Monday, March 30, 2009
Still there is a glimmer. I have written a first part, not a chapter, but something. Better than a blank page. I have a plan to kayak in the night. I dream of rats and bats and the young boy who will accompany me, dragging him from the foetid river, almost unseating myself in the process. Maybe there is still some life in the old girl yet. I do not have the clean bite of a young grape but I have a more complex flavour. Peach, a hint of fruit, the ferment of years, but tempered by this new thing, a sting in the palate. And all this will make the writing more complex eventually, although I must apologise for the dross that has filled this blog of late, the self-pity, the self-harm, the self.
I do not know myself anymore. I am someone new. I thought perhaps I did not like her, but she has a subtle aftertaste and maybe it is just unfamiliarity that taints her, this new me. I have only known her in sadness, bleached to a watercolour wash by tears. When they are dry the picture will begin to emerge. She has layers, she has subtext. Perhaps this is what was missing all along.
The flowers were roses. Red. The colour of love, to remind me that I can be loved. Horribly sentimental. I resented myself for the gesture even as I bought them.The roses have thorns and leaves that are scattered with rust, and yesterday they had petals. But today they have sagged and closed up into weathered nuggets. Red roses the symbol of love. By afternoon perhaps their petals will be gone. We will wait and see.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
It is written on the body. It is written in my sex. I wait for you to turn the page so we can begin.
We are in a safe place. A place where the wind stops so the world can listen. Flocks of birds rumble overhead, their dollops of shit raining on the roof while I sit on an afternoon, shouldering the silence.
The afternoon is as wet as my sex. In the morning and in the night I bind my legs around your thickly fleshed waist, my calves coming to rest on your warm back. I cannot seem to get you deep enough inside me so I hoist my knees up level with my shoulders while my lower legs drape over your shoulders just as the floppy neck of a dead goose would hang from a hunters hands. I pull them closer still and you know I need more of you – all of you – for in the darkness, I belong to your shadow.
Bone and muscle settle into the rhythm of sex. It is not a comfortable or reliable rhythm and this excites me. My spine arches as our swollen groins smash together with some strange grace. Skins slide up, down and across and the slapping of skin on skin is a familiar thud – like a thick rubber band flicking on your belly.
You cradle my body like a mother would a child in the water. I worry that I need you more than you need me and a sadness clots on my tongue in our humid intimacy. I sink my fingers into my wetness, then bring them to my face. I want to get drunk on the scent of our juices before you leave which makes me think that my survival rests on yours. Sundays make the body feel heavy and alone, but you would be a welcome strain, so drink from the cup of tonight so we can tumble into tomorrow.
Damp towels hang from doorknobs but like a feather on the wind or a prayer without a god, it matters not. There’s a sky out there filled with good intentions and strife that could swallow us.
You could shoot the sun out of the sky and I would still want you.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
I am no different from the herd. I am lowing, and chewing my cud and sobbing over love-gone-wrong songs. I am not proud of this. I am resentful. I am angry hurt heart. Angry angry heart. Heart and hurt and love and awful, awful.
Romantic love. How easy is it to fall into the idea of believing in this when you are lonely and there is no one to hold you if you are sad. After anger, in that place where fights end, an arched back, a carapace, here too we reach for something that can be mislabeled love.
Love is that strange and complicated thing we reserve for our family. That grudging care that can't be shaken. When we drag our lovers and our friends into this kind of bind then we have fallen into it. Fallen in love. Stuck with it. You are stuck with me and my scratchy kind of love.
Friday, March 27, 2009
He helped raise me.
There are no ashes. There is no plaque. There is nothing left of him.
There is just me, the evidence that he was once a sexual being a very long time ago. The impossibility that the man I knew once wooed a girl and had her in the kind of way that was then only giggled about behind coyly raised hands.
My grandfather. In love and intimate with my grandmother.
I think of this as we drive past the sign that points to Rockhampton. He was burned there and the ashes were swept out into the garden where the last of his body gave colour and scent to roses. At least this is what I hope. It softens the ending. I think of roses and my grandfather and Rockhampton and the strange sexual being, the young man that I didn't and will never know.
I am sad.
I am a sad person.
We drive and the sign is gone and I do not mention it. And the hills at the side of the road are green again now, after the rain, but I still remember the years of drought. Last time we drove by here it was nothing but brown earth and locusts.
At the funeral the church was small and thirsty. Dried us out, leached the tears out of the pores of our skin. Tiny congregation, dry eyed and solemn.
But I cried and cried and cried up there on the podium for all to see. Carefully penned words drowned in a hiccup of sobbing. I cry more often now than before it seems. Sad sad sad.
The cyclone came through this way. Almost. Missed the land. Dragged water out of the ocean, flung it at the ground. Grass now, pasture growing back. I hold my fingers out to the wind. Spots of rain. Wind. Damp heat. And I think maybe the drought is over for a while now.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I will love you forever, I whispered to it, this threadbare promise of comfort.
I will love you forever, I say because of kisses and a shared intimacy and some time spent in each other's company. Forever and forever.
I pick up the grey thing, this artifact, this first love with the stuffing cuddled flat and lifeless. It is true. There is something amis in my heart when I touch it, a bur I have swallowed and that has lodged there. No love left, just a whiff of sadness. Nostalgia. Sentiment.
Still, it is old, and unnecessary and there is no space in the flat anymore and I will throw it away as if it is nothing - was nothing.
And I think about you. And I wonder.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I turn the sex off. I must complete this now that it has begun. I think about hugging, I think about the quietness of a kiss. I think about interlaced fingers. I think about the ocean. The slow passing of whales. The echo of it. I finish with a gentle shudder.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I try remember if I had been drinking, smoking or balling my eyes out: whatever the reason, I had been blind and tears, or alcohol, had smeared the black words across a large portion of that useless journal I’ve kept for too long. I’m scouring through years of desperate self obsessed records for at least one moment where I looked out at something else other than myself. Maybe just one time I’ll be sitting on a dry patch of grass with those particularly hard blades sticking into my skin, itching, and the white streaked sky is morphing leprechaun’s and elephant faces and, and, and there it is, it's made patterns on our bare arms, the grass has, on you and me, and all over our faces because the rug’s now all crumpled up and big black ants tramp across it to crumbs of food, and our jeans have clumps of dirt and leaves and twigs. We’ve been lying under a big old gum since morning watching children being chased by parents, young uncles, aunties, single men throwing dog’s sticks, cricket matches on a distant pitch. Whistle, a small crowd shouts. And we’re playing cards, 500 (I like to win), pulling faces. You’ve got that dam camera in your hand taking photo’s: long socks with red stripes, giggles, kisses – photo’s of lips and tongue’s, wet mouths, doey eyes and curves. And there you are - your breath on me, the hairs on your top lip tickle (but I wont stop). Our cheeks brush; you run your nose around mine. Eskimo me, one, two, three. Close your eyes. The leaves in the tree shake and I look up and see it’s there: winter blows hair in our faces. Rug up now. The sky is clear blue, streaks of runaway clouds.
