Iste ego sum
How funny we must look to others the man said, and there she is, not ha ha funny but violently recoiled, pulled back, jumped back from my window tap and the whites of her eyes are opened up wide.
You left something on the roof I say loud to the window and she stays pulled away, pretty face covered in fear, pulling pulling away as far away from the window between us as the seat will let her. My lips move wordless in my reflection, saying nothing. My smile of sunshine on a day off in a parking lot goes sad, weakening like a Disney monster that didn’t mean to, and I see my face: knit hat and greasy hair, glasses coming down the wide nose and sour smile dieing letting cheeks loose to sag. I didn’t mean to I want to say, it wasn’t supposed to and I walk away well you know, you know what you are.
Iste ego sum, that’s what Narcissus said when his reflection had no voice, when he saw himself wordless, fake and flat. I am that man. I am that damn man.
Grendel didn’t know, I think, couldn’t have known wandering the wilderness with the wandering of Cain. But he saw it there in fear-opened pupils, saw his hairy face marked monster standing double in their eyes. He saw there fear, their gasps, their laughter strangling when they met his eyes and he knew later what they’d say, Oh my god, he was so creepy. He was scary and big and greasy and he was just right there and I was like oh my god oh my god. And he knew it was fear of him and he thought wait wait. I’m the villain?
She tells me about the loser at church, how he didn’t get out of college and isn’t married and they think he’s arrogant and no one likes him, and about that creepy guy with the duffel bag who smiled and she was afraid to walk home and I sit there thinking that another place or another day someone’s saying this about me.
Iste ego sum.
Maybe Beowulf said that, when he saw Grendel come out of the mists alone, said that when he knew this was about the two of them, that they were the story, the show, the white hat, the black hat, straight man and comedian, Lone Ranger and Tonto. Maybe Beowulf saw the worst, heard it described, and knew it was him, felt akin, discovering himself in the identity of the enemy.
For my dad it was the shouting crowd, where he’d recognize himself, where he heard the words as his own belligerent shout of crucify him crucify him. He’d hear the words slipping over-easy out of his mouth his blood be on us and out children and would start to cry, would catch his reflection in the eye of the beaten bleeding God and know what he was. Have mercy on me, he say, on me mea culpa iste ego sum.
For me it’s always been Judas. Judas who walked and talked wearing sandals with the creator of all the universe incarnate to redeem mankind, and then decided he was worth exactly 30 pieces of silver. Demons I say, as if that explains anything, as if that somehow makes me safe and happy to know that one of the twelve handpicked by very God of very God one day wakes up possessed and traitorous. Greed I say, or lust and then I let the chills set in because I don’t know, don’t know why or how and all I know is I’m not safe and I want nothing nothing to do with it with him, don’t want my money back and as I’m pulling as far away as the seat’ll let me and revulsion’s coming through my skin like the smell of sweat and my stomach is coiling and recoiling as he settles the rope around his neck and turns against the burn to look at me, weakly smiling.