Saturday, August 3

A Climax of Heavy Rain & Lightning’d Thunder

In and out.
A different bed with a different mattress and a different pillow for my head to sink in to. I keep waking up. The sheet has been tossed off.
She is why I keep waking up. She is in the bed with me now. Not only that, she is
Deeper, my chin upon
her tacky shoulder with sweat.
Loose strands from her tied-up hair tickle my nose, so I carefully brush them away. I can see that the sky is greying in through the light of the open doorway. Asleep again, then awake. Spooning deeper.
Then [she is gone and I am alone.] Is that her there, in the room, at the end of the bed? Wind is pouring in through the window, cooling my back. I am facedown. My head hurts. I want to lie there forever. Where is she? I am sure I saw her at the end of the bed. Wind is rolling through the window, there is rain beyond, getting heavier. It splashes on me. I get up and close it. Water is running off the sill and on to the wooden floor.
I fall back into
bed; where is she this morning?
I need to sleep.
‘How comes you’re up so early?’ She is in the kitchen, music playing quietly, a cup of tea, hanging over a thick pad of her writing. She is editing on a Saturday morning, tired and hungover. Her hair is longer then I remember, blonder at the tips than I remember. Her pale legs are bruised by shadows underneath the table. The rain is drying outside on the garden paving slabs and its thick, heavy scent is all cracking all around. I roll a cigarette. The tall tree drips water on to me. [My head hurts.] I watch her edit her writing; Times New Roman; nursing home paper; single lined.
Just the two of us.
I shower and she ties her hair up and we head out to a bookshop she has told me about.
The fallen rain is saying—‘It’s awful here on this pavement, I’m taking off!’ and the air is humid again. [I’m sweating out the booze, unsteady, weak.] A man stands outside a florist’s with his dog, the two of them basking in the sun, not going anywhere, hair the colour of dead hay, fortunate enough to have nowhere to go that day; both content to just stand there for Johanna and I to walk past. The bookshop is off a quiet road. A few families are in there, making talk, children sitting on the floor, ‘Take a look at this chair’, the odd fan on its top speed blasting out set around, more books than I could count and upon their spines the jumbled arrangement of my twenty-six favourite things into words I didn’t understand but could take a stab at.
[‘She drags you here and all you can do is stand in front of the fan,’ I thought to myself. How lousy I felt that when she had spoke so fondly of the place and all I longed to do is stand in front of the fan,] reading the Dutch atlases stacked nearby. But I loved to see her studying the books, the big art books, longer but not stronger than her arms: an old monograph of Toulouse-Lautrec.
The smell of old books, the smell
of last night’s drink, the stick of a hangover
Updike’s Couples and all the dictionaries
arranged by size, not importance.
‘Are you ready to go?’ She knows that I am tired.
I get a can of Mountain Dew and she gets a can of Coke. We are walking to see Sam at work, but Johanna is not too sure of the direction to go. With our cans of Mountain Dew and our cans of Coke we find it. I tell her—‘That Mountain Dew did the trick!’
‘I can’t go in there with this.’ She sits down in the museum gardens to finish her Coke.
Then it is all there.
The greatest prayer of all is the talk between two kindred souls, and there, in the museum garden, we discussed—over cigarettes and the remainder of her Coke—family & things. She nervously put her feet in & out of her worn sandals. Not for the last time, I gave no thought to undressing in front of her. Hold nothing. How good it felt to just reveal everything and to have her reveal everything and in the quiet back-roads of Eindhoven be nothing but honest and even if my bones were tired and my brain was muddled then at least I could hiccup something worthwhile to someone, as opposed to all the shit I come up with for all the other people in my life.
Of course, we must go see Sam.
[That conversation was over.]
The museum staff greeted us and we walked to the shop where Sam was keeper. Once more they set to talking rapidly in Dutch. Johanna took a seat behind the till while I—in the comfort of air conditioning—took to perusing the countless beautiful books & monographs. It was strange for me to see a female Steve McQueen working behind the till of a museum bookstore. Eventually I picked out a book by Francis Alÿs and felt very silly for buying it off of a female Steve McQueen. Johanna and I left to go to the museum restaurant. It was quietly Saturday busy with some middle-aged couples, families and a young man asleep at the bar waiting for his beautiful blonde girlfriend to finish her shift.
Preciously a blue black dragonfly crisply lay patient
upon the shaking green
leaf of a pond plant—darting out to snatch up a fly.
In front of Johanna was spotless. In front of me were crumbs of the food we ordered.
Sam pushed her bike home with us, back through Eindhoven. [Returning through the city centre—somewhere born to me in midnight—was very strange and I recalled the previous night. Stranger still, I could not precisely pick out which bar we had been in only twelve hours ago. It could have happened months ago. The streets were dirty with sticky beer-spill.] Sam pulled us up outside the church and showed us naked skeletons that reclined comfortably underneath the city pavement; their broken ribs were open fingers reaching up to us.