You swallowed me that day.
Every day.And when I try to find pieces of me or you, or you and me, or the sky I've strung in the black words I can barely read, all I see is a silly drunk girl caught somewhere between the touch of an old lovers breath and pages that wont remember.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Dad called me over to the window to watch the fireworks, telling me to turn the light off so we’d all be able to see better. He was standing with Mrs Laylor who I had known for years but, for the last couple of weeks, I was always being told to call Mary. Her name still felt odd in my mouth. She lived a few minutes away, in one of the streets that pointed towards the sea. She was standing with her arms crossed over her chest and a hand casually holding a glass of wine. Both of her and dad’s reflections were on the window, staring back at them. When I clicked off the light they vanished.
‘They’re gonna be starting again,’ dad said. ‘Hurry up.’
‘He’s still got a minute,’ Mrs Laylor said.
When my parents divorced dad had moved into our beach house, so it was just mum and me left. At first living in the beach house had just been something temporary, until he could find a better place to live in by himself, but he kept putting it off again and again until he started saying that it really was an alright place to live, considering. The beach house was about an hour away from where we lived, but he said he didn’t mind commuting to work. Usually when school finished for the summer holidays we had all gone to there together.
This time it was just dad and me. Mum had dropped me off on the street with my suitcase. There was sand between the blades of grass on the front lawn. She didn’t want to come inside.
‘See them?’ dad said at the window. ‘Are you missing it?’
‘No,’ I said.
‘You’re missing it.’
I stood beside them and looked out the window. About halfway around the bay there were fireworks exploding in clean circles. We were too far away to hear them properly, just dull thuds a few seconds behind each explosion. At first the sound delay was obvious, then more and more fireworks went off and I lost track of them.
‘It’s really kind of, you know, beautiful,’ dad said, he’d been drinking since the late afternoon, when Mrs. Laylor had come over.
‘It’s beautiful,’ Mrs Laylor said. ‘It is really beautiful.’
She leaned into dad slightly, until their arms were touching. I looked away. Salt stains like clouds sat in the corners of the windows. Dad would get me to wash them, but it really made no difference. They always came back.
Sometimes when we’d watch television together dad would nod at the woman on the screen and say, ‘What do you think?’ and I’d nod along, though I always felt like I was out of my depth. Other times I’d notice him walking from the bathroom, after just having a shower, with a towel wrapped around his waist and his eyes smudged red from crying. These were things that I never mentioned to anyone.
The fireworks stopped. We stood there in the dark for a second, and dad whispered something to Mrs Laylor and she laughed. She was a small woman, alarmingly tanned, blonde haired and in her mid-forties. When she smoked she always let the smoke from her nostrils in a sigh. I had never heard anyone mention even the existence of a Mr Laylor.
The fireworks finished and I turned on the light and went back to the dinner table. Our plates were on the table, with the salt and pepper shakers and a bowl of salad. I hadn’t finished the glass of wine Mrs Laylor had poured me. In the corner of the room, facing away from me, Mrs Laylor and dad sat down on the couch.
‘Wine?’ dad said.
‘Do you need a hand washing up?’ Mrs Laylor said.
‘No, Michael’s got it, don’t you Mike?’
Dad’s turned and was looking at me from over the back of the couch. His face was flushed red. It was a warm night and the breeze that had been blowing up the beach all day had dropped off as soon as night had fallen. I was wearing a t-shirt and board shorts and was barefoot.
‘I don’t mind,’ I said.
Dad winked at me. I instantly wished that he hadn’t.
Later, when I was in bed, lying there awake but pretending to sleep, dad came into my room and punched me lightly on the shoulder to wake me up. I sat up and looked at him.
‘I need you to drive Mary home,’ he said. ‘She said she probably can’t sleep here.’
‘What’s the time?’ I said.
‘Can you just do this for me?’ he said.
‘She lives around the corner, why can’t she walk?’
Dad swayed on his feet a little. He looked tired. He always seemed to be tired. Not sad or depressed or angry, like he’d been for the last few months, just tired, like there was something inside of him that had just been knocked down too many times. He sat on the edge of my bed.
‘Where is she?’ I said.
‘On the couch, she might be asleep,’ he said. ‘You’ll have to wake her up.’
I got up, I was still fully clothed, and headed out towards the living room. Dad lay down on the end of my bed and wedged a pillow under his head.
In the living room Mrs Laylor was standing beside the window. In the distance I could see the spotlights from the airport sweeping back and forth. I didn’t want to say her name out loud. I stood there until she turned and noticed me. When she saw me her expression didn’t change. I thought that she was as drunk as dad, but when she spoke it was with surprising confidence.
‘You my ride home?’ she said.
‘I am,’ I said.
Mrs Laylor started to gather her things from the couch and put them in her handbag. When she walked over to me her heels clicked on the wooden floor and the sound was as clear as ice cubes.
In the driveway I opened the car door and the inside light came on and I gathered up a few empty coffee cups and ice-cream wrappers from the passenger seat and threw them in the back. After I cleared the seat Mrs Laylor opened her door and sat down. I drove out of the driveway and she rolled down her window and lit a cigarette.
‘Is this your car?’ she said.
‘It’s dad’s,’ I said.
Mrs Laylor nodded. Her skirt had ridden up and I could see her tanned thigh. I wondered if her entire body was the same shade of brown. We stopped at a red light. There were no other cars on the road.
‘One day you’ll save up enough so you don’t have share with your father,’ she said.
‘I hope so,’ I said.
A few years before, when my parents were still together, Mrs Laylor had given me a book, saying that I might enjoy it. She had come into my bedroom and laid it on my desk. I was sitting on my bed and trying to get a splinter out of my foot. She had looked around my room quietly, then smiled and left.
As she was leaving, after lunch, we all stood together on the front veranda. Mrs Laylor mentioned to my parents that she had given me a book.
‘Did you say thank you?’ mum asked me.
‘No,’ Mrs Laylor said in a joking kind of way. ‘He didn’t, but that’s alright.’
She was lying though, I had said thank you at the time.
I stopped in front of her house. I could hear the ocean through the car’s open windows because the radio was turned off. Mrs Laylor looked at her house. For a second she was motionless.
‘I forgot to leave a light on,’ she said.
‘I can leave the headlights on so you can see the key,’ I said.
She turned to me and smiled and put her hand on my shoulder and squeezed it for a moment before letting go. She smelled like sunscreen. She opened her door and climbed out and closed it carefully behind her. I leaned forward, over the steering wheel, to watch her walk. Before getting to her house she kicked off her shoes, each one arcing through the air, so she could walk better across her front lawn.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Echidna, armadillo, crab, puffa-fish, stegasaurus, snapped shut, tight, armoured, prickly, defensive.
Sudden shut down. Sudden backing away. Next time I will not be tricked out into the clearing. Next time I will see the hook and lure and know it for what it is.
