They were the darlings of heaven; Van and Cecilia. He was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. God, how I loved him. But she … she was the angel of songs. Like crystal; and every heart was like glass around her. Mine especially.
Cecilia smashed me almost every day, cut me up with the trinkets of her affection. A smile, a kiss like a sister, druggy hugs and intimate secrets.
I introduced Van to her one night clubbing and paid the price in blood. You could hear the violins when they circled eachother on the dancefloor, and my softly softly campaign for God’s own nineteen year old ended with a first night kiss. No doubt about it, Van was the man and I was just plain old best friend, the third half of love. Lopsided as fuck.
She said, “You’re my saviour, you know that,” and I knew what she meant.
He said, “Hey, man, why’d you keep her secret for so long?” but I’m sure he knew why.
And I said, “You two are so cool together,” and I meant it, every precious ounce of it.
They were a source of light, those two. Georgous fucking sunbeams. Everyone knew it, believed it. Van and Cecilia proved the world still had a taste for sweethearts, for miraculous little petals who somehow withstood the air of autumn. There wasn’t anybody who didn’t want it to go on forever.
What brilliant kids they were going to have. Him, pretty Asia; her, classic fucking, knee buckling, breath stealing Euro. Van played cello and had orchestras waving cheque books, Cecilia made films and got screened at festivals. At parties, they were red carpet material. In clubs, they were everyone’s honey bunnies, gay; straight and beyond, we all wanted a blast of that little dream. Only the real hard heads raised their eyebrows. Guess they sussed something none of us really wanted to accept. Every cursed miracle costs.
But Van and Cecilia were more than the boring cliché. At least I thought so; even though I hated it when she kissed him like that. They were just too sharp to fall for the obvious sucker punch come down. They saved money, made plans, ate healthy, kept the drugs in check. Way too fucking pure. Wide eyed love birds flying through a smog of absolute shit: all the fucked up exhaust of disappointment.
Surely some of that crap had to stick to those waxy wings of theirs.
But uni finished and the party kids went home. Landlords and boss men turned up in their place and I tried to lose contact. I loved them both but I wanted Cecilia more. Another day of looking at her shop window curves was beyond me. It was making me sick, altering my state of mind for the worse. I couldn’t even sleep without seeing her in those skimpy, skintone undies she used to wear. There’s only so many mornings you can wake up crying yourself dry.
I stayed out of range for a couple of years. Got myself set up, wore the suit, sold the bullshit and papered the walls with cash. It was a cruise; auto piloting along the freeway to bored middle age, with only the occasional fumble to ward to off the nymphs of loneliness. To help me outpace it, evict it; eviscerate those seven letters still bleeding.
God, what surrender. Take me, take me, take me. Bring me to the foot of your stairs. Oh Cecilia, I should have sung your name while you were still here.
And I nearly made it. I would have, I’m sure, if I hadn’t seen her on the tram. She sat next to me, our legs brushing, her smell forming clouds around my head, and she told me the tale of their troubles. Jobs lost, chances missed, rent not paid in time. La bella coppia on the skids.
“Hey, but we’re okay,” she beamed, and it was obvious that for all the downturns, their stratospheric togetherness had not been grounded.
I followed her home and found Van just the same; beautiful, a pristine golden boy untouched by the mould of the damp little flat he shared with his honey, honey girl.
“I had to sell my cello,” he said and I heard a string inside me snap. I looked over at Cecilia, who smiled in a way that unleashed a wild river in my veins, and I knew that a grey world debt had been paid off by hocking the jewels of charm.
“But I got a new job,” she said. “I start Monday.”
It wasn’t long before I asked them to move in. I had the space … and the addiction. Why the fuck didn’t I just bid them farewell that evening?
They were so damn grateful, like little kids. No affectation. It was sad. How did they keep that innocence going? Night after night I listened to them recount the story of their days, and what they were telling me, in effect, was that they kept walking into the same dumb arse traps that everyone else saw coming. They weren’t just naïve, they were … I don’t know, not of this world.
