“I knew Benjamin,” I said aloud before the mike atop the rostrum. First, I coughed then cleared my throat still overly concerned about my voice braking under the weight of the day.
It was a morning made of sunlight and shade. Rummaging through the echoes in my head for the right thing to say I heard an unfamiliar voice saying a familiar thing. It was a story about being daring to take chances. It was one I heard when I was younger than I am now. I still have trouble trying to remember by whom it was said. It’s as if the voice in the memory changes with the temperature and hour of the day. On somedays the voice is coarse and delegating on others it’s fine and comforting. Maybe it was something said by a teacher, or my father or someone else. But now instead of trying to remember the picture of the day, time and place I imagine the sight of flapping lips opening and closing accordingly.
A man stands in a narrow corridor atop a hill looking over the edge. At the base of the hill he sees an ocean. The waves of the ocean are smashing against the foot of the hill. To his back that is completely dark is a sound. It is a sound that rumbles and clangs. The walls of the corridor shake as if in terror of what is to become of him standing looking over the edge. The loose rocks beneath his feet shuffle about trying to find crevices to hide in until the thing causing their anxiety riddled apprehension to fade. Two options become apparent. He waits to fall off the hill into the ocean after being tossed aside and trampled by whatever is coming towards him from the dim of that corridor, or he jumps.
“Benjamin jumped.” The room remained dead silent.
It was the year the summer felt like an autumn then suddenly like a wet tropical winter. The leaves were already turning that rotten shade of brown and the mosquitoes came in droves.
After my mother found me on the bathroom floor smelling rank laying in my own vomit that she said was clear and smelled of bleach, she arranged for me to have sessions with an old man that was too old to grow a full beard. By then he could only sprout a stubble. It was a grizzly gray thing above his lips beneath his chin and in the indents of his jaw. He had shaky hands, walked with a cane, a wedding ring on his finger and a billfold under his arm with a picture of his dead wife that never gave him any children. The old man’s name was Dr. Thomas and he had stopped practicing psychiatry in the formal sense of the thing for years. He however still wrote prescriptions for past patients and those referred to him by old and new friends, family of current friends and friends of friends. He held his sessions that he told us to think of as “conversations among likeminded people” in his living room. He always walked with a smile leant up against his limp and “old bone” grimaces even though it was hard to tell what was making him as happy as he was. The boy with his hand in the unfinished canoe said it was something that came with age.
The living room was decorated like that of the page of an old man’s memoir. It was cluttered with every and anything that his old, gray eyes would use as their means of nostalgia during their short wait for the sun to set while they sat out on their veranda in chairs that had been in the same place for as long as they had been occupants of that house.
There were framed pictures on the walls and atop the furniture of him and his wife on their wedding day. In the pictures he was dressed in a suit that looked three sizes too big for his slender frame standing proudly behind the woman in a white gown that was almost as bright as her smile.
To the corner of the room was a canoe that was either half-finished or half dismantled. It was leant against the wall by chains that were padlocked to the wall. A boy ran his hands against the hollow wooden hull of the boat until he reached the empty innards of the other half of the hollow thing. There he ran his fingers against the wooden frame that appeared to be the boat’s skeleton.
He had his fun and soon took notice of my gaze lost on his fingers in the wood. He approached me tripping without falling on something that made him look to the ground in bewilderment. Holding his clumsy act in contempt. He swallowed collecting himself, opened his mouth and said, “I’m Benjamin. Benjamin Thomas” with his chest out and an arm extended. Before I could introduce myself he finished his introduction by introducing me as well, “Matthew Glasse.”
At first I thought he was like the rest of them. He knew my father. He would ask if I had any interests in pursuing politics like my father, I would smile. I would smile the smile I had created for such an occasion. It wasn’t one too wide to be misinterpreted as overly affectionate, interested or even gaudy but it also wasn’t too subtle to be overlooked nor was it too mechanical to be called patronizing. I would smile my smile in response to all the praises and quarrels he would have for and about Benjamin Glasse. We would then part ways and share familiar glances across rooms and streets if by chance we were ever to see each other elsewhere.
