Valentine's Mourning

This is still one of my favourite things I have written. There's some gap-filling with regard to Northstar's origin, and I think we know that he is not the most reliable of narrators, but here he will make an exception.

Index

Valentine's Mourning
I'll Leave in the Mourning
Some Kind Of Heaven
J'habitait en Enfer
Valentine's Morning
Outer Demons
A Love Twisted And A Love Eternal

Valentine's Mourning

It started two years after Leon died, the flowers, or at least I assume it did because that was when I began to find them.† Year after year and always on the same day without change.† Valentineís Day.† Each year a bunch of roses, at first red and later pink which seems the fashionable choice for wellÖ people like LeonÖ these days.† It wasnít so much the flowers that entranced me as the photographs.† Every year a photograph and a note in writing nigh illegible.† And always it was the same young man, the same young man who answered the door one day and turned my world upside down.† This makes a wry smile on my face Ė turn upside down, invert, un invert.† Always the same boy, well a boy then not now, that silver hair finally coming close to matching his face.† How old must he be now?† Has he grown into another Leon, embracing another young man young enough to be his son?† No, he was never that young was he, that strange young man in the apartement on the Rue Soleil?† I would never say twenty-one as Leon adamantly claimed and lied, but not that young surely?† Then I think of what he little he said of the life he fled Ė jí habitait en enfer Ė and think again would even this have been a sort of heaven to him?† His every need and all he had to do was oblige and return to Leonís bed.† I donít want to think of this any more than I did then.

So why am I here, sitting on a bench in the cemetery, waiting for the inevitable visitor who I know only through pictures left not for me but for my brother?† What do I want? I know the answer; to know what happened, to know what killed him.† I swore his young man would be the death of him.† Was I right?

And he is there.† At the graveside in front of me he stands in a long black coat, the wind sweeping his grey hair high above his steel eyes.† I did not see him come, I was watching the path, but I did not see him come.† And he made no sound when the crisp snow should have crackled beneath his feet.† I notice the flowers, this time they are white, not pink, and a wreath not a bouquet.

His head turns towards me, watching me with that same defiant gaze those same metal blue eyes that looked at me in the apartment that day, the last day I saw my brother alive.† He speaks in clear crisp tones,††††††††††† ďDo you know me, Madame?Ē

Heís standing by the grave, looking downwards slightly towards the stone; the roses are still hanging from his fingers swinging slightly in the wind.† His head tilts slightly to one side and his eyes shift in recognition.† How can he remember a face so briefly seen?† I think I am just imagining, trying to avoid speaking with my strangely mute lips, when he does,††††††††††† ďMadame Curie!† What are you doing out here?† Youíll freeze if youíre not careful!Ē

Suddenly, the answer seems somewhat small.††††††††††† ďWaiting for you.Ē

A smile tears across his face, revealing an inner bright teeth and more than that an inner brightness, a vivacity of sorts, is that what Leon saw?† Is that what had made Leon love him?† Heís speaking, heís speaking and I havenít noticed.

††††††††††† ďÖI suppose somebody would have seen the flowers eventually.† It was never subtle was it?† Roses for a valentine.† And the then thereís the photographs, I always wanted to tell him what I was up to, what I was doing.Ē

I blurt out,††††††††††† ďI have the photographsĒ

I think Iíve made a terrible mistake until the words come,

†††††††††† ďWell theyíre more use to you than to a dead man.† Maybe knowing that someone else still cares makes things better.† Look, we canít stay here, youíll freeze.† Perhaps we should continue this conversation somewhere warmer.† With coffee I think, that will warm you up in no time.Ē

††††††††††† My mind grasps vaguely at the fact that he says nothing of himself.† The coat heís wearing, while large hardly seems adequate for the Quebec winter, yet I cannot even see his breath upon the cold air.† I stand up, an answer to his invitation, and immediately I slip.† Yet he is at my side grasping my elbow.† I did not even see him move.† Why should I have?† I was falling, yet something tells me that thereís something wrong or at least strange.

His voice pulls me from my distraction and my worries vanish like my breath upon the air,†††††††††† ďThe pathís rather steep and icy, itís a miracle you managed to get up here without slipping and breaking something.† Come on, put your hands round my neck and Iíll carry you down.† No protesting now, I insist.Ē

I look at the path, the whole idea is clearly insane, itís steep and long and ungritted,†††††††††† ďThereís no way you can carry me all the way down there.† Weíll fallĒ

He is clearly quite insane; well the idea was his so why am I surprised?

††††††††††† ďMadame I have the safest hands in all Canada.Ē

With this he scoops me up into his arms and sets the down the hill at a frantic pace.† I am terrified.† No, no Iím not terrified, itís as if weíre flying, the wind rushes past my ears, I can hear my heart pounding in my chest, but Iím not terrified.† I am held by the safest hands in all Canada and they will not drop me.

And then itís over and Iím on my feet again and we are at the foot of the hill.† I still canít see his breath on the cold air and heís not panting.† What kind of man can run down a hill with a woman in his arms and hanging on for dear life and yet not break a sweat?† Youíd think heíd have been standing here all along.† The same cannot be said for me.†††††††††† ďAre you alright?† I didnít go too fast did I?† Itís not often that I run around with a beautiful woman in my arms.Ē

Heís so charming, so concerned itís quite ridiculous.†††††††††† ďIím hardly a beautiful woman, Iím quite old enough to be your mother.† And I doubt you do anything much with beautiful women!Ē

He laughs,†††††††††† ďMon petit ami is another matter entirely, heís become quite used to being picked up and carted around by me, I think Iím ruining him, his legs will fall off if I persist.† Maybe thatís a good idea, then Iíll make sure heíll never leave me.† Anyway, true beauty comes from within and, Madame, you have an abundance of it.Ē

My mind latches on to the ďpetit amiĒ a boyfriend, I may be not getting any younger but I think Iím still pretty sharp, and well as I said,†††††††††† ďYou must think that flattery will get you everywhere.Ē

The answer surprised me at once, confident and effacing,††††††† ďIt normally does.† But itís true, beauty lies within the heart and soul, at least it must since I cannot imagine anyone dating me for my looks.Ē

I forgot to say that this answer was also quite absurd, most girls would have gone completely wild about him.† He looked like some character from those strange Japanese computer games my grandson Phillipe so likes to play, with his swept back hair and pointed ears.

