The Hour of the Fey by Terence Sellers

BOMB 4 Fall 1982
004 Summer Fall 1982

Of what kind was my infirmity? Was it natural, neurotic, or induced by the excellence of my passion? Natural to some degree, assuredly, for a foul heredity was mine. But let us not stop to cringe. Neurotic? The weak of imagination favour this word. No, the fault lay in the purity of my heart, and the great tragedy of my existence at that time was I felt I would never find anyone who could respond to me in the fashion my violent nature required. I thought I had sensed in him a potential to love as acutely as did I, but he was, above all, a civilized beast. And so the fault became expressly mine. The necessity that I remain forever alone, as a kind of pariah nobility, impressed itself upon me, but to this I had yet to accustom my hours. So did I press to my eye the vision of suicide.

Once before I had tried to kill myself and had been told: when you feel like doing it, don’t keep it to yourself, tell someone. So I told him, and my friends, and various acquaintances. My plan turned out to be a great social success, everyone laughed and joked about it. Everyone enjoys the sordid effusions of a broken heart, but my best girlfriend grew very bored. She suspected me of lying, for pity. No one really believed me, and I cannot blame them, for I possessed the worst of faith! But all the same they did help force my hand to it.

I had been trying to force him to love me. He claimed he was incapable of it, due to some woman in his past. He was a mathematical genius. I was malevolently jealous of him, and once in a paroxysm I wrecked his apartment. I threw all of his clothes out of the closet, tore all the books off the shelves, flung the blankets out the window. I was in such a frenzy of hatred I spat until my mouth was dry all over his pillow. He left it like that for eight days, and on the eighth day I repented and cleaned it up while he watched.

Another time I went into his room while he was asleep. I tried to shove a plastic bag into his mouth and took out a little knife and stabbed him superficially. He was awake and observing me do this. I hated him intensely and didn’t even know it. He was a stake, a psychic vampire, and I was right to try to kill him.

I refused to give up on him. I went to a psychiatrist with my problem, but I never told him what it was. I just sat there, evil, waiting to be punished. He urged me to dress up prettily and be gay. I tried this and it worked, which sickened me more than anything. I gave up and lied, said it was all because I couldn’t sleep, so with typical psychiatric sterility of intent he presented me with a prescription for sleeping pills.

I already had a full bottle in my medicine cabinet, as well as an untouched bottle of Stelazines, the tiny blue antipsychotic. Quietly I awaited the disaster that would propel me to open them. In spite of my passivity, something was going to happen, I was so dense I seemed inviolate … but for too long I had loved a dead thing, had closeted myself up with it. Soon, I hoped, would my mind swerve past sense, starve, and the derelict’s stability psychosis would hit, and lay its habit on my days.

I just couldn’t hack it, seeing people, I only wanted to see him. I didn’t want to walk around, or talk to anyone, I couldn’t respond, or hear what was said to me. I hated the morning, daylight nauseated me. I tried to get out at 7:00 before it got too strong. By noon I was half dead from swallowing my gorge, hating everything, faking, tolerating my half-assed life. After lunch I’d stagger home, pinioned like some stark insect by the noon brilliance, that sun like the full, ill blossom of my rancour.

By 7:00 each day I was in the school cafeteria, eating a large plateful of slightly undercooked eggs. I enjoyed the slimy vileness, pleased that I hated my food. I swallowed the necessity, without salt or delicacy. I often overslept mealtimes due to my increasingly frequent habit of napping at anytime I was not in class. When I overslept a meal I forced myself to pass out again. I had no money to buy food at the coffeeshop and my credit was bad with them. I wasn’t sure what was worse, going hungry or seeing him in the community dining hall, carrying on as though I didn’t exist.

When I wasn’t sleeping or in class, I would be in the library in a closed-in desk working fanatically at translating pages of Greek. As time went on I missed class everyday, but still I did all the work and more, which infuriated the teacher. I’d put the assignments in his box, and he’d pretend it didn’t matter. I told him about my sleeping problem and he just sneered. He was a young repressed homosexual and had never quite gotten over the fact that I’d said Alexander Pope was turgid.

