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Black Knots, Burning Hearts

Posted on 2006.06.02 at 14:18

Once in a great while I find myself stripped naked, not in the physical sense, or even on the page, but in the raw, gut-churning psychological sense. Several nights ago I sat with a friend in my parked car for hours, and what a wonderful conversation we had. Strangely, many of the best conversations of my life, have taken place behind a steering wheel. We spoke much of horror, much of faith, and even more of fear. Fear of the dark wasn’t the subject, or even the Lovecraftian fear of the unknown. The fear our conversation plumbed was the abyss of the heart. I found myself painting pictures with words, describing the stone wall that I’ve built in secret over the years. As anyone who is reading this knows, I’m a horror writer. Grotesque and horrible phantasms circle ‘round my mind in an endless Danse Macabre. But despite the stories that possess me, I’m a gentle soul. I’ve got a dreadful reputation of being noble, compassionate, and pathologically kind. With my pallid skin, black hair, and monochromatic, black wardrobe, I’d like to think I could spook more than a rabbit. But my eyes, as they say, are windows to my soul. I am gentle, I love deeply, and I’ve worked hard to camouflage the wall of fear within. And of what am I most afraid? That my heart will rule me, that reason and nobility will crumble before desire, that ultimately I’ll incinerate anyone who gets too close.

My heart has ruled me most of my life, and I’ve learned not to trust it. It has transported me to places of rapture and indescribable pain. It’s led me to betray every moral I espouse. I shared a verse with my friend that defines the fear--"The heart is deceitful above all things." I crave the chaos of a burning heart, the demolition of the walls I’ve erected, but the dance of the heart is Shiva’s dance–in one hand the god holds the power of creation, in the other destruction. "What," my friend asked, "are you afraid of?" "Of you, I confessed, "of the crack you make in the wall." There was a time when the wall didn’t exist, but since I built it I have let very few breach my defenses. Only one woman, my beloved M.M., knows me with God’s eyes. Aside from her, I’ve let a couple others come within a hair’s breadth of my core. I told my friend, "I’m afraid that you’ll see what’s really there, and the truth of it will send you running in terror." I explained that I imagined the truth was like gazing at an angel, at once beautiful and terrifying to behold. The angels, according to lore, not only worshiped God, but in the name of love slew the firstborn children of a nation, burned cities to ash and turned the sea into blood. I fear my heart burns too bright, with the potential to scorch wings and reduce my life and the lives of those around me to dust. I’m the whore enslaved to his addictions, an unworthy vessel on the road to sainthood. I’m the priest who slaughters innocents in a desperate quest for redemption. I cut out my heart and place it on the altar of reason, and make a meal of ashes once the fire has its fill.

As a writer, I’ve either been ruled by my Muse, or ruled by my heart, and have never found a way to let both share the throne. Is it even possible? So, why did I let this new friend peer through the crack? Because I am so tired of the wall, and my friend is a member of the tribe.. We both nurture our shadow selves; we’re both Nightbreed. Worse still, my animal self growls like a ravenous beast. While I revealed what’s behind the wall, I didn’t tear it down, and I didn’t mention that red-eyed beast that I’ve chained up and sedated. I must not release it.  I must act with honor. For my friend is a man of great and terrible beauty. And I would act with honor toward those who already share their precious lives with me. My friend, on the other hand, said he’s not afraid of his feelings, but rather of not feeling at all. Instead of an inferno of the heart, he described his heart as a black knot of anger--a knot that he doesn’t know how to untie, or even where it came from. No obvious pathology or abuse in his background, no lurking specters of entitlement or narcissism. His soul is a Gordian knot of mystery, and the mystery of a bound heart always lures me in. In a flash I saw that knot as a black wreath of fire with a blinding inferno at the core. The pure white light of a naked soul alone doesn’t interest me, and I’ve learned to flee from those human black holes that feed, but are never satisfied. But a ring of burning black flame, of chaos and passion lit from the center by a blazing heart–that draws me in like a moth to a flame. It never fails to fascinate me. I realized that the Hysterion (see prior post) is a metaphor for my Grail.

So, dear reader, if you hear the song of the tribe, 
look me straight in the eye and invite me into your ring of fire. 
Tell me you’re not afraid that I’ll set fire to your soul. 
There’s not an angel in heaven who wouldn’t swap his halo for a shadow.


allaboutm_e at 2006-06-03 02:04 (UTC) (Link)
I wonder if it's not the perceived intimacy of cars and other enclosures than can inspire confidences...
rjcrowtherjr at 2006-06-03 22:15 (UTC) (Link)

I think you're really onto something. Late at night, walled in by glass and steel, it's as if the cab of the car becomes a universe unto itself--a tiny, safe capsule of reality made for two. Reveleations flash like reflected headlights off the glass. So good to hear from you my friend! I miss you and hope I'll see you at Comicon.

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