We made it to the cafť by the park without any further trouble and it looked like my personal taxi service drew the line at carrying me through the streets of Quebec.

I'll Leave in the Mourning

I can still see it, that bullet ripping through Leonís head, through his beautiful mind (though I was interested in much more than his mind), and decorate the already disgusting degoutant wallpaper with a grey and red swirl of death.† How clearly I remember the small details, thatís what shocks me, the wallpaper with its nauseating yellow and green swirls, the fractal geometry of the blood and brains flying across the room, the way the light reflected off the gun that I thought was for me.† Everything else pales in comparison, trapped in slow motion, itís as if Iím watching a movie, the queer killer gangster movie that Tarantino never made, with not a ninja nor a tracksuit in sight.† The gun recoils in his hand.† Leonís head throws itself back with an expression of shock and realisation combined.† The head falls forward again.† Itís empty.† All that was Leon was painted across the wall an abstract in grey and crimson on a yellow canvas, a painting by a psychotic murderous Jackson Pollock.

Itís strange but there is always a beauty in death.† A tragic beauty, that Iíd never seen before. Not when my parents died in a car crash while I lay unknowing in my crib. Not when my god parents went to join them slipping away like invisible ghosts. Certainly not when I (safe in the arms of my lover) joined a plot to bomb Quebec central bus station.† An unchanging and final beauty that steals the very core of being and replaces it with a shell of a still life.† And it doesnít just steal the core, the heart, the soul, of the victim but that of those who behold it.† In its place there is a cold emptiness which wishes only for a reunion in sweet oblivion.

Something inside of me dies.† Shatters into a million irreconcilable pieces.† The beauty without is reflected by the beauty within.† A strange and eerie beauty seeking only the varnish that will hold it in place forever.† Itís like a broken mirror at once more radiant than the sun and totally and perfectly broken.

The artist speaks, viewing the perfection he has wrought, and appreciating his reward (the reward of the artist is always in the fulfilment of his vision).† I do not truly hear him, I still remember his words, but they fell only into the dark oblivion of my mind unheeded, his actions speaking for him.† Through art we perceive the soul of the artist.† Here we see his soul, his life, his heart is the stealing of souls.† He covets them and sees that they are beautiful and then he tears them out and leaves but a lifeless husk and never notices the change from living to dead.

I recognise the artist, I have met such as he before, but then I lived in hell, and now he has stolen my heaven, my guardian angel from me and thinks sweet and terrible words will lure me down to lie at his side.† They wonít.† I lived in hell once. Jí habitait en enfer.† I will not return again.† I will not turn back.†

My feet fly as the have never flown before.† All grace is forgotten.† I run across the room, barely seeing my lover slumped upon the floor, he is gone now, he cannot help me, and I leap through the window.† The glass shatters into a myriad shards and becomes a mirror of me.† The artist screams for the ruination of his beauteous creation, yet at once revels in the beautiful desolation he has wrought, as I spread my arms wide and fall towards the dark and distant earth.

My soul has broken into a thousand pieces.† And this is what I wished upon others.† My mind races, the bomb is still in position, safely secluded within its box, slowly ticking its sweet unvarying litany of death.† I shall escape the bringer of my pain, and I shall escape my pain entirely.† I will not, can bear not, to bring this pain, this void beauty to others.† For I see at once my escape and theirs.† But theirs shall be unknowing, they shall never know their saviour, nor shall they know this pain.† And I shall joyously escape into blissful oblivion.† My body shall match my heart and shatter into a myriad pieces and I shall be whole once more.

I tilt my body upwards skimming the black tarmac.† The dark clouds obscure the sky and make my progress invisible as I fly one last time across the city I thought I loved, then found that there was some for whom my love was greater at that very moment that he was snatched away by a sculptor with a cold calculating passion.† And his passion was for me, that I should be made perfect, freed from the shackles of love and care and be made his forever.†

I arrive at the bus station.† The last passengers are still there, a bus must have been late, we thought that it would only be a few watchmen and mechanics.† Yet watchmen and mechanics must still love and be loved and live in some part of anotherís heart, a part that will yearn to join the lost whole if it is stolen from them.† I run into the station, into the waiting rooms, I know where the bomb is, I couriered the plans, and now just as then swift in my urgency I go unseen by human eyes.†

I clutch the box to my chest as if willing to fill the hole within me and I run, I dare not fly with such a dangerously precious cargo, I run towards the outskirts of the city, I run towards the snowplains that have always been my refuge.† I run to surround myself with their clean and pure beauty.† And then it happens.† The box goes quiet.† Dear God, not yet, I have not reached the city limits!† Then I am engulfed by a white light and I am thrown back and my chin slams into my chest.† Thereís no sound, just a wave of pressure.† I feel warm blood upon my lips and flooding my nose.† A perfect joy fills my heart.

And then I weep for I never escaped at all.† The blast did nothing except start a prodigious nosebleed.† I still live and yet I am not alive, nor do I think shall I ever be so again.

Some Kind of Heaven

I waited impatiently outside the apartement in the block at the end of the Rue Soleil, I pulled the letter from my handbag with desperate hands and checked the address; this was the right one, the place where my brother lived.† I was just contemplating whether I should have telephoned ahead, when the light on the red lacquer shifted and door opened.†

The man behind the door.† He isnít Leon.† Have I got the address wrong?† No, this was the address on the letter.† Perhaps Leon had transposed the digits of the apartement number.† But the building is small and this is the top floor.† The young man is looking at me, strangely nervous, his breathing oddly rapid, his eyes growing wide.† He staggers.† Mon Dieu!† Heís having some sort of a panic attack.† Or maybe heís allergique to the pollen of the roses Iím carrying.

