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Authors: Marc Olden
was lavender, as was her gown and satin high-heeled shoes, shoes which a servant cleaned daily with white wine and a piece of muslin. She was an inch taller than Poe, with long hair that held all of the brown and gold of autumn, hair combining fire and sun and reaching to her waist. Poe, with his tremendous capacity for happiness and unhappiness, had met and loved Rachel a year ago and she had given him both. At that time she was alone, waiting for her husband to return from somewhere in the world and Poe’s wife was just recently beneath the earth and he needed to love again.
    Their love had not been of the flesh, for Rachel’s attachment to her husband had been firm, deep, unyielding. So Poe, who worshipped beauty, had worshipped Rachel for it eased the hurt of losing Virginia.
    He had fame and was imaginative and because women had warned Rachel against him (“morbid, dangerous, a drunkard, bitter”), Rachel had found him attractive, as did other women. They delighted in each other and Poe had drunk deep of her beauty and lived on hope, that agony of desire.
    Then her husband had returned and Rachel left his life. What remained was pain, something he knew quite well. Now she was in his life again, in need of his help.
    She wanted him to use his contacts as a journalist, as a man of despair, as a man who knew too much about the underbelly and dark side of Manhattan and make contact with the grave robbers who had stolen her husband’s body.
    But what was Rachel hiding from him?
    She gazed into the fire with eyes that did not blink. On the other side of the closed door, a maid’s laughter faded as she climbed a staircase. “Eddy?” Rachel turned to face him. “Do you ever wish to see your dearest wife alive, even for one brief moment?”
    He twisted his thin mouth into a sad smile. “I loved her totally, some would say incoherently. I weep for her not with my tears but with my heart’s blood. My few remaining friends would prefer her to be alive, for I would drink less and therefore, quarrel less. Were Virginia alive, I would also spend less time in that land which exists between life and death.”
    Rachel took one step toward him and stopped. Her eyes locked with his. “Would it not be worth anything to feel her arms around you once more?”
    Poe closed his eyes and shivered. The sickness that now threatened to overtake him was not that caused by drink or ill health. It was an even more cruel sickness, one rooted deep in personal despair. “Six years ago, a wife whom I loved as no man ever loved before, ruptured a blood-vessel in singing. It was thought she would not live and so I took leave of her forever, undergoing each and every agony of her death. Then she achieved partial recovery and again I clutched at hope.”
    Poe opened his eyes and inhaled deeply. “Once more the vessel broke. And healed. One year later, it happened again and again I had no choice but to suffer with her. Partial recovery again until, until… ” He blinked tears from his eyes.
    It broke again and again and again, crushing me with unspeakable torment as I watched her die and yes, I died with her. Her pain only made me love her more dearly and with all my strength, I desperately clung to her life. I am, perhaps, too sensitive and all that concerns me I view with total and extreme seriousness, but this has made me a poet which I would not change.”
    Poe collapsed onto a dark green velvet sofa and spoke to the ceiling high above him. “I became insane, alternating that hideous state of mind with unfortunate intervals of the most horrible sanity. I drank, God knows how much or how often and I continued to exist, for one cannot call what I endured living. I existed on a pendulum ruthlessly swinging back and forth between despair and hope. Would my dearest one live, would she die. No man, let alone myself, could continue living that way without total loss of reason and when the deliverance for which I prayed finally came I was no happier.

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