Instead he pointed to the roof. He pointed to the edges where the roof met the wall. The paint that was used to paint the roof dripped and ran down the edges of the roof to the wall and was allowed to dry there. The streaks of paint along the creases of the roof down the wall reminded me of my first day back from St. Elizabeth.
The man that had driven the car with all the windows wound up and the air conditioning set on high that made my nose stuffy was still outside. He took my bags from the trunk and gave me a set of house keys. It was a chain of two keys. He spoke some more I assume he was indicating which opened the front door and which my room door but I couldn’t hear him over the sound I imagined coming off the keys when the sun it. It sounded like ruffling leaves and creaking branches. It was almost exactly the sound that came from outside my window at Auntie’s house before the tree was a stump.
The steps were shorter than I had remembered, the door was smaller, and the first key didn’t fit. Eventually the door opened, I walked through the narrow passage with my mother’s framed pictures on the walls, climbed the steps that were also shorter and stood in front my room door that I remembered having a deep brown colour. The door was now white and the wood was even hollower than before.
I opened the door and the room was bare. There was no bed, no sheets, no lamps. There was nothing there to say someone lives here. There was a window that I remembered overlooked nothing but it let in the morning sun that reflected glaring light off the walls. The curtain rod was still hung above it from the nails my mother asked me to hammer in place, so I used a rock I used to keep under my bed that I had smuggled home from a trip to the beach.
The room was now a vacuum with light coloured walls that smelled of smoke and freshly dried paint. In the edges of the room where the wall’s beige met the roof’s marl white there were streaks of paint. They were short wandering trails that curved and twisted through the grits and grooves along the wall. At nights the tributaries at the ends of my roof became my last site before my eyes closed.
“Tears. They look like tears” Benjy said looking up at the roof. I agreed nodding my head. To me they more resembled roots.
He was raised by his mother some place in St. Elizabeth. We spoke for days about the red dirt and the heat. He told me stories of tracking red mud on rainy days through the house and tossing and turning at nights that felt like middays. They were nights that made him sweat through the sheets hiding from the buzzing mosquitoes that cut through the peace of any sleep to be had like the rusty end of a dull butter knife.
He talked about the few places that I knew from my lengthy stay there. He gave the places that I had glanced at while I was there and only remembered by landmarks: trees, broken fences and high walls mostly, he gave them names. We spoke about the crowded bus stops and packed buses that forced even the most selfish of them to share, even if it was just air. Then we sauntered into deeper conversations about why we were a part of Dr. Thomas’ flock of conversationalists.
It was a flock that had grown to weigh the weight of six bodies. The six bodies had six faces of which I knew two, Benjamin Thomas and Vanessa Brown. Vanessa was the type that sat in the corner with her head down to the floor then up at the ceiling. At the end of the sessions she evaporated through the creaking walls of Dr. Thomas’ home without making as much as a clank against the wood. After a few sessions I came to know Vanessa by the rattling sounds she made whenever she moved her arm. Her left forearm was wrapped in a bracelet of brass beads that begun at her wrist and ended at her elbow.
I started to realize that she spent a lot of time with Benjamin whispering in corners and at the far ends of the couches in the old man’s living room. The short periods that the old man would give us for lunch breaks they would both use to disappear through the creaking walls without disturbing the squeaking floor boards or the loose tiles at the front and back doors before returning with a slam that would shake the old house. They would giggle and stumble about each other blaming the wind for the noise and their smell on the burning piles of rubbish that they were always unfortunate enough to happen upon during their outings.
I spoke to her one day after Benjamin introduced her to me as his friend. She was a quiet affair. “Empty mouths, full hearts” I thought to myself. This was the way my father would have described her. She told me that the bracelet was something she made. “It’s a dream catcher” she announced over a haughtily laughing Benjamin. She was a day dreamer. She called it, her day dreaming, a “chronic situation.” For as long as she could remember she had spent bright days in the dark even with her eyes were wide open.
Her grandmother made and wove things from things into things. Strings, chords, glass, beads, clay anything that could fit in the palms of her hands or through the spaces in her fingers she could use to make into something to reflect and refract the light. Vanessa was young when her grandmother taught her how to fix her fingers and older when the old woman’s lips only quivered.
