issue twenty-three

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(900 words)
WJ Rosser
The Tide
       I suppose I fixated on him because all of the noise seemed out of place with the morning and something didn't seem right about the cold and all the activity, as though the sea of people ought to be sitting in high-backed chairs sipping cognac warmed with a lighter or a good Speyside three fingers tall and a cigar or expensive European cigarette in their fingers while a fireplace sent shadows of warmth against a far wall and pretentious and pompous declarations of wisdom filled conversation while heat from the spirits filled throat and stomach and clouded contemplation; but instead they flowed over the sidewalks or sailed in their cars and I watched the man carry a bundle that might have been baguettes or might not have come from the market at all, though he clutched it and moved like a man fresh from the breadline and terrified of losing his ration.

       And I don't know why the man with the might-be bread made me think of Jenna, because I hadn't thought of her in longer than the man was alive, at least not in any conscious way, but I think it was because of the French or Italian or sourdough or caraway or rye he possibly carried that the aroma of bread in the little flat above the bakery filled me even as images of her body moving over mine filled me with desire that wouldn't ever result in tumescence and if it had wouldn't result in culmination but I did grip my cane a little harder and stared as he hurried away, trying and failing to determine if in fact he carried loaves and inexplicably tasting faintly the lemon pound cake she bought every Sunday morning for breakfast and not any of the bread anyway.

       I couldn't remember her eyes. I could recall her hair, how it hung like an obsidian waterfall to the small of her back almost perfectly straight but for the tiny curls at the bottom and how I couldn't help but stare at those soft whorls because they contrasted so dramatically with her pale skin and the soft curve of her heart-shaped rear seemed to me a bank and the upturned ends like tide lapping back and the picture was always made more profound because she preferred her time in the apartment be spent nude even when she served me the thick slices of citrus, butter, flower, and sugar alongside my silly orange ceramic mug filled with coffee, dark and rich and seeded with grounds because of the broken mesh on the percolator.

       I couldn't remember her middle name or her last name or her brother's name or the name of that author she always went on about when she came home from her classes and stripped out of her clothes to take a shower or to make a snack or to watch television or to attack me with an exuberance that seemed even now more than her youth, and though we met only because I had the apartment and advertised for a roommate, I couldn't remember why she left and why I'd simply moved on to another girl and then another and then another until I met Miranda and married and moved out of the apartment and bought my bread from the market and cut back on the coffee and sent my own girls to college.

       I remembered the way she cried when that author died and how she seemed incredulous that it had no impact on me, and I remembered the night she danced to a new record and her breasts bounced almost like she was on top of me and her hair sprayed about her like an explosion of darkness from a white star, and I remembered her uncle or maybe her cousin was a drunkard who always fought with her father, and I remembered she thought Dean Martin was dreamier than Frank Sinatra, and I remembered she'd ordered a recording of a lecture by William Faulkner from the University of Virginia and when it came she listened and spent an hour telling me I was a man in conflict with myself and my environment and all men were and my agony and anguish would make a good story; but I couldn't remember the color of her eyes.

       The air seeped through the opening of my coat, and I thought I should button it but I held too tightly to the cane to use that hand, and the other lay limply from my shoulder as though to move it would take the image of Jenna from me, and not wanting to lose sight of the cake and the coffee and the hair and the ass and her breasts bouncing while she moved atop me I let the ice sweep over my body and tried desperately to recall her irises and tried to forget her lecture on Faulkner's lecture because when I thought of her words I saw her lips moving and wanted to focus higher, and I must have appeared a confused old man on the sidewalk because the girl from the coffee shop across the street came out like a Boy Scout and rushed over to see if I was fine and interrupted my attempt to recall if the eyes were hazel or blue or green or brown and in the end I only ended up doubting that her hair was really black.


M  C  R

This work is copyrighted by the author, WJ Rosser. All rights reserved.
Artwork by
Rodolphe Sebbah