When I was a child, I was two-dimensional: those are our bodies. Which is why we rarely get hurt, then, by things that would stop us, now; only crumpled a little, like paper. The tawdriest of things did not affect me, 'tawdry' did not exist for me; only wonderment and fear. It was not until the chemicals of adolescence, when my body took on their deviant smells, that 'tawdry' became not only possible, but necessary, inevitable. I resisted it as long as I could.
I do remember being very small child: it was nauseating. Bowels had dimension, and the thickness of sour milk, the heaviness of my head and belly, stranded in a bed. Rough nappy flannel blankets, white, kicked off, pulled on, wet with my saliva, the taste of the crib bars -- discreet sensations I was hurled at like a hailstone towards the ground. Pleasure came, but it could turn, and there was no defense against that. They say as a baby, I rarely cried; I was "good," but I believe that I was ill, allergic: to air, to dark and light, and to the cloth that was ubiquitous, to my daddy's beard-stubble, to his occasional smell of whiskey, the tinkle of those goddamn plastic crib chimes, always resolving their vapid cadences. Color formed my first taxonomy: 'good' called to mind shades of alkaline blue; shades of acid red described the 'bad.' A certain dawn-pink I found was tolerable, but, like everything, it could turn. There were no other colors or emotions. That was it.
Your body. YOURS. Rounded and familiar: I knew it, prior to my "I." Body bang belly body body. Soap in my eyes, the taste, the sting, the light.
I am lying on a bed on my stomach and you are straddling me, sitting on my buttocks. Oil warmed by your hands is rubbed on my shoulders, my back, the sides of my breasts spreading from my own weight. It smells like soap and cinnamon. I am lulled. You've worked up a rhythm like a lazy cha-cha in 5/4 time: hand touch stroke pressure stroke, hand touch stroke pressure stroke, hand touch...
There are stories in here, you whisper as you knead me like bread. And the places, too, where they happened to you.
The idea collapses my body, like an apartment house of cards. I am becoming gradually one flat blue map of calm nerves.
Stories rise up in my eyes, under your hands.
Nerves flatten like print.
Soap is blue, and cinnamon is red. Pressure on a unit, then it falls:
A room in Brighton where the light is indirect in the one front window off the porch. Mark, one of five housemates, is laughing in his room next door. Our doors are closed, yet I can still hear him. Mark has been laughing for 18 hours straight. It began at his job at the telephone company, and when it wouldn't stop, he came home. Nearly all night long, another housemate walked him through the city, over the bridge across the Turnpike and its eight fast lanes. Mark had wanted to walk it off, and Mary had followed to watch him. Then she went to work, sleepless.
Later, she will come home from her job and convince him to go to a hospital. A week later, Mark's parents come to take his things.
My swanky loft is in an old soap factory near the river, in lower Cambridgeport, a breast-shaped piece of land, flat on the map like a mammogram, that throws the river out of course for a couple of miles. The University nearby has bought up nearly all the eastern lower 'Port land -- the industrial side -- and pulled nearly all the factories down. Acres lay open in giant grassy squares, ready for building.
To assuage the city's doubt of its own sovereignty, the University has promised it some housing back: hence my building, reconditioned out of its former use.
Looking at the map, I slap my hand on the region of the river's blue.
In my room, you flatten me into the bed, fingers kicking up stories like autumn leaves.
I am racing on my bicycle downhill towards Davidsonville; I've taken the left fork off of Route 450. A shower is coming. It is late August. I can smell the pavement as the moist air touches its heat and rises up under my pedals, swathing my legs with hot mist. Every small hair on my arms is prickling, goaded by mist and salty with sweat. I am nearly 10 miles from home.
One strong cool gust nearly knocks me down. I wobble but stay firm, wheels on the crumbling pavement at the road's edge.
Shall I turn around?
I vote 'no:' a quorum of one.
I am never lonely when I ride: my thoughts spin out in front of me, and I pedal hard to catch up with them, as though I were pulled along the route by their thread, and I do not turn around until they reach some elusive conclusion. Going home, I recap, turning my logic back on itself, retracing all its linkages, happy that I find them sound.
Later, when the rain hits, it hits hard, and I pull my bicycle off the road and take shelter under the overhang of an abandoned shed's roof. Across the road, up an empty hill, stands one lone chestnut tree, dark leathery leaves battered by rain. In the stillness I believe I can hear these leaves, standing firm on the edges of their fragile twigs.
I need to love you. I need to love you. Dawn pink though your insides be. Sweet labial folds, base-musky like turkish tobacco; as you hold me from behind I can nearly taste them, feel them turning over my tongue. Soap and cinnamon sing together in my mind.
This will not turn. In faith, I lightly breathe myself back into fullness.
Here in my bed, we hold each other, rounded with baby fat: breasts and backsides. Under the roof of an old factory, the light is gray and slanted, and scented oil collides with mist of our mutual breath.
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