’t really know if people are looking for him. He doesn’t have a family, and he’s never mentioned a friend, except for one man we see from time to time. He has more than a business-type relationship with him, but I’m not really sure how close they are. He has few possessions, but he seems to have some sort of attachment with the ones he does have. Some of them do seem very expensive.

I know you’re dying to know what he looks like. I guess I shouldn’t risk saying too much. I will say this, though: He can blend right into the crowd, but there’s also something so striking about him. His eyes are always always always hollow except when he looks at me sometimes. Then, for a second, it’s piercing, roaring, pouring into my heart and taking from my soul. Like he can see everything inside, and it’s the only good sight in this world. 

When his illness takes over, I do the best I can to protect him against it. I can’t tell you how much it works or doesn’t. He doesn’t tell me and I don’t ask.

But sometimes I can tell when he’s distracted, when he’s gone a lot, when after some time, he’s elated and confident and has a belly full with the feeling of being able to conquer and control. I try my best to keep those parts of him awake. I let him be domineering with me. I let him take his anger and resentment out on me. I let him frack me to fill all his empty spaces. I let him conquest me, like a tiger stalking and catching its prey. I let him ignore me and turn blank on me. I let him do what he thinks someone with remorse might do to pretend to make up to me. It’s never enough, but it’s also so much, and that’s why I love him so much. 

And it’s not always like that. Sometimes he’s busy, doing whatever it is that he does. I find something to do. Cook, take walks, read. Sometimes, he plays games with me, reads with me, watches whatever movie I’m watching. He likes Rihanna, and his favorite food is my lasagna. He likes The Wheel of Fortune, and sometimes he gets really into puzzles. He can draw anything to a tee, but it lacks any artistic subjectivity or touch.

He captures things in their rawest form. I don’t know how much of these things help his illness. I don’t know how much they distract him or how much his dark thoughts occupy his mind. But without me, he would be so lonely. He’s a very lonely person. But he doesn’t like most people’s company. I think he likes my company the best. As much as it is possible for him. It’s like I said, every day is different. It keeps me on my toes. It’s exhilarating and ordinary and grimy and opulent. 

If you saw me, you wouldn’t recognize me. I’m battered and bruised and burned. My hair is longer, darker. My body is both a void and a sky of constellations, red and yellow and black—the blinding scar on my collarbone. I’ve lost weight, then gained weight, then lost even more. My skin has stretched and shrunk and wound itself around my rattling bones like Saran wrap. The stretch marks cut across my skin like jets in the sky. To be honest, I’ve never looked more beautiful. Some might say I’m wasting away, but I’m bursting with life.

I drink life, absorb life deep into my pores, every single second. When you know you’re going to die soon, you’re really living. Maybe everyone else is just bored. I’m hurled from fearful, terrified, anxious into periods of stagnance, then swept in tidal waves of calm, love, then drown in a melancholy so deep, when I’m pulled out of the water, I’m euphoric. I am cleaning out every corner of life, filling my guts deep with it. I feel young and old and naive and jaded. I break and break and break until I think I can’t make it. I shed my old skin. It peels off until I’m raw and reborn. And I come back strong every time. 

I know what your biggest question is: “Aren’t you worried he’ll kill you one day?” The answer is no. I’m almost sure he will kill me one day. I think soon. But we all die someday, and I’d rather die at the hands of someone I love than suffer through dementia and old age and disease. When you think about that, doesn’t it sound peaceful? Almost romantic? I do believe he deserves love and attention as anyone else does. I won’t ever know for certain, but maybe I’ve prevented at least a few deaths. He doesn’t feel in the same way as others. He doesn’t think in the same way. He leads a lonely life, both by choice and by social isolation. But he chose me. And I choose to live in bliss.

And when he inevitably kills me, I’m certain it will be excruciating, an unending, incredible agony. My death will be so grand. Choking for oxygen and the few seconds of reprieve will be bliss before I go under again. Toeing the spider web line between life and death, teetering on that precipice, clutching at the air.

I’ll hold the metaphysical and physical in my hands, smash them together, swallow it whole. I’ll feel the razor edges tracking down my throat and let it fester in my stomach until it consumes me and I explode. I want to feel the fire burning in his eyes. I want to feel the blood boiling, gushing in my veins. I want to ascend into the light, breathless, screaming, angelic, tragic. Fingernails scraping the last bits of soil and earth before I let go and fly into the abyss. And the final release into death will be the ultimate bliss. 

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