Chapter 1

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When a girl is told she is nothing
she watches the flickering light
says-lightly my darling-wait
till I come back
till my mouth is a scorpion sonata
till your skin is carcass
till your blood is purple fear
lightly my darling-wait-
I am near
I am insane
 -Jaspreet Mann  

Chapter 1

July 04, 2015. North Beach, Oahu.

My hands rested softly on the weathered railing, finger tracing patterns on the fading varnish of the outside deck as I looked out over the ice blue expanses of the Mighty Pacific Ocean. It was late afternoon and most of the surfers had already come in to get ready for the night's Fourth of July celebrations. A few tourists still lingered in the surf, taking in the last rays of the tropical sun before it finally faded away. I watched with detached attention as they slowly made their way back to the hotels and the evening dinner, laughing happily as they went. Running my hand through my long brown hair, I could still smell the seawater from my earlier swim. It lingered on my fingertips, a smell of paradise and a world away from who I used to be. The island of Oahu in Hawaii had become my home, though I never saw myself truly as a citizen of any country. I was simply a name on a passport, a face you instantly forgot as soon as you turned your head.

Like I never existed.

With the hotel lights slowly coming to life in the distance and the evening luau fires being stoked, I turned and headed back inside. Smiling at the still and naked form of Katherine laying on my bed, I bent down and kissed the nape of her suntanned neck. Her breathing rhythmic and shallow as the ceiling fan cooled and lapped at her hot skin. She worked the local surf shop and was one of the few people I allowed near me. I liked her company, both as a friend and a lover but never asked about my past. To her, I was simply Charlie O'Donnell; an artist that decided to move away from the mainland to pursue her career in Hawaii. I adored her and we could talk for hours on end, laughing about the world and all the wonderful things in it. But she could also see when I grew quiet and the old memories came back to me. Katherine would hold me tight as we sat on the steps of the beach house and watched the flowing blue waves of the Pacific, melancholic and enigmatic it its ways. Maybe the world made more sense out here, maybe it was a place where I could breathe and be free again. Shaking my head and hearing the rustling of bed sheets as the twenty five year old stirred and sighed deeply and contently, I headed over to an unfinished painting and settled down by the easel. It didn't matter that I wasn't the world's best painter, there was release and inner peace in my work; the vivid water colours dancing across the once blank canvass. The power to just let go and be myself for once, no pretending. I did not have to be Mary Suratt, Khioniya Guseva, Valerie Solanas or Violet Gibson. I could simply be Charlie.

That was all I wanted.

"You should have burnt those passports." I thought sullenly to myself, brushing a stroke of red ink across the canvass. Old habits die hard, I guessed. As hard as I tried, I could never bring myself to destroy those damned things. Maybe it was a safety net or sorts, perhaps it was a paranoia that my past would eventually catch up to me. One did not just walk away from such a bloodied and storied history and not expect retribution along the way. How many lives did I destroy, families ripped apart? Did it even help to remember their names and faces or were they simply a number inside a brown Manila envelope?

No, they were simply pieces on a chessboard, removed at the order of some shadowy hand behind the scenes. They never got their pretty manicured hands dirty, never there when the bloody knife dropped. Cowards, every single one of them. I sat back in disgust, my mood for painting ruined.

There was many a sleepless night where I lay awake and thought of the past and I would hate myself all over again. Would that woman I left behind in the burnt out factory shell in Detroit ever really leave me? Could we ever be truly separated?

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