I woke up late this morning, morning obscured by clouds and Saturday calm, delight of good rest, promise of the day. Cycling today, nowhere to go, but go, still, the gently sloping turns around trees, greenery full now to the edge of the road in the height of summer, heat deferred in the grey day, pedals guiding me around these paths familiar, but not, the tinge of unexplicable nostalgia subtle as I go on, honeysuckle here, where the lightning bugs came out two nights ago. I wanted to show you then, but thought of it anyhow, and now, yes, I would tell you about the honeysuckle, dripping fragrance obvious, but I would still say something, I always do. I would say something about the soaring sweetness of it, the tree swing flying high above the meadow, my heart beating fast when you have finally caught me again, when you have pinned me down, and smile because you don’t have to, unbuttoned, the rush, giddy desire suspended, extended, delicious. Silence is sublime in the space it leaves, space to think and dream, and wonder, and ramble in the hazy world of Saturday.
I was thinking, just now, about your shoulders.
I was thinking about you, alone with me, turned back to me while I kneaded your shoulders, sore, exhausted you said as you let your head hang loose, as I felt my nipples harden at the luxury of your muscles, your smooth skin, your naked back.
My hand wanders, you know, wanders down and round, down to your stiff cock, now down to my own slick warmth, my thoughts wandering, your shoulders now over mine, the effort of holding yourself over me, tease, then, the need, your breath soft against my neck, sinking, the initial gratification, then more, want more, yes more, miss you, miss your strength, miss your shoulders, miss this.
You asked me to make pancakes.
I do not eat pancakes–shouldn’t, I say–but I made them anyway, for you.
The batter is lumpy in the yellow melamine mixing bowl, and I look at it, grudgingly pouring small circles onto the hot griddle. It is too hot, butter burning now beneath the cakes. You say you love that smell, and reach beneath me to open the oven, to pull the bacon from the broiler.
I watch your cakes bubble up on top, slowly, milk sweet, hot, scalding sweet, with the coffee you have made, the wood musty in this far-off cabin of yours, bugs humming, birds, peas-in-Canada, I hear, when you open the back door and whistle, your cat’s sleek fur now circling my ankles as I flip quickly, flip, quickly, and they are nearly ready, bacon, crisp, two plates, and your porch, two chairs, a small table between us, last night’s beer bottles and my flip-flops, our swimsuits flung over the railing. I can see my breath in the cool, the humid now near the lake, there beyond the fog. The coffee is so hot, your breath so hot, kisses hot in the early morning, the violets in the meadow, spring dew, you pinching my nipples as I carry two plates, the syrup hanging from my fingertip.
I should never eat these things, but you are right. They are perfect, burned butter, syrup, bacon, coffee. I am a child again. This is bliss, yes, morning, yes, you, yes, so comforting, so familiar, so inevitable, it seems, in the haze of morning, Ivory soap on your hands now as you turn my face toward yours. I might sleep again, soon, might fall back into bed with you, your kisses. Might wake, too, to wander through the dewy violets, to the water, warmer than the air, you were right. I might jump in, if you asked me, might swim in these dark waters, these known waters, these waters I have loved for so long, might dive, then, into the deep, might come up for air, might, might, wish I may, I might make pancakes again for you.
The porch light had burned out, I remembered as I walked quickly up the sidewalk. The footsteps behind me had seemed menacing in the late night, though I no longer heard them when I turned up the street toward home.
Now it was a Saturday, monthly concert evening. But the music that ordinarily transported me from my everyday existence had left me wanting tonight, not from the lack of skill on the part of the pianist, but more likely from my own state of mind as I walked into the concert, the untorn ticket for the seat beside mine still in my wallet. He had said 7:30–I was sure of it–but as 7:40, then 7:50 went past without a word, without a sign, I walked into the crowded hall and found my seat.
The night would not be spoiled, beloved music still promising its sweetness on a soft, warm evening. But the Chopin I so dearly love only irritated me in its perfection, as if it were mocking me along with the couples casually touching hands as they leaned into one another to whisper, a giggle, an arm swept around a shoulder. Intermission came, and I glanced at my messages in the lobby, then felt a lump in my throat, a warm embarrassment sweeping over me at it as I saw that he had not answered my text, not even now. I walked outside, cherry trees blooming all around in the glow of spring. I looked up at the stars, wishes so faraway, the cherry blooms, oh, bitter sweetness. I dried my eyes, and felt a sudden urge to be anywhere but there.
The streets were filled on this beautiful night, muffled voices, an occasional laugh drifting out from the restaurants, the clink of glasses. Wine cooked off in a sauce, that aroma stopped me, beckoned me, aroused my hunger. I glanced back at the glowing lights, turned back, and walked into the cafe.
It was you, I should have known, you, bent over your magic pan, the whisk quick in the thickening sauce, the heat, your face flush from the hot stove. I knew, the thyme, the memory of your hands on mine. You stood behind me once as I chopped for you, carrots, onions, celery, your wine-lush lips on the back of my neck. You threw the vegetables into the sizzling butter, tossed them, then turned me around and kissed me, pushing my blouse away from my shoulder. We sipped that wine, that crisp white wine poured onto the mirepoix, the thyme on top, we cheered and sipped, gulped, the droplets from your glass then falling onto my chest, my buttons undone as the wine dripped down, your mouth tracing the trail of the wine, you brusquely pulling my bra from my breast, and kissing me there, there in the kitchen, my nipples firm, and ripe, and wanting.
