Silky avenues. We had no time for shoes. We walked we talked. We glistened syllables. Byways became our ways. You read me Rilke, French cookbooks, and Camus. But that was Paris and we shimmered young, laced by anticipation. Chiffoned with sheets and feathered with pillows, postcard views of the Seine beyond our bodies. Perfumed with the sweet sweat dregs of climax and reawakening. Such were our travels.
As I sit, half-baked under this willow tree, the sun too far to know, I wonder whatever became of you.
We stayed up all night, listening to jazz and blowing smoke rings over our nakedness. You made me hard with your exhales, while outside the gummed-up windows, silent movies of passing pedestrians, pigeons holing up high upon shit-littered ledges, the confetti of daily hopes rained down from the sky. Each day a breath. Anew we grew, limbs akimbo with lips and loins, the shininess of coins, we minted each other with sidewalk cafes, croissants, beignets and thought nothing of laughing and clowning back at death.
It was just a few days.
Thick black hair curled around my fingers. The strap of your camisole slipped down solo to my backbeat fingers. How many nights did I mount those accordion stairs, swaying upward to that tiny door like a drunken sailor seeking land where none exists, knocking hard my head against the low portal, always forgetting the shapes of things for the shape of things to come. Sipping the suppleness of you.
We'd light a cigarette and offer it up to the other's mouth. Gitane je t'aime, we'd say.
I'd like to say it was a feather bed.
You let me photograph you with a peach. The dribble from your chin. Where do I begin? The afternoon of rose petals, shaken clear from the week old bouquet we bought on a whim after sipping Pernod, comparing the snake-lipped Belmondo against Bardot? How carefully I arranged each petal that afternoon, red daubs across your many horizons -- the world that launched a thousand ships in earlier times -- careful not to move my lips, careful still not to sneeze from my many allergies. You amused me, muse of mind, while the meekness of the room's winter heat made the most erectness of nipples. I polished with the camera. Those shiny eight by tens boxed forever in a distant closet, never growing dim. You wriggled, I wraggled my lens. The thick dark bush, the soft blue divan, and you pulling me down petal crushing, pestle and mortar in hand. Flower-bruised, we cruised the afternoon.
Later you let me paint you. Where had we met? The bistro? No. The gallery where I lugged my portfolio? The costume party? Now I remember: the sidewalk sketch artist with the bored monkey. With my camera I almost missed it. Too obvious, I thought. But then I saw you leaving the bookstore across the street. You with your red fedora and your armful of poetry books. Would you mind? Stand behind the monkey, I said. Cock your hat just so. You obliged me but then stuck out your tongue. The monkey screeched. Afterwards we had a drink.
Be the reach. Meet me halfway. There were no oceans to separate us back in those days. Those days, those people. We made a game out of finding every steeple. Churches I mean, and gargantuan cathedrals. So much marble and stone, veins from the earth supporting the domes. We approached every altar like pilgrims it seemed, looking for something just beyond the scene. Do you remember the song we performed that day in the storm? We ducked in a side door to stay dry and waltzed to the altar. I remembered the splashing scene in "Singing in the Rain." We didn't know the lyrics, we hummed it instead. Neither of us noticed the two men -- on their knees in the back pews. Shadows of shadows when we began. When they left we both cried without knowing why. You ran away from me. I often thought how alone Christ had been up on the cross. But not that day.
That day when I found you again, you asked me to paint your toenails. You said we come from nothing, end up as nothing. I was still soaked from the afternoon. You sat very still, trying not to shiver, your foot in my hand. I turned on the stove. It started raining again, rattling the gutters, roiling the roof. The polish smelled mechanical. Chemical. Your foot in my face. I painted only inches away. And in a very slow process from each toe emerged a tiny black tombstone. When I was done you sat cross-legged. Stared through me.
I picked up my camera.
You shook your head. "Not this time. Just look at me."
Had the rain stopped? I hear it now, drowning all the days before. I remember the rain because I caught pneumonia and was laid up for two weeks. You were gone when I returned.
"What do you mean?" I'd asked.
How little I knew.
M C R
This work is copyrighted by the author, David Melody. All rights reserved.