lesbian fiction

London Leaves / A – Sarah’le

Calm waves at the seashore
Calm waves at the seashore

Novella in several parts (I’ll post the rest in the coming weeks)

A

Sarah’le

 

The Rabba chanted the holy words, accompanied by the rest of the JGLG[1] members attending the ceremony of Kabalat Shabbat[2]. I love to be here, among friends. It’s better than being alone with my four walls. Two years passed since I told her I can’t cope anymore with her insane bloody attitude to life, to people, to herself and especially to me. Enough is enough, I told myself. I love you, I told her, but this is not how I imagined my life with my spouse. I want more. I need to be loved, to feel I am loved, and of course also to love back, to let out all these feelings that I have in me to give to the right woman. I love you, but I don’t think you are the right woman for me. No, you are not for me.

She was surprised at my rebellion, as I always was so obedient and never before had the courage to express my feelings. I couldn’t do that. I don’t know why I was scared to tell her off before, but I guess that there comes a time when enough is enough. ENOUGH IS really ENOUGH. Before she had the chance to respond, I collected myself and left her behind me. I thought I did…

She was standing there, across the room, leaning against the wall, looking somewhat lost. My heart started humming. Strange. My heart goes out for a stranger I have never met before. Without being able to think about it, my legs moved forward and I found myself standing in front of her, sending a claiming smile to the woman of my dreams. “My love”, I wanted to say, “come, let me take you with me to the Garden of Eden, let me wrap you with my love, let me…” However, I didn’t say any of this, just a polite hello came through my craving lips.

She beamed, her grin inviting. “Hi”, she answered, her calm voice reminding me of fallen leaves in a warm autumn, somewhere far away from here. Hidden yearnings started bubbling deep down, in places I thought I would never feel again. Not since Estelle… Oy vey, that woman doesn’t leave me in peace! She haunts me and still has a hold on me. I can’t be free of her, as if she had imposed a dark spell on me. When will I be free?

The lovely woman in front of me gazed at me. “I hope that you were in a good place, even if here is also nice”, she said playfully, flashing another smile.

“Oh, yes, oh, so sorry”, I hurried to apologize. “I didn’t mean to…” What didn’t I mean? I don’t know. She made my head spin, causing me dizziness. The background noises faded away, as I was caught in her mesmerized flaming gaze. I’m sure the Rabba and the others continue to praise the Lord for creating Shabbat for us to rest and enjoy, but I was praising my guardian angel for creating this lovely woman I was sure they did it especially for me.

“It’s OK, no need to apologize.” Her accent was not local. Polish perhaps? Czech? Is she from one of the former USSR’s countries?

“I’m Sarah”, I introduced myself.

“Jazmin”, she answered curtly. Not a woman of many words, I guess.

“I hope that you won’t find it rude, but your accent seems to me to be east European. May I ask where are you from?”

She straightened her compact limbs and answered: “I’m from Israel, the Jews’ homeland.”

“Oh, how nice!” Oh, an Israeli… how nice… Her accent is not typical Israeli though. I’ve met a few before, but was never involved with any of them. None captured my heart. Now this nice woman… I wonder how long she is here for. She wasn’t here last time. “Did you see the city already?”

“No, I haven’t managed to do that, as I just came here last Sunday.”

“Oh, I see. Would you like to get together and have a coffee someday?” Yes-yes-yes!!! Please, say yes!

Her smile, like the rainbow after a downpour, showed in her lovely blue eyes. “Yes, I would love to, very much.”

She said yes!!! An unrestrained urge drove me to take her in my arms and burst into a stormy Hora dance[3]. Well, I’m Aussie (not to mention Jewish…), so I don’t suffer from the dry restrained self-control the English are known for. My ancestors poured into my veins a need to be gay even in darkest times. I have been in a dark time since I left Estelle, as she didn’t leave me be and I was foolish enough to be persuaded by her seducing alluring words that she poured into my ears over the phone, when she felt alone and needed someone to abuse, and I was handy. Last time, was only a month ago. I went to her place again, yet again hoping we would reconcile, settle things and live happily ever after. The minute I walked through her door and lay my eyes on her, I knew I made a fatal mistake, as usual. Am I dumb? Am I so pathetic? Why do I allow this? She had a long face, as her grave sourpuss gaze faced me acrimoniously. I was familiar with this expression, which portended her forecoming behavior. It was foredooming we weren’t going to have peace. Again, she was going to enjoy herself in her twisted way and I was going to go through hell. Why didn’t I turn around and leave on the spot? I really don’t know. Maybe because I am optimistic in my nature, I always hope for the best, never consider the opposite. Or maybe I am just dumb. I’d rather think about myself as innocent. At the age of 56 plus a few months, I’m still naïve, childlike even. I was hoping her sour appearance would evaporate in a few minutes and we will talk things over and live happily ever after. It didn’t happen.

