The bard's story caused a tremor in me: was I really marching pell-mell into my own mess-up? Nothing admirable, it seemed, could come from murderous ambitions, though I realized that my predicament was really a kind of self-defense, a preemptive strike against someone with a talent for menace and rout. Nevertheless, the floating dagger had me doubting my whole personality, which was uncomfortable since I am not the type who changes his mind unless scientific proofs are presented. Resolve is important. That night indigestion forced me to swallow a chalky pink antacid; a low hum of anxiety had infested my guts like a gang of bees. As we lay in bed I continued to feel my gizzard clench from what resembled fright; at one point I caught my hand trembling and my whisper on the verge of prayer.
Gillian looked up from her new book on the giant squid and asked what was wrong. I said, "Your beauty boondoggles me," and that pleased her quite a bit.
"Listen to this," she said. "The giant squid can weigh as much as two thousand pounds and grow to over seventy feet in length. Seventy feet! It's the largest of all aquatic invertebrates, and lives at depths of two thousand feet. No wonder we can't get at him. But I can smell him, Charlie. I know he's down there."
And I found these facts perplexing; I could not fathom two thousand feet or, at that moment, two steps. Facts about the giant squid make my lover damp — I encouraged her pre-bed reading — and we indulged in each other's bodies for nearly an hour. Twice I thought I would hyperventilate or else have cardiac arrest.
My dreams that night were made by Lovecraft. I woke disturbed and canceled my writing work for the day. After pacing through our apartment all morning, I called on a priest at my boyhood church, Christ the King, because, let's face it, no man can outpace his childhood, how he was harangued by those in positions of authority. A lapsed Catholic is the most devout Catholic of all; you have to experience this virus for yourself really to get my gist, though in the meantime just trust me. A Gothic-looking structure of brownstone, Christ the King Church is flanked by wide rectangles of green lawn and canopied by olden oak trees. As a kid I always wondered who cut the grass; as an adult I know it's a kiss-ass congregant volunteering to push a mower in hope of earning a bed in heaven. It was noon this day, not the usual time for sinners to divulge their crimes, but I told the priest I wouldn't speak unless we were in that confessional booth, the crimson velvet curtain like a blanket between us. This priest had NBA limbs; something about him looked tubercular. His face was pockmarked, his dimples deep enough to hide marbles.
"What troubles your soul?" he said.
"Well, Father, you might not get this, but I have a burning love for my lady."
"My child, I as well have a burning love for Christ our Lord."
"Right," I said. "So you know what I mean."
"Good. And when a man has this burning love, nothing at all can keep him from it."