Judith and her Maidservant, circa 1623, detail, by Artemisia Gentileschi
A sense of stillness, of paralysis even, of wonder. Time slowly disintegrates, as if in a dream. The breath comes out of my body with the relief of seeing my fears made real. I have been waiting for this, although I didn't know what this was. It is the end.
The culmination of my power is also my death. I become a mythical creature, trapped deep within a narrative from which I will never escape. A creature that will be gazed upon, by you, perhaps.
It was his fear that drew me. Because he feared me, resisted me. Now I have become his world, I have entered him completely. I have joined his past, joined those he loved who came before me. It doesn't matter that I join them. His world and my world have fused. Both of us have lost our last illusions, our last innocence has been destroyed, we are distorted, forever changed, forever.
What is left to me? Only my own secrets. And no one will know them, ever. As I enter the seventh door, I become mute, sepulchral, I become totemic in my inaccessibility. You have learned his secrets, make of them what you will. Mine you will never know. You don’t understand him perhaps? But nevertheless I have stripped him, exposed him to your gaze. He begged me to stop, you heard him. He begged me to be satisfied with that portion of him he was willing to offer me.
Do you think I’m a victim? Do you think I am horrified by what he has revealed to me? Do you think I walked into a trap?
He excited me. I wanted to know. I wanted everything from him, not jewels, not riches, but his essence. For me there can be nothing more compelling than the naked soul of another human being. Believe me, I know the danger. We can hardly tolerate our own psyche, let alone that of another. I do believe he was trying to protect me. I don’t think he could bear to open those doors himself anymore. There in his castle, alone, surrounded by his past. Why would he want to gaze at his jewels and weapons? He sealed off those doors. He lived in darkness, a perpetual half-light. He knew that as long as he kept everything hidden, he could almost forget. Guarding himself, so his past would not be witnessed, named by another, and thus take on an inescapable reality. Once exposed, where could he hide? An object of fear, of pity, of fascination, of gossip.
He knew what was coming. He could sense what I was, who I was. Isn't that why he brought me home? How he yearned for me to become one with him. He wanted me. And in his heart, he wanted to tell me everything. Not the sweet exchange of lover’s secrets, the tender confidences of innocent youth. But brutal, harsh truths and pain, old hurts grown scarred and rigid, things that don’t bear the gaze, wounds from which we peel the bandages, fascinated and repelled. And I, for my part, I could not live without knowing. That is how I love. I wanted to possess him totally, even if it destroyed him. Destroyed me. And now we possess one another, and we are forever trapped in that. We retreat behind the seventh door, the door shuts. It’s what romantics dream. Isn’t it?
It is dark now. Who am I? I am the night. Why do I need an identity, a name? I am infinite, dark and deep. I enfold him in eternal sleep.
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