I was about to reach for the woman of my dreams, when a tall, pale, ugly-looking woman, appeared from nowhere, clinched to Jazmin, then wrapped her gaunt skinny arms around her, as if declaring her ownership. What an ugly woman! This is the ugliest woman I’ve ever seen in my entire life, and I’ve seen quite a lot. Too many, as far as I’m concerned. Her tiny eyes, submerged in her faded face, they examined me inquisitively, absorbing my organs one by one. I was sure she X-rayed every bone in my body with her piercing gaze.

Still measuring me, without turning her head, she asked demandingly: “Hey, who are you talking to?” She widened her lips to what appeared to be a smile. My mother used to call this gesture “zuzing mit di tzain[4]“. One could feel her effort to maintain calm.

“This is Sarah,” answered the love of my life, wriggling away from the witch of London. “Sarah, this is P.”

P? What kind of name is P? Why P? Paula Abdul she is not – of this, I am pretty sure. As opposed to the talented singer, she has a harsh, raucous, unpleasant tone of voice, I doubt if she can carry a note. I cleaned my ears very thoroughly before I came here and I will have to do it again when I come home. Her obnoxious, annoying, grating, irksome voice stained their purity. Not to mention her eyes, those two acrimonious blades, going over my whole body, tainting it.

“Hello”, I said politely. “P stands for…” Not for princess as well, as she was wearing these tattered, worn-out ragged schmates[5] called “sport-elegant couture”.

“Her parents called her Paula, but nobody calls her that. She is P.” Jazmin volunteered the explanation, as the woman in question didn’t bother to answer.

Nu, P for pish, I couldn’t resist, Pee. Like in wee-wee… The Pishwoman. Witty, wow! I’m so sharp! The thought planted in her mind, as she felt the need to go and relieve herself of the few warming teacups she had during the evening. Secretly, Sarah examined the belittled woman with contempt. The nickname seems to suit her.

The woman didn’t bother to move her hand in order to shake mine, so I kept my hand to myself and didn’t reach her either. I excused myself, sending a quick smile to the one I wanted and went to release my body of its fluids. Alas, the woman of my dreams was already spoken for. My rotten mazel[6] again. But what could I expect? She looks so nice, it is only natural someone grabbed her. I wonder what Jazmin is doing with her. That P person looks horrible, so not suitable to my dear Jazmin. However, what do I know? I also had my fair share of meeting and being with crazy lesbians. Maybe P is what Jazmin needs. Who knows what is in the heart? My cup of tea is not necessarily the same as the others.

[1] Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group

[2]  The ceremony of lighting Sabbath candles

[3] Israeli folk dance

[4] Yiddish: gnashing a smile

[5] Yiddish: rags

[6] Yiddish: luck

My Sunshine

My Sunshine
My Sunshine

 The minute you came into the room, my heart skipped a beat… or two, three, four, five… I did not count. You were exactly the woman I was looking for my entire life. You were exactly what I needed all my life. You were… ‘G-ddess all mighty’, I said to myself, ‘it can’t be true. You’re not real. It is just my eyes deceiving me and she is not truly flesh and blood, this woman is not real’.

I called you Sunshine and it does not matter that it was not your real name, since for me you were like sunshine. Sexy, astonishing, beautiful, and the warmth that beamed from you – was the real thing. I was always telling myself that love at first sight is not for real. I was sure that it can’t be happening in real life. Certainly not to me. But it seems that life is much more real and correct, than we could ever imagine.

I had a bad time. Nobody loved me, I lived by myself and climbed on walls. I dared not dream. I lived in margins, the days passing over me in vain, in emptiness, shirking through my longing fingers.

You “caught” me, the horrible loneliness that surely reflected from every move I made. I could not believe, but it happened. You approached to me and introduced yourself. And your name was not Sunshine, but I kept calling you that, as for me you were a sunbeam, a ray of light, a flame, that spark that lit my life.

