Thursday, November 10, 2005

He Who Sees Only Black and White

Her friend, a photographer who favored black and white over color tells her, ‘You are just running away from it all.’

He would sit, hands lightly crossed over the Nikon sitting comfortably on his bulbous belly, and make pronouncements.

‘You think you can keep this charade up for long? You think no one will ever know?’

She watches him under the amber glow of the bar lamps. Their drinks sit still on the table, only the oily swirls of the liquid seem to be moving. Is it a charade, she wonders, to love this deep, to be suffused so thoroughly with longing, to feel as though you would go mad with desire?

She says nothing, he is after all, her friend. She waits the silence out. Her friend shakes his head in exasperation and lights a cigarette. The smoke twirls around his head, enveloping his shiny pate in a blue haze.

She thinks, you’re a good man, a loyal friend, fierce and unyielding in your love. But you cannot know my heart, how it yearns for him who says he cannot be wholly mine. How can you know that when you yourself are trapped in a faded love, a love long gone, held together only by the habit of years?

‘How is Sarah?’ she asks him, pointedly.

He taps the cigarette into an ashtray worn by countless other cigarettes. He looks at her calmly before answering.

‘She’s the same. Always at home, always asking me where I am.’

‘And do you answer?’

‘I tell her I’m busy. There’s the show opening next month. Australia in January.’

‘Will she come?’

‘I don’t know, I haven’t asked her.’

‘Will you?’

He sighs, then reaches across the table for his scotch. The Nikon slides off his belly and rests in his lap. She hears the ice cubes clink into the bottom of the glass, hears the soft thud as the glass plops back onto the coaster.

She knows he doesn’t have all the answers.

Friday, October 21, 2005

What Is That Word?

He’s a careful lover, she thought. No, not exactly careful, what is it, what’s that word? Considerate? No. Caring? No, not just that. Consummate? Ah yes, that he is.

A consummate lover. Like a man learning a new language, he would explore her with an insatiable curiosity, defining points of intimacy she did not know she was ready to surrender to anyone.

He would ask her, ‘How does it feel when I do this? And this? This? How about this?’

He whose world was visual wanted to put words to sensations she can barely comprehend, much less express. She whose trade was words became guttural. She writhed and moaned under him, mute with pleasure.

She remembers the look on his face, the first time she took his hand, curving his trembling fingers to cup her soft, warm breast. He had no words for her, then.

Their touch inflamed them, like any new love. Theirs was a youthful passion in the first throes of ripening. It was most palpable when they were together—how his hands would linger at the small of her back, how she would lean towards him, intimating a union most desired.

In a crowd, they gravitated naturally toward each other. Her head would incline just so, her gaze seeking him out. His eyes would drift purposely, always toward her. They had a contained world that was apparent to everyone. This is how lovers are found out.

Consummate: to fulfill, utterly, completely. But no, that’s not the word she was looking for.

‘What is it?’ she wondered.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Their Time Together

In their best times together, they loved open-faced, like children, only with the carnal touch. They had met young, so that childlike element discernible in each other became their bond.

At the beginning, she liked his innocence, how everything was wondrous. He liked her wild spirit, how she feared nothing.

His world was visual, and he would always see her this way: long, long legs tanned and smooth, endlessly graceful, tapering down to slender ankles, an exquisitely arched heel. She had a defiant look, she took on the world and laughed in its face. His thoughts of her are limned by a celluloid haze—all a series of pictures—high contrast, color saturated, often slow-frame. Afterwards, he would bury his face into her hair, a loving mass that was deeply black, fragrant, and absolutely forgiving.

Her world was words, and she always thought of him in careful phrases: gentle spirit, warmest of hands, keeper of found smiles, the grinning boy in the sepia pictures, how only he can make her laugh this way, boy who will teach her there is no shame in being soft, being happy.

Afterwards, she would arc lovingly into him, marveling at how easily their youthful bodies meld, as though responding to cues from ancient memory. He is her summer shore, her strange awakening, and it is to him that she comes home.

It was mostly like that, their time together.

Friday, October 14, 2005

She Who Will Not Look Back

She had a temper, this woman. When vexed she could throw a fit that resonated for miles. Like a full-blown storm, her fits would last for days and days, coloring the landscape of their already strange dalliance a murky gray.

Anything could set her off. Making her wait. Asking the wrong thing, on some days. Setting limits. Lies. Little deceptions that were always found out. Awful truth in the first telling.

They were coming back from a runaway weekend, talking quietly inside his car.

‘Why won’t you let me drop you off?’

‘You know why.’

He eases the car into post-lunch traffic. She is looking out the window when he turns to her.

‘Don’t you want to go home with me?’

Her face, when she turns to him, is a furious mask.

‘Stop the car. Now.’

‘Don’t do this. Please. I mean, come on.’

Before he could even get to that last word, she is out the door, her hair flying, the hard slam rattling the glass.

Stuck before the red light, all he could do was gaze up at the rearview mirror. He watched her walk into the crowd, striding in the opposite direction, taking on the stream. Her palpable anger created eddies of people stepping away in her wake.

She did not look back, she did not. Not even once.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Heavy Metal Woman

In the few letters that he wrote, he often spoke of the places he found himself in. Always, at that time, without her.

He writes, ‘It was night when we arrived at this artist’s studio. His home, actually, but he had all his art there. He did installations, or those pieces—you know, from junk—metal scraps, bits of glass. Art from old cutlery, maybe. Dolls’ torsos, wrought iron chairs. Or a tin cup.’

She smiled at the images blooming forth from his words. She imagined his face flushed with excitement, she imagined him trying to hold it all in.

She imagines, too, his hand flying across the page. ‘There was one piece there, a huge one made of metal strips, steel plates soldered in layers. It was of a woman, her mouth agape, her metallic hair wildly tousled. She had a great big hole where her stomach should be, a cavernous chest, and legs that were longer than normal.’

‘I touched her thighs, ran my fingers along her sharp jaw, fondled her cold wrists.’

She startles, like some brittle, nervous bird. She lifts her eyes from the page, gasping for breath.

Still, he writes, ‘She reminded me of you.’

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

She Who Likes Shoes

It was the shoes that first told the story.

He wrote to her, ‘She needed to buy new shoes, she wanted me to come along. Not to choose the shoes—you know how bad I am at things like that. She just wanted some company.’

She knows it is not about the shoes. It isn’t about the shopping either, or of them being together. The store where the shoes are is inside the mall, and there are crowds there, even on Thursdays. They will not hold hands; they will walk careful circles around each other. They will each watch the other surreptitiously in the mirrors, they will each feign appropriate inattention.

She reads the paragraph over and over, the paragraph about the shoes. She knows that today the unraveling begins. She knew it, even before he did.

It was there in the letter, carelessly put in. It was right there, that part where he said, ‘she had such tiny feet.’

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hand On Knee

He did not know what to make of her letters. He would read them, yes, but after the pages have been folded neatly back into their envelope, he would sit there, eyes glazed, hand on knee.

He was a man bludgeoned, a man swiftly run over.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Letter-Writer

‘Everything else is just killing time,’ she wrote to him like that, like nothing else mattered. No ‘hi,’ no ‘dear _____,’ no how-are-yous. No, nothing as mundane, nothing as banal. She went straight to the heart of the matter, right to the gut.

She writes, ‘I cannot endure this distance, how my limbs ache for you, how at night, my loins quiver with desire. I take walks to get away from this madness, to get away from him. I will walk away one day and never come back. Everyday _____, I am walking towards you. Everything else is just killing time.’

Friday, October 07, 2005

Tell Me Why

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not to tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers—stern and wild ones—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.