Her grandmother passed eventually when Vanessa was older but still very young. By then Vanessa knew the ins and outs of twisting beads and threads into things to put around her neck, ankles and wrists. By then she also found that she had a gift of threading the day’s lights through her fingers as well. The clouds, the sky, the buildings, the roads, the cars, the trucks, the buses, the bikes, the faces she strung them along her threads making her stories with her eyes wide open.
Entangled in her stories she admitted started to make her feel as if she was coming out of a deep sleep even if it were just a few steps to cross a busy street. She made the dream catcher on her arm because she said the stories were becoming more than she could hold in her hands. They became slippery affairs, slithering between her fingers, working their way up to her neck, hissing and threatening her with their fangs. So she latched the dream catcher to her arm to keep the final sting at bay.
She hid her grin behind a subtle crescent smile she formed with her eyes instead of her lips when she looked down at the beads on her arm, I suppose nostalgically at the bracelet that stretched from her elbow to the wrist.
Vanessa never came to anymore of the old man’s sessions after that and Benjamin never seemed perturbed about her absence. On the occasion that I got the nerve to ask why she wasn’t attending the meetings anymore Benjy without looking at me chuckled to himself and asked “you miss her already?”
We were to write for Dr. Thomas. It was to be of something that we thought was significant in our lives. We were told to experiment from his pair of old lips that I imagined struggled to hold in his dentures from the added shaking of excitement to his already old rickety structure. We were to write it with any word and in any way we chose, about any topic “that makes your heart stop before you start,” he muffled before managing to get it out.
I wrote about the twin girls that the woman told us grew into the tall mango tree at the front of my yard. The woman was a relative to the old couple that were the owners of the house before us. They had recently migrated and left maintenance to the whims of the woman who thought it better to make a profit from the sale of the house rather than a loss competing with its upkeep. She showed us the rooms upstairs, the tiling in the kitchen downstairs, the wide living room and the dining room that made my mother get excited about having a large cabinet built to hold her crockery. It would be a cabinet made of wood the same shade of brown to match the large dining room table in the middle of the room that the old couple had left behind. It would be a structure of glass and wood like one of her “aunt’s” she said.
The woman took us down a flight of steps to show us the front of the yard. We walked along the paved drive way that bisected a lush, green lawn before trampling on blades of grass, crushing the insects that might have lived among these blades of grass, snapping twigs and dried leaves beneath our heels then stood in the shade of a large mango tree. We stood there looking up at its branches then down at its roots that were thick, cumbersome things of two shades of brown that overlapped one another. The bark was also two shades of the same colour. Further up the bark was an archway. It looked as if the bark had separated from itself and sprouted different branches that sprouted different shaped leaves but formed one huge umbrella that casted one giant shadow.
The woman told us of the old couple that had their miracle come late in life. The miracle came wrapped in a pair of pink blankets the day they came home from the hospital. “Twin baby girls” the old woman told everyone that had ever stopped by the house for a glass of water along with all her relations. They were all so happy for the nice old couple that lived in the house.
The old husband took the umbilical cords home from the hospital swimming in a jar of alcohol. He planted them that day in the front of the yard with two mango seedlings he took from a fleshed mango seed with a kitchen knife. He had allowed the mango seed to dry on a waiter he had left in a crawl space under the house for three days. The plants grew but as they grew one grew green and straight while the other grew brown and limp. He tied the stems of the plants together with a piece string before the barks of the trees needed to be tied with a rope. The tree never bore fruit but it was “something to look at from a veranda on a bright afternoon” my father said.
My father loved the tree even if all it did was litter the lawn with yellow and brown leaves giving the grounds man added work atop his chores. My father arranged for him to tie the barks with fresh lengths of rope once every six months even though I’m not fully certain why nor did I think the grounds keeper fully understood but he did it regardless.
