|Chapter 27: Leper|
When he had caught his breath, he automatically ran water and lathered his hands--the first step in his rite of cleansing, a vital part of his defense against a relapse. For a time, he scrubbed his hands without raising his head. But at last he looked into the mirror.
The sight of his own visage stopped him. He gazed at himself out of raw, self-inflicted eyes, and recognized the face that Elena had sculpted. She had not placed a wound on the forehead of her carving, but his cut only completed the image she had formed of him. He could see a gleam of bone through the caked black blood which darkened his forehead and cheeks, spread down around his eyes, emphasizing them, shadowing them with terrible purpose. The wound and the blood on his gray, gaunt face made him look like a false prophet, a traitor to his own best dreams.
Elena! he cried thickly. What have I done?
Unable to bear the sight of himself, he turned away and glanced numbly around the bathroom. In the fluorescent lighting, the porcelain of the tub and the chromed metal of its dangerous fixtures glinted as if they had nothing whatever to do with weeping. Their blank superficiality seemed to insist that grief and loss were unreal, irrelevant.
He stared at them for a long time, measuring their blankness. Then he limped out of the bathroom. Grimly, deliberately, he left his forehead uncleaned, untouched. He did not choose to repudiate the accusation written there.