Meanwhile the fisherman launches out into the water once more, flies that are strengthened tried, true, girls that loll in the water, vaginas upturned and spouting like the breath of whales. Girls that are not yet suspicious as I am. Wet pink girl flesh, hungry for the hook and tear.
But you are only fishing for sport. You will not pick and gut and carry. They are suspended for a moment on your boat, drugged by the heady mix of adrenalin and your bait. They kick, slither closer. You have the tail in hand, gloved hand, all of you armoured from the start of this. You will not be hurt, spiked, cut or dragged out into deep water. You are afraid of deep water. Safe in your boat, you fling the soft skinned creatures back, turn the vessel around. Head for another part of the river. There are always more fish.
watch you go, stronger, more wiley with each abandoned catch.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I am messy as sex. I am juice and teeth clicking, and the odours that accompany it all. I am sex and there is nothing clean about sex. There is nothing neat about me. But I will learn. From you. I will.
Friday, March 20, 2009
He was not my husband yet. I blinked at his beautiful face and I knew I couldn't remember his name. I thought it might be Andrew, but I was too shy to try it out in case I was mistaken. We both glanced up at the man climbing though my window with only a towel wrapped around his waist.
"Oh," he said, and, "sorry. I didn't realise..." and he left by the door, pulling it gently shut behind him.
"I have never slept with him," I told my husband. I measured people in this way at the time, dividing them up into lovers and ex-lovers, potential lovers and those I would not sleep with, scant few. My neighbour included.
And I laughed.
"I don't remember your name either."
"You will," he said.
It sounded like a line. "Ah. Will I."
"Yes. You won't be able to get rid of me."
I shuffled up to sitting, pulled the pillow comfortably behind my back.
"Andrew," I said.
"Anthony, then. I am not heterosexual or monogamous."
He nodded. "I understand, but you will be while you are with me."
"And will I be with you?"
"Really? For how long?"
He kissed me then, and it was nice. Kissing wasn't a thing I prided myself on, but there was a tenderness behind this kiss and I drank it down. I felt like coffee and a cigarette but a kiss would do. We were disturbed by the judder of the window being opened yet again and another man, another neighbour, spidered his way over the sill.
"Oh." he said, but he tiptoed into the room regardless, reached for a guitar that was resting against a wall, nodded, waved and scrambled out through the window once more, all jangly strings and echoing wood.
"I've slept with him," I told my husband.
"Heterosexual and monogamous, Karen."
He kissed me. I liked it. I didn't believe him then, but now, eighteen years later, I wonder how he knew.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I found a dampness in your absence, except there has never been an absence because we have not been together. It is a
selfish love; a love so sharply cut it could shine as blood does at dawn. It hurts just as your jaw would have when it was
scored by a switchblade.
You come to me at night time, where the colour of night melts into that cleft in your chin. Your ripe face and weighty torso
unfold in awkward moments like a cat in a trap – this is how I imagine us to be. The cleave in your chin plugs with my juices;
your humid and desperate breath pushing deeper into creases where a brush of your lips or a sweep of your tongue make me tug
at your hair. So I do that, making you hungrier still, so the stubble on your chin roughs up my cunt.
I would be lying on my side, squashing your head with my thighs; your jaw in a lock where I can’t and won’t release you until I have
gushed all over your battered face. I crave our early morning wrestles – such a good fight; one I can always win. But until you come
to me, I’ll dip my fingers into my folds and taste my own medicine.
I itch with disappointment because I know my medicine will never be as sweet as yours.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
A hunched right up, welled right out figure-of-eight.
Dirty but delicate, fingerprint crazy, dark save for
Small lights that looped at her neck.
She peeled off his drywall, ate satin handfuls,
Stared at him, strengthening, sucking down time:
Rested for seconds, in space meant for hours,
All the while singing that sorrowful tune.
She left behind clothing, more than she was wearing; at
Least that's what seemed to be happening then.
He moved in towards her, cutting the distance, till
Half of a half was all that was left.
And there they met—strangers, not serious lovers—
Greeting the morning with silence and ash.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
The air is electric with sex. It is all that remains when life storms by and leaves me here, safe but a little frightened, heart pounding. All the things I have done. The potential to do, flaring like the last traces of lightning.
I will never be as good as I am now. I stand on top of my own history and survey the ravages of time. Perhaps not at my peak but close to it. My body will never be quite as firm or capable of pleasure. My breasts will sag, my shoulders will hunker down against the world, my skin will betray me. My youth still clings to me but it will be abandoned, soon, when I am ready to step down. This is the first and last assault on the summit. A painting by Casper David Friedrich. I imagine you beside me but it is an illusion, just an anomaly hidden by the fog. We are alone when we come here to dance the last dance, pressing ourselves up against the memory of wild winds with a melancholy sense of joy.
I kiss the past goodbye and it is a kiss that leaves me shaking, the thud of my heart, the quick contractions low in my belly that threaten to unseat me. I kiss my lust for life and it is open-mouthed and tender. For days I will find my fingers at my lips replaying all the kisses that I never enjoyed. I was always too impatient, desperate to move on. I have found a place, now, at the end of it where I can settle for a moment. A held breath in the headlong race of my life. A moment of reflection. A sweet stay.
I have found this, and I turn to you to share it, but I am alone, of course. We are all alone, up here above the sea of fog.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
The morning of the wedding arrived fat with tradition, but Charlotte’s interest in all things matrimonial ebbed following dinner, so with a sliver of fruitcake wrapped in a doily, she withdrew.
Charlotte drew a bath, soaking until her hands and feet puckered like cracked slabs of stone; the water tepid and unwelcoming. A pot of fresh tea had been brewed and she skipped to the hearth where her nightdress lay across the floor. Her mother brought out the sliver of cake Charlotte had stolen away with from the wedding, having wrapped it in silken cloth, gilded with poppies made from threads of gold and deep amber.
‘Put this under your pillow, and your dreams will be filled with the one you shall marry,’ her mother said.
Charlotte’s raised her brow as her teeth descended into a warm buttered scone between sips of tea. After supper, she placed the sliver of cake under her downy pillow, fat with feathers and dust, snuffed out her light, pulled up her eiderdown and nuzzled into the mattress, her body full of leavened scone, her bowels still warm from the tea.
Charlotte’s breasts were on flash fire. She could see something dark dripping from her nipples and the air smelled metallic. Her head swooned upon realising her skirts were level with her waist; her legs spread and anchored to the end of the bed. Free were her hands, but she was unable to sit up for the pain that grieved above her pubis. Charlotte lifted her head and saw a dark line stretching from hip to hip.
Clouds hung in the sky, smudging the moon through an opening in the drapes.
Charlotte choked on a scream, and a cloth was shoved into her mouth. A dull pain rung out in her cheek. Her mouth filled with blood and veins popped through the skin of her temples, thick as velvet ropes. A figure on the floor kneeled in front of her – long sable hair tickling her shins – and as the figure moved upward, the hair, in thick fronds, pricked her thighs and there was breath in her face.
