I see myself reflected in the beads of sweat on Betty’s neck, secreted distortions cavorting on her skin. Watching a thousand tiny replicas rolling out from her hairline, dripping and ducking into prominent creases and taking my face with them. Her clavicle’s a pool now. I want to drown. As I stare into it, I see my eye shimmering back as Narcissus sitting in dysmorphic horror. My own sweat clings, moist in depravity, sad in shameful spots and proud upon my brow. Saltwater taffy, I think, and don’t lick. The eye doesn’t blink, judging. The oasis is a mirage.
Trying to sleep with sheets kicked to the floor and air upon raw flesh. She’s slick with sweat. I’m also wet. I lay palm to her belly and it hydroplanes to hip. ‘Don’t,’ she moans, throws my hand away. Industrial fan clicks, turns, churns the atmosphere to paste. The night gapes, still, dull, and dead. In my head we could have sex. I replace my hand atop her chest but it backslides landing leaden on the bed. ‘Was supposed to rain,’ she says, again. Press myself flat to the mattress and tell her, it’s only going to get worse.
Most of the time Callie ignores me, but every now and then, when I make her a nice meal or stroke her neck just right, she loves me like nobody ever has. I wish she was more affectionate, but it’s her nature to be capricious, aloof. I don’t blame her, and late at night when I feel her little body pressed against mine and hear those sleepy sounds, I feel enraptured. Though lately it’s like she’s lonely beyond me, primed with primal needs I’ll never meet. I don’t want to share her, but maybe I should get another cat.
The wind struck him first, full in the face then deep in the heart. Thrashing against him like a blind animal, rummaging through his clothes and pawing his person. It pulled his hair and filled his mouth with muted screams. The rush filled his ears and pressed on his mind the way blizzards shut doors. Oddly peaceful, he considered his place in the world as he hurtled towards it. An object in space welcomed by resistance. A shockingly elegant process, half a step and gravity did the rest. It struck him finally as holistic, then he struck the ground.
I’m stuck to the screen when a toothpaste ad reminds me I haven’t cleaned my teeth in two days, which means I haven’t showered in two days, since that’s where I brush. It’s more efficient that way. I wonder how long a body can survive unscrubbed, if filth and decay is a life or death process. With no infection or interference, no action or interaction, what minor scum accrues can only be more skin. An excess flesh carapace encasing my corpus in quiddity. Then an ad for a dating app comes up and I decide to take a bath.
Barbara runs into me at the rocks by the north quay ferry. She’s getting off and I’m taking my time. We say, ‘Hey,’ in uncertain cadences like chastened children forced to make nice after a fight. It was never so hard before. She looks at my shoes and the stairs and the rocks and the sky and all the spaces where something might be that isn’t me. There’s no silence in the city. Pointing away, I tell her, I’d better go, but she’s already a few steps above me. Indirectly she says, ‘Nice seeing you,’ and continues her ascension.
Beyond the flesh I miss her mind, or moreover her presence now in absence. In cerebral invasion I envision this floating thing, like an orb unmoored by gravity, a hovering visage flitting and forming simple actions and single lines, slices of time that, like scientific slides, cut a swatch of understanding from the whole. I guess you could say, the soul, but it’s divorced from dogma and drawn in cotton watercolour. Well, whatever the render, it’s what it represents. Memories and summaries that somehow draw a person in relief. Beyond the flesh. Beyond belief. Totally occupied by her vagrancy.
Sometimes I take cigarette breaks I don’t really want just so I have a good reason to be alone. A lifetime of tiny deaths seem worth the price of a little isolation. It’s not that I don’t like people but I don’t want to be around them when the cost of even the best interaction is deep and swiftly taken, leaving me shucked. It’s nobody’s fault but mine maybe, for feeling myself so seperate from the rest. Sometimes I just need a minute, to recalibrate, breathe, and become human again in my own way. One day I’ll give up.
Once year I smash a bottle of Southern Comfort on the ground. She would hate that, I hope, it was her favourite and her favourites were sacrosanct. The pleasure it gives me is short but large though largely without solace. I look at the shards and sticky liqueur and say it’s a metaphor, that it’s symbolic. I say that, but it’s not, it’s wasteful, scattered thoughts, passions, anger and obsession. I hurt myself in ways she would love and say it’s expression. Of what I don’t know, but once a year I smash a bottle and remember being broken.
One hundred seventy eight square centimetres of contact from shoulder to shin. Palm to palm, forty six when pressed flush. A rush of blood in a minute round trip, tip to tip, past the heart. Two spoons, one big, one little, hard held in tapered flesh. The breaths are a current across neck and shoulder atomic flecks that rise and blend with periodic heat, see oh two, particles mixed and settling into concentration. Presupposed adipose tissue with no limp lipids is crackling with kinetics, so rate of force is of course glorious and love is the result-cum-catalyst.
When you write a sigh it loses its subtlety, becomes less than punctuation or something strong as a sentence, turns sassy like irony or onomatopoeia. Sigh. So audibly versatile. It could be exclamation or ellipses, exasperated and punchy or forlorn and drawn, but give it textual context and it dries on the page. Sigh with rage. I wish things were simply what they meant and often lament their transmutative action for lack of explanatory traction. I wish a sigh on paper or in aether would have it’s meaning be clearer than being heard in the head or merely read.
Neither of us cries and the air grows thick with precipitation. In times of drought, I tell her, people of the Balkans would pray to Perperuna, a ceremony and god, Pagan in principal. She was the goddess of rain. A little smile breaks, as sunlight does, and penetrates the cloud. ‘Does this mean you would dance for me?’ For you, yes, but not for rain, I say. Naša dodo Boga moli, my aim would be to stave the storm. ‘Then start,’ she tells me, ‘and let us both enjoy the sun.’ We hold hands and move to warmer climes.
In bed with my stuck headed ways, thinking about lie and lay, ley line, lain, lei, lion and lying, dying linguistic miseries over and again. I want silence, stillness, but there’s still no release when these troupes of tropes traipse for days in lackadaisical ways through the malaise of my brain. Like, why is and y in Spanish when et is and in Latin too. Do you see? ¿no o si? Maybe it’s just me, or the inner eye that’s seen too much. I guess oui? Maybe we’ll never know, or maybe I need to give me a rest.
I buried my face in your pillow till I’d nearly suffocated with your scent. Parts of the house move on their own without you. I’d not realised how full your stewardship was, how your body kept the creak and decay away. I breathe you in again and talk to the fibres. All they tell are ghost stories and promises, richly woven but lacking comfort. The nightbirds skylark and the panes rattle; midnight sounds abound. I am deaf, I tell them, and dream of losing myself in your memory. In some other elsewhere I know you smile upon the world.
I perform a thousand compulsions every day, inexplicable obligations to unnecessary notions. My mind forces me into tired retreads of circular ruts, fourth, fifth, and sixth repetitions, wanting to assuaged suspicions in the wake of existing confirmation. I know what I know doesn’t go anywhere, but certainty fades to febrile dusk and shimmers painfully on the fringes of ephemera and unlikelihood. I close my eyes, open my mind, and dive. Deep inside the world swirls and I, lost to potential, die a little as everything that never was and everything that could ever be roils away inside of me.