The three unsatisfied beginnings started in the subway, brewing in the heat of the underbelly of Paris, the steam rising up from the sidewalks only to be cut short by the brisk breeze of passersby on street level. It is warm for December, deceptively so. You are not cold, but merely, more aware of the difference in temperature. As you come up from the Metro, you will feel it blowing on the back of your neck, a temptation and an invasion on an intimate part.
That is how it started.
The first was in a glance as she tugged me onto her bed, a chaste peck on the lips heralding the thinness of the walls of her host family and suddenly I was back in high school but better, stronger, more confident and cocky in my gait and in my mind. I had never been to her house, the smells and sights alien and intoxicating in my throat. I held my breath as I sank into her with two fingers, withdrawing once more at the mocking creak of the bedsprings and paranoia of the movement of the door. The awareness of the movement and sway of the world outside pained me, aching in the chest and soles of my feet.
Ominous bodies, amorphous and rendered grotesque by the stained glass windows of her French doors, milled outside like encroaching nightmares and I gasped into the pinkness of her body. She gave herself to me in bits and pieces, in chipped mugs of coffee and postcards I would later resolve to give back filled with words. I would relegate them to the back of a drawer and find them years later, wondering who, and where, they had come from. (I write this now so I will write her one in the morning, over tea.)
I kissed her on the eyelids and felt her gaze flutter beneath my embrace, and in a moment, we shuddered in tandem on a bowed, used bed full of crumbs.
The second unsatisfied beginning, curled and smoldering on the shelves of a library we did not belong to. We snuck in the back and brazenly left out the front doors. In the interim, I fucked her in the biography section in the basement, giddy and illicit as Anxiety and Affluence tumbled from the shelves. “A study of power in the Depression…” burbling onto my eyes, her yes, two fingers tearing a hole in her tights, craning up upon her thigh and inside, snagging merino wool cardigans and knitted scarves against the craggy concrete wall and the adoration of apathy toward it all. Yes, she said. Yes, I gave.
Undeterred, I kneeled and paid respect, to the words falling at my feet, to the expanse of whiteness and the pulse of warmth. She gazed ahead and sighed, the cream of her body falling toward me in the slowest and slightest of motions. Theodore Roosevelt, Vanderbilt, powerful men reduced to ink and pulp fell down from the shelves, and only when they were down did I realize they were there.
Sitting on a train to the airport, the last beginning knitted us inseparable, small indicators passed back and forth to the pulse of hand squeezes and shared sweaters. The most abrupt beginning started with an impulse, a concept, whirled into the air and scribbled onto a small piece of paper that would later be tucked into the breast pocket of a jacket right above her heart. She whispered something in my ear, muffled by the motion of the train hurtling toward finality and the raucous Edith Piaf blaring from the musicians in the next car over.
I didn’t hear what she told me.
Lately when I dream of her, I am strangely roused from my sleep—bloody nose, Blue Oyster Cult, raindrops falling from a window blown open. In my dreams (or are they nightmares?) I try to piece together what she said and never come up with what it is that I want to hear. It’s a sick self-fulfilling prophecy of Coppola films and travelogues wrapped up in pithy glances and sleepy Sundays. I hate it and I love it and I need it and crave it when it is gone, (although life is long, she says) my breath will go short and my tongue sour and I will feel the chilly face of the true indifference of the world. Already, she is moving on to what she knows and my audacity is a mere novelty in the face of grander goals. Who am I to wrench her from familiarity and enjoyment, to stain the fabric of a universe she loves?
When the scuffed boot, the lukewarm mug of tea, the compel of gravity causes the books to tumble from the shelves, eventually, won’t our affection abruptly cut short? Won’t we, in time, find things to hate?
I ask these questions to myself late at night, when I cannot sleep, but my lips shape words of sweet, quiet affection and more and more, I find it easy to say to you, I love. It is with this ease that I move forward, to whatever this new year heralds. Three unsatisfied beginnings bloom to an ending of possibilities and intrigue.