Her Yellow Eyes and His Scarlet Tie
He looked at himself in the mirror. He was pleased to see that the daily stress, so potent and so exhaustingly constant, hadn’t yet sapped his supposed “boyish good looks.” He was so used to hearing that, he never realized how much he had tried to emulate that description. He tried to be lively in debates, to crack jokes, to seem relatable, fun, cool…Some say that’s why he was able to poll so well with the younger demographic.
Cold statistics. Merciless demographics. His only companions for years.
Today, when he looked in the mirror, he did not see boyishness. In every line around his eyes, in every gray hair, he saw his life fading away. He saw death. He saw destruction. There was no joy. No youth. No depth in his eyes. They were glassy—hollow, and they held nothing in them but silent obedience. He turned away, he couldn’t stand to look at himself any more.
He couldn’t help but think that his boyishness, and so much else that he once had was gone, dead, destroyed forever.
No. Not all of me. Not yet. He thought as he sifted through tie after tie, none of them quite right for the activity that lied ahead. So much of me has been grinded to dust. Slowly crushed beneath the heavy steps of my handlers, my keepers. I don’t know what I am, but I know what I’m not. I’m barely human anymore. After everything that’s been taken from me, I can’t let them take the last semblance of me away. I have to do hold onto what’s left of me before it’s too late.
Strangely enough, he couldn’t help but think that he didn’t actually know what he was so desperate to hold on to. What it was exactly, he couldn’t determine. It was intangible. All that he knew was that he was seeking it tonight—and that the consequences would be dire if he was discovered before it was over.
But that was part of the fun. Despite himself he was giggling out of nervousness; out of pure excitement bordering on exultation, splashing cold water on his face, gazing at his warped reflection in the porcelain, trying to cool himself down, so that he would seem calm as he strolled casually towards the oval office. He was so used to being watched and analyzed, to being picked apart so painstakingly that by the end of the day he was thoroughly minced, that he knew one false step and everything would be gone.
And he would be too.
The notion of nothingness, of pure oblivion did not excite him as much as it would others in his predicament. Because he knew where emptiness was, so much could get in. And those around him were all too eager to fill that space with their poison.
So he straightened his scarlet tie and slicked back his graying hair, and felt the weight of his arms nonchalantly swing as he walked by all the secret service, the aids, and perhaps most difficultly, his wife. It’s not that he didn’t care for her. If there was anyone he could care about anymore, it was her. But he wasn’t sure if he could anymore.
She knows. He thought as he gave her a quick, noncommittal wave and she eyed him with concern. She knows what they’ve been doing. She feels bad for me. But she never stopped them. She let them have me. She defended them. Even though she knew, she knew…In the end, she was just like everyone else. They were all parasites, and he could never satisfy their hunger.
He forced himself to block the image of his children out of his mind, their reverent eyes so full of light every time he came into the room. He couldn’t bear that light. He couldn’t bear their love. It was too strong, it was too perfect—it made what he was about to do so impossible. He had to block it out. He had to let it go. It was so strong, it was a part of him—so he had remove it. It wasn’t as hard as it should’ve been. He was used to picking himself apart at this point, hiding things he loved so even he couldn’t destroy them.
After all, his children didn’t know him. Not really. They didn’t love him—just the idea of him. What were they really, but living reminders of everything that he had lost?
He refused to think about whether or not he loved them, or anything anymore. It didn’t matter, because he felt as though he didn’t deserve to love anyone.
And with that last thought, his vision became tunneled. There was only the path ahead of him. Only one thing was on his mind now. And it excited him in a way that he hadn’t felt since he was seventeen, locked in the bathroom with the girl he had been in love with since the second grade.
The president couldn’t believe what he was about to do. True, he had done worse in his presidency, much worse. He had ordered the deaths of many. How many, directly or indirectly, he would never know. And he had done it in blind faith. He didn’t hesitate, didn’t stop to think, to cool down, to consider his options. For the greater good he was told. But death causes nothing to become greater, and even less to be good. This he had come to realize. But by then, it was too late.
Realizations can’t bring back the dead.
The thought just made him want to see her more.
He turned to his aids and security, and said, “I am not to be disturbed for the next hour.” And before they were able to question him, he closed the door to the oval office, locking it behind him. He could feel his heart knocking against his chest as if to escape from his body, as if to demand freedom from what was about to take place. But he demanded it to be silent, and, frightened, it complied.
Once it was quiet, she appeared.
It was as if nighttime had come within a blink of an eye, and she was born out of the shadows. As she came into the light, her raven hair and yellow eyes stared at him with supreme amusement. He felt his knees weaken, and this feeling of sweet, unabashed longing course through him, flames tickling the place right underneath his skin.
She watched steadily as he approached her, his arms open and eager.
He had met her a week ago that night, in the bathroom at a fundraiser. It was that time again—despite it only happening once every four years, he felt as if his whole life consisted of it. It was that time when he busily pimped himself out for money in support of a cause that he knew was corrupt and would result in nothing but pain. He was the cause. He would bring the pain. And it was all met with grand applause.
And with each clap, with each cheer that followed each sentence of his speech, each change in intonation, each carefully planned off the cuff joke, he felt like someone was taking a hammer to his head, chipping it away, until he was sure that bits and pieces of him were lying on the floor, crumpled and pitiful. By the time the first part of his speech was done, it was all he could do to make it off stage. People gasped when he staggered off, suddenly ill. His aid addressed the crowd, saying he had the flu. They brought someone else on to speak. He was always replaceable. They told him that. That’s why he continued to do what he did, despite the fact that it was slowly robbing him of his humanity.
