Six freighters anchored in the bay last week. All facing south. The sky split open and the rain fell all absent minded, kept falling while the sunlight slicked it all so the whole world started to melt.
On the bus you told me how you fall in love with bus drivers, their hands. And then you confessed that a poem you have already given me is about my lips. My lover's hands too. I confessed to you that my lover's hands seem like monkey paws, like in Gorillas in the Mist. Wise hands.
You and your lover are opening up your relationship. You use words from manifestos: "experimental," "counter-culture," "radical," anti-oppressive."
I can't remember now where we were going, only that you stopped outside the Vogue theatre and were suddenly entranced by the tile work, the montage on the sidewalk out front. And while you were looking down, I looked up, across the street, and I pointed out to you what I saw: through steamed up windows, like glazed, the silhouettes of ballet dancers stretching and spinning in the third story window. And we both stand in the rain and cannot move cause it all smells of grace, beautiful and empty and full all at once.
I tell you that my lover and I are trying to keep a closed relationship. That in the face of so many gay couples arguing for "openness" and "liberation," it seems radical to just stay monogamous. And I wonder, I ask you, why do you get to use words like "open" and I get words like "closed." Seems unfair. We are like two sheep licking each other through the electric fence. How's that you ask. Like lamb chops? Like two sock hand puppets on a weird woman's hands. Sounds like divine intervention to me.
I remember now, we were going to buy de Sade's Justine, cause we were both going to read it at the same time. We do that, you and I. Read the same books. It's a form of flirting for us.
The day after that, we were walking along the bay. I asked that we walk on the sand, cause my lover has told me not to. It's his job to sweep the apartment and he hates it when I track sand in. There were eight freighters then, facing north. I was telling you that what I miss most about being single is the threesomes. Seems funny, that I would not want an open relationship, yet the place I have most enjoyed being is sandwiched between some other couple. Guess I just like the attention, and the freedom to leave when I want to.
Why were there two winds last night, one suddenly come from the mountains, the other from off the water? Somewhere in between there was thunder and tropical showers. All the queeny boys who had done their hair just right and hadn't brought their new raincoats had to laugh off their disarray in the coffee house. Cavalier, almost butch. Necessity is the butch of invention.
Last night as we talked in the coffee house I wanted to hug you, say it'll be all right. "It" being the fact that we are each in relationships where we asked for the full meal deal and don't feel we got what we ordered. Or better, we keep repeating ourselves at the drive thru window, and don't feel heard through the damn speaker. Analogies are always disappointing.
And sometimes when we read to flirt, I want to read you, get a cup of tea, hold you in both hands, with good light, and I won't even mind when my mind wanders and I find myself reading the same line over and over. A type of lingering, the repetition of you. And I might furtively glance at what lies beneath the surface, hold you up to the light like parchment when no one is looking.
Only three ships today. Facing north. Never seen so few. In the afternoon I watch you at the gym, see you furious with your body, remaking it, making it new. I want to be you, but I am afraid to remake myself that way. And I am suspicious of why you are doing it. To be beautiful enough to circulate on Ecstasy nights. I worry, cause you seem less comfortable in your body than when I first met you. Like a cat stretching to lick yourself, you seem anxious now, like someone who multi-tasks from sensation to sensation and never has enough.
Perhaps that's the way Ecstasy reconfigures you . . . perhaps it not only increases your threshold for sensations, it demands that you increase the sensations, makes you feel idle when there's not enough.
And I feel all contained, all tupperwared compared to your explosions, your frenzy. And I wonder if that's true. Why "closed" not "open"?
I told you once how I feel drawn to the freighters in the harbour, how they turn like synchronized swimmers with the tide changes, all facing south, all facing north, sometimes with their backs to us leaving but not moving. Suspended in motion.
My lover is afraid that if he left me I would get together with you, and I'm afraid that if I keep grinding my teeth at night they will break into shards and pieces, and it seems it would be the worst thing in the world, to be here without a smile. The way people who think they have bad teeth don't part their lips when they smile.
And you wrote a poem about my lover's hands, the strength of them, "paws" you said. And I wonder how you separate that from the knowledge that he hit me that night, backhanded. But it wasn't his stupidity that bothered me, not the suddenly articulate well of his angry marrow, but the appearance of it all. And I want to call my mother and say "I am the woman you never let yourself become," for she kicked my father out before he could hit her, though sometimes words leave larger marks.
And he'll never hit me again, so maybe it's best that we got it out of the way, and context is everything, and I wonder if I flinch more than usual, or whether I will ever admit what I really thought when the back of his fist connected. That it was a relief, that all I could think was "there, now we got that out of the way."
And it all smells of when I was a kid and my parents would be having one of their tear down the house fights, and my brother would sneak into my bed, shivering not crying with fear, and how I would hold him and tell him "it'll be all right," and how telling him almost made me believe it. And I want to tell you right now, "it'll be all right."
It's just before dark and the four freighters in the bay all face elsewhere. Confused between the tides they hunker down solemn behind slack lines. Somewhere between glass half full and glass half empty is a place I call quiet, where there are no questions just the blind path of the day to day. And I never knew this place existed, and never knew that I would get a taste for it, the way things go good when you don't think about it. There are no pictures of these times. I want to wait and see the ships pull back together, but the rain has started to fall again and I promised I would walk you halfway home.