The Monsters We Become
“I had a dream,” I tell the wide ceiling and the man at the end of the blue light of my phone, “that I had inside me a great cat, a beast, and it was within me, and me with it. And when a woman hurt me, more than she knew, I ordered the great creature from me to end the woman who had caused me such pain. So the creature left my body, and turned, and devoured me with an anger I only knew for myself.”
“So you see,” I tell the wide ceiling and the faceless man down the blue light of my phone, “I cause myself my pain, not the woman, not anyone.”
There is an intimacy with near strangers that allows for grotesque honesty.
“A nice image, but not the truth.” The faceless man says in hard mid-atlantic tones. “She hurt you, and she wanted to. Why shouldn’t she feel your pain?”
“But I let myself feel hurt by her. I make the decision to feel anger, sadness, fear.”
“Stockholm Syndrome,” he says, bluntly, and I can hear him click his tongue on gold teeth. “Human beings aren’t victims, Sarah. They are spiteful, selfish and sadistic. They hurt you because they can, and they deserve every inch of your rage.”
My room rattles with the passing of the subway beneath the bent wet red Brooklyn brick and the carcass of winding fire escapes, each bone of iron slamming against the walls outside. I say nothing, for as long as I dare.
“But I don’t want to be angry. It breaks you, in the end." He laughs at this, long, raw, loud.
“Yes you do. You love it. You enjoy it. Anger makes you powerful. Revenge feels good. Seeing pain in those you hate is to be relished. It’s human nature.”
“You’re such a Darwinian hedonist.”
“Big words. You could really hurt someone, if you wanted to. You have it in you. You could. You’d completely break someone, if you let yourself.”
“I don’t want to.”
“Yes you do. Who is she? This woman in your dream? You could twist her into any kind of monster, with your ability.”
“I’d be making myself the monster in the process. Don’t you see? That’s the whole point of my dream.”
He sighs, frustrated, and there is a long pause, so long I wonder if he has gone, a replaced receiver in a motel north of the river. “I just want you to have some fun.”
“Normal people go to the cinema or go dancing.”
“We can do that too.”
“You were never going to be normal, Sarah.” I shut my eyes, suddenly tired, aware of the weight of my work shoes. “Remember when you ripped apart that moth on the kitchen table, back in third grade? You enjoyed that. You’d enjoy hurting Eleanor, too.”
I swallow, hard. “How could you know-"
The phone is suddenly hot in my hand, impossibly hot, forcing me to let go. The line is dead, as if nothing has happened, no call having ever begun, or ended. I calm myself. A battery malfunction. That’s all. I’ve allowed him to frighten me.
Then it rings again, so suddenly I jolt in shock. I don’t pick it up, for fear of burning my hand. It rings on and on, impossibly so, until I am left in silence.
1 missed call: Eleanor