THE POISONED KISS
Joyce Carol Oates
Not one hundred yards from my courtyard the first stranger lurched in front of me-it was necessary for me to shove him aside. He stumbled back against a wall firm and weathered with the centuries, too surprised to cry out after me. I hurried on toward you.
Again someone blundered in front of me-my precious pathway to you!-and I seized him by the arm, shook him viciously, tried to thrust him aside. But he struggled. It was necessary for me to close my fingers about his throat. He fell to his knees, choking, and I rushed past.
And again, as I ran through the tumbled-down cloister, scattering the old bones about me in my haste to you, a sight-seer approached me and tried to detain me with idle questions. Blood rushed into my eyes-my vision was nearly obliterated - I was led by my rage to shout into this fool's face and beat him away from me. He persisted. There was an open tomb in which some whole bones lay in the midst of dust and rubble; I took hold of this fool and, with a strength I did not know I possessed, forced him down into the tomb.
Did he choke in all that dust?
Running, soaring to you-to your kiss - I dream with my bloodied eyes wide open, dreaming of your arms and your slender neck and your white, white skin, your laughter delicate as a thrush's song, your eyes so darkly lidded, so beautiful. I dream again and again of your kiss.
Why do they insist upon approaching me, touching me? blocking my way? Why do they address the most absurd questions to me, as if I were a mere stroller with no destination, a gentleman on a Sunday afternoon with no one awaiting him? As soon as they see my face darkened by the blood of my anger, they understand-but by then it is too late.
I have acquired a small, sharp dagger.
The ground between you and me is uncertain, and as I run it cracks and threatens to split. So I must run faster. I run soaring over the deepening cracks, and behind me there are gaps in the earth into which other men have fallen, weeping in agony.
© Joyce Carol Oates