Drowsiness mangled her thoughts, though she knew that her nipples had been carved from her breasts, and her belly sliced open, revealing muscle and sinew, making the layers of her tulle skirt glisten with blood. She tried to spit and blood sprayed out of her lips, coating the corners like rouge. Muscles stiffened and blood dried on her skin, while ribs broke through like weeds cutting through soil to get to the sun.
Blood logged death rattles echo and the figure rips away the cloth dangling from her lips, plunging into her wet vermilion mouth.
The figure is silent, the only sound being the friction of a dry penis dipping into a bloody wetness.
Tangled with sweat in her nightdress, Charlotte smelled the sweetness of the cake, squashed and moist where it had made a brown mess of her sheets. Kicking away the eiderdown, she sat up and pressed her feet to the floor before walking numbly to the kitchen table where her breakfast cooled on the table.
‘Sweet dreams?’ asked her mother.
Charlotte, sweaty and blank, circled the rim of the thin China cup with her fingers while her mother pressed her. She gripped the cup with her hand, brought it to her lips and slurped loudly, tea dripping down her chin, warm and metallic.
Friday, March 13, 2009
It is impossible to concentrate. I remove myself from the project yet again. A quick consummation by myself with the summer-holiday images simmering over the smell of insect repellent. A mosquito buzzes against my ear.
Good and sweet. I am wearing away the Sharp edges of memory till it is warm and gentle as a river stone. I long for the ocean.
I trudge back to the chair and I wave away the sound of a mosquito, but there is still the acid chemical smell and I refuse to leave the chair yet again. I am making the upholstery damp with self-denial, but I want to work, must work, must force myself to concentrate or I will be raw and sore and will have nothing to show for it at the end of a long, hot summer-holiday kind of day.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
She ate and it was a small thing, a perfectly contained piece of fruit wrapped in skin, a fruit with an end point, and yet, when it was ended eve thought about the apple. She thought about it in the shower, on the couch, in her bed. Her mouth itched for kissing. Her fingers returned to her lips as if the juice of the apple was there to taste on her fingertips. She regretted not savouring the apple for longer, not taking smaller bites that would make it last. She regretted not eating the core when even the seeds and the pith were something new and wonderous. She would bring the apple to her Adam. She would make him eat when he was prone to resist such temptations. He clamped shut his teeth and would not bite. There was juice from the apple on her lips but he would not lick them. Succubus, Eve had her way with him. Her way which was the way of someone starved for fruit and wracked by self-denial.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Dad called me over to the window to watch the fireworks, telling me to turn the light off so we’d all be able to see better. He was standing with Mrs Laylor who, for the last couple of weeks, I was always being told to call Mary. Her name still felt odd in my mouth. She lived a couple of streets over, down beside the beach.
She was standing with her arms crossed over her chest and a hand casually holding a glass of wine. Both of her and dad’s reflections were on the window, staring back at them. When I clicked off the light they vanished.
‘They’re gonna be starting again,’ dad said. ‘Hurry up.’
‘He’s still got a minute,’ Mrs Laylor said.
When my parents divorced dad had moved into our beach house, so it was just mum and me left. At first living in the beach house had just been something temporary, until he could find a better place to live in by himself, but he kept putting it off again and again until he started saying that it really was an alright place to live, considering. The beach house was about an hour away from where we lived, but he said he didn’t mind commuting to work.
Usually when school finished for the summer holidays we had all gone to the beach house together. This time it was just dad and me. Mum had dropped me off on the street with my suitcase and hadn’t come inside. There was sand between the blades of grass on the front lawn.
‘See them?’ dad said at the window. ‘Are you missing it?’
‘No,’ I said.
‘You’re missing it.’
I stood beside them and looked out the window. Halfway around the bay there were fireworks exploding in clean circles. We were too far away to hear them properly, just dull thuds a few seconds behind each explosion. At first the sound delay was obvious, then more and more fireworks went off and I lost track.
‘It’s really kind of, you know, beautiful,’ dad said.
He’d been drinking since the late afternoon, when Mrs. Laylor had come over. She lived down the street, two houses away.
‘It’s beautiful,’ Mrs Laylor said. ‘It really is beautiful.’
She leaned into dad slightly, until their arms were touching. I looked away.
Sometimes when we’d watch television together dad would nod at the woman on screen and say, ‘What do you think?’ and I’d nod along, though I always felt like I was out of my depth. Other times I’d notice him walking from the bathroom, after just having a shower, with a towel wrapped around his waist and his eyes smudged red from crying. These were things that I never mentioned to anyone.
The fireworks stopped. We stood there in the dark for a second, and dad whispered something to Mrs Laylor and she laughed. She was a small woman, surprisingly tanned, blonde haired and in her mid-forties. When she smoked she always let the smoke from her nostrils in a sigh. I had never heard anyone mention even the existence of a Mr Laylor.
When the fireworks had started we had been sitting at the table, eating dinner. When he’d heard the noise he’d paused to listen then jumped up excitedly and called us over. The fireworks finished and I went back and to the table and looked at the three half-eaten meals on the table. Mrs Laylor and dad sat on the couch.
‘More wine?’ dad said.
‘Do you need a hand washing up?’ Mrs Laylor said.
‘No, Michael’s got it, don’t you Mike?’
Dad’s face was flushed red and he had turned and was looking at me from over the back of the couch. It was a warm night and the breeze that had been blowing up the beach all day had dropped off as soon as night had fallen. I was wearing a t-shirt and board shorts and was barefoot.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
He remained lying next to me. If he were a man he would have called a cab. When he kissed me it felt boring. To pull away was mean and satisfying. He could have gone, but instead curled up, a sharp whisper thrown in my ear when he thought I was asleep. Hairy back invading my bed.
It was our second date. He got off the tram and I knew. He said he wanted something ‘light’ for dinner. He was sad about going home to the US next week. He was going to be staying with his parents for a while. On the edge of my bed as I showed him Supertramp he told me,
‘My mum will be so happy to bake me a big batch of cookies when I’m there’. He’d never had a lamington or an Anzac biscuit.
The first time I saw him was on stage. Songs about love, electronic tones. I sat down and knew the inside of the music. There was nowhere to go but I thought there might be. We had drinks and waxed inadequate. He had a copy of Moby Dick. I bought more drinks than he did. I stood to go to the bathroom and felt his dark eyes on my behind. His words were to please me. My actions were compatible.
At my house, the first time, I realised he was much drunker than I. I was thinking too much, during. I was feeling obliged. He had girth and it pained me.
‘Are you okay?’ Just fucking get it over with.
Stroking. On the second date, the hand floats up to my bent over lower back, fluttering like a moth. I can feel it in my throat. I sip deep into my glass, I go get us another one (though he’s had enough, again). When I get to the kitchen the vodka bottle and the lime cordial bottle have the wrong caps on. He made the last one.
I still remember the lover I was most happy with, every time I’m with someone else. The memory of how it could feel. On holiday once, we stayed in a cabin, and went in the room with the bunk beds.
‘This would be the kids room’ he said, then pushed me down on the bed.
