Tag Archives: Mad

Mirage

It’s the first hot day, the first day of skin baking as soon as you step outside, of air that scalds your lungs when you breathe deep. I’m lying in the grass eating apricots that she won’t touch. Too warm, she says. Like eating small furred creatures alive. (She says “souris”–mice, not “creatures,” but it’s small, burrowing things she calls to mind). The heat makes my scalp itch. She’s pacing like a tiger in a cage. We’re alone as far as we can see: shimmering air, our picnic bag, Mad, and me.

“You are going to burn.” She’s pouting.

“So are you. Should we find some shade?”

“Too hot. We will die here, all burned up and blistered.”

“Oh. In that case you should kiss me.”

“Tu es folle?”

“You won’t give me a dying wish?”

“Tu veux un baiser?” She’s smiling, finally, looking down at me.

“Yes. No. Je veux…baise moi?”

“I knew you would say that.” She’s grinning. It wouldn’t be the first time we fucked outside. There’s no one here. I hold my breath. She shakes her head. “How can you think like that, it’s so hot.”

She isn’t touching me, and I don’t think she will. It’s too hot. My hair is shifting in the grass. I stifle a shudder at the image of fire ants marching through it. I’m sweating, my shirt stuck to my skin. I am trying to remember that she is delicate. Under this sun, she wilts. Under her, I turn cracked and hard. I want to kiss her–yes, even sticky with apricots. Even with sweat drying salt on my skin. I want her hands creeping under my clothes, clawing, burrowing for cooler earth straight through me. I am wishing her poise would melt along with her makeup, am comforted that it does not. I crave her something vicious and irritable. I want to kiss her like a cottonmouth strikes, again, and again, long after my venom runs out. I want to lick the shimmer from her skin. I want her to make me forget the redness blooming across my skin.

But she is waiting for me to stand, and when I do her kiss is soothing. “Let’s go.” I let myself be soothed.

We leave apricots and dented grass behind.

Maddening

I am thinking about endings.

“My wife will be home Tuesday after next.”

I nod. I’d forgotten the exact date but I knew it was coming. “You must be excited,” I say. I guess this is our last lunch out, I think.

“I told you I can’t see you once she’s back.”

“I know; you have an arrangement while she’s out of the country. Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn up on your doorstep and make a scene or anything.”

She’s sitting very straight, hands folded on the table, all business. “There is no arrangement.”

There’s a sudden weight in my stomach. I set my chopsticks down. “So what did you tell her?” I know the answer but I have to ask.

“About you? She doesn’t know.”

“I see.”

“She doesn’t need to.”

I don’t say anything. We are sitting in the restaurant not eating and not speaking and not looking at each other. I don’t have anything to say and don’t much mind that it’s making her uncomfortable.

“Nic–”

“Is there anything else?”

“What?”

“That you lied about.”

“What does it matter? We could only do this until she came home. She is coming home. Nothing has changed.”

“If it’s all the same anyway why bother lying about it?”

“Would you have given me your number if I had told you the truth?”

I am thinking of her right now, defensive and closed off and not lying for the first time and I want to say “no, never, not a chance.” I can’t think of any better way to slap her right in the conscience and that’s all I want to do.

I am thinking of the last four months, of meeting her in pubs and movie theaters and here, in a Chinese restaurant in a strip mall. Of how she always stood out, looked a little too bright and perfect to be real, like she belonged in a book of pin-up art. I am thinking of the day she cooked lamb tagine and baklava that smelled of orange blossoms. I am thinking of electricity and sex and almost drowning. Of how she preferred to speak French when she could, and how she laughed at my accent when I tried to speak it with her. I am thinking of the day she looked in my closet and declared it had to go: all my shapeless T-shirts and ratty jeans and fully half of my shoes. I am thinking of the spines of her books, arranged by color. I am thinking of her hands, with long, long fingers and nails that always looked as though she’d had a manicure that morning. I want to say “yes, I wouldn’t have missed these few months for anything.”

