(Two people alone/In dark rooms, I don your shirt/Lose sight in the dark)
I like when things taper off, trickle away, trail. The ambiguity leaves me a world of possibilities to consider at night, like crossing paths on a crowded street and seeing you brimming with potential. The Connection proposed we take a break, reevaluate in the fall. The practicality appeals to me, the finality chokes me. I’m not the same person I was in January. I’m not the same person I was this morning, though my clothes smell faintly of the current and rain.
Red and I are swimming in a river neither of us knows to navigate or cares to. We might drown or learn to swim. Yesterday, we woke after albacore-stuffed steak and kumquat macarons and moved silently to breakfast, pizza and coffee in the corner of a bakery I’ve sat in many times in many lives. We communicated via touch, shared sips of coffee, and observations about the people around us. We did not talk about the fight we’d had the night before, or the frustration we feel curling at our edges at the strange definition and pregnant power of the time we choose to share together. The play has moved from parallel to intertwined, and her whip hangs alongside my bandana on my window wall. I keep developing photos in fluorescence at CVS, pushing them from the dark they’re taken in. I put them on my walls. I arrange them and try to piece them together. Today, I am wearing her blue corduroy shirt and my thumbs are slipped through the plackets, the sleeves tight on my arms.
Our hands were piled atop each other, and I wanted to take a picture of them because they reminded me of the shadowed canopies of a tree, but in doing so, it would disturb their musculature, their death, the breath of our pulses. There was a flood warning. We were indoors.
How many moments that I don’t write down get lost underneath my thumb?
The energy percolated, sheltered from the rain and the weather warning bleating from our phones and then the idea sprang from our minds and eyes and tightened the grip we had on each other’s forearms. We had to find the flood, we had to go to the water and follow the storm so we left the tepid warmth behind and bundled into the car.
The river was pulsing, beating close to the edge. Red picked up river rocks and hewn chunks of quartz from the puckered bed and I rolled my designer jeans to the ankles and leaped into the abyss. I yelped into the wind and received nothing back but vastness and for all the wind whipping past my ankles not a shiver left my skin. I was alone, I was surrounded, I saw her drifting through the trees and the exposed roots, tough with bark amidst the broken beer bottles and fronds. It was ours for a moment, packed underneath the cars and routes above our heads. The ye-ye emanating from the dashboard and mechanical chill of the air conditioner lulled us into a rhythm of getting away.
We embark north, past the shuttered houses and collapsing barns on the side of 117, and screech off the side of the road to slide our feet into the end of the riverbeds, emptying down rocksides to small waterfalls. The ground sinks underneath our bodies and we crouch at the very edge of endless water that would surely steal our breath. Our kisses are light, our lips weighted with plush rainwater and salt. The world passes by as we lay, and nobody but us thinks to stop.
Our drive takes us to another place I’ve known and loved. Seeing it through different eyes and in rain-soaked boat shoes gives me leeway to relax, to spit down the sides of the bridge and lose sight of the constant considerations of my brain. It seems futility dogs us at every bend. We can’t find pizza, Advil is just out of reach, and the endless stretch of the gorge is blocked off. Trespassers can’t kill themselves unless the state condones it, and exploration is an iron fence and dam away from euphoria underneath the power of the rush.
The car ride is restless because we don’t know where to go after that, our feet are itchy and ache for the dust and shadows of the forest. Her head hurts and I don’t know how to help it. I don’t even know that I should. I wring people dry and sometimes I see the exasperation in her eyes. I don’t know what to do about it but to ground myself, sometimes it’s the back of her hand on my neck preventing me from shocking myself, sometimes the feeling of my feet buried in the sand as the water rushes by. I’m rooted where I think. I am what I want.
Salvation comes in the form of four neon letters and a crumbling concrete building on the side of the road. I always knew it would come to this, but I never knew how. Four years of waiting to go to one sausage shop and nobody would ever come along. It seemed wrong to try if it couldn’t come by naturally, and here we were, hurtling into space and stopping at the smell of smoke.
Pelaski’s was sterile and cold inside, coils of meat wrapped as far as the counters stretched. E never wanted to go, the rest of them couldn’t grasp the incomprehensible joy of such a quest. But Pelaski’s was cash only and all we had were cards and the coins in the Mason jar in the cupholder, and we left not with meat, but large slabs of rounded slate from a table in the back, next to squat pots of mustard and slab bacon. Slate to write on, slate with pools and ripples that are now resting in the back of her car. She holds my hand and tells me we’ll be back for bacon. I believe it.
So we end up at a diner in the middle of an empty road and a truck stop. It’s ten seats long and filled with the sound of trains in the distance, Bob Seger songs on the jukebox and French Canadian truckers, for whom my heart and cadenced patois sings with a traveled yearning. I’m rusty, but I can tell they’re reminiscing for home. I respond in French in my head and smile out into the rain. My eggs benedict are overcooked, but there’s corned beef hash underneath and my fingers mold around the warmth of a perpetually brimming mug of black, strong coffee. She eyes me from across the formica and I don’t stop smiling.
Back home, I am laying in a pool across her bed. Her sanctuary envelops me with a softening shade. It recalls therapist’s offices, mudrooms of the houses of old friends, darkened spas in austere towns. She stands above me, she is the authority. In her hand is the flogger we fell in love with on Wednesday. It is substantial, weighted, crafted with a precision meant to last longer than the backs it flays. It feels like a third party in our lovemaking, so deep is its energy.
There are moments when my entire body goes limp, when the fight ebbs, if only for a slip in time. I’m aware of how I feel. That’s when I remember that the leather is forgiving despite the stress we place upon it, that its individual lashes, butter-soft, work simultaneously as they fly through the air to land upon the taut stretch of my back like canvas on wood, roughly hewn edges meeting flayed fur to rest in a single crack of my lips, snap across skin. She hits with precision. I see her eyes in the mirror.
The Query says not to fuck it up, but really, how can I not?
So our sex is silent that night, my fingertips burning as I rake them across the cotton sheets and later, after my hushed rage and searing tears I find that they are shiny and tender, their oils worn away. She wants me to scream. We drive to my apartment in the rain, I let myself in before she arrives and sweep the dirt from my doorstep and put on Neko and let her in my arms, through the window, above the rain. We are indoors. The flood is raging. Her hurricane shifts me to the bed, spread flat beneath her gale and cool, steady palms.
In the morning, she slips the scarred river rock into my hand. It is substantial in my palm and later, as I rest, I slip it into my mouth.
My whole world tastes of salt.