I desperately needed motherly warmth. The enormous craving for a caressing soft hand, to calm my fears, was unbearable. I wanted to feel warm lips hover over my yearning forehead. To experience again the delight of innocent childhood…

You were very experienced and did not make any mistakes. You read me immediately with your sensitive senses and knew exactly what I needed. You massaged my aching back with such tenderness, that if I had tears of joy in me, they would surely burst from my eyes.

You made me feel completely comfortable. When you asked me to roll over on my back, I put my soul in your experienced hands. I laid supinely, disassembled into tiny chips, my mind is floating somewhere. Your hands moved lightly, stroking my brow and temples gently, kneading my breasts, sending electric currents into the tiny electrons that were my body, and then… your tongue, so soft, so sweet… and I didn’t know myself. All those flowing atoms that I was, the molecules moving in circles, scattering around the room, began to accelerate, moving toward an unseen centre, ascending, descending, turning around, streaming, combining… and through my short breaths, my confused, turning upside world, soft clouds embroidered, uniting into one sweet molecule…

And afterwards… Afterwards… you cradled me in your arms, putting my head between your soft breasts, your lips humming silently as if to calm a restless baby.

 

You were already married and my hopes had no chance to be fulfilled. For you, I was another flower, like the others, amongst whom you fluttered like a butterfly and scattered over them your nectar and honey. But also your stings. Despite this, I knew I came home. I felt that I found my soul mate whom I was searching for my entire life. During that night, I fantasized how we would live together in health and wealth happily ever after. Those walls, on which I used to climb with frustration, became filled with stars.

But then, morning has broken and you said that you must be off. I could not separate from you. My heart told me that you are not coming back. But what could I do? You were married and your wife was waiting for you at home. I gazed at your back with a pierced, heavy heart, how you deserted me after such a night full of magic and I was hurting all over…

Your hand was already on the doorknob and then… before my blood threatened to burst and drown me in an eddy of pain, you turned towards me, sent your warm gaze, like a sunbeam, and it was filled with love.

 

I’m trying not to think about the woman you deserted and wish her to find new love, a more suitable one. You and I rise every morning, gaze with love into each other’s eyes. What do you see in mine? I don’t know, but you are my sunshine, a beam that lights my life.

Hallucinating words

No Woman Ever

Sweet cheese cake, very sweet!

 

I hoped. Expected. Yearned. Craved for you. I didn’t know what your thoughts were. Do you want me too, as much as I want you? Who can read someone else’s mind? You were a whole world to me. A new world I did not know. I never imagined I would ever know. You were a special woman.

We met in a crowded coffee shop. I was sitting at my regular spot, trying to fill in a blank paper with words for my column. The hustle & bustle around me did not disturb my concentration at all. I was used to it. It was something else. A feeling that something is going to happen in my life had nibbled inside me. Some unexplained craving was in the air. Perhaps because of the thick smoke, or maybe my efforts to seal my ears from the noise, I did not hear you at first. I was staring at my paper, trying to gather my scattered mind. ‘Must concentrate’, I said to myself, ‘otherwise it’s not going to work’.

My throat was dry. I reached for the glass and held the air. I was surprised. A minute ago it was still here. Where did it go? I raised my eyes and there you were standing, holding my glass in your hand, smiling.

“Hello,” you said. I was speechless. My tongue was stuck to my palate and couldn’t move. “Good manners is not your strongest point, ha?” You said kindly, putting your soft hand on my shoulder. A sweet shiver rushed over my body and I hoped that in the darkness you wouldn’t notice my blush.

I forced myself to come to my senses. “That’s not so,” I whispered the best I could, “it’s just that my throat is dry…”

You leaned towards me and brought the glass to my lips. I sipped, trying hard to stabilize my tremble. I didn’t know how to “digest” you. It never happened to me before that a strange woman took my glass and after a minute watered me, her breasts exposed in front of my face, her hand rests calmly on my neck. Did I imagine a stroke? I tried to drink slowly, so it won’t drip on my blouse, to avoid an unpleasant incident.

“Finished?” You asked, your face so close to mine. “Should I get you some more?”

“That’s OK,” I replied, “I’m OK now, thanks.” Some OK… My whole body was running wild. I couldn’t take my eyes off your exposed breasts. “May I help you?” I was trying to collect myself.

