He is the altar where I lay my grief, my despair for all I have not become. I approach him here in the darkness, on a night that, outside these four walls, is as unremarkable as any other. There, stock still in the center of the room, he waits for me, emanating the patience and glory of the full moon reflected on the deepest sea.
As I fall to my knees before him, an overwhelming sense of reverence constricts my throat, and I choke on my gratitude for his very presence until by sheer necessity my breaths return to their usual state. He lifts my chin in his hand, forcing me to meet eyes brimming with compassion, eyes that ask whether I am certain this is what I want, what I need.
‘Please,’ I exhale. It is less a request than a prayer, and though his body is as uncovered as mine, I feel alone in my exposure, as it should be. His eyelids dip gracefully in assent, and he releases himself, frightening feathered appendages rising, spreading, scraping the ceiling of this humble space I have never called a home.
In a moment of daring, of rejection for all that I am called by this world and those above and below, I begin my act of worship. Unworthy hands bracing themselves on solid thighs, a slow, deliberate march of my tongue across silky skin. Snow-white wings beat in time to the angel’s increasingly racing heart; ink black analogs tuck themselves tightly behind my back, shivering in this private breeze, rippling the surface of an ancient ocean of regret.
When the moment arrives, the earth on its axis stands still. The very movement of the planets is halted, and the hidden, coiled power of this celestial warrior is unleashed in a roar unheard by human ears. Goodness pulses out of him in waves, washing over me, into me, making me clean. A tender fingertip traces the paths of the tears escaping my eyes. I am no longer a castaway, adrift in a material eternity. I am his, and it is all I had hoped for: penance, absolution, and love.