They were the darlings of heaven. Van and Cecilia. He was beautiful. God, how I loved him. But she…she was the angel of songs. Like crystal. Every heart was glass around her. Mine especially.
Cecilia smashed me almost every day, cut me up with the trinkets of her affection. Her smile, her kiss, like a sister’s, her druggy-lovey hugs and intimate secrets.
We were out clubbing when I introduced her to Van. I have since paid the price in blood.
You could hear the soaring violins when they circled each other 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 could say was, “You two are so cool together,” and I meant it, every last gram of it.
They were a source of light. Gorgeous 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 chill of autumn. We all wanted it to go on forever.
What brilliant kids they were going to have. Him, pretty Asia. Her, classic 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 everybody’s honey bunnies; gay, straight and beyond, we all wanted a blast of that sweet little dream. Only the real hard heads raised their eyebrows. I guess they saw something none of us 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 clean. Wide eyed love birds flying through a smog of absolute shit. Surely some of the crap had to stick to those waxy wings of theirs.
Uni finished. The party kids went home and scored jobs. The 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, skin tone undies she used to wear. There’s only so many mornings you can cry yourself awake.
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. Legit and laundered. It was a cruise, auto pilot gliding, with only the occasional fumble to ward to off the nymphs of loneliness. To help me outpace it, evict it, erase those seven letters still bleeding.
God, what surrender! As if to defy is simply to throw up one’s hands. 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.
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 on 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 yet 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 nigh divine 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 flood in my veins, and I knew that a grey world debt had been paid off by hocking the jewels of an upwardly mobile dream.
“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 night?
They were so goddam 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 fruitless days and, in effect, what they were telling me 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.
Their love was as springtime as ever, though. I would catch them smiling at each other; tender 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 waiting for the leftover light, my spare granules of heaven. I collected them, like 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 for lack of talent or effort. It was not understanding the rules. Being too beautiful. Failing to say the right thing when all it needed was a practiced 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 her. Comfort, contacts, any camera she could name. Abject devotion. But 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. Medication.
For a while it worked. Tina, Sandra, Francesca. Smoking, snorting, shooting. Cutting into the profits until it hit me. Girls and highs, Cecilia in disguise. 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? Is this my doomed epistle?
As if to confirm, things got worse 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 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 slow-mo decay, detailed and unmissable. 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.
And there it was. The ground opening up. The swallowing of every last hope and denial. Their attraction was such that it would forever keep 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, and we do not want them because they show us up for the ugly fucks we are.
On my own patch of ground I still longed 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 many years.
So nearly done, my love, this splendid monument 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. Pure. “Let’s party,” I said.
It was a Friday night, and we were all in need of a little lift. I cooked their favourite stir fry, played the tunes they first danced to, and slid the pin into their veins. Saw her smile like the Buddha one more time. Kissed her for the 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 wanted…
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, of bad sex and tired, cruel words. You only spoke in song, my love, and I had no voice.
The third half of love is kicking in now. I did the job, took the jab. I have saved her. Saved them both. From people like me.