Merlin and Nimue

He says: Let me tell you about spending several hundred years drunk on the memory of your body intertwined with mine, drunk on a something that might have never happened – the fable has fooled me before. I’m more than one snake, I’m two, chasing the same tail and never coming close – just choking.

I say: You’re babbling. That’s the thing with you – always babbling.

And then he really gets going: Oh, this is nerve wracking. Can you feel my hunger crossing mountain ranges, crossing city roads with skid marks scarring dashed white lines, crossing daylight and night time and time zones and time changes, circling setting sun, circling, always circling? Can you feel me, lone crow in a murder of pairs, the one you almost don’t notice on the wire, wandering eye scanning for something or someone, can you feel my eye from the wire?

I say: Can you feel my eye roll, my exasperated sigh?

Then he says: Ha. I’m laughing. You could always get me laughing, but there’s no squeak to your sneak, and there’s no oak tree or tower or prison you’ve carved that can muzzle dark arts into rabbits and hats. Through the crack in the face of the full moon I come. Through the grey clouds that curtain your city I come. I arrive in August hailstones sliding through openings in clothes that leave people screaming “goddamn it!” I arrive like an airborn virus, drilling into your bones, leaving you weak and chicken soup starved, or perhaps on the hunt for something processed and vegan. I hear people are into that now.

Another eye roll: You arrived by bus.

This doesn’t slow him down: I’m glad you brought up the bus, because I was standing on the bus when the person to my right sat down and peed. It was a committed pants pissing, body toxic in an instant, air stinking of ammonia and humiliation. Someone said no fucking way and someone took a picture and someone said oh my god I’m getting off this bus and the driver said what the hell is going on back there? The man’s eyes were focused on a far away place no one can enter without trauma and toll. He kept looking at that place, digging in his pockets for change and map, and when the bus stopped he shouted back door and left, urine tracks haunting invisible snow. I got off too, stumbling on the last stair and the jolt reminded me of my own urine tracks, my own mission and time-honored tax. Autopilot pulled me after him, all the way to a taqueria where tacos hold meat and are cheap, and you were in the doorway and I looked for your eye handshake but instead pupil to pupil tripwired lost time and two ancient souls exchanged whispered oaths, and the truth: “This is no place for magicians.” We’re both drugged with faery blood and capable of colorful things that inform treasure hunts and tower falls and fairy tale shivering.

I clear my throat twice, then three times, and say: It’s good seeing you this lifetime. I’m sure we’re both lonely-busy, stuffing pamphlets in doorways, launching flame wars on blogs, going about the business of starting wars and making kings. But so you know that this loving isn’t occupied alone, I’ll swear my head only comes out of the water for you.

He grumbles: I’ll wear you like a hat. Press my body to your window until the window cracks and the glass scars my flesh and my blood coats your feet and floor. I’ll claw at your ankles and you’ll kick at my face, so I’ll dig my nails in till they brittle and break, then I’ll cry in this clotting crimson heap until the stench drives you mad and my whimpers disgust you, and still: I won’t go away. I’ll never go away, this obsession is timeless, there’s no curse you can cook to dissuade me. Just like then. Just like now. I’m smiling. I’m smiling.

I say: ever the charmer. You’re not one snake, you’re two.

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