‘Squeeze my wrists, hard’, I said. He did. Later we ate thick raisin toast and he burnt his hair on the stove trying to light a joint. It was quiet and we watched the stars. In bed later I wore a black plastic corset. But with him I felt sexy even in pyjamas.
At the beach, when we splashed like children, I would be proud of the fingernail marks screaming down our backs in the broad daylight, the bruises on our necks. He could pick me up and bounce me, in front of the full-length mirror. He looked like Michelangelo’s David. Long hair my breath got caught in. And it was never enough. I was jealous of the floor he walked on, the water in the shower that caressed his skin.
To the American. A whiny curved back on the side of the bed I like to sleep on. I thought about the razor in the bathroom, dragging it across my fingertips (an injury that pays off for days). In the morning I said he could stay in bed for a bit, while I got ready for work. He said okay and a large breath exhaled from me. I concentrated on the muesli. I had told him ‘Sorry, I think I’m used to being alone.’
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Sad and beautiful, this decline. This small rise, like a hanged man kicking his foot, desperate to be reunited with the heart of his life. The beginning of things in so many ways. A new life. A new wise life. I want to calmly let go of my wild youth, but I find I am kicking, weeping, beating my chest and tearing at my hair. This walk towards oblivion. This slow tedious march rent with jealousies and regrets. Brave face for the world.
Give me this one dignity. Give me this Swan Song. The best song. My voice raised now in perfect pitch, a climax that makes my hands shake as they have never done. My skin a crescendo and the shriek of joy and terror racing though it. No easing off into old age for me. I leave in a blaze of pleasure, as I have lived only more intense now that I face the end of it down.
You offer me a place amongst the crowd. You offer me the same thing that others take from you, a print of myself, endlessly repeated till the ink runs thin during one or the other of us. Sometimes I don't mind. I am singing and it is pure and wonderful, my Swan Song. And then, surprisingly, sometimes I do.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
And now I must remove myself from the home-alone distraction of the delicate breeze on my skin. I must remove myself from the little play of memories, one after another, an escalation that is no more than a distraction. I will go and work in a cafe where I am safe from myself and this heightened judder of nerve-endings. Reading sex. Editing sex. Safely in a public place. A necessary self-denial.
I bring the car to a stop outside her house. I pull the handbrake on and turn the ignition all the way off. We sit in silence for a moment as I gaze at her profile. It's dark outside; it must be late by now.
How many times have we been here before, exactly like this? I feel like I've been holding my breath forever, but somehow managed to stay alive. I say something to her, idle, superfluous. I reach an arm over her shoulders and draw her towards me. She lifts her head and looks up at me. I crane my neck down and bring our lips together. She kisses me back and with her lips still pressed against mine, starts to shift on the bench seat.
Now I have both arms around her and run my hands up and down her back, the fabric of her shirt catching on my fingers. She feels warm underneath her shirt.
I lift the back of her shirt slightly and slip a hand underneath, feeling a slight tickle as my fingers brush against the soft down covering her skin. My other hand slips in and I press my hands firmly against her back as I kiss her more vigorously. My hands start to round the curve of her hips, making their way to the sides of her ribs. A finger hits the edge of her bra and I slide my hands back down.
I move into the safer territory of her back, bumping over her bra strap as I fumble my way around. I feel the cool metal clasps against my fingers again and again as I wonder if I have the courage to attempt releasing them. She must know what I'm thinking; could at least give me some kind of a sign. Alas, no such sign comes and so my fingers continue to trip over the fabric.
To compensate, I pull her closer toward me. I'm so excited I just want to wrap myself around her and press my body against her as hard as I can. I want to push my full weight onto her and pin her down. But I just keep kissing her.
After a few minutes of this, she pulls away for air, dropping her head as she mutters something like, "And my shirt is going to stay on tonight." I don't know if I ever heard more disappointing words spoken. What am I supposed to do? No one ever told me when or where to cross that line.
But now it's too late. She's opening the door, kissing me one last time, then the door is shut and she's gone, leaving me unable to protest, silent and frustrated. I can't see her through the steam that has condensed on the windows. I see a distant light go on above her door that means she's about to step inside.
I start the car, furiously wiping at the windscreen with the side of my hand. I drive away too fast with a sickly sweet taste in the back of my throat. I grit my teeth, pushing my lips together over them. I can still taste her.
Between my legs there is a solid ache that almost hurts. She took me so close, and then closed the door.
I press my legs together as I try to drive. I replay the events in my head, wondering where I went wrong, what I could have done differently. After all, no one tells you these things.
Friday, March 6, 2009
the first layer – green eyes, blue eyes, your eyes
his girlfriend’s party
Whispers beat across the wind
that he liked me more than her.
He would phone me in hospital,
visit me with fistfuls of daisies saying
how much he cared,
like some sort of thin vow.
I knew where this was going and I liked it.
One night, she had a party.
Too sick to go, he called me from her house.
Broke up with her.
On her birthday.
It felt like my birthday.
it was crash bang boom and I was in love with him and he with me and it was going to last forever because he wrote me letters asking me to be his wife and have his children and we were sixteen but it didn’t matter because I loved him and it was going to last forever because I loved him and he loved me and it was going to last forever. Because.
the meaning of things
He went down on me for the first time
while our parents were in the kitchen.
Throat on fire, hoping winter air would curb that vocal wrench
where everything is white and silent and pure and then,
when you harvest the agony, you think—
‘maybe there is a god’.
He suckles my clitoris like a baby would a breast,
my vagina swells with blood.
Blushing, my pelvis cracks when I spread my hipbones,
his tongue warm, like it had been dipped in a freshly drawn bath.
I take to finding him with my hands in the darkness,
grabbing his hair, stapling him to me.
With my ass bearing down into the mattress, we knit our fingers together
like we’re about to die, but really, we’re just saving each other.
I spray his mouth and for a moment I don’t know where I am.
To be fucked by a tongue;
catching the rise and fall and a wet warmth circling your clitoris,
gliding along sheets of pink and burrowing into creases until the hollow has been sated.
You need a sharp tongue for that.
A long tongue.
We never fucked.
big girls don’t cry
Being sick was too much for him.
He wanted a normal girlfriend.
One who would not be sick;
who could do things normal
sixteen year old girls do like
go out in the cold,
Some cold sonata squeezed out its final note
leading me to a place of false promises
on the back of a broken string.
Circles under my eyes darkened to a colour you see
just before a big storm.
Just as if I had been punched.
I knew people knew and knew they were talking about me.
Perhaps I deserved it for stealing him away,
but I hadn’t stolen him from anyone.
He had pocketed my heart and come to me with more daises.
I wore my sister’s good jacket to his brother’s engagement party and he vomited after too much tequila trying to impress me.
It was raining and gravel packed the furrows of the tyres crunching under the weight of my wanting to be tucked away
somewhere dry and cosseted while speeches were being spoken.
I met his parent’s friends and I was the darling.
They adored me and I was a part of him and he, a part of me.
I stayed away from school.