The one I was in love with still came to my room. He didn’t want anyone to know we were together, so he came to me secretly. Even if I locked my door he would go through someone else’s room on the floor, and come in through my balcony door. I started locking that too, and I’d wake up to see him staring in the window. He was like a starving vampire. When he got in, he’d wake me by sitting on the edge of my bed, and gaze into my face with these huge pallid blue eyes. Sometimes he would do something to me, and then go, with not one word being exchanged. I let him do as he wished—I was disgustingly grateful.

I was able to drop into sleep at will, and in time every minute not spent eating, doing homework, or going to class was spent sleeping.

I kept bunches of dead flowers in my room—a symbolist conceit. There were times I felt like throwing them away, but I did not allow myself to do so. I was dutifully morbid. It was important to think about death as much as possible. “If he will not love me, I want to die” I would say to myself, and feel so degraded, that I developed the idea that my love for him had subtly transmuted into a love for death. This made perfect sense, as the proper response to his coldness of heart. He gave me nothing, but it was not enough, and I lunged towards absolutely nothing.

I knew it would be an embrace that would satisfy me. I was sleeping a lot to accustom myself to that twilit world. I anticipated with intense pleasure that place where everything was half-known, vague, half-seen.

I was still full of longing, but now my longing did not stop at him—it had no object. In the light of my new expectation, he was an empty box with a broken hinge … while my interior life was vast, rich, and best of all at attention! for the great mystery that was to be revealed. He was an irritating speck in my eye, as I gazed upon the spectacle of the full moon …

I chose what induced misery, avid for black, what order in my life sprang all drear from melancholia. Overwrought by the constant of an unattainable aspiration, and now bereft of a material object of desire, I became dangerous … but I was too weak and cowardly to harm anyone but myself, I could die without anyone quarreling with me about it.

I began experimenting with crying. I cried so much, and no one ever came to stop me. I would even time how long I could go on crying. Palpably I reached down into my body with the sobs, past throat and lungs, into the stomach, reached down past the visceral sensation of vomiting that comes with compulsive tears—til I wept in a landscape that existed only in the mind’s eye, no one could hear me for I was no longer in the world. Within this field was the source of the crying, some kind of gut, a raw spot, a disease spigot, a little germ of horror that buzzed when you hit it, and I hit it, and hit at it til I thought, I’ll never feel again! But I kept on weeping, and my sorrow grew much deeper than my love had ever been.

I woke up one morning, I was exhausted. What was the value of my suffering any longer? What was I going to reap from this pain? I laboriously dressed. “Useless,” I blinked as I turned on the tap. Why wash? What’s dirt can’t ever come off, disgusting to engage in the symbol! Two students greeted one another outside on the path—”Pathetic!” I hissed to myself, I had missed breakfast. I dragged myself to my Greek class.

The tutor was predictably hostile, but I was so unintimidated he soon flared up in my face. Yet my lesson was prepared paranoid perfect and he humiliated himself with useless fault-finding. It was already a desperately hot day and the class was indolent, dreamy, not working at all. Only I, depressed beyond human tolerance, had the escapism that morning to pry into the arcane nut of a line of Homer.

I robotically passed on to my geometry class. Halfway through I bolted for the door; the tutor smiled blithely and waved as I left. I sat outside in the blaze of the 11:30 southwestern light. I was virtually stinking in the sun. I was diseased, congenitally, by decree, the law had setup my conditions, they were irreversible, I was evil and sick, I had to die, otherwise the infection would spread throughout the world. I was catching.

I walked out into the surrounding wilderness without knowing where I was going. The impassive eye of nature upon my ravagement soothed me. I wrote in my notebook one feeble sentence, something like, I don’t know how to breathe. I fell into a fantasy of every single one of my bodily functions passing from involuntary to voluntary control. I would have to spend the rest of my life beating my heart, squeezing my lungs, commanding blood cells to absorb oxygen til my control passed on to functions so small, so abstract, I would reinvent my body and evolve to not eating, not sleeping, and certainly not ever having to have sex again. I fell over onto the dry red ground and went to sleep.