I step through the half opened doorway and reach out to him bent nearly double with his the grey hair on his head brushing the very tops of his knees.† And then heís standing, his breathing more measured and an uneasy smile on his lips,†††††††††† ďJe suis desolť.† I have been somewhat nervous lately.† You just surprised me, thatís all.Ē

He still looks rather weak on his feet.† Iím just about to ask him if heís alright and stammer some muddled excuse that Iíve clearly arrived at the wrong apartement, when he draws himself up to his full height.† That doesnít describe it really.† Itís not just that he stood up, that he pulled himself together, but rather he has poise, he assumes a quiet control of the situation, that he manages to reshape the world until it centres on himself and himself alone.† I thought I knew only one person capable of such a feat, my brother, Leon Dupont, the owner of this apartement.† Yet here is someone so alike, it is almost as if they were cut from the same cloth.† Itís not his looks that do this, not physical beauty, striking though it is with his silver hair and gunmetal eyes, but something inside, an inner confidence, and yet he panicked so, he let that faÁade drop. †Then I think.† It was not mere panic, but rather abject terror that flashed into those eyes.† Iíve heard that eyes are a mirror to the soul, but now to look into them is like looking into a mirror you see nothing but what he wants you to see and that is precisely nothing.† An enigma.† A cipher.† Smoke and mirrors to weave a web of deceitful charm.† He is like a Greek statue, perfect in form and substance, muscular and lithe, yet the eyes, the face, nothing at all reveals his true mind.

Itís a mask.† A perfect mask.† So perfect that it is indistinguishable from life itself, from reality even, totally indistinguishable until you have seen the actor hiding behind it, and then you see it as false.† Once you have seen the man behind the curtain, you can never again believe in the false idol.† Yet through seeing this true face, what you loose in innocence, you gain in knowledge.† You know that he is a mere man hiding behind a mask of empty perfection.

Iím dragged out of† reverie by the young man, the Adonis, the perfect youth,††††††††††† ďMadame, this is chez M. Dupont.† I am afraid that he is at his office now.Ē

His tone is polite, his movements graceful, but there is the slightest sense of menace to his pose, once youíve seen what lies under the mask, you look more closely questing out imperfections.

ďI am his sister.† I have come to visit.Ē† Simple sentences.† Do I really sound that curt, that hard?† Itís hardly polite, but I tell myself, that Iím just making sure that he understands.† He must be an au-pair, I mean, thereís no other explanation, especially with that apron on.† Iíve neglected to tell you what he looks like, havenít I?† Itís almost laughable really, heís wearing dark pinstripe trousers with a crisp white shirt and a waistcoat of the same material, but the sleeves of his shirt are rolled up and heís wearing the most ridiculous apron, itís frilly and patterned with pink and orange flowers.† My mind grasps at the incongruities, the shirt and what I can see of his suit are too well tailored, too expensive, to belong to a mere au-pair.† And then thereísÖ

ďIím terribly sorry, Madame, for startling you like that.† M. Dupont ought to be returning soon.† Please, come in, Iíll put some coffee on tout suite.Ē

Öhis French.† Itís too good for an au pair, thereís no discernible accent.† I really donít know what to make of this strange young man.

Heís noticed the way Iím looking at him, hoping that somehow it would all make sense if only I stared hard enough,†††††††††† ďOh.† How remiss of me.† Iím Jean-Paul Martin.† I suppose you could say that Iím M. Dupontís assistant.† Come on, the kitchenís just through here, I was preparing dÓner when you knocked.† Let me take your coat, itís rather warm in here.Ē

Heís so very polite.† Elegant even, but part of me still sees this as a mask. Sure, heís pleasant enough, asking me how my journey was, the weather, my children; but heís asking all the questions, never saying anything about himself.† It could just be that he is vraiment absorbed in chopping carrots and anything other than small talk is beyond him.† But I doubt it.

I hear the door close.† The boyís gone.† I didnít see him move, I suppose I wasnít concentrating, distracted by the rapidly cooling coffee in front of me.† I walk to the door into the hall and look out in rapt astonishment.

††††††††††† ďJean-Paul, donít argue, Iíve been waiting for this all dayĒ

Leon seizes the boy in his arms, for a moment I think heís angry and means to shake some sense into the youngster, but then he pulls him close and kisses those boyish lips, smothering any cries that might escape from them with overwhelming passion.† I drown in a sea of revulsion as my brother cradles the back of the boyís head and pushes it further into his mouth, yet part of me watches in fascination and just a little bit of envy.† If only my husband knew how to kiss like that, to express himself with only his lips.† And then the boy, Jean-Paul, pushes Leon away.† All this in a few seconds that feel like eternity.† Leonís confused desperately searching his face to find out whatís wrong.

††††††††††† ďLeon, votre soeur, elle est ici, dans la cuisine.Ē

Leon freezes.† And then I realise that I am perfectly silhouetted in the doorway.

He cannot meet my eyes.† I donít know what to say.† I know what I want, I want to scream, to shout, until this twisted perverted nightmare goes away.† But the boyís here.† Heís an innocent party in all this.† Well, heís not, heís just like Leon both in appearance and vices, but it wasnít he who deceived me, it wasnít he who lied and hid his true nature behind a mask of lies and half truths.† Leon said he wasnít really interested in the opposite sex, said that his work was quite satisfying enough, that his life was perfect without a wife to complicate things.† I look at him with angry boiling eyes.† Yes, a perfect life indeed without the complication of a wife, a perfect life that went against every rule of natureÖ

Leon finally meets my gaze.† All of his subtle masks are gone, all the lies are stripped away, and he looks at me with such old eyes, eyes that betray his relative youth, eyes that are dark like the bottom of a deep lake; cool, beautiful and lifeless.† His voice is dry, like a martini.††††††††††† ďI suppose we have something to talk about.Ē

I want to let rip right now.† To scream about how he has betrayed us all.† To shout that he has betrayed himself most of all, that he will burn for all eternity in the company of his lover.† Yet I wonít because the boyís here.† And heís condemned his lover to burn with him and seduced him to his own destruction.

††††††††††† ďJean-Paul, dinner will stretch to three of us wonít it?Ē† The boy nods.† Leon is treating this like a dinner party, I want to watch him choke as he eats it, but I donít really want that, do I?

††††††††††† ďJean-Paul, perhaps you can go out for a while, we have family matters to discuss, and youíd just get in the way.† Look hereís ten dollars, Iím sure there are some things you want.Ē

For one moment the boy looks as if heís going to argue then he looks at Leonís eyes and reconsiders, there is a swift cry of ďau revoir madameĒ and then heís out the door.

We sit awkwardly in the salle de sejour, the silence bristling with daggers of thought and invective.† In spite of my burning desire to shout out, it is Leon who breaks it,†††††††††† ďI love him.Ē

Three words and my world shifts.† This is not lust, something in his tone of voice tells me that, it is not some Epicurean indulgence in sinful pleasure for the sake of it, it is more complicated.† Yet can he truly love?† I mean love is a gift from god, how can he love someone, something, that god disapproves of. †Yet despite this, this uncertainty, this proclaimed love, I must be hard.