I am thinking of the day we met. She was selling anime and a book on corsetry. I tried not to flirt too much while I looked them over. I asked for her number–“for the sale form, not for me.” She said she’d give it to me if I gave her mine. I am remembering all the things that made her stand out, that day. Her cocky grin. Her Tinkerbell eyes. Her taste in books and film. I want to say “I don’t know.”

“I guess we’ll never know.”

“We can still go out this weekend. Or you can come to the house.”

“No, we can’t.”

She doesn’t seem surprised. We pay for lunch, reassure the waitress that our still-full bowls are not a commentary on the quality of the food. She pulls a book out of her purse before we part ways. “Have you read this?”

“No.”

“You should. It’s one of my favorites. Here.” She’s gone and it’s in my hands before I can decide what to say.

It’s inscribed: “Merry Christmas. Love, C.” C is her wife’s initial. It’s called Written on the Body and it’s about an affair, and she’s right. It’s one of my favorites, too.

I am thinking about endings. Sometimes they need to happen, are the only thing that can happen, but they still feel like a play without the final act. The uncomfortable truth is that the final act still happens, I’m just not in it. I was never meant to be.

[this is ancient history, years ago. Mad has texted a couple of times. I haven’t answered, have deleted her number from my phone. I never did turn up on her doorstep to make a scene. I didn’t look up C and tell her what she deserves to know, and I don’t know if she’d want to hear it. That was it, just an ending.]

Thinking of You

I was just thinking of you while I came. You remember the day we had gone swimming when I held you down. You were such a mess from choking. It was lovely.

She’s an ex. We ended badly, not as friends. I had deleted her number, never expected to hear from her again. I don’t know why she sent it. Nostalgia maybe, or as a thank-you. Maybe she wanted to taunt me with what I was missing, or maybe she was just sharing something wanton and wonderful.

I didn’t ask. I didn’t tell her how it made me feel–strutting proud, important, and aroused, with only a touch of bitterness. I didn’t say anything before deleting her from my phone again. Maybe that was the wrong call. It takes courage (or at least bravado) to send a message like that. If I’d sent it, I know the silence would sting.

I’ve left a great many messages unsent. Some I regret not sending, even after years. The “I’m sorry”s and the “thank you”s make up some–it took far too long to learn that those should never go unsaid. But mostly, it was fear. What if I said something vulnerable, something that boiled down to “I’m thinking of you,” and the answer were “why should I care?” What if, ultimately, no one does?

I’ve disappeared from entire social circles, moved states, and changed numbers more than once. Only one friend has ever tracked me down. It is not hard to disengage, when I don’t feel valued. Not feeling particularly valuable makes not feeling valued an easy default. Of course, disengaging means not showing others they are valued too. It can be an isolating cycle.

It’s not one I’m willing to break out of. Sometimes the thought of building intimacy is just as frightening as the thought that it isn’t possible. Fear of either leads to holding intimate thoughts close.

These are a few texts left unsent, presented without context. They won’t ever reach the people for whom they were written. I think that’s probably all right.

The orange trees are blooming. The way you tasted and the way your beard felt when we kissed still hits me every time I smell them.

2005

Remember when you said I could be your Jewish wife? I never thanked you. I know it was a joke, but I go back to that every time I’m afraid it’s not okay to want more than one.

2008

It’s 2:03 on a Monday night. I’m awake. I know you’re awake. The last thing I want is to text you. The only thing I want is to text you.

2013

I hate my skin without bruises. I miss running hands over them, feeling the kind of shabby and well-used that makes one real.

2014

The Funny Thing…

The funny thing about you is you’re a hopeless romantic who doesn’t believe in love. In the movie of your life you, played by Anaïs Demoustier, will chase Lily Cole through a field in the rain to give her an umbrella and say it could never work out. Then you’d probably break six more hearts and die of pneumonia and ennui because you kept giving other people your umbrella.

I just found this message, clearing out my phone. It’s old, from about a year and a half ago. At the time, it made me smile. Tonight, it made me laugh.

It’s surprisingly apt, I’ll give her that.