Her nails were pine green to match her dress, and she knew that he was looking at them. She didn’t usually paint her fingernails. Even looking away, at this point, could be a provocation.
She looked away anyways. She wished that they were stranded deep in a forest in winter, snow creeping hot then wet then blisteringly cold up from her ankles.
Somehow, for him to actually lift up one of her hands – fingertips under fingertips – was the last thing she expected.
“Did you paint them just for the party?”
It was crowded, the sour haze of alcohol, and they were standing in their own little pocket by the sink. A window flung wide open, a searing January wind. That was what she needed. Her hand shot backward to hide between her skirt and the counter.
She could not do anything about the hand holding her glass, however.
Alone, she would be three lights ahead and going sideways between a lamppost and a garbage bin to get ahead of that slow-moving family.
Instead his arm is a leash and when she tries to hurry at the end of the walk signals his disparagement has her ashamed at consideration for others. Never mind personal safety, or respect for the rules of the road.
She should not be proactive about trying to move out of the way of people’s pictures. She should not try to pull him back from a subway map when others are trying to look too.
He sees her half-assed, and struggling against instincts for speed, for politeness.
He isn’t there when her ankles are flashing, her chin up and eyes scanning. Anticipating when the lights will turn. He doesn’t see her weaving through a crowd, or skirting two girls taking pictures on the bridge, without breaking stride. Zipping down the stairs into the park.
He doesn’t know what she is like when she is walking without him.
He eats only from 600 terahertz bowls to skirt
Transmitters in cartons and plastics
Swapping shoes, swabbing doorjams
And cultivating a queue of nervous ticks
That he sets on aleatory
Mountains out of radula; he has no idea
How we function, after all
He thinks sand can run backward
If we decide or fail to decide
Either way, he keeps unearthing packets
And he is eroding precious coastlines
With his paranoia
Maybe the worst thing we could do
Is to address the problem
Agreed. If nothing were to change
His fellows still would not take him seriously
And our C-Class Conservation Programme
Would maintain net welfare gains so tiny
That no one would take notice
In the Plenary Budget
Let’s go with that, but tell me again
Why we bother with hominids
“What have you got there?”
It was too early in the night for him to be surprised that she was leaning on the end of the counter, chin in her hands, watching avidly as he poured the contents of the shaker into his glass. Her fingers tapped out a message, the contents of which he’d be wondering about for days.
He tried to concentrate on the canary-coloured half-rainbow spilling into his tumbler, a parabola restricted before its peak.
“Whiskey sour. Want to try it?” By habit, he offered it to her before taking a drink himself.
The dimple at the center of her upper lip, a local minimum, quirked delightfully as she mulled it over. He could make cocktail after cocktail to watch her mouth do that.
After a long moment she made her approval known through the shifting xyz coordinates of her body shifting towards his. She deposited the glass back on the counter before him, remarking, “I didn’t know that you could make cocktails.”
“I can make you one.”
“Thanks, but I’m already double-fisting.” Droll, she pulled, from somewhere, a half-full bottle of beer and a glass of water topped with ice. The ice cubes, perfectly square, rattled against the sides.
There was a derivative to be taken somewhere in her words, but he was struck by the familiar sense that he’d be the only one doing any math.
He drank his whiskey sour from where her lip chap had left nigh-invisible smudges on the rim.
She rolled a 5×5 matrix around on her tongue, and it was harder than watching her with a lollipop.
Is your boyfriend picking you up? It was unnecessary, so he didn’t say it.
Instead, “You’re drunk,” he pointed out, not un-humorously.
She leaned back into the couch, and stretched her arms upward with a wince, with evident satisfaction. The matrix glimmered on her tongue as she laughed. Her eyes were sleepy and contented, like a cat’s.
He imagined that she was imagining the arc of a satellite launched up and out into orbit.
“Not really!” she retorted. But she had water rather than beer now, and while she looked faraway in that sleepy, contented way, her expressions also made the two of them closer than they appeared. There was a half-cushion’s worth of couch between them. Rows and columns rattled against the edge of her glass as she drank, the sound like an ice cube.
“You can always stay here, if you want. We have room.” The couch. His bedroom.
The party had died down too much for anything they said to be confidential. A gamine smile hid the numbers in her mouth, and her utter comfort in the curves of the couch was evident even as she put her glass down on the coffee table, and stood up.
Image from Mickey Shannon Photography
The Crone of the Westward Hunch
For her Eastern twin went searching
And beneath her no road rushed
And none was long kept waiting
She took the lonely mountain paths
And the cowherd’s grassy trail
Towns and thoroughfares she passed
By day and starlight pale
Rare was the one who, pausing
Heard more than the branches sigh
In a wind down from the highlands
When the Westward Crone was nigh Continue reading “The Crone of the Westward Hunch”
Ksarveel, splayed fingers,
and breath arrested, staring
through the void both near and far,
in alien lights yet glistening
she recalls the warmth of a star
But there Earth’s detritus spinning
about a whorl of Lethe’s conception
rocks and silky gravel hissing
without sound upon the Sun’s extinction
all about its inky heart and rim
She, naught but ambient life
in food plucked and flesh contrived
knows death by nanoseconds of non-light
bursting lungs through photons sinking
from star to maw, from day to night