††††††††††† ďHow old is he?† Heís just a boy for godís sake, Leon, heís younger than your own nephew.† And youíve seduced him, led him away from godís chosen path.Ē

Leon laughs (how dare he!),†††††††††† ďHeís twenty-one.† Heís old enough.† I didnít seduce him, I didnít set out with this in mind, Juliette, we just grew to love each other.† We fell in love.† People do that all the time.† He wasnít following godís chosen path before I met him.† If anything, I saved him from himself.Ē

At that moment we notice the boy standing in the door, heís shaking, afraid; he must have had another panic attack and come back to the relative safety of the apartement.† He catches his breath,

††††††††††† ďLeon is quite right, madame.† Jí habitait en enfer, I lived in hell, but Leon has shown me heaven.† Is it so wrong to love oneís guardian angel?Ē

The rest of the evening continued without incident, as we ate the dinner, which really was quite exquisite, and made small talk as if nothing had happened at all.

J'habitait en Enfer

...from La Monde Invertee the sequel to the bestselling autobiography Born Normal by Canadian superhero, businessman and wit Jean-Paul Beaubier, the Northstar.

The one thing that always surprises me is how easy it is to lie and be believed.† For instance, I have stood up and told the world that I joined the Front Liberation du Quebec while I was still studying at college at the urging of my childhood confidant Raymonde Belmonde.† And everyone believes me, there it is in black and white printed upon the pages of my New York Times Bestseller ďBorn NormalĒ with every edition, every printing, every copy making it truer.† And I lied.† Just before Xavier came to me in supplication offering a teaching post, Harvard had asked if I would care to join its hallowed ranks and lecture upon the business realities of the multinational in this the age of telecommunication.† Quite amazing really, Iíd think youíd agree, for someone whose nonexistant business degree is not even worth the paper itís not printed upon.† I never even set foot in college, I just let people assume that was where I was; dieu, I belonged to the student front of the partie, ainsi I must surely be a student.† (Letís leave my membership of a certain terrorist organisation out of it for now).† It is also remarkably convenient, not that I have anything to do with it as some people would have you believe, that many of those who were in the know have since departed this vale of tears and often in quite spectacularly violent ways.† Thatís not to say I wasnít learning, quite the opposite in fact, and all from the mouth of my first true love Leon Dupont .† And you can keep your mind out of the gutter, I was talking about his words and wise counsel, I donít have the faintest what you thought I meant.

Leon Dupont, what can I say that will express how much he meant to me, how he was my guide and my protector, how my whole universe revolved around his every word, his every gesture.† I can say nothing, nothing at all, that shall speak fully of his place in my heart, of how he opened that door in the wall I had built in my mind and dragged me into the world that had rejected me, of how he taught me of love and the strange and marvellous workings of the human heart.† And, of laundry, of how to iron a suit, of vacuuming, and of, that most exquisite of wonders, getting dinner on the table before he returned home from work.† I am not ashamed it admit it, I was a houseboy.† And I loved every minute of it.† Thinking about it, perhaps I was ashamed of it even when I came out to the world as I stood in front of a hundred cameras and microphones and said that I loved other men, but I wasnít then, I didnít have to sail between the Scylla and Charybidis of fame and noteriety, I didnít have anything else in the world to care about except my own happiness and that of my lover.† And I certainly learnt a lot, and, believe it or not, not everything revolved around sex or housework (a rather underrated activity I find, if more men did houseworkÖ it would definitely impact upon how often I get laid although for better or for worse I canít tell.)† I probably know more about the ups and downs of the world stock markets over the course of this century than most university specialists in the field.† Sex is a very powerful stimulus to learning, although one that will never be adopted in state schools, and that I still possess the cowboy boots he bought me certainly testifies to that (although that may just testify to how infrequently I wear them, they tend to wreck both wood flooring and bedsheets).† Most people we met assumed I was his nephew, with him to be inducted into the family business, I went to board meetings with him and posed as his secretary.† I also acquired the habit of wearing glasses with plain lenses to make myself look more mature.† This was my great period of faux maturity, I think I was twenty-one for at least seven years running, five before the event and two after, and I still have to ask my sister how old I will be next birthday, a suitable warning to any who wish to emulate my career.† In general, I learnt a lot and how to remove candle wax from a carpet and a good recipe for guacamole are always of use, even if Stalin returns from the grave and succeeds in a final victory for Communism.

Many people ask me my views on Communism.† And Iíll reiterate, as Iím a bloated plutocrat living off the labour of the proletariat oppressed beneath my corporate feet, you can probably guess.† As a former political radical, itís a bit harder to guess, if all else fails you can always get the communists to issue a statement of solidarity, even if itís the kiss of death as many political exploits are concerned, you cannot fault them for enthusiasm, and, if all else fails, you can always laugh at them when you become part of the establishment you were fighting against while they are still trying to think of a good rhyme for communism.

And now, as my boyfriend likes to say, back to the scheduled programme.† Jean-Paul Beaubier houseboy and maker of a mean guacamole, is a description not often heard on anybodyís lips, perhaps now because it sounds absurd, impossible even.† But this Jean-Paul Beaubier is not Jean-Paul Beaubier, mutant adventurer; not Jean-Paul Beaubier, businessman and entrepreneur; not Jean-Paul Beaubier, the queer Quebecker; he is merely a boy.† A boy running from the gates of hell seeking safe harbour in the netherworld between the living and the dead.† He is running from the tenth circle of Danteís Inferno, the one where live bad bad little boys whose parents God has taken in his infinite mercy to be with him in heaven while they remain unworthy of his love.† I donít really talk about my childhood, my childhood in the orphanage of St Sebastien, my childhood in the tenth circle of hell.† This is the greatest lie of all, I lie without even speaking, I talk only of vague feelings and bury even those in a mire of information, if you believe me, my life didnít even start until I was twenty-one (although which year of the many years I was twenty-one I do not know) and I came into the world fully formed as a man.†

