Sunday, February 17

That Was When (Part I)



I NEVER KNEW WHERE the white plastic garden table and chairs came from but years later I learned that my dad had collected them from my dead grandfather. One day they were not in our garden. Then one day they were in our garden. It happened like that.
It was nighttime in a warm June.
The sky was clear, the air was not; it was thickened by dew and all sorts and there were bats flying around the eaves where swallows already nested. We were having a cigarette and her name was Lisa. Our chairs, the white plastic garden chairs, faced each other, away from their paternal white plastic garden table. We both smoked thin, finely rolled cigarettes.
Her feet were up on the chair. Some feet I do not care for but some I do; hers were white, very soft, and pretty to see. Her toes flexed and gripped the edge of the chair.
When I met her at Victoria station she had told me – ‘We must only kiss when it is perfect, that first kiss. It can’t just be whenever. It has to be just right. It has to be perfect.’ Her Nana had died two days previous, or maybe three days. The trip was almost cancelled. I did not mind her in mourning. I had only wished to see her.
Porcelain. Her mind, in fierce bouts of reminiscing, was drawn to her Nana’s porcelain plates. Little things, she remembered, little things came back to her, dizzied her mind and then she went off in another direction. She spoke of all these little things. Her lips moved. Some thoughts she claimed for herself, others were shared, aloud, to me. She smoked, softly she spoke, and started to cry.
The tears were small, but at night one’s eyes are trained on anything that glistens.
That was when.
The perfect.
(I could only remember one other girl crying in front of me, the two of us alone. She was in my bed, hauling my quilt around her nakedness, and the more she tried to stifle her sobs the harder they hurled themselves at her cheeks. She was beautiful as well, and the mascara stains she left on my pillow were beautiful.)
I supposed that this was the perfect she had spoken of.
I kissed her fully on the lips. I had to balance to my toes to do so. Her upper lip was thin, but the lower quite full.
Knowing, right away, that I had recognised perfection where she had not, I recoiled. The night always amplifies silence. I sat back down on the white plastic garden chair. She had creases between her cheeks and her button nose and any tear that was worth a damn collected there.
(She doesn’t speak to me anymore, really, but, for right or wrong, her, there, on that chair, crying and smoking, remains one of my definitions of perfection.)

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