Melinda died and all I could think on the way to her funeral was,
‘I wish he was here to hold my hand, and for me to hold his.’
She was his friend, too.
That wound of him never healed, for time doesn’t heal wounds like that when they’re
raw and bloody and have left a cleave in your chest.
Grief dulls to a blunt unfeeling and a wish that we had fucked.
I dissolved until I was a shell of a girl where no one understood me.
I hid myself away.
He changed me; made me bleed.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
I always sit in the same seat. I walk an extra kilometre so that I can get on the bus at the first stop; that way I’m guaranteed to find it empty.
I suppose it’s a habit now. That there’s nothing more than an old man, fixed to his special spot in a bus, refusing to budge. That’s all that other people see. They don’t notice the way I watch as people get on the bus. The way I lean forward when a woman with a certain tilt to her head enters.
It must be twenty years since she sat next to me. And still I expect her to look the same. I shouldn’t be watching for that sweep of black hair anymore. I should be looking for an older woman with a perm. But in my head she’s always the same.
I’ve relived that bus trip countless times. It’s kept me company on more lonely nights than you could imagine.
You think this is about sex, don’t you? You’re imagining some woman straddling a man on a bus, humping furtively behind the seats, all sweat and stickiness and the sad, stale smell of the bus. That’s not how it was at all.
I didn’t see her when she walked on the bus. I was reading, in this same seat I’m sitting in now, but it wasn’t my special seat then. It was just where I happened to be sitting. I had the Financial Times and I was checking the ebbs and flows in the stock market.
Someone sat next to me but I didn’t glance up. I didn’t like conversing with strangers, still don’t. I was thinking about work and weighing up the market, working out how best to take advantage of someone else’s losses. I didn’t register the closeness of this other passenger. Not until I felt a hand brush against my lap, under my newspaper.
I froze. The hand was gone. Perhaps I’d imagined it. I shifted my weight in the seat and tried to glance to the side without making it obvious. There was a woman seated next to me. She had thick black hair and she was reading a book. It was a hardback. A library book. Her hair hung down between us. I couldn’t see her face.
I crossed my legs. Embarrassed even to have imagined such a scenario. I was no lothario. In my fifties and with the sort of soft flesh that comes with too many years at a desk job, there was no way an attractive young woman would make a pass at me. No one had ever made a pass at me.
I cleared my throat and went back to my reading, but I couldn’t concentrate. The thought of that hand, if there had been a hand, and the scent of cloves coming from her hair had put me into, shall we say, a delicate position. This sort of uprising in public hadn’t happened to me since my twenties.
As I shifted and coughed I felt it again, only this time there was more pressure. Her fingers were tracing the outline of my tumescence. I turned to her but still her face was hidden. The curtain of hair didn’t sway. She seemed bent to her book, oblivious to the world. But the hand that was closest to me wasn’t on her lap. I could see it disappearing under my Financial Times.
It didn’t take long. Her fingers were skilful and cool and I’d been alone more years than I care to remember. There was stickiness, I’ll grant you that, but only on the inside of my trousers.
Her hand withdrew. I didn’t know where to look. Didn’t know what one does in this sort of situation. Should I have spoken to her? Should I have thanked her? Her hand, that miraculous hand, came up to her hair and smoothed it. Her skin was creamy. Or was it olive? I’ve remembered it so often that I’m no longer sure what shade or hue tinted that hand. She wore no rings. Her hair shone and I caught myself wondering if it was a little bit of my fluid that made it gleam so.
I was trembling, flustered. The paper shook in my hand. I was thinking about the mess. Wondering if there’d be a stain on the front of my trousers and how I’d get to the office without it being seen.
She left the bus as lightly as she’d arrived. One moment I was staring ahead, flushed and giddy and the next I was alone. I didn’t want to stare. I waited for her to get off before I looked out the window. But she’d turned the other way. There was nothing for me to see.
For twenty years now I’ve taken the same bus and sat in the same seat. Hoping to see that sweep of black hair again.
You see, if she reaches her hand to me again, I’ll place my hand in her lap, too.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
The Sinking Sensation
By Michelle Law
“Look. We don’t want you to feel embarrassed.”
Yes they did.
“Or even ashamed.”
I stared at the floor.
“It just isn’t right, you know? Young ladies like yourself shouldn’t do…that.”
Her fingernails drumming on the kitchen countertop. His arms crossed over his chest.
My shuffling feet, and the scuffmarks my shoes were leaving on the linoleum.
“Don’t set a bad example for your brother. Kids his age shouldn’t be exposed to these things so early.”
Was that all?
“Yeah, you can go now.”
A hand on my shoulder.
“Don’t forget our talk.”
The stars on my ceiling have almost stopped glowing. Some of them have even started to fall off. One lands next to my pillow and I turn to face it, running my fingers over the tiny plastic points. I don’t remember them being this small when I put them up, but that was about five years ago. There used to be a small puzzles and games store I’d visit every day after school. The owners didn’t like my being there, because I’d spend hours playing with the small toys, and rarely ever bought anything.
Kaleidoscopes urged my attention, their coloured reflections contorting my vision, and making me temporarily nauseous. I liked playing with the wind-up cars, but they usually lay broken on the counter, rousing an air of dejection at being all wound out. Then the stars. I hadn’t seen them there before. They were sitting at the opposite end of the bench, a window in the packaging revealing dozens of pale yellow-green shapes, entangled in one collective mass. They were beautiful and exactly what I needed.
The trip home was agonising. Each bump on the bus ride justified a panicked search of my rucksack; a frantic hand ensuring the stars were still safely positioned at the very bottom. They always were. When I got back, I immediately thrust the packet under the brightness of the desk lamp, anticipating what my room would look like after its transformation. At night I turned off all the lights. The stars burst into the darkness, leaving sparkling impressions in their wake. After my eyes adjusted, I tore open the packet and let the shapes spill onto my lap, warming my thighs with their soft heat.
That night my arms got sore from the repetition (1. apply adhesive, 2. reach up to ceiling, 3. ensure secure positioning), but it was worth every ache. Lying in bed I was in orbit, knowing how Gagarin felt as he floated through nothingness for the first time. There was something fantastic about the stars, the way the brightness would swallow you. But now the stars are dull, and the brightest light in my bedroom is the red bauble on the television.
I listen to the static fuzz as the set warms up. A foreign film is playing, but I don’t know what they’re saying because there aren’t any subtitles. It’s on during French hour and only French people are supposed to be watching. I listen to the liquid language; the only one that can make even nonsensical cussing sound like poetry. The couple fight, each of them spitting insults into the Parisian air. It feels like an entertaining paradox, like I’m imposing on something private and yet I’m not, because it’s impossible to gauge the argument or the situation. I also like it because there’s a lot of melodramatic slapping involved.