The wolf and The fox was Benjy’s story. There was a wolf alone in a forest that prided himself on knowing the placement of every rock and pebble along every path in the forest. There was a stray fox running through the dense forest that was foreign to it but the fox was certain through its nomadic experiences that all forests were like all forests. The trees swayed making the barks creak. As such with brazen footing it fell from a slope into a pit of ink. The fox helplessly flashed its paws to stay afloat while being blinded by the ink being fanned from its paws into its eyes. The fox howled, bawled and shrieked at the idea of its impending death. It was almost as if the fox was beseeching the trees for help the way it cried. The trees in their way obliged the fox passing its cries through the leaves until they fell on the ears of the wolf.
The wolf ran to the aid of the fox. Standing over the pit of blue ink, the wolf saw what looked like a young wolf clamoring for life. The wolf pulled the fox from the pit with a low lying branch that it snapped from place with its teeth. The fox laid on the ground at the feet of its rescuer exhausted, grateful but frightened at the idea of its possible discovery. The wolf tried its utmost to urge the fox to its feet while checking its fur for any injuries the animal might have suffered from the fall. But the fox still covered in the pit’s ink just laid there with its paws over its eyes.
The fox and the wolf in time became as close as any, after the fox had shed its apprehensiveness of its looming demise. The fox journeyed secretly to the pit daily to line its fur with ink. One day the fox was caught in the showers of a storm while it was out strutting through the forest the way it saw the wolf do on many occasions, with its chest out. The fox quickly made its way through the trees that it had now become fully acquainted with and the mud to reach the cave that both animals had been calling home. From a distance the fox saw the wolf looking out expectantly to see its friend return but the fox had taken notice of a blue puddle forming around its feet. The fox decided then and there to leave his friend at the entrance of the cave looking out for him and be on its way. It decided then and there that its life as a wolf was over.
The day ended after the readings. Dr. Thomas stood in the doorway with a smile on his face passing out pats on the shoulders and sandwiches wrapped in plastic and foil paper. “Vanessa’s asking for you” Benjy said as we walked through the door. He told me that she was waiting by the waterfront before he invited me to come along. I went.
We drove through the town made of buildings, cars and bikes. We drove along tar roads made of crossings, traffic lights, fuel exhausts, stop signs and faces bunched at the lips and cheeks and a bright afternoon sun hanging above. We made our way pass it all until we stopped for a man crossing the street. He had wild hair, wore a torn-up long sleeved dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, a pair of jeans pants that looked six sizes too large for his slender waist which forced him to hold the pants up by grabbing it above the crotch with hands that belonged to skin that looked as if they were blacked by vehicle oils and greases. The man spun around in the middle of the street to curse at a tree that had a bench made of cement and steel in its shade. To the side of the bench was the bark of the tree. Beneath the bark, resting against the roots that were dug into the paved sidewalk was a small pile of what looked like cloth but may have well been more clothes. The man cursed emphatically, whole hearted laments with his eyes wide open while swinging his free hand in anger chopping at the wind around him. It all made him deaf to the jeers that were being thrown at him by passersby. The man suddenly stopped. He turned facing Benjy and I sitting in the car and took a few steps towards us. He smiled showing his rotted mouth and black gums. Benjy hastily sped off around the man in a panic. In the rear view mirror I saw a pair of police officers in their stripes and batons on their waists walking towards the man. It all disappeared behind Benjy’s next turn.
The waterfront was a gusty scene. The wind rushed off the ocean and barged against the leaves and stems of the palm trees throwing them about as it did the ties around the necks of men that walked briskly in and out the glass doors of tall buildings with large glass windows. The waves crashed against the stone wall in front the shore built to prevent the wear by hands that were old now and worn. The ships at the harbor to the far left of the scene stayed anchored and without creaking took the abuse of the swishing ocean and the bustling winds.
There was a figure sitting under a tree on one of those cement benches that Benjy walked towards with pacey and light steps. The figure was of a girl that Benjy without introducing sat at her side, took her waist, whispered in her ear and made giggle. It was as if they were completely affixed in one another. Within the moment of seeing each other I was certain they forgot about me completely. Minute by minute felt like day by day watching them both flutter about subjected to each other as her earrings were to the ocean breeze.
