There is a dab of Chanel between my breasts.
I have poured myself a drink and spread out on top of the bed covers, propped against red pillows. All this turbulence. Sleeplessness tangles sheets and twists blankets, so I give myself to the nightly storm.
Outside, the wind howls and releases. Limbs bend and leaves scatter as branches scrape the window panes and yes, sunlight will hold its own against shadow, flaunting impermanence and renewal.
Nature in her hubris.
* * *
I take another sip so we may drift together in the black brew, in its jolts and fingertips, only a little dangerous, only moderately electric, only the crackle and buzz as I stretch my legs and point, reminding myself there is still movement and control, parts that sustain their beauty.
And now, what is not mine: I am waiting and my eyes are closed, my pulse points perfumed, my blindness a willing companion so I may persist in the life I do not lead though these memories are real or perhaps I only imagine them, perhaps some are real and others, the splint of this alcohol that distorts recollection. But there are objects and I can touch them, even in this life I do not lead.
I wear the little black slip and you know the one – from the boutique near rue des Archives, and the light jacket with its draping that follows the curves of my breasts and the contours of my waist and hips. We are not required to bare all; spinning sugar into burning.
* * *
I cling to the trappings of the life I do not lead, the life imagined, the life once tasted, the life in another time and another place and you know that it is Paris, Paris where I own my certainties and my illusions, Paris where I know the difference between the two, Paris where I have been content, Paris where I have cultivated, jostled, reduced, polished, reconstructed, and shuffled into a fitting and unfitting mosaic in the making, always in the making – your spark, your ember, your spark.
Now there is this fiery drink and your voice that is lavish and never leaves me. There are remnants of luxury, an entirety of us in nine pages of a loose-leaf binder, hardly a beginning and still no ending. Perhaps this is the telling of a tall tale, a hard confection to be melted on my palate.
* * *
I touch the trappings of another life: dresses and shoes, scarves and gloves, earrings and bracelets, paintings and books, yes books more than anything, my wealth of books.
I tender the trappings of another life: manners and mannerisms, the transformation of speech that illuminates with the flick of a switch, that flows from my adaptive self, my chameleon self, my survivor self, the dreamer, the woman who lives elsewhere, who knows no address, who accepts without names although these too, I possess here in the depths of whatever I say we are to become, here in the way you write me, here in the life I do not lead, here where hunger swells and will not diminish, here where you enchant me, here where you are smoke and invention, and you are not here at all.
It is hotter now and I could blame it on drink but know it for what it is: you open the window, your arm weighs heavily on my shoulder as you sleep, but I will not wake you even as I hold our heat.
* * *
I sip fire and want more: I seek another source, a stronger source, an infinite source, a shared source so I may pour out a sweet excess and offer you a home in our pooled resources – the avid, the famished, the insolent, the impudent, the insistent, the delicate, the docile, the remote, the most proximate tip of flesh and spirit.
This is the life I do not lead.
* * *
In this life I do not lead I take inventory – un stockage de tout – china and crystal in the armoire, silver from my grandmother, etched florals on cordial glasses for after dinner port. These are trappings and mementos, objects that honor memory and I am the designated caretaker.
There are tomes and I allow their continuing entry. If only I could sprawl on this bed and read them all as you keep me company, memorizing my lines with your gaze on me and your palm on me as we abandon everything but our own alphabet: the undocumented spirit – birthed and swaddled, here for intimate gatherings of poets and painters, of artisans and shamans; here wherever here may find us.
In this life I do not lead I am the conservator of volumes on shelves and in stacks; they lend their structure to each corner in each room where they stand, teeter, tower, and proud in their imperfect bodies, so human in their lean pillars and spirals, books and more books for pointing to passages, for the volupté of their papers and inks and ideas, their palliative possibilities for whatever ails me. But now we are deep into the drink together, deep into my truest faith where you will find my sweetest sex: this, the life I do not lead, this, our sensory script, this word-sex that punctuates our pauses and your lapses in speech as now our breathing hitches and stops, alternating its patterns of teasing and release.
Your voice is undermining my resolve and I say yes and continue to say yes: yes to the moon that darts from behind the clouds, yes to the moan that cannot be stifled, yes to the shudder that lingers in our laughter, yes to the unidentifiable letters offered along a glittering line, yes as you begin again and again I sip and you press your salty mouth to my wrist, its kiss seeded and flowering on my forearm and then my shoulder, and now you are kissing the nape of my neck and I whisper closer, here in this crackling heat, here in these red pillows, here in this jumble of covers, here in the life I do not lead.
* * *
I am left to this: I barter with whatever is at hand – the lair, the echo, the unread passage and its promise. I do not want a palace and you know it, only space enough for a selection of objects with which we may entertain. There are friends to welcome into conversation, so perhaps it is a palace after all, but for variation on the drink, the texture of your skin, your long limbs, your fur-covered chest where I may bury my face for hours and I cannot tell where lovemaking begins and stories end because lovemaking forgets its table of contents and burns its coda, and lovemaking is not sex. But this is sex and lovemaking, storytelling and lovemaking, and something else again where there are no answers and there are no questions. Here, there are nine pages of notes, nothing to confess and no shred of regret; we spill into each other in the life I lead and the life you lead, and I am the vessel that yields and expands, receptacle for wine and slumber, once drenched in the work of everything, now slowed in the torpor of mid-summer as you sleep and I wait until we begin again, here in the jumble of mess and books, here where you remind me that my fingers are crafted for Braille, my tongue for Braille, my breasts and my sex for Braille to read you over and over and one last time as you say that Braille was French and I laugh and we are friends most of all; lovers who must say goodbye, lovers who whisper come closer and we burrow inside our hard, bright blindness, each a bride for the other, a bride to say yes and accept goodbye.
* * *
In this life I do not lead there are poppies. In this life I do not lead I refashion landscapes. In this life I do not lead, we bathe together and drink together and shed disguises, abandoning our inventories and braving the hand without its pen. Instead, we store sensation in the barrels of the body, in cells and singing.
I close my eyes and sip again, your words lapping me, assembled to recreate me in your turn, here as I imagine you, here pooling and breathless, here as I stumble to architect whatever is necessary so we may persevere, here in the trappings of a life I do not lead, here in the selves I hasten to pin together into something that functions: a backbone erected to stand and fight, vertebrae fused to bend for survival, my supple form yielding to the wailing wind as I pray to trial by fire and fire by drink and the fire of your mouth, my limbs losing force and cradled only by your secrets and my red pillows as I recreate the life I lead from the life I do not lead and say to you now, come closer.
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