The first thing you notice about her is her eyes. They are wider than you’ve ever seen them. The pupils dilated in a small pond of an island of blue. Not the deep ocean blue, they once were or the serene blue of rural skies or that remote beach blue where you can see right through the water to your feet and the fishes swimming at your knees. They were a blue that once held magic in them. A blue of promises.
And her eyes are still blue but they are city beach blue. The slate gray overpowering in its ability to flatten the color. The color of finality. It’s the blue of summer nights in urban places, where the blue is no longer singular but filled with smoke stacks and car exhaust. There is purple, orange, and brown in that blue. It is blue that cannot go blue black. It is a night that remains in twilight.
With those big eyes of hers dashing about the room nervously she will ask you how you are doing. They’ve taught her that. She knows it is a question people ask. You will answer fine.
It will set her off. Of course you are fine. You do everything right. You do everything perfect. You don’t have problems like I do.
They’ve told her people don’t like to go there. She can’t help it. She will say sorry later. And later. Maybe after the meds have kicked in.
In the kingdom of the narcissist, there is no war, no famine, no rape, no pillage, no babies crying. Everything is perfect except what is behind those eyes. There is only her and her imagination and what everyone has done to her. How everyone is talking about her. Her mind’s eye runs off the beach and into mazes, into forests, grown too thick for you to follow. You cannot make it through this undergrowth. Even with a machete in your hand.
She tells you she doesn’t want to leave the motel room and you can’t come in here. It is a cabin in that forest. It is sealed off. You are the vampire at the door. You cannot come in without permission. As if you were the one sucking the last drop of life from her. As if her possession was your doing.
She talks about medication and the dog she lost three years ago. And the men who abandoned her—how if they could just talk to her they’d take her back. They’d realize they love her and need to protect her.
She talks about sobriety with a half empty bottle of wine in her hand, no wine glass, no irony. She has no car keys but she has a wine opener. She says she’s sober now. She just does this when she needs to. But doesn’t that mean—? And then those slate eyes turn icy and they stare. You aren’t sure if they stare inward or outward. You’ve read about changelings. Perhaps that is the best case scenario.
You though. You are sucking the life out of her with your job and your family and your rent paid on time. Everyone is out to get her. Everyone has betrayed her and everyone talks about her behind her back, where the eyes cannot see. What are we getting? You wonder. What have we forsaken?
And it’s true; she’s not wrong. No one trusts her in their houses. There is everyone’s little ones to consider: Wanna see my routine? She used to dance on tables, slide down poles. She could teach you how to find relief. Neighborhood MILF. Only never a mother; only losing appeal. She can roll on her own, she says. Does no one want to party on a Wednesday night?
No one ever does.
But you. You are the vampire and you can’t come in. You stand outside in the bright light of midday sun and you remember when you took her to Disneyland. I can’t be your vampire. See? Bright light. No matter. You remember when you took her to her first concert. First museum. The memories rush forth brightly like sun against white concrete against a soothing deep blue sea.
You remember finding out when she was fourteen how your friends found her in the park with an empty wine bottle in hand, no glass. One of them held her hair back so she could vomit. A few years later you held her hair for her. There were promises that this wouldn’t be done again.
She chopped her hair off at eighteen.
The first time you took her to the beach she must have been really young, like eight or nine and you thought the water would carry her away. You watched her stand her ground in the sand, her fighting the waves. She build sand castles and then requested to be buried in the sand. There was no deep slate anger, no specks of fear and hate in those pretty baby eyes back then. And you wished your eyes were the color of the water and sky. Those elements that cannot be contained. You wished you fit like she did: a small child, a conduit of serenity. Blue plus blue equals blue. Your own eyes are the thick cloppy color of wet sand before sunset.
They were beautiful, those blues: awake, anointed, alive.
In her imagination, there is no sea. There is no sky. There is only her and all who must have wronged her otherwise how would she be here? You want to scream at her. Get in the water. Stand your ground with it. Fight the waves as they attempt to carry you off to sea. I know you know how to swim! I’ve seen you! You were brilliant at it. Tide or no tide, you never got washed away.
You look into her eyes and smile meekly, hoping for calm, praying there will be no anger and no defense. But they are filled now with so many colors, so many other people’s browns, greens and hazels and their shades of blue. They are landfill blue.
They are feel sorry for me blue. They are airplane bottles of booze in her cheap vinyl purse blue. They are I have no money for food but I have a carton of cigarettes rancid unbathed blue.
You call like a chant. Like a spell. Like a hope. Changeling, changeling, change back.
You are worn out, but not like a day on the beach worn out where you come home with sea salt and wind tangling the blue of memory. No, it is the worn out from trying to focus, from trying to clear a bright path, trying to rescue the brilliant color of something not wanting to be saved.