The beef would sit in that stock with the mirepoix for a long time, I knew. I used to know the nature of braises, their slow simmer, your teasing kisses in the meanwhile, the long road, the unhurry, the same ending, always, and none the less satisfying for the repetition. I had forgotten.
I had forgotten, the pleasure, the elixir, brown stock, your beard scraping the soft flesh of my inner thighs. It was you, yes, you in that kitchen. I ordered the wine, and today’s special, and I sent my compliments to the chef.
It was spring, as I walked back past the concert hall, now dark, a cool wind picking up, raindrops starting to fall, the glowing lights gone, stars gone, cherry blossoms blowing from the trees. The streets had emptied, nearly, only a few pedestrians out now, hurrying, like me. I rummaged through my purse, and pulled out my keys as I made my way back to my dark house.
You startled me, my heart pounding as you appeared suddenly behind me, grasped my long hair and pulled my neck to your impatient mouth. I began to scream, and you hushed me, the heady scent of stock still in your hair, subduing me. My keys fell to the ground, it was you, your beard now scraping my neck, your hands round my wrists as you pushed me roughly to the door, my breath short, your kisses cool, soothing my raw skin.
It was you, your hair, sweat, pillow still warm, fingers, lips gently tracing the lash marks on my backside in the early morning light, the cream, coffee, wet grass and blooms, wet street, the gently turned eggs, the luxury of rain, cool, the lost, the recovered, the here, the now.
My skirt flutters in the breeze as I walk past the empty daytime houses, shoes dusty from the shortcut through backyards, through last fall’s leaves scattered once more in the days that have held tight to early spring. It all seems endless now, the wind and the cool, summer teasing so early this year, then blown away. I have lost my way, it all seems so familiar, yes, this warmth, I want, I am home again, yes, impatient, yes.
The quiet here torments me, the after laughter, scene of passion, skin still longing somehow, burning, skin that hours earlier seemed so satisfied.
I want you.
I want the sting, steam rising from the bath, my skirt slid over my hips and onto the cold tile, my sweater tossed upon the towels, your slap once more revived in the hot water, moment recalled, the image in the mirror fogged, forgotten, the wish for the unexpected, the wandering, the bittersweet intensity of my lips wet and anticipating, the desire to retrace measures of pain and pleasure, the sublime, the careful dance.
Gnossienne number 1: the path of your fingertips.
Remember that night when your black curls tumbled down onto your shoulders, your still-sober lips tracing the outline of my neck beneath my inch-long hair? We were quite a pair then, and you said so, as we dangled our bare feet from the third story fire escape and talked about the world between us in an essential moment alone that burned into my memory as if it were a habit. Your guests chattered in the living room, their fiddles and talk of Vallejo and the light from the apartment now theirs, not ours, the smoke from a neighbor’s barbecue, the stars, the rush of the busy world faraway. It was cooler here, high above, outside, the heat and grime of the day only lingering in the un-air-conditioned buildings and down below on the expressway with the cars and the people walking on the other side, tomorrow’s headlines from the dangerous park across the way. You pointed to the roses there, the pizza joint with its stained glass windows and Italian statues, the woman who held tight to her purse and lost it anyway as she fell to the sidewalk, gunshots still echoing each time that you watched my old car drive up to your building and you ran down the stairs to meet me outside in this, the only affordable neighborhood nearby.
You were young then. A week later you showed up outside my work and called up to me, then realizing that we had no balconies in these office buildings, ran up the four flights of stairs. I startled to look up and see you there, insisting you had to see me now, not in three hours. I screamed to see your head shaved, your indecency now reaching its heights as you told me of your adventures, your readings, your rock star status across the states, your friend’s car broken down for hours on the side of a rural highway, you told me. And you told me of remembering the days you spent there once before, before you knew me, and I gazed at you, reaching for your hair that never grew back, gazing at you and your lips now distracting me from anything that may have been worthwhile in my office, the ladies laughing as I wandered back to my desk, struck down by your grand gesture, your impatience, by the thrilling thought of 5:00. They knew, you see, they knew what I did not know, and I would love you then, in spite of it all, as if fate had ordered it.
It was 2am when I drove home, Aretha singing on my AM radio, a natural woman, me, your fingers lingering beneath my lace blouse, the narrow neck of it stalling you. I had to unbutton it myself. You then removed my clothing like scarves one by one, the remaining hooks and zippers and buttons and such much simpler to decipher, to undo, to push apart the openings, your finger, tongue, words so filthy, I know, mi conchita, you said, I let you, begged you, moments like this, dark summer nights, a hot mattress, the whirr of a ceiling fan, your skin, your strange words still imprinted somewhere, retrievable on cold winter days, yes, it was real I tell myself, and then sometimes like now I wonder at times what was real, even now what is real.
If we were to die suddenly, on a lovely day in Pompeii, what would we be? What would we become if we were locked in this very moment, left mute in a moment of mass destruction, a moment in time in violence, in an emphatic stop, in truth?
Would we be shackled, ever struggling to flee?
Would we hide, pull our melting tunics to cover our faces?
Would we be left waiting, forever frozen in the expectation of salvation?
Would you reach for me? Would I cradle your head against my breasts one last time as you touch my hand, my burning hair? Hair is ash, flesh is ash, among loving bones, corpses left longing, so long ago, so long.