Jack,

The same man taught both Adam and me to build a fire.  We both learned as children, and paid attention to the lessons for our own reasons.  When I forgot what to do in my teens, Adam showed me again in the wood-burning stove in my living room during the winter we were snowed in together and I wanted nothing more than to learn to survive again.

In the grate, we watched the wood burn in layers, a little at a time, scaling into squares and charring black.  It's this memory that returns to me when I spread lighter fluid over the sheets of Adam's bed.

It was once our bed, and now his by the designation of the Clock.  It's heavy and dark, carved with the heads of lions on the headboard.  I don't know the kind of wood it is, but I know from the weight of the damn thing the frame will burn last.  I toss matches over other objects in his room; things he saw great artistry in that I burn now in his death.

The only thing that gives me pause is his writing desk, strewn with half-filled pages.

It was the winter we were snowed in that Adam started writing me letters.  Who knows what unfinished and irretrievable thoughts I'm destroying?  Who knows what poetry is now going to vanish when I...

But I do it anyway, because maybe that's how a poet really dies, in an Oscar Wilde sense.  I watch my name curl and vanish into brown leaves of spent paper, and I pray silently that Adam knows, when he wakes up, that I at least thought it over before burning his letters.  I hope he knows this was the same as burning a church for me, or setting a cross down on the lawn of a black preacher's family.  Something insidious and possibly evil, to burn Adam's words - those into which I have escaped for over half of my life.

Like I said before, I don't know how to kill myself.  It's Adam who does, and always for love.  Brad does, too, but only for revenge.  Is there something wrong with me, that I can't?  Do I lack some... romance or conviction, do you think?  I value my life more than anything else, and so I would only end it if it had been ended already, in all but title.

As I watch Adam's slides pressed with samples of my blood heat and shatter, I think of the time I told you I wanted to die, and how, because of our lives as professional liars and killers, you could not believe me.  It's a life far away from this one, and from the one I am living right now, as Annik.  A secret life, where all this needless bloodshed between us began.

"You think you have problems?" you demanded of me through the phone, your voice cracking on the O.  "Like your life was so hard."

"I need to get out of here, Jack."

"You do what you have to, but I don't run from my problems."

"You don't know what it's been like."

I did not have at the time the will or energy to argue your logical fallacies with you.  That in fact running from your problems is your fucking religion, and I had all the letters to prove it.  I was too tired to tell you the truth, or even think about what the truth really was.

"You run but it'll catch up, Laura.  They always catch up with you.  You're gonna die haunted by all of us," you had said.

And it impressed me for the first time how much you could know me, without knowing me at all.

"I need you here.  I need you to take care of the things you fucked up.  You fucked up MY life, do you get that?  I lost everything because of you, and what do you want to do about that?  The way I see it, you owe me," you had said.

"I owe you shit."

I don't know if I ever really understood the chaos in your heart which forced you to make it my responsibility, but by appealing to my sense of justice, you convinced me to stay with you for 3 years.  By appealing to the fact I loved you, you excused your self-destruction by blaming me as the starting point, and I don't know, Jack, maybe I was.  If I was, I'm sorry.

While Adam's room burns, I touch the place on the pad of my left thumb where I unknowingly burned off the print on the glass bowl of your pipe.  In the 13 years since it happened, the scar has disappeared as surely as you have, so I have no evidence of our history together at all.

"Just hold me, Laura," you'd begged me, and so I did, but it was at the expense of swallowing the swords of this, to stay silent for you.

When I filled myself with secrets you'd never get to learn, and I discovered the locked sections of my chivalrous heart, and when I became a poet myself, it was over you.

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