and suddenly I find myself listening to a man I’ve never known before, telling me about the sea


I do not remember everything. There are things I wish I could recall, that I know are lost inside my unremembered experience. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. Maybe I was gone somewhere else.

I can’t remember when his eyes first began to show love, but they do now. We dance together in empty rooms and talk about our future home. From behind us I hear the words from a stereo, “never read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly”. I smile as he mouths them at me and draws me closer against his chest, letting dinner burn. He takes me out at night in his car and we drive until we have gone through every worry that I can bear to tell him. I can hear the sea lapping at the shore but I cannot see where the waves begin. He tells me I need glasses and I try feebly to explain my fear of tests, of appointments, of paperwork – of anything formal that requires me to be formal.We go back to his bed and hold each other in the darkness, falling asleep uncomfortably, but needing to be joined; his arm under my neck, my hair in his mouth, our breath hot on each other’s faces. We both turn several times in the night and when we do the other responds, keeping a kind of symmetry underneath the tousled sheets; moving around each other, with each other; like satellites, or magnets. I remember when we first met, how I felt him coming towards me, slowly, from my left hand side, as I sat waiting on the concrete; my mouth stoppered with a lollipop I had brought so that I had an excuse not to talk. Hello little one. Let’s go get you some lunch.

I remember the way his kitchen spun as he swung me in his arms, alone in that new, surgical-clean room, our reflections embracing each other in the freshly bought glass. Darkness outside, and a bright, fluorescent light within. I saw my black dress  clinging to my body as I danced for him; a silent, shadow self contained by the window pane. I performed a perfect pirouette on the slippery floor, and he told me to repeat it. I obeyed, and he smiled. I told him it was easy in my socks. I have a way of throwing every compliment back into the space between us, as if it would be too heavy for me to carry. He makes me look at him sometimes, as he says things that cut me open; that shatter my solitude; my separate, icy confidence. Sometimes I tell him that I do not believe in his love; sometimes I begin to cry and he has to hold me together as I re-form myself around his words. I lay naked on his bed after an argument, staring at the roses he gave me earlier that day, waiting for him to notice how cold I am and cover me with something, anything. Finally I give in and go to put my dress back on. The movement breaks the spell, and I hear his voice from behind me, saying turn and face me, I will make you believe.

I am afraid that what we have is stolen time. I tell him so as he plays absent-mindedly with my fingers, warming them in his. We joke that his hands are like shovels, but really they are more like  paws; always warm, always soft as they crush my own. It is his way of showing me my weakness, and I do not mind. I enjoy feeling my bones bend under his grip, and watching him check me for damage afterwards. Twist this way. Grip My fingers. Does it hurt when I do that? Good. Nothing broken.  He asks me where I go when I take myself away, and why I feel the need to do it. Do you feel unsafe, he asks. Because it displays a lack of trust. I tell him as calmly as I can that I do not do it in reaction to him; that something in me is always absent, unreachable, so that I may rebuild myself if all is destroyed. He does not understand. He is accustomed to company. I am used to being alone, and I still speak to him sometimes as though I were.

I convulse under his hands as he carefully drips red wax onto my stomach, thinking nothing, my thoughts scooped out of my head like a Jack-o-lantern. I grit my teeth and thrash beneath the searing heat, waiting to emerge on the other side as he covers my body with patterns. Finally I turn to him, and I believe.

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