The first time I saw him I was 14. I let out a gentle gasp of amazement and confusion. He was not called by his name then. Instead they called him monster, evil, demon, killer. After learning about what he did, he was called these names by me as well
The second time I saw him I was only a year older. It was in a dark room full of people. They let out gentle gasps of amazement and confusion. I turned to my friends knowingly and told them the horrible thing he did. They called him ugly and scary and sinful. I smiled.
The third time I saw him, I saw his body. It was in a dark room and he came from the only source of light, a halo glowing through and around his body. He attempts to turn his body away from me, as if I caught him by surprise doing something he should not have been. He was crouched over, frozen in time, the evidence in his hand and on his face. I wanted to ask him why he did it in the first place. I wanted to call him guilty, but it was then I saw his eyes. They were wide with something that wasn’t shock or shame. It was then that I was captivated.
I felt as though he came looking for me after that. I would find him in places I did not expect, but when our eyes met I would always look. He looked back at me as though he needed to tell me something, to explain something to me. I was 20 and inattentively flipping through the pages of my art textbook when I saw him. This time we were alone. When I looked at him I saw his tightly clenched hands and his pain. He looked scared and disgusted in himself as if he were forced into his choices.
I saw him again when I was 21 and when I looked for what to call him the word survivor fell from my lips. I understood what it meant to love yourself and yourself alone, and how brave it was to make that choice, and how survival comes with sacrifice, and sacrifice comes with pain. He became a beautiful monster I kept coming back to look at, falling in love with the thing I could never be with each glance.
I am 22 and I speak about him to anyone that’ll listen. If I could speak to him, I’d apologize for what I once called him. I’d apologize for condemning him for self-preservation. If I could speak to him I’d offer him a fork and knife and say “eat up, it’s time for you to save yourself.”
Saturn devouring his son. Francisco Goya. Oil on plaster. 1812 – 1823.