[The supermarket wouldn’t accept my card when I tried to pay for the barbeque ingredients, sinking me into a reclusive mood.] As Johanna and Sam prepared the food, they—‘You can have the manly task of starting the barbeque.’
I stared at the rusty beast before me, terrified.
‘You must do this,’ I thought to myself—‘You must make the best barbeque ever and not give anyone food poisoning.’ The coal got really lazy and put its feet up. I was trying very hard. The heat was unsympathetic. Flame after flame erected and fell before me; perspiration collected thickly on my brow—‘Come on, you cunt, light!’ Female Steve McQueen came out and tried to help; Sam put some more coal on there. Johanna came out and tried to help; killed a few flames, laughed and hurried off. She was reveling in my masculine inadequacies! Having wiped my arms across my face so many times, their hairs were knotted with sweat. Finally the black coals congratulated me with a gradual metamorphosis into white, emanated heat, and did their job. I couldn’t have been more relieved.
Annie and her boyfriend came over. Annie bounded in as though Happiness owed her a favour. She beamed and it was a mise en scène to watch her & Johanna converse. When did listening to others talk—without understanding a word—become such an inimitable pleasure for me? I could not tire of it.
Sam went to get ready for a party, and when she returned I thought that she was the most beautiful female Steve McQueen I had ever seen. Her canary yellow high-heeled shoes clicked on the garden paving slabs in the fingers of dying barbeque smoke. She went. The neighbourhood was very quiet except for us. What were the neighbours thinking? Were they listening to us talk—these good Dutch people accommodating their unilingual English friend? Did they know that we alone had charmed the sun from her southern hemisphere hole to play a sonata for us in the trapezoid formation of rooftops where windows & doors lay open for the gnats to feed?
It had become so that time no longer had any bearing on me; for not only was I out of my time zone—farewell, Meridian—but I was constantly distracted from its unequal arms. How long had I spent trying to chase away a headache with beer and sangria? It mattered not! I knew that now.
Johanna’s living space, which was connected to her bedroom and was where I put my bag of clothes, books & 35mm film, was sparsely furnished. Its floors were springy from a leak that had occurred on the floor above. Art prints, band flyers, a painting of mine, quotes written on paper, photographs & records were scattered about; amongst all of them, like skyscrapers dominating a city skyline, were stacks of books. Annie sat with her boyfriend, I sat next to the fan that I brought upstairs and Johanna flitted from here to there.
played out.
Johanna & Annie had the most fun while Annie’s boyfriend & I looked on, quite pleased. I was satisfied to just observe [and try as I might to chase the sadness away, I could not help it; it lingered; I slumped on my chair, in front of the fan, rolling cigarette after cigarette.] Annie and Johanna laughed gigglishly.
A window letting in warm dribs of air
as young as night was trying to hold
on to our little portion of time & space.
Blue flash.
The ears of Annie and Johanna both twitched. Within a moment they were both outside in the heavy rain. They laughed and danced around, drunk with merry, merry with drink, as their clothes & hair clung to them. A car’s headlights coursed through, splashing up the puddles. I was worried that a bolt of lightning—they forked down every few seconds, smudging the cloudy sky with electric blooms—might strike her. She looked so happy. After the rain slowed, she came back inside, and changed into a loose dress. Annie undressed, her wonderful breasts shone with the patter of rain and she donned a fake fur coat. Everything was calm again. [Why couldn’t I be so helplessly happy for rain as they were? I sunk. I knew that I was sinking. I was a grand boat with ballrooms and buffets and working class quarters, slowly sinking, my bulbs blinking out one by one.]
All of us except Annie’s boyfriend were drunk.
Annie & Johanna remained at close quarters.
I could have watched Johanna forever. None of her movements nor her actions or her words could ever tire me out, a glass of overflowing milk.
The pair of them disappeared into the bedroom. Only Annie returned. She said she would see me the next day, then left, a residue of quiet behind her.
The quiet.
Johanna was asleep on the bed, her clothes piled on the floor.
I got in behind her.
I was not sure to touch her, so I let her be.
Her sleep clambered upon her.
Immediately I wanted to be a better person.
The rain had softened. Through the open windows it could be heard bouncing off of the car bonnets and slapping its puddle children. A certain smile crept over my face because I knew that even if I was too shy to spoon her now, I would wake up during the night and we would be spooning again. For now, though, her tenderness lay in front of me, exhibited.

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