“I wanted to know, if it wouldn’t bother you me sitting at your table. It’s quite crowded here. Do you mind?”

Did I mind? How could I not? I have never felt like this when first meeting a woman. Never before, no woman caused me this sensation all over. Secretly, I gazed at you. You sat yourself down calmly on the chair beside me, making yourself comfortable.

“Do you mind if I smoke?” The words filtered through your lovely lips which held the cigarette, while your hands brought the burning match closer. Did I mind? So what? I was in an abstaining period and felt quite disturbed by smokers, but did not wish to drive you away. ‘A smoker’, I said to myself, ‘it’s not healthy’. Again I lowered my eyes to the paper. Is there any hope that I’ll finish the column tonight?

“Don’t pay any attention to me,” you said, your dark eyes burning at me like two fireflies, “I don’t wish to disturb.” I smiled. Maybe you don’t, but you already have. My whole being is running wildly, my heart is pounding in a rough Tam-Tam beat. I am in a trance. All my senses are alert and ready to absorb you. Your perfume surrounds me. My nose cannot be satiated enough… My eyes, instead of clinging to the paper, are constantly moving in your direction and stick to you when you are not looking. My body, as if it has a will of its own, is alert and wants you. My brain is scattered… ‘Calm yourself. Calm down! Otherwise, it won’t work’.

“I’m going to bring more drinks. Would you like some? Maybe a snack?”

I held out a bill of 50. “I would like a sandwich and some orange juice, thank you,” I forced the words out of my mouth. You could not possibly guess my wishes. If only you could read my thoughts… Goddess, it had never happened to me with a woman before!

“Here.” You open my hand gently and put the change in it. Who could imagine me daring to touch a strange woman’s fingers? Your hand lingers in mine and I begin to withdraw, embarrassed. “It is lovely touching a woman’s hand, isn’t it?” You don’t let go. The skin on my arms turns to gooseflesh. You caress the bumps, smiling to yourself. Did you catch me? The chair and me become one entity. A strange fairy touches me and turns my being upside down. My underwear is wet. It is advisable for me to run away and freshen up in the bathroom.

You allow me to flee. You know I’ll come back to you. The mirror reflects my gaze. My face is like a tomato, if I wet them, will it go away? Never… OK, I got it – no woman has ever made me feel like that until now. So, what should I do? Should I consent? Should I go for it? What? The mirror refuses to reply. My mouth curves with a hesitant smile. Would I dare?

“What is with you? Is everything all right?” Your worried eyes are attached to mine. Could you hear my heart beating? My gaze is stuck to your lips. They are so close. So inviting… I wish I could flutter gently on them. Sense them. Sense you… You look at me. The magic spell nails me to my seat. You bring your chair closer to mine. Your knees touch mine. Should I move? No chance. It is not possible. My body is utterly paralyzed.

“What is your name?” You ask, and I answer, as if in a dream: “Me? Or.”

“Nice name,” you say, “want to know mine?”

“Yes,” I barely answer. The hoarseness in my throat hurts.

“I’m Orly. Or and Orly. Nice, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is…”

“Your lips are so dry,” you observe and bring your tongue closer. My face is held in your hands. My breathing quickens. My lips are trembling, closed with passion on your tongue, unable to let go. That softness… Was it a kiss?

Long ago I forgot the world. So there won’t be a column for tomorrow. The world wouldn’t collapse. Neither will the newspaper.

“I live nearby,” you whisper to me, “would you like to come and see my place?” Of course I would! You could lead me anywhere you like. I’m in your hands. As yours are in mine. I see them holding your hips, caressing, sensing you, unable to depart…

“Please,” you stand beside the door and invite me in. I am inside. Small hesitant steps. My feet are heavy. You close the door and turn to me. Your arms interlace around me. My arms are around you. A hug. My lips are searching for yours. I am in a dream… “Want to take a shower? It’s hot, isn’t it?” You ask.

“OK,” I reply. The water runs calmly. You move your hands on my back, massaging gently. It is pleasant. You turn me towards you. My hands on your breasts, caressing, my palms sense how your nipples harden. Mine too. My hand slides slowly, submerged in you. “More,” you whisper to me and cling closer. My tongue moves on your nipples. It is tasty. And then… the groaning that your body releases… Like a present.