This boy, the real boy hiding behind the mask of confident manhood, is running with his feet impossibly fleet just above the snow carpeting the streets of Quebec leaving no footprints no trace of his passing; he is running from the love and infinite mercy of God with no plan only the dream of escape.† His life thus far has been full of the love of God, even though he was undeserving of it, unworthy of it, even as the loving cane leaves long and tender kisses red as blood across his hands to teach him that he should not question this love, that to do so is to question the very order of Godís divine creation, that to do so makes him such a bad evil boy but he still merits and will be saved by Godís infinite mercy.† Yet as he writes out the Hail Mary upon the blackboard, the blood dripping from his aching hands staining the chalk a strange shade of rose pink, he cannot but repeat the question for which this is his penance in his mind; if this is Godís love, why does it hurt?† And he doubts.† The brothers say he thinks too much, that this is what lets the devil in and makes his tongue bold and him defiant.† He wonders if these devils, if they exist at all, live within the brothersí hearts and minds.†

The running boy knows heís different.† He runs a grey figure in the night, he has swapped his pyjamas for his day clothes, he has no coat and yet he does not feel the cold.† In truth he feels nothing at all but the elation of freedom.† He does not even notice the way his feet do not touch the ground.† He knows that they can never catch him if he never slows down, he feels as if he could outrun the sun let alone all the demons of hell.† He knows that this is the right thing.† But what if he is wrong, he asks himself, he thinks of the turmoil in his heart and mind, the way he feels about the other boys, how the way they move sings to his very soul.† The screams in the night haunt his waking hours.† The whimpers and sobs of the boy in the next bed cut through his heart; the bruises on his arms and legs make him burn behind his eyes and a sharp bile rise in his throat.† He moved faster than they could see last night and followed them, but he is sure they could hear him weeping as the boy younger than him screwed up his eyes in the futile hope it would all go away, he wanted to snatch him up in his arms and get away, he wanted to drive his fingers into their eyes and hear them scream for mercy, he was at once angry and terrified and sick.† Is this what love is?† To hurt what you love? Is this what the strange passion in his heart sings for?† Is that why he was a coward and did nothing?† Because secretly he craved it?† Yet he feels sick in his own skin and wants just to hide and wash away the sickness.† Despite everything the brothers have done; he still doubts.

All that time the boy is Jean-Paul Beaubier and yet he is kept locked so deep within my heart that I can only see him as someone else, another strange boy with grey hair and blue eyes, a dream of me, acting out my nightmares while I stand in the audience and weep for him.† I can but watch as he becomes just another runaway in the sea of people visible yet unseen who dwell in the city as ghosts.

You can see the boy every day as he loiters in the streets and alleyways and yet you do not, he is very nearly invisible as much a part of the street as the mail box and the lampposts, you are relieved he doesnít ask you for cash or a cigarette, you shiver at the strange look in his eyes, yet you never wonder how he manages to live, and then your walletís gone and so is he.† Pickpocketing is rather simple and curiously satisfying, when you move faster than your victims can see.† With the leisure and safety to pick your target, you can live very well on a wallet a day.

Then the impossible happens; the boy finds his wrist held, it takes a moment for him to react, to slow down and slip out of that world of slowly moving statues, and shock claims him, one of the statues has grabbed his wrist and holds it tightly, the boy looks around in a panic and his heart beats faster in his chest.† And then he hears the manís voice, it is calm and like nothing heís ever heard before, every word is like honey upon his soul and shines like the sun through the clouds that encircle his heart. And when this vision suggests that he comes home with him, all he can do is nod mutely.† His instinct is to trust; yet he does not know of trust, nor friendship nor compassion.† And he does not know of love, yet already he is learning of its foundations.††

That man is Leon Dupont, my guardian angel and my saviour and I shall learn from him of love and compassion, and eventually I shall love him with all my heart.† But that is yet to happen.† Tonight the boy will sleep in a spare room at the back of an apartement on the Rue Soleil.† And I will watch him there, watch his chest rise and fall, watch how his hair moves upon the pillow as a smile breaks upon his lips and I will weep for I know the boy will die in his sleep and I shall be born.

valentine's mourning

I watch him eating the chocolate cake on the plate in front of him.† Heís eating incredibly fast.† Thatís not to say that heís stuffing his face.† Quite the opposite.† His manners are impeccable; his movements graceful.† I have barely started on my coffee and he has almost finished his cake.† Itís not a small portion either, the chocolate is oozing on to the plate from between two layers of sponge and itís all covered in chocolate frosting and chocolate curls.† To look at it, even, this moribund excess of chocolate and cream, makes me feel rather queasy.† And heís eating it without pause, whilst he elegantly chews one mouthful, heís scooping up the next with his fork.† Iím staring.† Heís staring, too.† At the desert trolley.† Iím staring.† He finally notices and pauses for a millisecond,†††††††††† ďHigh calorie requirements.† The burden of being different.Ē

I think, am I missing something, he canít mean different in that way can he?† It canít be that people like him and Leon physically need to eat more, can it?† Not unless theyíre doing something spectacularly energetic most of the day.† Did I just think that?† I feel sick again and itís not the chocolate this time.† I look at him anxiously, scan every inch of his form, to find some other difference.† And I find none, none except those pointed ears.† Perhaps heís some kind of athlete, that would explain how he could run down the hill like that, with me in his arms, without any apparent strain.† But thatís wrong too, no athlete would even consider eating one slice of chocolate cake, let alone be eyeing up a second.† I did this, came here, to find answers, yet all Iím finding are more and more questions.

Heís answering nothing.† Short of saying that I can order whatever I like, itís his treat, the least he can do; heís done nothing except eat that cake.† Heís been here before and recently, the way he ordered that cake without a momentís hesitation shows that.† But besides that, Iíve learnt nothing.† The trail is going cold just like his neglected black coffee.† Black, no sugar, as if heís diet conscious, but then, why the cake?†

This doesnít make sense, what have I missed?† I have missed some fundamental truth, trapped within my anger in that apartment on the Rue Soleil, that passed between them, between their eyes.† Something so obvious that it need not be said.† Or some final absolute secret not to be tarnished, ruined by my ears.† Thatís it.† Some complicit secret.† Or perhaps, many.† How can I tell?† Secret one: why my brother died.† Secret two: what is this difference?† Secret three: how are they connected?† Is there no limit to my answerless questions, the innumerable offspring of my brotherís death and life.† Why that order?† What is more important to me?† How much do I care about what he did before he died, found weeks later in his flat, the forensic evidence inconclusive, every sign that the boy died with him, thrown from the window; the intrusions of police eyes and ears into the carcass of his life and with every word of the official report pulled apart on the altar of truth and justice; and it declared factional infighting within the nest of vipers in which he had secreted himself.