If it’s me at least, I have some control, I can do something…slow them up…
He knew he was lying to himself. Perhaps what sickened him most was how much he enjoyed the power. The status, the fame. That’s how they knew they had him. He couldn’t help himself. He was pathetic. Disgusting. Shameful.
He made it to the bathroom and hunched over the sink, desperately searching his pockets. His hand, quaveringly cupping a few pills that were supposed to keep these kinds of thoughts away, was just about to be raised to his mouth before he felt a tiny cold hand stop him. She was there, next to him, staring at him with imploring eyes. She was impossibly beautiful. He couldn’t look at her enough. How no one had heard her come in was amazing. Perhaps she was always there, but it wasn’t until that moment that he was truly able to see her, to acknowledge her. The fact that he had someone that no one else knew about, for the first time in what felt like an eternity brought him great joy.
Without words, they both knew why she was there, and what was going to happen. What had to happen. He knew he had seen her before, in his dreams. She was dangerous to have so near, but she was also beautiful and she made it clear that she wanted him as badly as he wanted her.
And now she was there, in front of him, in all of her glory. So, so close. Portraits of the other Presidents watched as he staggered closer to her.
“Take me!” He begged, in a voice that seemed to come from outside his body rather than within.
“Do you want to be punished?” She asked. Her voice, on the other hand, seemed to be emanating from inside his own head, echoing in the cracks.
“Yes!” He cried. “I want to be punished.”
He watched as her form, so stunning, so perfect, suddenly melted and became a liquid blur. Then her face was close to his, so close that if you were watching, you would think that they were about to kiss. But her lips weren’t the thing that was coming ever closer.
Her tiny pale hands were around his scarlet tie, edging the knot closer and closer to his neck, cutting off the air to his brain, until he could almost feel salvation.
This is what I’ve wanted for so long. He thought as tears streamed down his face. Let me have this now, while I’m still me. She pushed the knot back even tighter.
His salvation was approaching him, opening up through the yellow eyes and sallow face of the girl was that taking him there. As the world melted away, his last thoughts were of no one but the girl. As to whom she was, he couldn’t quite place it. It infuriated him because he was so infatuated with her. How could he have forgotten someone like her? It was as if she was always there though, somewhere in his head…His mind seemed to go in circles, desperately trying to grasp a memory that linked her to him. She was so precious to him, he couldn’t believe he had forgotten…
At last, he remembered where he first saw her. Or at least, where he first put a face to her.
He was on one of his ridiculously scheduled “spontaneous” outings at a local restaurant. But before he was seated, there was a loud, hysterical shout in his direction, and then something was something chucked at his head. He ducked and it just missed his head, but before he had a chance to understand who or what it came from, he could feel a swarm of black barricade him in, forcing him to crouch on the ground as orders were shouted out around him. Then there was nothing but him and her, lying on the floor. t was a magazine that was thrown at him, and she was on the cover.
He couldn’t see anything but her face, staring back at him on the magazine. No, not some sort of rag whose covers were littered with airbrushed women simpering and pouting, but of a magazine of importance, of relevance. Time, he realized. Relief swept over him. And she was on the cover, lying on the ground, beautiful and tragic, her eyes open though they did not see the camera flash, and around her, pieces of shrapnel, and streaks of violent scarlet, and a headline directly addressing him…
But none of that mattered anymore, he realized. She would take him far, far away from that image, and from the headlines that screamed at him to stop—to change, to cease and desist. Most importantly to him, she would take him from the people who were busily using him, destroying him, and slowly constructing him into a hollow, remorseless puppet.
With what he hoped would be the last smile on his lips, he realized that they hadn’t fully succeeded, not just yet. If this did not happen, if she did not get him out in time, he knew what it would mean.
He never wanted it to be this way. They told him that he would be doing good! So much good…he’d be making a difference. He’d be helping people. Bringing them together—protecting them! He should have never believed them. He should have known what he really was, what they really were, what this whole thing was really about. Now, as he was so close to what he wanted, he saw it all so clearly, what he was trying to hide from himself. That in the end, the guilt truly laid with him.
Although he could not see his hands, he could feel the scarlet blood dripping off of them.
When he looked in the mirror, he didn’t see himself anymore. Only in the reflection of her yellow eyes, did he see himself as he truly was in life.
He looked at her face. She was calm, composed, merciful. He almost wished she would be angrier at him, that she would hate him the way he hated himself. But slowly, those thoughts floated away. Everything was floating away. He knew his time had almost come. He could feel hot tears streaking down his face, that hopefully dripped and diluted the blood at his feet.
Just before it was in his grasp, just before his heart finally set him free, he heard a bang—the door was being broken down, and then a terrible scream.
“The president is trying to hang himself!”
Foreign hands began to snap at and then finally grip his waist, fanatically dragging him back to earth. He could see his salvation, so close, disintegrate before him as a flash of red drifted away, floating through the air, guided by a calloused, fat hand…
Before unconsciousness overtook him, through watering, blinking eyes, he saw that the woman had vanished. She had melted back into the shadows, and he knew that would never see her again. She tried to save him and this was his only chance. And now, nobody could. He was completely within their power now.
With that thought, he saw that part of him that he had so desperately tried to keep within him, slowly disintegrate away. Soon, he knew, he would never be able to dilute the blood with tears, soon, he wouldn’t even be able to cry at all.
And then he was gone.
Mia Bencivenga is currently a student at the University of Pittsburgh where she is majoring in Linguistics, working on a certificate in the Arabic Language, and is minoring in Religious Studies.