You take me to bed. My body craves for you. I never thought it is possible to feel such passion for a woman. You flow towards me. I flow towards to you. You study my body. I entrust my soul in your hands, moving to the rhythm you dictate.

No woman has ever made me feel like that.

 

Hallucinating words

ορνιθοπανίδα

Trigger warning: descriptions of gore, graphic violence, death, and hate crimes. 

ορνιθοπανίδα | ornithopanída | avifauna;

  1. the birds of a particular region, habitat, or geological period.
  2. hence, the eternality of wings, and of flight, as the hurricane of time rages on.

 

i.

 

It begins when the world is made of stone, and her lips are the warmest thing you’ve ever felt.

Your fingers guide one another. You have no words, but you do not need them: you need only her just-more-than-black eyes, her broad lips, her rough nails, her stringy hair. Together, you kindle fires, and the young ones gather around you, watch the sparks fly with parted mouths.

When you move together in the night, it is almost like language. Her throat and yours convulse, your lungs launch forth desperate questions and proclamations, whispered into her hips, the sandy-rough base of her throat, the scratchy-soft warmth between her legs. You crest with pleasure the color of sunrise, and you wonder, within a mind that craves only sensation, how to tell her that you love her.

 

ii.

 

The men, for men you now may call them, give and take: they are to push and pull and move through musculature’s unjust scrawls, lips crushing lips like grapes for wine. But you take her, her ochre skin and black hair’s waterfall, and you invent a shrine of delicacy: together you lie, she that fain would fly and you eternally rooted, in the cotton-folds of that mist which wreathes the isles of the poetess. It is now, with salt from the sea breathing across the marble floor, that you may speak.

And speak you do, to watch her smile, watch her head tilt fast as a bird’s: upside-down laughter. You cup her soft breasts in your hands, and she murmurs that your fingers are long, perfect for the lyre; you coo back that you are, after all, more Artemis than Apollo, and she scarcely mouths a teasing golden word about chastity before you’re on the ground again, her wordless gasp a memory of broad rock caves. The glassware glimmers in the languishing dollops of endless-afternoon sunlight, stained amaranthine where you carried indulgence to her begging lips.

You trail your tongue and paint verse down her collarbone while her sweet gasps harmonize beneath your hands’ insistence. You are giver and receiver alike; together, you are the unspoken instrument of the moon’s goddess, her bowstring, her star-headed arrows. Eternity sprawls before and behind you, and you hold onto her swan-bone wrists, the beginning and end of the universe.

 

iii.

 

It is a time that will come to be called the Dark Ages, but the aeneous brocade of her skirt against the cold stone floors is light enough to imbue your memory with nothing but sun.

You know each other, this time, through dinner alliances. Long oaken tables groaning like the backs of aging peasants beneath dish and dish and dish of venison, quail, sauce-drenched asparagus: silver platters garnished in sweet red berries and cuttings of pink boars’ flesh thin as parchment. The first time that her father, honored guest, holds his broad silver knife and breaks the flaking crust of one of your pies, she claps with delight, and her eyes sparkle the color of the blackbirds’ feathers as they erupt, flooding the dining hall, earning a cheer of delight all down the long table.

It’s the first of many feasts. Duchess, you christen each other, and smile: her teeth are golden. The dogs whine at your feet. She is her father’s favorite, and she wears only the finest garments, sewn with petals and fleur-de-lis of bronze and silver thread. Her hair is spun straw, something that you forget each time until you see her. Because of her, you at last understand the mournful tunes of the bards. The longest laments and odes, through whose wandering notes you used to doze, now paralyze something just below your breastbone, trapping your breath beneath your throat like the birds beneath the pie crust.

Some misted night, when you are both brushing the age of fifteen and know the names of your husbands, a supper passes in a hurl of light and then you’re both in a corridor near the armory, and both of you are touching the freezing wall and she says, with honey mead falling in clouds from her lips, that she’s cold; you remind her that the fireplace purrs in the banquet hall where your families await, and she half-screams that she seeks no crude flame.

When you look over, pearl tears adorn her powdered cheeks.

You think that this must be the time to tell her that, though you’ve lived in this valley all your life, you can smell the seaside in your dreams; before you whisper three words, she flashes around the corner, and you’ll still be hearing her sobs on your wedding day, when the crown is placed atop your head.

 

iv.