I think the couple have reconciled. There is a close-up of the leading man’s face as he whispers something into his partner’s ear. She’s wearing heavy, chandelier earrings that remind me of a story I’d heard about a girl’s ear lobes being torn off at a wedding. She is smiling suggestively, running a finger along his broad, stubbled chin. He looks a bit like Liam from my English class, who sits two rows ahead of me. I don’t think Liam shaves enough, so there is always a light shadow on his jaw line. Even from a distance, you can see how the silhouette shapes his perfect mouth.
Sometimes he reads with his forehead almost touching the table, and I wonder if he’s up to the same paragraph or sentence as I am. Sometimes he mouths the words to himself, and I wonder if he hears the charisma. Liam has a way of speaking that makes everything he says sound like there’s profound meaning behind it. When he recites poetry to the class, I am in love with him, and when he reads prose I want to eat his fucking face. Most people at school wouldn’t believe I’d be thinking this. Most of them have probably made up their minds about me. But just because you’re quiet, it doesn’t mean you’re not interested. And just because you don’t mention it, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want to try.
The day we studied The Crucible, Liam played Proctor to my Abigail. It wasn’t a very romantic scene, but I remember it being thrilling. A few of the girls in class objected when Proctor called Abigail a whore, and the rest of the class joined in on the discussion. Liam and I were both still standing, waiting to press on with the scene. I think he felt my gaze, because he turned around and smiled. My sweaty palms slid over the tattered pages as I traced my lines in anticipation. At last.
“I have known her, sir. I have known her.”
He had known me. We had known each other.
The French guy is kissing the woman on the neck. She places her hand somewhere the camera doesn’t see, and his eyelids flutter in-between beats. Then he’s gasping. Liam turns around and walks towards my seat. He pulls a chair up beside me and I lean in to kiss his neck. He smells like clean laundry. One of his hands drop below my scratched desk (the one with “IAN4EVA” carved into it with blunt scissors), and suddenly I’m gasping too.
Then there are hands flying everywhere before I can even register what’s happening. I grab Liam by the shoulder and draw him closer, pulling him loosely towards me before pinning him to the ground. He has snap buttons on his shirt, so I rip them open in one swift movement, laughing because it’s all so absurd. But I can’t let this ruin the moment. His shoulders are bare and I’m quickly running my hands across the blades, kissing my way closer to his groin. He’s telling me things as I go: “Your lips are the softest things I’ve ever worn.” As I wonder how I could come up with something so stupid, Liam’s hand fumbles with my zipper. The sinking sensation.
It’s never gone this far before, and I gasp again- this time from surprise. So I stop midway. And then momentum picks up. And I’ve stopped. Now I start again. Maybe this is what it feels like. This is nice, I’m sure, and I wonder why I’ve gone without it for so long. Soon I’m submerged in something so viscous I can barely see. Everything is warm and oozy, and so all-consuming that my senses are completely blocked. My muscles spasm but I don’t want to move, because what’s happening can’t be stopped. The stars beside my pelvis get lost underneath all the movement. My mind is overcome with desperation and a kind of thrilling terror. And all I can hear is the Thud. Thud. Thud. of my own heartbeat. Or maybe it’s the bed head against the wall. Oh he is beautiful, and exactly what I need.
Then- a soft knock on the door.
Me falling off the bed with my pants off.
Then- a tiny thread of light, and a stifled wheeze that isn’t mine.
Me pulling up my pants and scrambling back into bed. The door clicking shut, and then panicked murmurs down the hall. My little brother’s questions.
“Mum, I think she was dying!”
And my head buried under the covers.
During the last two hours, I’ve switched from one end of the bed (facing the door) to the other (facing the window), and then back again. It’s amazing how your perspective can shift with one small alteration. Things regain their freshness, and there’s this heightened anticipation that you can’t remember feeling since your first sleep over as a kid. You start to feel hopeful, maybe even expectant that whatever happens next will be different to what you already know. I switch ends again, hoping this movement will inspire a more convincing explanation than: “I was changing, and he should know to knock.” I come up with nothing. I switch ends again- not out of frustration, but for something to do. My leg rolls limply off the mattress, and my foot brushes against something jagged. There’s only one left up there, clinging by a few thin threads of adhesive. I gracelessly roll off the bed and straighten up. The carpet is streaked with fallen stars.
Everything is quiet as I step out into the hallway, eyes steaming. Light grazes the floor, and my shadow gets pulled back into the darkness of my bedroom, back into the safety. I can’t help but want to follow it. My brother is asleep on the couch, and there is a glistening glob of purple bubble-gum in his mouth. For a moment I wish it would slide down into the back of his throat, I imagine it would be easy. But he is never going to forget. Just like the time my mum leaned forward to turn off my night-light. The image of her hanging breasts, dark nipples faced downward inside her over-sized bed shirt, carved itself into my memory like an old etching. Kids his age never forget. I walk up and pluck the wet, masticated candy from between his teeth and fold it into a tissue. Soon I can smell the artificial grape taste that’s beginning to stain my palm.
My parents are waiting. Mum is sitting at the dining table with a newspaper; her head crooked, eyes unmoving. Dad is wiping down the stovetop, working aimlessly at an old food scrap that cemented itself there years ago. They don’t look up when I cross the threshold, and for a while I’m not sure they’ve even seen me. The gum is still warm in my hand. Dad’s standing with his back towards me, but I can see his face reflected in the sink. He looks tired, eyes slightly unfocused, before the metal fogs up with steam and suds. I maneuver my way around him as he scrubs, avoiding his elbow as it juts to and fro. We don’t own a bin with a foot pedal, so I lean down and lift the lid myself.
Scents roll into the air: citrus, coffee, and animal fat. The artificial grape smell joins the blend. Dad moves away, but I stay where I am, letting the water from the empty washing gloves trickle down onto my head. The drumming starts, and I know her fingernails will be stained with ink from the paper. And he will have a faint white stain across his chest from the powder on his hands. Then I’ll go upstairs and find the last star has finally fallen. All of this for a sensation.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
I know I used to think it had something to do with True Love. The destruction of my romantic prudery was probably more momentous than the loss of my virginity. Although both happened gradually.
By all rights my deflowering, as my mother termed it, should have been perpetrated by my first boyfriend: he was a shocking five years older than me, we were blissfully in love, and he allegedly knew his way around a bedroom, having lost his own virginity at the ripe old age of twelve. But he lived in another state, and his visits were so zealously chaperoned we never managed more than a hasty make-out session. No matter how many phone calls my mother made to friends and family complaining of my sexual corruption by Satan-worshipping Eurotrash, alas, it never happened. Twenty year old men can't wait eight months for sex. He found someone else.
It would be another two years before I found myself in love again, and in proximity to a naked male. He was my best friend. By the time we wound up in bed together I knew virtually everything about him, including the fact he was extremely well endowed. Too well endowed, in fact; I had to ask him to stop on the first stroke. I moved roughly three and a half thousand miles away the following week.
In my new home of London I embarked on a morose solitary phase that, despite one or two promising crushes on relatively decent men, I allowed to be broken by the incessant advances of a busking children's clown. The conclusion of a year plus of profound loneliness was heralded by this man (clown?) climbing atop me, slipping it in, and apparently falling asleep. He slumped, and started snoring. Was it narcolepsy, or was he just really wasted? I don't know. I didn't ask, and he was gone the next morning as soon as his clothes were zipped and buttoned.