It was late afternoon when I woke up. I had missed lunch. Pebbles were stuck to my face and I let them stay there. A strange cloud of amber dust hung in the uncannily silent air, as though some disturbance had oocured just before my waking … I’d missed something … I looked around for the snake poised to strike. I had run a long way trying to get lost and it took me an hour to walk back.

I got to my room and locked the door. It was 4:30 and I lay down fully dressed and immediately went to sleep. At 6:15 I woke up again. Dinner was just beginning. I couldn’t face them, I didn’t want to see him or anyone else ever again. I went back to sleep. At 9:30 I woke up again. I just couldn’t hack it. From my desk drawer I got the bottle of Johnny Walker Black, crept out into the hall and filled a quart jar with water. I set out my cache of drugs: 30 Dalmanes, almost 40 Stelazines, I opened the scotch and made myself a large but weak drink, pouring a quarter of the bottle into the jar. I drank down a third of this, And refilled the jar with scotch. I had rehearsed this simple act many times, knew I’d be drinking it straight without batting an eye in half an hour. I started with the Dalmanes, two at a time, washing them down with scotch. Had to be careful not to drink too much too fast, like the last time, you threw up right away. Just enough for the stomach to handle and absorb innocently into the blood. I soon started the Stellas, I was already feeling nauseous. Found some crackers and ate them … brushed my hair, put on lipstick. No note, it’s too stupid, everything left open to interpretation.

Around midnight I snapped to. I got up and unlocked my door, then passed out again. He came in at midnight and saw me sleeping. He hadn’t seen me all day and was wondering. But there was nothing odd about my sleeping 18 hours a day as far as he was concerned. Around 1:30 he came back and looked around the room, saw the scotch and the empty vials. He went and got the bitch nurse to carry me off to the hospital in her Volkswagen. I hated her so much. Once I’d thought I had VD and she wouldn’t let me sit fully clothed on a chair. She could now grovel over some pitiful moral maxim concerning the justice of it all.

It was too late to get my stomach pumped. He stayed with me in this little room with a padded table. I had no idea who he was. I stared at his shirt and said, That’s a nice shirt. He stared at me with the pallid eyes. His victim was abandoning him, but he looked like he always did, like a cold fish. I said, you’re dead and passed out.

I stayed in the hospital five days. They gave me tranquilizers and a plump cheerful psychiatrist came to look at me. He asked me, When was the last time you can remember that you weren’t depressed? I thought about it for so long I started laughing. On the fourth night I woke up and went out to the nurses’ station. Excuse me, I asked, why am I here? I was wondering if they’d found out something terrible about me. She responded, Do you want to go home? Yes, please, I replied. I was thinking about a class I wanted to go to the next day.

The next morning I telephoned him. He had not come to see me at all in the hospital. I said, You have to come and help me carry all my books and presents. I wasn’t about to listen to any excuses, and he couldn’t say No though he wished he could. I walked through the hospital corridors in my long black velvet coat feeling positively triumphant. I felt all stared at him with disapproving eyes, everyone knew it was his fault and he was humiliated—I imagined. I felt them cheering me in their hearts.

So was revenge mine, I had accomplished what I set out to do. I had marked him ineradicably! by loving him to its logical conclusion. Now purified by that fire, I was cleansed but moreso was he though he did not yet understand. I had brought myself closer to being an angel, and never again would I suffer from a desolate embrace.

Nari Ward by Lee Jaffe
Ward Nari 1
Danielle Evans by Jamel Brinkley
Portrait of author Danielle Evans. The photograph is tinted pink.

In Evans’s first interview before the release of her new and unintentionally prescient collection, The Office of Historical Corrections, she discusses humor, power, and replicas of the Titanic.

Born on October Fourth by Armando Suárez Cobián

We dreamed of meeting in a European city on her birthday.

Love (ii) by Ben Ehrenreich
Ben Ehrenreich 01

This First Proof contains the story “Love (ii).”

Originally published in

BOMB 4, Fall 1982

Georgia Marsh, Paul Bowles, Michael McClard, Olivier Mosset & Fred Brathwaite, and Duncan Hannah. Cover by Mary Heilmann.

Read the issue
004 Summer Fall 1982