 

You wake next on a new side of the world. She now relishes the outdoors, free from the stone bindings of your swift-fading memories, and spends all of her time striving for softness. She finds the sweetest glens, far from the bustle and clamor of the bright red-and-gold marketplaces, and stretches out on her stomach, chin settled in the moss, eyes cast to the golden ginkgos above.

She proclaims in this new voice—a voice of silver brooks, as silky as the gold-touched inkspill of hair around her slender shoulders—that she loves the birds, and that they remind her of something, though she cannot quite say what. Green shadows dance across her lips and cheekbones; her fingers trail in the pond, bloated by last night’s rain.

Legs crossed, some feet away, you take down what she describes. You do not know how to write, but you need no training for your brush to echo what she claims to see: the velocity of their wing-tips traced in broad arcs of black on cream, careful layers for each feather. They spin through miniature infinities, a flock of them: some large as dragons, some small as the fireflies that soon light upon your hidden grove. They part the air like water or time, invisible trails unfolding from where they’ve glided, and her voice—no longer for your ears—murmurs of how she imagines them to never quite know when it is that they’ve flown through the same cloud: to them, she insists in her star-vast way, there is no language, no constant thought, only that familiarity that lies somewhere between scent and taste and heartache.

When you show her your half-dry paper, she laughs, and at first you expect her to tease you that you haven’t, after all, painted birds. Instead, she kisses you on the lips, both of your eager mouths sharing the same scarlet paint, and declares that she has never seen anyone’s brush and ink capture motion the way yours do.

 

v.

 

The first time that the two of you are allowed to be right in your entirety, through nights and years while the stars track the clouds across the endless sky, it is good enough to feel like fantasy—even as you know, with morning-dew clarity, that this is the surest reality you’ve ever lived.

You are named for a sparrow and she for a fox, and she reminds you, with her sharp little teeth in your throat, of all the old fables. You’re trapped; you’re helpless; your wings are broken, and you weep with relief. You’ve never before seen her this fiery: red edges to her black braids, darting fingertips through still-smoldering ash for the very burn it delivers, following the men out to hunt with her voice raised to the amber autumn sky. She is the favorite of them all, but they know she’s yours alone. You will never have children, but you are nonetheless celebrated, and you twine yourselves together all the same, still fraught with the thick imbuement of smoke as the night’s final sparks glitter up to greet the gods.

She warns you to never fly away, little sparrow. You shoot back that you would hardly be sorry to find yourself between her silken jaws, and that surprises a laugh out of her.

Silver threads your hair, and the two of you watch the world change, and you tell each other stories. She speaks of cold caves and ocean crests; you, of the bats and the gulls. Eventually, even recollection recedes to mist, as you learn that you need nothing but each other and the blue constellations above, the wind’s whisper as the grass drinks up the last heat of the day.

 

vi.

 

Lightning bursts from between your hands and erupts across the battlefield. Red falls in streaks like scarves across thirsty grass, and you can never tell whether the men who fall are your own doing. You’re a different creature out here, not the girl whom your father raised you to be: sweat and starched fabric and hard gray powder tracing the seams of your skin. Heat hazes, casting God’s playful slow-motion, and you clench your teeth and fight harder, shoulders quaking and bucking with every shot, your breasts aching and bruising beneath their hard bandages, neck prickling under the curious sun, come out to watch its subjects play.

A punch in the side. That’s all it takes.

You open someone else’s eyes to see a girl with star-colored hair bent over you, her slim fingers busy at work in the gap that has grown between your ribs. She says, without looking up, that it’s a wonder it took a shot to fell you, with those wrappings around your chest. When you struggle, she smacks the flat of her hand hard into your wrist, paralyzing you with the sting. She tips brandy between your lips, forces up your chin when you try to look down. She has brown eyes. Strange on such a pale girl.

You warn her that if she tells a soul, you’ll kill her. You know how to.

She retorts that your life is in her hands right now, not the other way around, and if she thought you had no value in the battlefield, she wouldn’t be bothering to save it.

When you groan from the pain, she kills it with her mouth on yours. You’re motionless from shock and brandy and her doe-bright eyes. She adds, quite carelessly as she sits back knit your skin back together, that you make a very handsome soldier.

You write home that night that you’re going to fall in love with a nurse—that you haven’t yet, but she saved your life and kissed your lips, and you wonder what a woman is if she’s also a sodomite. You add a note in the margin: the birds, first driven off by cannonfire, are landing around the field again. Surely they can smell the blood, but they don’t seem to mind. Perhaps they’ll come and go through every skirmish, until the war is over and your lives are over and even the dry grass forgets it was once brown with blood.