I finally, properly lost my virginity at nineteen, tied to the bedposts of a thirty-two year old divorcee in Brooklyn.
By that stage, the notion that sex and romance are clearly divisible had dawned on me. I considered the primal, animalistic aspect of sex; perhaps I could learn to embrace it, so to speak. I couldn't. My foray into this realm was uncompelling: A young man asked if he could kiss me before I spewed, as I stood doubled over heaving outside a pub while my friend hailed a cab. I was humped by several large dogs. A kangaroo once ejaculated on my Doc Marten boots… And so the romantic prude in me survives. When someone approaches me in a bar and asks if I "wanna fuck", I say "no", and resent being forced to make a snap decision of this magnitude.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Slipping a cotton djellaba over my head, I opened the door and stepped out into a courtyard bathed in the glow of a full moon that was sailing directly above the house. She was hunched on the edge of the fountain, legs tucked, arms wrapped around them, her attention on the running water splashing into the fountain. Often at night I hear the late night sounds of the Medina, the lone artisan tapping away, the clip clop of a donkey passing down the alley. But this night there was nothing. Not even a finger of breeze reached out for my face as I stood in a silence and stillness so complete that I thought my breathing to be an intrusion.
The hood of her aqua djellaba was up, covering her hair, her face was not towards me, but facing the fountain and yet I knew that if she turned I would see those amber eyes, that cinnamon skin. And turn she would, I was certain, for this was a moment woven deep in the tapestry that lay between us.
You bled for me.
The voice was so deep, inside me, around me, accompanied by a slight shifting of the air and the scent of orange-flower water.
I have never taken a Nazarene.
Despite the warm evening I was struck with a sudden chill and began to shake uncontrollably, to the point where I feared I would fall to the ground. Small patches of my skin quivered and I twitched in involuntary spasms. Under my flesh my bones were aching and itchy.
She laughed, sharp and cold as razorblades. You desire to feed my hunger, Nazarene?
'What do you want?' It was my mouth moving but my voice sounded as if it came from elsewhere. A bubble of fear rose in me, emerging in an involuntary gasp.
Be still! She commanded and my shaking stopped. Then she turned her head towards me and brushed the hood back from her face; that face, the amber eyes, lips the colour of pomegranate juice. She was Mira, but not the Mira I knew.
You will never have her if you have me. The words were flung at me like a dagger and I staggered back, recoiling from her power.
'Who are you,' I whispered, knowing that if I was being tested, I was failing.
Do you want to call me by her name?
I shook my head.
There are many names I am called. Lalla Dghughiyya I am named by some because it was Sidi Ahmed who brought me here centuries ago. Others call me Lalla A'isha Gnawiyya, Lalla A'isha Sudaniyya or Lalla...
'A'isha Qandisha,' I repeated, knowing even as I spoke it that it was more than just a name. It was promise and threat, pleasure and pain. It was a prison into which I was begging admittance.
You will only have me. Swear it. Swear it now
And no other, unless I tell you to so.
She stood, or rather was suddenly standing, for I didn't see her move until she was before me; the tallest woman I have ever seen. Running a finger down the front of her djellaba she cut the fabric and gathered it with her other hand so she remained covered.
Tell me your true name.
A quiver of fear ran through me but I told her.
Marcus, Marcus... she rolled it around her mouth like a morsel of flesh; the sound of it on her voice, a balm that soothed away the past and glowed a soft burnt orange.
Without another word she walked past me to what had been the door of my salon. In place of the great cedar panels was a gate of peacock feathers that parted as she went inside. Far away in the recess of my brain a voice told me not to follow, insisting that this was delusion and that I could stop myself if I wanted. The stupid voice had no idea... and neither did I.
Let me try and describe the indescribable.
Stepping through that iridescent gate I entered the shimmering realm of A'isha's wild and untamed magic; a realm so foreign, so removed from my western concepts of magic, as to be incomprehensible. This was not some folklore born from stereotypes handed down from generation to generation, no myth from bygone ages incarnate. I had entered a space that existed without names or form, a space that lived and engulfed me, a space in which thought was alien and yet all that existed was thought.
The space was A'isha in all her forms. I have a vivid recollection of her standing naked in front of me, a beauty so terrifying that I recoiled as if my eyes had been splashed with acid. The moment of transition, of fear and disorientation, passed and I became at one with the space. Enraged by a lust so deep it transcended flesh; I stood my ground and claimed her.
A'isha kissed me and I dissolved into the cavern of her mouth, a chamber of delirium and transcendence. Roots of a giant fig tree curled through the space, through us, her legs ancient and strong, her hair, the matted fibres of wet roots from plants above the grotto. Water or perhaps it was blood, flowed on a stone floor that transformed, becoming soft moist moss, then mud, as we sunk down. In this dank swamp a beast was rutting, its haunches punching air that swirled, thick with smoke, from guttering candles and incense.
This is Ayn Kabir and in this place you will obey me absolutely.
Anger welled up in me, a massive anger, at the realisation that, until this moment, I had been denying my true nature and in that moment of revelation, I saw that the rutting beast was me.
Her transformations were endless. One moment it was Aisling, her back arched, her head thrashing from side to side; Rachel too, grim and determined, her cries of passion a thin keening in blackness on the edge of hearing. There were others, but always it was A'isha, gorging herself, feeding an insatiable hunger that consumed me time and again, yet left me charged, prepared to indulge her every whim. With my senses scrambled in the warp of chaos she was creating I saw, rather than heard, my own voice woven, a blood red weft on her loom: Hahiya jat Hahiya jat Hahiya jat Lalla 'A'isha!
I would not leave you with the impression that she was incapable of tenderness, but those rare moments came later. Sweet glowing moments filled with amber eyes, cinnamon skin slicked salty with sweat and the smile of a quiescent Mira, curled as soft and compliant as a faun, offering me her nipples while nibbling my neck with lips stained with the memory of pomegranate.
Are all the Nazarene like you? Her mouth was drawn in a cruel smile.
'I can't speak for others.'
A change flowed around us and she stood, dressed again in Mira's body, above where I lay, spent, on the courtyard tiles. In her hand a knife, ivory handle tilted towards me; a challenge rather than a request. Taking it, I slit the flesh on my arm and felt a swelling joy as this now diminutive woman gently cleaned the wound with her tongue. Over her shoulder I saw that the doors of my salon were once again solid cedar.
Finally she looked me in the eye and spoke with the voice of ice.
You shall have none but me and should you speak of this to anyone I shall kill you.To please me you will wear black and red, grow a beard and not cut your hair. You will only burn black jawi incense and when I demand it you will perform the hadra. Is that understood?
There was no need for me to respond for she knew that in that moment I would agree to everything she asked of me.
Good, then I will come again, inshallah.
Inshallah, I mumbled as I tumbled backwards.