Chapter 1:

To Life, With Love

To Life, With Love

I heard there was some old Hungarian countess who believed bathing in blood would make her immortal.

I think about her a lot. About the way survival is so ingrained in us that sometimes it gets all wrapped up in death. Sometimes the will to live is so strong it mutates; you don't just want to be alive, you want to steal life. It's like money. If you're desperate, you take it by force, right? Especially if you don't have much left. For instance, if you're terminally ill. For instance, if you're someone like me.

It's pretty cruel. The whole situation, I mean. If life were fair, those Thanatos-types would be the ones falling sick and the rest of us would get to live long and be happy. That way everyone wins. Those poor fools could die without having to lift a finger. And I wouldn't have to be so envious about the people whose bodies aren't about to break down.

Oh! I haven't introduced myself, have I? I'm a regular at your café, and I'm in love with you. Your eyes, your voice, the way your hands area little rough from honest work… gosh. Love at first sight. Really! I fell for you just like that. I decided then and there that I wanted to live the rest of my life with you, but I was too shy to say it. After all, my doctor tells me I'm going to die soon.

That’s why I slipped this letter under your door. It's a promise. One day I'll find a way to beat this illness, and then I'll introduce myself to you properly. And you can introduce yourself to me too, because I still don't know your name. I call you Eros in my head. Eros, after the god of love. Eros, after the god who rules my desire to live.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I always wanted to live. Of course I'm scared of death! Who wouldn't be? There are so many things I haven’t experienced, so many people I want to spend time with. I wanted to travel. I wanted to learn how to dance. Instead I wasted my life, and then I got sick. And it sucked but eventually I stopped fighting. I was ready to accept that I'd never get better, and that eventually I'd fade out of the world and no one would miss me. I thought I could make peace with it. I thought I could let Thanatos take me gracefully, but I met my Eros instead.

See, this is the thing. I’m almost grateful that I got sick. I know we like to say that most of the world is ruled by Eros, but that’s not true. Sure, people don’t want to die, but they’re not really living. They act the way I used to. When you’re young, you think you’re going to live forever. You feel invincible. Death is seems far away so you whittle away time on stupid little things. Work. School. Lying on the couch doing nothing, watching videos you’ll forget in five minutes. Like a zombie, basically. You’re just existing. I think there are actually very few people in life ruled by Eros — artists, for instance, or researchers, or those people who climb mountains for fun. The types of people who live and breathe doing what they love. Those people are alive. They understand what it means to love life. But the rest of them? Wasted. They don’t deserve the years they still have on earth.

I'm trying to explain it in a way you can understand. Saying "you gave me a reason to live" seems so weak. I'm enlightened. I think this is the purest way anyone can be ruled by Eros — I don't care about society, about the world, about God. I'm hyper-aware of every second going by. Every time the clock ticks, that's a moment of my life draining away. I can't hear music anymore. Voices sound like the murmur of sand in a half-empty hourglass. I feel my cells split and die off and I mourn every one. I can't stop it. There's a black hole inside me sucking my mind away. Do you see what I’m saying? I love you. I love you. I can’t stop thinking about you and how I need to stay alive to be near you. I think of silent oblivion without you by my side and it scrapes my insides raw. I know Thanatos is calling for me. He can’t have me. Love and life have the same face in my mind and they both look like you. I’m not letting them go.

The thing that makes me angry — so angry, furious, I could just kill someone for it — is how nobody else understands these things like I do. How do people walk around as if they're not going to die at any moment? Do they not understand they won't get their time back? Decades on earth, and for what? Frivolity? Fleeting pleasures? Waste! Waste, waste, waste! Give those years to me! Give them to someone who understands how precious they are! I know I used to be like that myself but now this is just unfair. I see emptiness every time I close my eyes. Why do I have to watch my life trickle away when I deserve it the most? What kind of God decided to enlighten me only to kill me off?

It’s a test. It has to be. All of this seems too convenient. Without you I would have just accepted my end and gone quietly with the Reaper. But you woke me up. Life, and love, and love of life (it’s the same thing, it has to be, that’s why we use the name Eros). You made me realise I can't allow myself to die. Not ever. I need you, and I’ll cling to life with bloodied fingertips and crawl through hell and back for you if I must. I cannot allow myself to die. I’d do anything. And I think fondly of that Hungarian countess, because I understand.

It's like… it’s like taking a diamond away from a child, right? The child doesn't understand what it has. It sees a shiny rock, a toy. Such a waste! A treasure like that should really be given to someone who can appreciate it. Someone who can understand it. Someone who's been touched by a god and fallen in love. I mean, you can deny it — you can pretend you’re just a barista, but I know what you are really. You’re my angel of life. You have your claws buried in me so deep. I can’t thank you enough for that. I finally feel like I’ve woken up. And now I know what to do with diamonds. I just… need to get some of my own.

The countess was named Báthory, by the way. She had some funny ideas about transferring life. Don't worry, I don't plan to bathe in anyone's blood (for one thing, it seems unsanitary). But I know deep in my heart she was onto something. I’m smart. For you, I’ll figure it out.

Please don't try to look for me. I don't want to ruin the surprise (you probably won't recognise me, anyway. I don't look sick on the outside). When I'm ready, I'll find you. I’ll be alive and well. I’ll have figured out how to stay alive for as long as possible and longer still! I want to live for as long as the earth does. I want to live until the end of time. I want to watch the very last sunset with you, but first I need to experiment with putting sand back into my hourglass.

And once I’ve done that, you'll love me the way I love you. I know you will. If you didn't want me, you wouldn't have woken me up like you did.

But that will come later. I don’t want you to worry about a thing. Just wait for me, Eros. I promise I'll see you soon. 


To Life, With Love