Arris lives at a mayfly pace, breakneck into life unto death. We fell in love within days, as is her way, married in spirit scarce weeks after, thereupon mated soul to soul. Now I watch her flit to task at a ferocious clip, my mind in the slovenly slow motion of an astute sloth awed at progress. I sometimes struggle to keep up, making my way sluggishly to her markers to pause and comment while she calls from the next. ‘Keep up,’ she shouts from the future, patience stretched far as ambition, ‘I can’t wait to have you here.’
When the nightmares wake me I turn to Arris and place my hand on her chest, falling into the space between breaths. Sleeping still, she lays her hand over mine and mewls softly at the dark, unconscious signals that need no dream reader to untangle. No light and no life show beyond the bounds of our room. We are all that there is. I move closer for my skin to know hers. Chest to toe my body warms with an inner glow. I turn to face sleep again, knowing whatever waits beyond, I will be safe when I return.
‘You always write me laughing,’ she says, smiling. ‘I don’t think I laugh that much, do I?’ Maybe that’s how I like to think of you, I say, maybe that’s how I always think of you, full of the joy that you give me. Arris lays her hand over mine and kisses me swiftly on the cheek. ‘I’m sad sometimes too,’ she says, ‘or angry, preoccupied, tired.’ Her face shifts through emotions like sunlight moves through leaves and breaks a frown with a laugh. ‘You’re going to write this down aren’t you?’ I tell her, this life writes itself.
Arris fell out of time and landed in my lap. I was so surprised that I charmed her. Something like you belongs somewhere romantic, I said. Paris in sepia or a courtesan’s lace, an uncanny valley or gypsy caravan. Some place idyllic and far away. She laughed at me with social freedoms long since won in wars we forgot. ‘From hereon out I belong next to you,’ she said. ‘Whenever you need me that’s where I’ll be.’ I started counting my blessings and asked for seconds. ‘For you, I will always make time.’ After that, forever was never enough.
Stood by the river with clasped hands and the high tide begging for our feet. I thought for the longest time that I could never live, I said. I’d come to accept that happiness was something other people felt. Arris pulled herself into the furrow beneath my arm and constricted my chest. ‘I thought I knew what happiness was,’ she said, ‘that I was living and had lived a life as happy as I might.’ I pulled her close about the shoulder and listened to the lapping water. We are always more together, I said, watching sadness float away.
I fell down and broke my skin then sat there staring at the wound. ‘What is it,’ Arris asked. I told her it was circumstance, clumsiness, a lack of care on my behalf. ‘Can we fix it?’ I watched the blood seeping and said, I doubt it. ‘This is the dumbest thing I’ve seen you do,’ she said. Not getting hurt but passively accepting it. ‘You are strong and resilient. I am smart, we can fix this.’ I lay my hand over the wound so she couldn’t see it, and smile, winsome. Some things just need time to heal.
Stardust and light poured into the shape of a woman, Arris says, ‘Sure, the dust of creation settled and compressed.’ Like diamonds, I suggest. ‘Yep. Trillions of particles forced into form and held together by luck and habit.’ I ask her what the space between is made of. ‘It is the elemental nothing opposing the desire to be something.’ Moving us like magnets. ‘Invisible repulsion.’ Attraction. ‘Compulsion,’ she says and winks. Beyond the eye of measure one star blooms and another wilts. But how did we come to be from dust? She tells me, ‘That’s a matter of time.’
Arris looked at the walls around us and said, ‘I bet we could knock one down if we wanted.’ Of course, I said, if it’s sound. She strode to each surface, knocked and listened in turn. ‘Well, they all sound amenable to me.’ Her laughter fell out and furnished the room around me, her dreams and intentions colouring everything. ‘We’ll start from the middle and work our way out,’ she said. ‘Making and shaping space as we need it.’ Knock down whatever you want, I told her, I will build the pillars to keep the roof over our heads.
Arris lays above me, subsuming my eye line like burnt caramel spooled into the red sea. ‘if I stick out my tongue,’ she says, ‘I can taste the electricity between your atoms. It’s like irradiated snowflakes.’ As I shiver and shake, something deep beneath the lizard brain wakes, extending tendrils through neuron and nerve ending, subdermal first but rending tissue so quickly, burning through me, yearning to be free. I submit and let its rough light permeate my pores and core, a bodily blitzkrieg that finds me fuller, occupied rather than conquered, activating cellular citizenry now primed with purpose.