No answers here.† I need to take the initiative, what was Leonís phrase, carpe the diem, whatever that means.† I open my mouth to ask a question, to turn the tables on my not yet sated suspectÖ

Thereís a crash.† A tinkle of shattered glass as if someoneís broken a mirror, not just broken but dashed into a thousand pieces, obliterated it totally as if somethingís so displeased that he never wants to see it again.† There are men in the cafť.† They do not look friendly, balaclavas over their heads and guns in their hands.† They look like shadows, dressed all in black, their features unknowable, the only light being the dull gleam of metal.† My escort stands up.† That doesnít portray the abruptness of the action.† One moment heís sitting, the next heís standing.† His posture is perfect, heís holding himself tall.† And his face.† Everything about him speaks of icy anger. †Anger?† Weíre stuck in a cafť full of gun wielding thugs and heís merely angry and in complete control of himself.† Everything, the cafť, the world, revolves around him.

Theyíre in trouble now.† How do I know that, and where does this confidence come from?† Itís like when we ran down the hill again, I feel totally safe and elated, heís my protector, the safest hands in all Canada and he will not drop me.

The goons, the clowns arrayed all in black, the white skin around their eyes like greasepaint, see this.† They are nervous, they know power and they fear it.† It reveals them for what they are.† The look from his eyes speaks without words, what are you doing here, how dare you disrupt my meal, why did you think you could do this.† But itís not just that, they recognise him, the person he is; to me he is just a boy, a concubine, a lover; but to them he isÖ what is he?† What is he, that scares them so?

One of them, the leader, he is not afraid, no, he is afraid, just in control enough, smart enough, not to show it.† He waves his gun towards us, with practised grace.† God, he wants us, he canít can he, can he?

††††††††††† ďYou and Ďer, come with us or weíll waste this place.Ē

My heart thuds within my chest.† It thuds again as I feel muscled arms grasp me.

††††††††††† ďExcusez moi, but why should I do what you want?† The only way you could get me to do anything you want would be for you to come to me naked with a rose between your teeth, and then I still have my doubts, even.Ē

Heís so blasť, so confident.† In the face of a man with a gun.† What does he have?† What does he know?

††††††††††† ďYou canít be everywhere at once.† Youíre fast, but you canít be everywhere, you canít save everyone, and you canít take that kind of risk.Ē

God!† Theyíve got short stubby guns, like those on that Bruce Willis movie on the tťlť last night, the ones that never run out of bullets and never stop.

††††††††††† ďWhat do you want?† Why are you doing this exactly?† Alpha Flight will be here soon and they wonít be happyĒ

Alpha Flight?† He knows Alpha Flight!† Or is he just gambling, gambling with our lives?

††††††††††† ďOur boss just wants a word with you.† Come along quietly and no one will get Ďurt.Ē

I try not to giggle at the clichť, familiar from all too many movies.† My companion may have no qualms about annoying them, but Iím all too human.† Human?† Is that it?† It makes a sense of sort.† Explains the connection with Alpha Flight, if there is one.† Heís a hero.† Heís going to save us from thisÖor not.† He raises his hands and my heart sinks.

††††††††††† ďVery well, but that word better be ĎgoodbyeíĒ

How could he?† Thatís not what heís meant to do.† The bully boys follow their leaderís instructions and force his hands back into some handcuffs.† Rather high tech handcuffs, definitely not police issue, or furry, very solid looking with little lights flickering.† My hero (ha!) winces in pain.††††††††† ďAre these strictly necessary?Ē†

I donít think that theyíre hurting, itís more a wound to his pride, or is it some bad memory?

††††††††††† ďWe donít want you getting flighty, now, do we?† And weíll take the biddy along for insurance.Ē

He looks smug, laughing at some joke.† Flighty?† How could I be so slow? Of course, he can fly, thatís why I never heard him come.† Heís some flying superhero.† But which one?† I wish I paid attention to my grandson when he showed me his superhero trading cards.† I remember when it was all baseball players.† He must have some superhero name.† But what?† They all sound the same.† Biddy, huh, Iíll give him biddy, Iím as sharp as any of them!

They push us into the back of a van, and sit beside us on the hard benches insides.† He tries to smile at me, to show itís all fine and weíre just playing along to buy Alpha Flight some time, but I know heís wrong, that itís a false smile and he knows no more than I do, he has no idea whatís happening or why.

Weíre hurried along a multitude of dark corridors until we come out into the light.† We are standing in a room in front of a man with dark eyes seated at a large expansive desk.† I donít need to look at the young manís face to see that he knows him, I can tell from his gasp,†††††††††† ďEmileÖĒ

Outer Demons

Iím sitting on the chromed bar with my legs dangling freely.† Iíd lost my shoes hours ago, all pretension of formality has gone, been cast away by the host himself, the man of the moment, Leon Dupont.† And my feet are clad only in my socks, those grey cashmere socks that match my hair that he bought me.† Iím not sure I like my hair, itís grey, an old manís colour; but Leon calls it silver, makes it exotic, different, special.† My feet are bouncing against the bar as I laugh and play with the cocktail shaker, making ever more elaborate catches.† The light reflects strangely from the silver surface of the shaker, itís silver not chrome, never anything as crass as chrome, and as I contemplate this with a dense concentration, the thought occurs to me that I might be just slightly drunk.† No, not drunk, maybe slightly tipsy, but not drunk.† Iíve got a little tip for you; if youíre ever at a party, be in charge of the drinks, then everyoneíll assume that youíre drinking just as much as they are.† You see the thing is, Iím not all that terribly keen on alcohol, I like it but it doesnít like me terribly much. I drink too much and I get splitting headaches in the morning and there are so many better things I can do in the morning.† Yes, those things, dieu, Iím blushing.† Iím still not drunk though.† I, Jean-Paul Martin, master of the martini (how very droll), am not drunk.

