madonna by joe aaron

"I’d like to know why they were so obsessed with this Madonna,” Kane commented as we strolled along a hallway of Renaissance paintings. Her frequent astonishments at the significance others place on matters that she considered meaningless led me to conclude that she had difficulty with empathy, trapped in her own subjective mind. She turned and looked at me, wide-eyed and tight-lipped.
I nodded. We moved into another open room in the newly renovated art museum. I examined a pieta and felt a distinct emptiness in my heart as I studied the expression of the mother’s face, cradling her son’s crucified body.
“I think men want a feminine god,” my voice wavered.
Jane snorted. I ignored her.
“I think that’s why the Catholics glorify the mother of God. Christians used to believe that man originated from the earth, that God formed man from the dust of the ground. But no one can accept that, not if they’ve witnessed the birth of a child. No, we’re dependent on women, born of woman, yet… we’re not women at all, but this other creature: this man.”
Jane laughed, “You’re so serious.” She would always laugh a little too loudly. I buried my hands deep in the front pockets of my jacket, hiding them, and turned my face toward another sculpture in the corner of the room. She must have sensed my embarrassment, turning me around and lightly kissing me on the lips. “That’s why I like you so much.”
This time I had the chuckle, at her naïve simplicity. I only needed her for my biological drive for sexual intercourse. Her companionship, while mildly entertaining, wasn’t an intellectually stimulating experience, but an outlet for my sexual appetite. We were descending an old staircase when I explained to her that I was seeing other people, and that I understood—in fact, that I would prefer—if we didn’t see each other anymore. I didn’t believe that we had much in common.
That was the last thing I remembered before the unstable staircase came loose from its fixtures, and we fell. Jane had reached out for me, instinctively, as I flailed my limbs about me, trying to maintain control. Somehow she had wound herself around me, tragically breaking my fall.
They rushed her to the hospital, and I remained by her bedside, hoping that one day she’d wake up from her coma. We had argued about the meaning of the word through our brief relationship, and this was when I finally believed in it. Believed in love. I fell in love with her, sitting up all night by her bedside, watching for some sign of consciousness. I was the one who noticed that Jane had stopped breathing.
I was standing in the corner of her room, flat and stolid, watching from a distance much further from any physical measurement as doctors rushed about the room. Her eyes had turned white. Her organs were failing, her blood too thick to circulate through her body. She was pronounced dead.
Her heart had stopped.
I guess we did have a lot in common, after all.
I was there, sitting in the front row at the funeral. My mind drifted through the realms of alternate happenings, through the lands of wishes and dreams. The somber preacher was delivering a somber eulogy, a tradition that I was wondering if Jane might have laughed over.
A small voice muttered, lazily, “It’s freezing in here…”
Jane sat up in her coffin so suddenly that the preacher dropped his bible and rushed out of the room as if he had been exposed as a fraud. Sitting beside me, her mother shrieked and subsequently fainted, falling into my shoulder. I merely brushed her away and lackadaisically stepped towards Jane.
My mistress of death, sickly pale and gorgeous, blinked through her incomprehension and I staggered through my own disbelief. Although presumed dead, her radiance was shining once again, enlightening me with its fresh scent of wonder and intrigue. Was she truly alive, or was I still daydreaming?
I reached out with my fingertips and touched her trembling lips. I cupped her head in my hands for a moment. A small, tingling wave of euphoria rippled from the top of my spine and washed into my shoulders and down my back. I was shivering. I realized how much I needed her.
“Jane,” I lightly whispered, “you’re alive.”
“Yeah,” her jaw dropped and remained opened.
I continued, “I want to marry you. I’m in love with you, Jane. I fell in love with you over the last few months, watching you die in the hospital. But you didn’t die. You’re not dead, and I don’t have to be either. I haven’t been entirely open and honest with you, and I want to change that. I regret trying to break up with you, and I want you back. I want you back because I love you. Will you… marry me? Jane, my love?”
Jane looked up at me with her hauntingly emerald eyes and muttered, “Fuck you.”

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