Fearsome, burdensome.

It is a full-on war and we are steeling ourselves with banter to arm and lob. It is how we defend ourselves against ourselves and for ourselves and the more we can hurl it away, the less it explodes in our hearts. So over kebab, and a walk, and pastries in a café, we are a little meaner to each other than the situation calls for. The slap of my hand on her ass, five-fingered gluttony blooming red echoes the words she scribbles in her journal and the twinkle in her eye when she says,

“You don’t exist, I wrote you.” And in all honesty, she did, but she has given a life and breath to her character that has necromanced and danced it to a shivering existence. The personal ad she wrote to herself and squirreled away manifested itself in living, breathing Technicolor frayed around the edges and heaving breaths when it climbs too many stairs. This is me and I worry that she may not want what she has because it’s better in theory and practice. So, I banter back. I ask her personal, probing questions neither polite nor kind and she answers them. When they are too cruel she shuts down and asks me some, though they falter, though I see her look into my eyes with vulnerability and I reveal my insecurities like some sort of emotional James Bond villain. I have 48 hours left in Paris.

Our operas are three-act condensed versions of real issues and they go like this: I opine on my knees and tell her I love her—I worry I am effusive—she calls it attentive, and I leave it be. She asks me about commitment—we argue its definition—I worry that she’s scared, she worries that I’m scared. Arias of apathy, crescendos of the cries of kids whose parents still pay their cell phone bills. Wanting the same thing allows us to arrive at the same conclusion, though perhaps with different paths of attraction, connections via Paris, Amsterdam, Tangier, DC, Seattle, and back again neverending.

With my little questions, I ask and demand and pretend that I am worse than my beating heart implies. I envision her curling around my arm instinctively like I’d punched her and her reflex was frozen in time. I am no worse off than the clowns of Woody Allen films, the periods at the end of sentences, the characters who learn lessons at the end of things and even the ones who do not. I am suspended and beguiled by this dream-world, this lull in my life where money doesn’t matter and only my feelings and thoughts need to be written up and exhaustively documented and you can tell from the smile on my face and the bounce in my step that I love love love every minute of it and you want to be me, but only for that moment.

Because you know, and I know, that when the wheels hit the ground back home, I will be forced to rub my nose in it all, force my face to the ground and confront the coldness that running away held off. My grandmother is dead, my relationship is finished, I am constantly transitory, and I do not know what I will be doing come my next birthday. I am crying because my face is tingling at the fact, anticipating a smack of reality and indifference that is hard to confront.

So when she really slaps me in the face, an open-handed, wholehearted slap with all of her energy and fear, the backhand of a girl whose parents paid for tennis lessons, I am breathless with lust and relief. I cry out for more and she drives her foot into my cunt, her fist into my jaw, connections, so many, and I am touching myself with every last bit of care that I can hope for, fueling it back around and inside and to myself before I give it away. This care, this is mine and I will swallow it whole before I have to relinquish it, and I come and cry and cry until I am finished. Shortly after, we get up and leave, and shut the door for the sun to shine in.

-C.

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