Leonís speaking, I should be paying more attention or heíll be furious, but the shaker is so fascinating, and inside I know I like him when heís angry.† Well, not angry, more slightly vexed.† Trust me, the sex is wonderful.† There, I said it, sexe, sexe, sexe.† I think I might just have to revise my opinion.† I am drunk.† But itís not just that; with everyday that passes I grow more free, more joyful.† And I grow under Leon, Leon is my sun and I am a prized plant, so this must be the Quebec Gardening Circle come to admire me.† Thereís a guy at the back of the room who keeps on looking at me, stealing glances, maybe heís a fellow gardener looking to steal Leonís special fertiliser recipe.† I donít like the way heís looking at me.†

Non, thatís just the drink, Iíve gone and drunk too much and now my mind is babbling on about prize roses and garden fetes, it would be risible if it happened to anyone else, but to me itís disturbing, disorientating.† I wobble slightly on top of the bar.† I miss the catch and the shaker tumbles to the floor in slow motion.† I make no move to rescue it before it hits the floor, even though I can move in the blink of an eye, itís all so very far away, everythingís so very far away.† I hear the crash of glass inside the silver vessel impossibly loud in the packed room.† And I realise everyoneís looking at me.† Leonís moving towards me.† Heís worried.† His words are muffled and unclear.

Dear God, Iím embarrassing him.† I am embarrassing him in front of these gentlemen of the partie, those of them who are of our number, our kind.† He had gathered them here to meet his little protťgť, to introduce me to sociťtť, to make sure I met the right people and made the best start in life.† Friendships, acquaintances even, are useful, Leon says, your face remembered halves the work you have to do.† And here am I drunk.† Iíve failed him.† My heart sinks as if it has hit an iceberg.

Leon, of course, sends all my doubts, all my fears away.† The mere look of his eyes, so alive and vital, raises my heart.† The excitementís got to me, he tells everyone, itís past my bedtime, Iím not used to being kept up so late.† There are a few sniggers, but the look in Leonís eyes reaches out to them, itís not so much a look of worry as one of compassion and care.

And so, I leave the lounge and make my way to our bedroom, to get what rest I can with the party still in full swing and the end not even in sight.† I undress slowly and carefully.† I stand in my shirt and my socks and go over my waistcoat and trousers with the lint brush.† Thatíll save me a job in the morning.† I take out my cufflinks and put them away neatly in their place.† I stand amongst the shadows unbuttoning my shirt, letting it fall back towards my skin as I undo each button with slow and meticulous care.† Iíve turned the lights down low, the brightness was beginning to hurt my eyes, and so it takes me a minute to acknowledge the figure silhouetted in the doorway.† I should have shut the door, what if somebody sees?† I have no cause for alarm, though, as I do not doubt the identity of my visitor.†††††††††† ďLeon.† Iím just getting ready for bed.† Iím sorry, I think I lost my head out there, there were so many people, not like one of our usual little parties.Ē

Thereís no answer.† I turn to look at the figure in the doorway, thereís something strange about it, I screw up my eyes trying to make it out, and my heart skips a beat.††††††††† ďExcusez moi, but Iím trying to rest, the bathroomís down the corridor.Ē

I try to sound calm and self-assured, itís just some lost party guest, I tell myself, but thereís something terribly wrong, heís not holding himself right, heís not confused, heís not lost.†

He strides into the room.† I can barely see him, I lost my night vision when I stared out into the corridor, I can barely make out a single feature.† Heís come close and heís pushing me down onto the bed.† Iím slow to react.† Too slow. His weight is holding me down.† Dieu, heís heavy, heís holding me with only one hand.† Pushing me down into the bed.† I try to squirm, to scream, to do anything; but Iím frozen, frozen still.† The brothersÖ Iíve seen this beforeÖ I thought Iíd scream, scream with all Iíve got, scream until the world shattered into a million piecesÖ yet I do nothing, can do nothing, except stare in mute fascination as his other hand reaches down towards the brass buckle on his trousers.† The light from the corridor bounces off it.† The light shifts as he fingers it, as he pulls the long length of black leather loose.† As it falls down beside his thighs.† It has become my world, my universe, my prison.† And still part of me, not entranced by the play of light, the part of me that can still reason and has not given itself over to mute terror, burns at me to shout out, to scream, to do something anything at all, as I watch him far away yet close, pull down the zipper on his trousers and lower himself down closer and place his hand over my mouthÖ†

And my universe explodes.† His body slumps onto my chest, my body, and I scream, I scream until Iíve pushed all the air from my body and the world sparkles like cut glass.† Leon is standing over us brandishing a table lamp.† A very large brass lamp.† I will never mock his taste in interior dťcor again.† Iím trapped under the body, I panic, I desperately wave my arms.† And Leon braces himself and rolls the immense weight of me.† And then he sits down beside me and I throw myself sobbing into his arms.

I donít know how long I cried, making incomprehensible apologies with every breath, desperately wanting to assuage my guilt, pressing myself into my loverís arms as if to make sure that he wasnít a figment of some cruel dream and the nightmare was about to return. †I donít know how long I cried, before I realised there was an audience drawn here by the noise.† When the body on the bed moved, I screamed and clutched Leon closer, seeking desperately to hide within his arms.

The body moved off the bed groaning.† And my saviour, my hero, spoke,††††††††††† ďGet out of my house.† Look about.† Everyone knows you for what you are.† Get out of my house, get out of town, get out and never come back.Ē

And the monster slouched away and I was safe again with my guardian angel to watch over me.

I wasnít safe.† Not then.† The monster would return and he would bring a gun and my knight in shining armour would fall never to rise again.

I was afraid then, terrified, Iím not now.† I am the Northern Star and I bring light wherever I go, and there are no more shadows and no more monsters.† Power resonates within every atom of my body.† I travel at the speed of light.† I am unto a god.† And heÖ he is but a bad dream driven away by the coming dawn and made powerless.†††

And I am a vengeful godÖ

A Love Twisted and Love Eternal

He recognises him, my hero recognises him, the fat bloated creature behind the desk, squat like some malignant spider, a terrible spider in the centre of his web, looking upon us, his prisoners, like flies. Itís more that heís looking at him, I might as well be invisible and Iím glad of it, looking at him like a spider regarding a fly, but not just as a meal, but as a great banquet, as the ultimate delicacy that has eluded his grasp for so long. And he recognises him, my hero, as my daughter would say, they clearly have a Ďhistoryí. A histoire, a story, there is a story behind all this yet I cannot see it, I cannot see it, as the young man recoils in shock and horror and gasps,

ďEmileÖĒ

And then he is himself again and in perfect control, once again he warps the world around himself,

ďEmile, itís rather pathetic, ne cíest pas, that with all the power youíve accumulated, with everything that youíve become; all you can do is squander it on an old dream that was never yours to possess.Ē

Heís become the centre of everything again, time stands still, the world but awaits his command.

