Tugat haNefesh

This way-more-abstractly-metaphorical-than-I-usually-write story was inspired by one of the exercises in Holly Lisle’s “How to Beat Writer’s Block.” She calls him her “muse”; I call her my very life-breath.

My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
(Psalm 119:28)

Flashlight in hand, I progress slowly down each step, toward the dungeon in which I keep my soul. Repeating drops of condensation drip, drip, drip and echo off the cold, dead walls. The scent of urine and defecation permeates the air, and intermingles with a poison must.

I loathe this place, which reeks of hell and depression.

I approach the cage. My keys rattle against the thick, steel slats, as I wrestle with the heavy padlock.

The noise rouses my soul from her bed on the concrete. She glares at me in terror, her once luminous countenance now merely flickering a dim grey, bruised and mottled from years of abuse and neglect. She slinks into the opposite corner. I swing the gate open, slowly enter the cage, but do not approach her. The horror of a hundred thousand past encounters etches itself into her eyes, as they follow me, tracking me.

I stoop in my corner of the cage. I try not to touch the floor with my knees or hands, but I cannot get down to her eye-level, because she is balled up tight as an armadillo bug, her eyes peeking out from behind emaciated fingers.

“I wanted you to make me popular, powerful,” I explain. “I expected you to do whatever necessary, whatever I demanded. I thought that would bring me fame and fortune, and fame and fortune would bring me happiness.”

My eyes stare as into the void.

“But it didn’t work,” stolid. “And now there’s no one left in the house but you and me. And I’ve all but killed you.”

I rise, not knowing what else I might say. I want to tell her I’m sorry, but I know she cannot believe me. I have worn out any trust she may have ever had for me.

“I’ll leave the door open for you. I hope you decide to rejoin me upstairs.” I begin to leave.

Pausing: “For what it’s worth, I promise never to make demands like that of you again. I promise from now on, we’ll only create what we both desire to create. And I’ll never cage you again or attempt to restrain you.”

No answer. No movement.

I return to my favorite space, in the once-bright reaches of my home, a place formerly full of possibilities and promise. Now, dark except for a single, yellow incandescent lamp.

In the distance, a tentative step falls on my ear. And another. Getting closer now.

And the tiniest tear I feel returning to the corner of my dry eye.

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I’m so sorry. And I’m glad you let her out.


Thanks so much for the kind thoughts, Holly, and thanks again for sharing your experiences so others can benefit from them.


Tim, my sweetheart, do you feel better now?

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