What was it like, Jane Eyre? That night when you woke to find love waiting at your door to trip you? You wrote nothing of alarm, but you felt it, right? That fear crept within you, no matter how you denied it to him, right?
What was it like, Jane Eyre? To be cast out by love, for cruelty to take pity upon you? When you felt God’s laws and man’s fighting inside your body, and knew not which you wanted more to lose? What was it like, when you walked through the party and examined the men, felt them examine you in turn? Jane Eyre, which man did you choose to take to your bed, to touch only the cage of your soul and to leave your self inviolate?
What was it like, Jane Eyre? When you felt yourself but a reed in his hands? When you knew that nothing but your will and his love stood between you and death? What was it like when he beat you until the neighbors called the police, when you were taken to the hospital for your broken limbs to be bound and packaged? Did it hurt?
What was it like, Jane Eyre? When you heard him calling out to you and begging for forgiveness already given? When you knew that your master was love, that you could never break from that man who first saw in you worth, who offered you the Arabian Night you had never dreamed real? What was it like, when you approached the altar a blushing bride to the old man and young man waiting there for you? Alone? Before you knew what waited, before you knew the fated decline of love, the loss of virtue, the court dates and alimony and paychecks and second shifts? The children with the babysitter by day, with God by night, with you not?
What was it like, Jane Eyre? When you told him you would come for him? When you walked up the path to the house, when you saw him with his burnt eyes and bloody hand? When you knew that you would never again be able to leave him, and knew that no one would ever again be able to hurt you as he had? Not on the outside? When you looked at the man left behind many years ago, abandoned and banished from memory and thought? The old lover, the old husband whom you had loved all those years ago, now decrepit and old, when you met him again at a wedding or a funeral. When he walked with a limp and could not see that which was before his very eyes? When you knew the life you had forsaken by necessity for your God, and wanted it back?
What was it like, Jane Eyre? When you went to India with the cousin-husband? When you wandered among the dark-skinned people and asked them to approach 1857 without fear? When you knew all those who approached you may soon carry your casket, for you knew with certainty you could not survive long so far from him, with the cord stretched so thin? When you looked at your husband, who loved you only as much as he was able and asked of you everything you had in both body and soul? When you looked at that second stringer, that match dot com photo adjustor, that man with a mission more than life. That man who stayed out all night and asked you to help him, but could not tell you how to make dinner? Did he love you?
What was it like, Jane Eyre? When you rushed into his bedchamber that night? Did you think of the impropriety? The scandal? The fear of fire and of flames? Was he wearing pants when you found him, Jane Eyre? Did you wonder why he would not tell you what you must soon know? When he wouldn’t tell you where he was that night, when he came in without knocking and with the smell of gasoline and cigarettes and other women on him? When he walked straight towards you and you knew he would take your hand, the life you saved, the life which you could never save no matter how long and how hard you tried. The life already lost to another woman’s touch, a woman who must be mad to take that which you had claimed as your own?
What was it like, Jane Eyre? When you ran from the house and wandered the moors alone and abandoned by choice now, personal free will having forced yourself to not be slave to your passions, to follow that which you hoped might, somehow, save you, wretched creature? When you slumped to the ground before his door and begged for mercy, begged for a crust of bread from familiar strangers? When he carried you inside the warm home, when they fed you broth and let you crash on their couch? When you woke up and wondered where you were, and felt the grotesque flood of memory overflow you as you lurched towards the bathroom to puke? Were you sad?
What was it like, Jane Eyre? You walked into his room in the tricksome guise of a servant, and knew that you would never leave again. Knew that you could now remain, that punishments had been dealt, that you had been given a fortune and he had been taken a hand? When you felt the justness of your worldly immaterial positions now reversed, when you stood before him and he could not see you and could only wish you? When you walked into the hospital, next of kin, and found him pale as death in a pale bed. When the doctor murmured sweet nothings in your ear as you watched him, and wondered what would rise at the dawn?
What was it like, Jane Eyre? Did you ever wonder? Did you ever realize what you had given up? Did you think on the women and men you had left behind you, those who loved you and sought not to have you but to help you? Did you think on those who guided you, who were now gone and abandoned for this first, desperate heartbeat? For the master and the parent you never had and wanted more than anything? That you would have loved? Did you think about the children you abandoned when you ran away with him, did you ever wonder on the fate of your mother in the nursing home, your brother in the prison? As you clutched your only world to you, did you wonder what happened to them?
Did you think on what you gave him, Jane Eyre? That redemption, that money, that property now coveted by him? Do you wonder why someone would think on this? Am I so different from you, Jane Eyre, that you cannot even see why I wonder at that which you lost for the man who lied, the man who loved, the man who would give all he could if you would but give yourself to him. For the men all those years ago who asked that women love them, who begged that women be their willing slave? Why did you say yes, Jane Eyre? Why did you say yes and let what was yours become his? Why did you walk in that path for so many centuries, why did you let him have you so many times in so many places and faces? Because you loved him? Because he needed you? Because you needed him, oh my Jane, please say you needed him, don’t say you would die. Did he really love you? Could you please stop loving him, Jane Eyre?
Please, please tell me Jane Eyre, for I cannot understand. What did it feel like?