You burn the letter in the campfire, like all of the others.

 

vii.

 

There’s a clear difference between you and the men who sit around the smoke-opaque cafes, draining whiskey after whiskey after wine, but it’s Paris, the economy is soaring, the nights are endless, and none of them care. They leave you alone, perhaps because they know that they could never have you; you, with your scattering of freckles, tufty hair under that battered green cap, slim suspenders over gray pinstriped button-up—you only have eyes for one, and she is a dancer.

She spins in feather-fledged surrealism, painting new colors with her mahogany fingertips, bedecked in false diamonds from the ankles to the smooth throat. She glints beneath the candles and gaslights, she whirls with the ease of poetry, and once a night, near when the clock strikes one, her eyes find yours—black on black on black—and she tilts that smirk, that smirk that drives you wild and hot in your too-stiff bed at night, floods your dreams with dark rich chills, brings you back to the club each evening with more precious francs and a craving for that music, those cheers, that one o’ clock smirk of erythrean lips on pearl-white teeth.

You write about her, madly, feverishly, running out of pens again and again. Language is a wonder and a gift, the only one you have. Men buy you drinks because they love to laugh with you, and they’ve long since learned to stop complaining when you peel away and find yourself back in your rented attic room, under the sloping ceiling, watching the star-stained rooftops outside as you scrawl frantic verbs, verbs, always verbs—adjectives aren’t enough for her, and a sufficient noun hasn’t been invented, but the verbs carry it all: sway, sigh, tease, swirl, glitter, glint. You don’t know her name, and she doesn’t know yours, but you write verses for her, then lean out your window and let them float away on the post-war wind like handfuls of doves, rippling into the endless smoky sky, carried on your heavy breath and the strains of jazz leaking out of the windows below, new and vivacious and yet somehow salted with the midnight blue prickling of a chest ache you call la nostalgie.

 

viii.

 

After tonight, and after tomorrow, history books will dryly chronicle this evening’s story. Black text on white paper, stamped clean, with notes scrawled in the margins. You don’t know that now, not up against the wall with the man’s snarling face in yours; not when the cold cuffs snap onto your wrists, not when the lights spin from something more than just a couple of drinks.

The word sanctuary rings in your mind, as false as anything in your life. The speed at which your life, lives, life is spinning by is enough for bitterness to flood your mouth and vomit to splatter the pavement in front of you—a slap across your cheek and your spine is shoved back against the bricks as your unfocused eyes seek something in the onslaught of voice and light and chaos, and your heart batters and pecks your chest, and you are looking at the blue shoulders of the men who were never meant to protect people like you, and you are afraid.

Somehow, within all this, your eyes find her, and hers were already on yours, and she smiles, and she’s wearing broad glittering red lipstick tonight, scarlet and vivid, you taste blood in your own mouth, her wig is askew, you know she would hate to be seen like this, you want to touch her again, you want to make promises, you want to get away, you don’t want to fight, not tonight, you want to be with her, you want to be alone.

Sanctuary. You never imagined you were safe, even behind stone walls, and yet you are sick with shock, and the bellows and shrieks inflame your eardrums. You—

She mouths something at you. Red shines on her ivory teeth, flashed with hard blue light.

Shush, little finch.

You want to make promises, but your lips are as mute as your mind.

Her long lashes flash.

 

ix.

 

You watch her break apart into blood and bullet holes, serenaded by screams and machine gun staccato.

You feel death breathing down your neck, and it tastes like metal, and this is what your final thoughts look like, before you are only a name on a list posted to the website of a police division:

You never wanted this. You craved the past; you read the poetry of Sappho and you could smell the salty waves. You thought of the American Revolution, and how you wouldn’t care to find yourself on the wrong end of a rifle if it only meant that you could taste history in the making.

And now you are here, and you are tied up and trapped by whatever sticky substance  those Moirai or Norns are weaving around you, until you can’t breathe.

Love should not be revolution. Love should not be legend. Love should be as simple as the times before you had a word for the fire that grew between your twining bodies.

The bullets take flight. You do not.

 

Written for the 49 eternities cut short by the Orlando nightclub shooting of June 12, 2016.