Yet all the while, their love was as ‘printemps’ as ever. I would catch them smiling at eachother; little flowers.
“Van is my well,” she told me one night. “My sustenance.”
“None of it matters when she comes home,” he told me one morning over breakfast. “Not a single bit of it.”
In the spare room they made love like movie stars, her soft little moans like nectar. Her eyes sparkled when she padded out to the bathroom and I would be there waiting for the leftover light, my little scraps of heaven. I collected them; treasures she forgot to bury. On my knees, on the other side of the wall, I begged for something more and searched for the will to want nothing.
All this glittering loveliness and not a penny to show for it. No new cello, no more festival invites. It wasn’t a lack of talent or effort it was just not understanding the bloody rules. Being too beautiful. Failing to say the right thing when all it needed was a practised word.
I became protective. They became my children, adult fairies I was keeping safe from small thoughts. The world that paid me handsomely had no way to remunerate people like Van and Cecilia.
I confess, I thought about how I could separate them. There was so much more I could offer Cecilia. Comfort, contacts, any camera she could name, and abject devotion. But of course, I knew it was nowhere near what Van gave her. He had magic in his kiss. That was plain to see. To see and shiver darkly.
It was time to get a lover and break the rapidly poisoning habit. Other girls, distractions, the oblivions of sex and borrowed tenderness. Get me out of myself.
And for a while it worked. Tina, Sandra, Francesca. Until it hit me: they all had something of her. They were a way to love her more, not less.
I began to think strangely. Was I damned to watch this divine sideshow? Had I been chosen to bear witness to the last living miracle on the face of the earth? Fuck it, is this my doomed epistle?
Just about then things got bad for them. There was no work and plenty of time to wonder how the promise of earlier years had amounted to the churned up, mangled charity of another. They seemed to sink, the spell at last not able to sustain them. Both of them got ill. Watching them fall from the sky was unbearable, a rain too hard to keep out.
Seeing Cecilia’s brightness slowly dissipate was cutting me. Sharp, slashing, wrist opening lines. Van tried to help her up but it seemed he could no longer concoct perfection with his elegant fingers. He coughed his way through afternoons of too much dope. My dope. The stuff I supplied him.
It wasn’t a rapid decline, that would have been better. It was an erosion, a decay full of awareness. Not enough for screams, just a gathering of sighs. They spoke about getting well and having kids and then one night they announced their engagement.
“I don’t think the world really wants people like Van and I,” she said.
‘We’ve never belonged,” he added.
“Only to us,” she concluded.
That was it, wasn’t it? Their attraction was such that it kept them in a loop around one another, always dancing in inner space. They had excluded the world, too busy loving, and the world had shunned them in return. The darlings of heaven do not belong in the dirt with the rest of us. We do not want them because they show us up for the ugly fucks we ttruly are.
On my own little patch of ground I longed hard for her, or maybe just for the right drug fucked moment to say the words that had been carving a statue out of my life for too long. So nearly done, my love; this splendid figure dedicated to you.
Too much to carry. Too hard to watch. These dwindling angels in my apartment.
So sorry, Van. My fault. I should have said. Acted.
And Cecilia angel. I only wanted …
It was much too late, of course. Oh, yes it was, my children.
I bought the stuff, made sure it was just like them. Too fucking pure. “Let’s party,” I said. It was Friday night and they were in need of a little lift. I cooked their favourite stir fry, played the tunes they first danced to and dropped the little pills onto their pink little tongues. Saw her smile like the Buddha one more time. Kissed her for first time. Terrible, wonderful, tragic lips.
Van was the first. She helped me get him to the bathroom, by which time she was nearly gone. Her eyes reached out for me but I let her go at last.
Cecilia angel, I only …
You weren’t meant for this world. I’ve always known it. That is why I never …
I couldn’t drag you down into my filth, my ordinary world of money worries and compromise and bad sex and tired, cruel words. You only spoke in song, my love, and I had no voice.
My third half of love is kicking in now. The job is done. I have saved her. Saved them both … from people like me.