Friday, April 10

The Lowercase 'i'

WHETHER IT WAS a good idea or not, I was unsure; irrespectively, I looked forward to it as I had done the whole weekend. Down Middlesex St there were six trees suddenly blooming in full white blossom, each cloud of them cut against the clear blue sky. I stared up in awe. What astounded me – above their perfection – was that not a single blossom had fallen. No wind had tickled them off the branches to which they so delicately clung. The pavements were clean, waiting for the market, no blossom. How wonderful! I could not take my eyes off them on my way to work… And then on my way to the station, my way back, the blossom had come undone and lay in the road and on the pavement and draped over the kerb.
It was unusual to be on the train with her going back to mine (which had once been ours). Five days since we had seen each other last, though feeling longer, rocking to the clatter of the tracks. If it were a bad idea, it would only make me feel worse. I did not wish to feel worse, for I did not know how she was feeling. Pale and languid the streets; people rush home in warm weather so that they may enjoy it in better company.
I was nervous, that was true, but why I should I be so nervous in her company when we had lived in these four walls together? My guest, she’s a guest now. Excusing myself to get changed, I did not know what to make of the whole situation, her sitting at the living room where we had sat down so many times before.
The cork came out the prosecco. I took the chipped flute.
O, to hear her talking about work again! What had been so tedious and unfamiliar before was now the most interesting thing to befall my ears! How absence had starved me! I listened to her and showed her that the tree outside of my (our) window had started to blossom, too; everything would get better. We sat there, drinking, talking, smoking, crying, many things came out and all of it true. It was wonderful to talk to her again, to listen, to have her in front of me, no-one else.
Of course, my tremours were unrelenting; pulling the glass to my lips was embarrassing, so that she would never relax with such behaviour in front of her. I knew that when the bottle was empty, we would have to do what we met to do.
She came to be photographed.
After she had gone to the bathroom, she returned and asked me what I wanted her to do. I told her to undress. I did not know what I was doing with the camera in my hand, but I knew her eyes enough to realise she wished to be ordered around. I told her to undress, but to leave her underwear on. I took some photographs, followed her around the room, pointed, clicked, ordered. Meekly, she obeyed.
Finally I desired to see her nude—‘Take your underwear off.’
More photographs. It had been some time since I had seen her so naked, completely visible to me, the most beautiful woman in the world. Her white body stood out in the fog of the room, sublime, near enough to touch. Indeed, when I was near enough I did reach out and touch her, though only softly so that she might not realise I had done it. Again and again I ordered her, becoming more confident and revelling in her compliance. Pulling the camera from my eye, I gazed upon her as I had gazed earlier at the blossom – not to record the moment, but to enjoy it fully.
She stood up from the sofa and we were an inch apart. We kissed, my hands about her back, squeezing her bum. I chased her into the bathroom where I furthered my gall. I knelt down and photographed her bum. ‘Spread your legs apart,’ I told her and she complied instantly. Carefully I put my finger against the fold and smoothed it in so that she shook so slightly. She dribbled on my finger but so desperate was I to prolong the ordeal that I stood up, licked my fingers, and continued shooting. The photographs had become background to the game we were playing. I shot only to heighten our arousal. For no reason at all, having commanded her legs open, I put my face against her cunt for nothing but the heat and the gentle moans I could hear over my shoulder.
‘Go to the bedroom.’
I waited, then entered.
The game continued.
The light outside had darkened almost completely so that the blinds let in not an ounce of it. The air was still inside of the room. I ordered her on her front and climbed upon the bed.
‘Lift your butt in the air.’
I no longer waited for her to comply, but arranged her myself, as though practising ikebana. I pulled and stretched her, arranged, meticulously positioned her limbs until she was just right. I brought out the flower. I photographed the lowercase ‘i’.
Then, as it were, I could no longer resist…
For her efforts she banged her fist against the headboard, moaned, shuddered and fell. For mine, a mouthful of her come so plentiful I swallowed it and felt it run down my throat with a syrupy crawl.
Then she was overcome with grief, claiming that she was okay, her eyes slowly moistening, redder, weeping. I took her in my arms. She said nothing. Unsure—‘Can I photograph you?’
I photographed her, crying. Her eyes red and nose. Something had snapped, so we lay there where we had lay so often; her scent filling my nostrils, the glitter of her necklaces, that dark shadow of her hair on the pillow next to me once again. It was old times. I was happy, even amongst her sadness, because the moment was happening as it was becoming a moment, a sentence within a novel. Everything I had wanted was before me and that was all there could be for a simple mind.
‘I have to go by nine-thirty.’
But why did she have to leave? Why couldn’t she just stay there with me? I had plumbing, I had a jug of cold water in the fridge and a tube of tomato purée, unopened. Why, because she has another home now, set down in the Thames, rocking her to sleep at night, not here, not with me or the cold water. If I were strong enough, I could lift the bed and rock it as the Thames rocks and all would be okay. She might think enough of the motion to declare me the mouth of an ocean! I could not bear her leaving.
I could not stop her, nor would I wish to.
She held her favourite cat one last time, after she had dressed. I took photographs, the last few shots of 35mm. We embraced and said—‘I love you’ to each other. The three words do not tire but strengthen and we put the fires on top of the mountains and all that.
She had her spring coat on; I remembered a line she had said, coming to me out of the memories of an evening we had spent together many moons ago—‘What’s this coat made of?’
She smiled—‘Girlfriend material.’
When she left, the flat was a big black hole again, alas one with plumbing and a jug of cold water in the fridge and a tube of tomato purée, unopened. I was stunned, not knowing what to do, I sat down, had a cigarette and looked at the empty chair.

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