ďA nightmare that you twisted into a dream and tried to make sweet reality. Itís tragic that that is all you are, a paper monster, flat and singular as your desire, unchanging, waiting for mother to open the book again and set you upon the same well worn path. No change. No variation. Have you ever considered that you are not truly alive? Just another Ahab chasing his whale, stagnant and unchanging, but not even Ahab could lust over his whale. He did not dream of that heaving salty flesh lying at his side. How long has it been? Eight, nine, ten years; I do not care how many. Yet you will know it, days, months, years. It has become everything, your entire world, and you are trapped festering in the prison of your desire. Was it worth it? To kill a man who was once your friend, to have wrecked your entire reputation, in a desperate quest for a treasure that was not yours; was it worth it? To covert something to the point that, you would willingly lie, cheat, and steal, to lay your hands upon it, upon me for one precious moment, and when all that had failed, you would kill and all in vain.Ē

A hear a fizz, a crackle, and turn to see the shackles burnt away, rusted and twisted beyond recognition; no one else saw, Iím sure of that, they are all trapped within the twisted world skewed around his words, heís hypnotised them all entirely, and none more than that Emile-spider, the look in whose eyes I cannot even attempt to describe, as the realisation floods into my mind that this is my answer, my grail. Yet the implications are swept from my mind by the tide and rhythm of his speech, as I am once again pulled by its current into that twisted perfect world, snatched away from the growing horror by merciful waves of perfect oblivion, he is my world and nothing else matters.

ďHavenít you realised your own decay? The moment you pulled the trigger, you not only killed my angel, my love but also your very soul, killed it and sent it to hell as your pact with the devil. Yet your pact was not honoured. I eluded your grasp and sought to free myself from flesh entirely and make my love eternal,Ē

Dear God, the window, the broken window, the boy was pushed by nothing but his own passion, his own heartbreak. Dear God, their love was true. And at last I weep for my brother, years too late, I weep for him and the boy, the man, who died with him. I weep because I was right, the boy was his death. And nobody notices my tears and still the world turns around him, and do my eyes deceive me, he is like the sun, alight with some inner flame around which this world turns.

ďYouíre pathetic, obsessed and deluded. And for all the power that youíve gained, all this, youíve still failed. For all your obsession, youíve failed. Youíre woefully out of date, but then you live in the past, in that moment, that moment when you won and lost everything you wanted. These cannot hold me now. I am complete, perfect; I have risen ever higher as you sank into feted decay. I am power, now. I am everything I ever could be. I am not that boy, but a man, a god, and I am not afraid.Ē

All this time heís been glowing, slowly glowing, growing brighter than the sun and more brilliant, the thugs and goons back away and shield their eyes as he raises a hand, an arm, in front of him in a slow and perfect gesture. His arm is outstretched towards the cowering spider, who then, at that moment seems so very small. A blinding pulse of light fills the room for one moment and then itís gone.

The panelled wall behind the monsterís head is burnt and charred as it cowers blinded in its seat. It could not look away, would not look away, from that beauty it had so dreamed its twisted dreams of, from that perfect beauty that the passage of time had made whole and pure. The goons are trembling, speaking to each other with terrified whispers, surrendering themselves to a terrible merciful god. And he speaks,

ďI could have killed you. Once I would have. I have changed beyond words. And you should face a different type of justice. For it was not just me that you hurt. You thought nothing of the victims. Not even me, the boy with silver hair. Certainly not Leon, your former friend. You saw nothing but your desire. The policeíll come soon, wait for them.Ē

And then I found his arms around my shoulders as he lead me out, out of what had then seemed a nightmare castle, yet now seemed small and insignificant.

Outside, I wanted to ask a thousand questions, but also none at all, I had all my answers; my brother died for love and for its twisted twin lust. He died trying to protect his love, and when he died he tore that love asunder, wounded so sharply that his love could not bear to live at all and fell to his doom. I had a new question, what had stopped him, what had changed, what made him live. What made him choose life in those swift moments between the shattered window and the sidewalk below? What made him fly? And as I looked at him, I think I saw my answer, but I asked anyway (I think it always pays to be sure of things). And this is, best as I can render it, what he said,

ďAt first, I found other things to live for. Heroism, the lives of others, the sister I never knew I had, so many beautiful things. Yet each time I lost them, I returned to the place I was before, I wanted to die again. And sometimes I think it pure chance that saved me, others destiny. Each time I found myself another thing to live for. It was not until I had once again lost what I thought most dear, that I realised that I had everything, that I had found love again and with that I could do anything. I realised that love was eternal, I never had stopped loving Leon, even in death, just as I did not stop loving my sister when we were apart, but it took another love to make me realise that. In some ways every love is your first love, since truly they never go away. In loving, accepting this, I accepted myself and was for the first time at peace with myself again. I know this sounds strange, and doesnít make much sense. But I canít find the words. Iíve seen death, and what lies beyond, and know that it is forever, that Iíve never lost anyone, merely temporarily mislaid. There are no contradictionsÖĒ

At this he faltered, as if he knew in his heart what his lips were not permitted to tell, but I think I understood enough it is what the poet, although I cannot remember which, said ďour almost instinct almost true: all that remains of us is loveĒ. He had had an epiphany on the road to his own destruction and each time he attempted to retrace that same path, it became clearer until he recognised the truth of it. And yet there was a great sadness in his voice, a sadness that was still there as he asked my address and lifted me up into the air. On the journey home I tried to see the world as he saw it, yet failed. I tried to imagine what sadness pervaded his heart and could not. But he said something of a sister, did he not, I think this could bear further research, once I find out who he is. On second thoughts, perhaps I do not want to know.

I could hear my grandchildren cry out in amazement as his feet silently touched the ground. They fussed around him for a moment and then turned their attention to me, asking what I was doing flying through the air with the Northstar, the Vega. And when they turned back he was gone.

But I looked up into the sky and saw a plane of darkest blue hanging there like a pendulum, perfectly still. And as I screwed up my eyes tightly I could see him standing on the clouds in the calm blue sky talking, I think, to a figure I could barely make out sitting on the wing itself. Then I saw him lean in, and I understood the answer: it was ďlove againĒ.

I hoped you liked this. The poet Mme Dupont quoted was Philip Larkin, quite possibly the most depressing poet that the English language has ever bought forth, and it was from ďArundel TombĒ which unusually is nearly uplifting.

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