I shouldn’t be here – and I don’t know why I agreed to this, I really don’t. I was lonely, I guess, but I’ve always been lonely and it’s never driven me to anything this awful, anything this degrading.

But whatever. I’m here now.

I’m here, at the mouth of Hell. It’s bright inside, too bright, but too dim, too, like the light can’t make up its mind. And there’s this hum, a thousand conversations loud enough to heard, too quiet to comprehend. It’s horrible. Deep breath, as we pass over the threshold.

He takes my coat. He does everything he’s supposed to and it makes him that much worse. I can’t help hating him.

The other him is just a glimmer across the room. I thought I saw him sitting at a table there, but maybe not. Maybe it was wishful thinking.

Property management, veterinary assistance and I’m ready to kill myself. I’m considering faking a headache, a phone call, anything but my continuing interest in this conversation.

He raises his glass to me. Not him but the other him. The him that I’m actually paying attention to. He’s more than a glimmer now. A glimmer and a half, then gone again.

The economy. Politics. The politics of the economy. I have to go to the bathroom. Excuse me.

It’s not such a bad place. The floor is well maintained, the walls are rich, the music isn’t unbearable. The snippets of conversation I can make out are infinitely more interesting t

han the ones I’ve been having, but not enough to grab my full attention. And, I’m about to pass the other him’s table. Hymn. In my mind, that’s how I’ll tell the difference. Him and Hymn.

He isn’t there. He isn’t anywhere. My glimmer and a half is gone. I’m contemplating slipping out through the kitchen. I’m contemplating walking out the front door, right past him, letting him know

I’m leaving. Being bold.

No. I’ll go into the bathroom, I’ll powder my nose, and I’ll return for something stimulating about the political economy of property management and veterinary assistance. I’m a coward.

He grabs my arm, hard. Hymn. He’s wearing a mask, white china. Black lips trailing red blood. A heart on his cheek, like it’s a tear.

He shoves me into the wall, harder. My breath catches in my throat, my heel catches on the baseboard and I’m completely unwilling to struggle free. I’m his.

He whispers to me. His voice is dark gravel pouring over hot breath. I nearly melt. My whole body is trembling as I nod my assent and return

to Him.

Is everything OK? I have to go. The only conversation worth having. I grab my coat and I’m gone.

He follows me out. He follows me into an alley, calling my name. I’m telling him to leave, but he won’t listen. What’s going on? I wish I knew.

There he is, my Hymn, my mask, my silver blade, my single tear.

Who is this guy? Why do you care? He’s not you; that alone would be enough.

He whispers again, my black lips, my red blood. He tells me what to do.

We’re the last thing he sees, on his back in an alley, my blade buried up to the hilt in his chest.

We step over him, his hand low on my back, his eyes high on my legs – my stilettos clicking on wet pavement and broken glass.

I love this Hymn; makes my heart sing.

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