Vanessa was a welcomed interruption, from her rattling bracelet that made me turn around in my seat to find the source of that noise that wasn’t the smacking of lip against skin and the flaying of trees by heavy wind. “I smoke” she said to me. Then she went on talking about not caring for other’s opinions unless they were sensible opinions. She ended her tirade on the uselessness of a man’s opinion that was “as useless as his love for himself” by apologizing for making me fall in love with her. I laughed but she chuckled taking another draw then a puff adding to our already cumulous situation.
It wasn’t before long I heard Benjy shouting. We found him standing by a car waving an arm while clutching a bouquet of plucked red hibiscus in the other hand. His friend was sitting on the front seat of the car beside an older man that wore a dark pair of shades. He had a stern rigidity to his face as if he was unhappy but steady in his contempt. After the girls left Benjy told me that the man was the girl’s father.
Once the man had told Benjy that he saw a lot of himself in him. Benjy said he smiled rounding off the man’s statement with a “thank you.” The man stopped smiling. He stared at Benjy a little while longer making him uncomfortable that forced a smile made of glass between Benjy’s cheeks.
My friendship with Benjy was one of those overnight happenings. It was the type of thing that came about suddenly and inconspicuously. He told me how much he hoped to be in politics when he grew up. He talked about change and reform and his dreams with the flair of a man at the podium. He called himself a dreamer laughingly with his eyes remaining the same shade of brown as it did before then after. He even asked if one day I would introduce him to my father. He was a fan of the man and wondered if he might have advice or some coaxing words. I agreed after running out of words to no.
His house I found out later was just some minutes away from mine by drive. It was along a road after a deep bend that overlooked a river. The edge of the bend was guarded by an aluminum rail. At the end of the bend was a billboard with my father’s picture. His arms were folded in his suit and his mouth was clasped as it always was.
At the front of his house was a verandah with grilling running above a whitewashed wall of knee height. Below the walls were potted plants with green leaves that had brown blotches and white spots.
On the verandah was a half open window with a drawn white curtain billowing. The sight made me think of a ship’s sail tied to a mast. Benjy opened the door with a key he fished from one of plant’s pot. As soon as the door was open and my foot made it through the doorway I caught myself in the beige walls. Benjy had disappeared leaving me to wander about, wondering while pondering everything’s place for myself.
The house I decided was a theatre. It was a theatre not filled with lights but curtains. Not the heavy red drapes thrown open and close at the sound of applause no matter how loud or how feint. The curtains were white and they fluttered resembling the actions of well flown kites on windy days even though the breeze was calm. “It’s nothing to nail down the figurines about” a voice said.
I turned around to see a woman standing there in nursing stripes. She asked if I would like something to drink to which I accepted gratefully. Before leaving the room she turned again facing me and apologized. She introduced herself as Jacqueline but said it was fine if I referred to her as Ms. Jackie. Benjy also quickly reappeared with a story explaining his sudden disappearance. He had gone to check on his mother that was upstairs asleep. She was drowsy from the type of medication the doctors prescribed for the troubles she suffered with her joints.
We sat in a room with settees, a couch and a coffee table with a vase placed delicately atop it. The vase housed a bouquet of red hibiscus flowers. Benjy after realizing my fix on the arrangement confessed that it was the bouquet he had plucked from a shrub on our day pent at the waterfront. It was a gesture he makes for his mother. “She loves them” he said. She never sees them he continued to say. She never sees them anymore because of her ailment. She had difficulty maneuvering up and down the creaky steps and keeping her balance moving along the tiling.
There was an invited pause in the afternoon. The hour was only occupied by the soft, hush of the wind causing the curtains to tickle our faces, necks and have their way with our arms. The still was abruptly displaced by the clang and shattering of a loud crash. I felt myself leap from the chair to witness with my eyes, still half shut, peering at the hazy silhouettes of two bodies at the door way.
One was of a woman in a white gown. The gown was scattered with blue polka dots. It was something befitting a hospital patient. It was something that desired an arm with a needle that lead to an I.V. The woman stood there in the door way with her wavy Indian hair to her back wildly swung about her face and neck. I couldn’t make out a smile or a frown on her face but I could see the whites of her eyes that were even whiter than I had become accustomed to greeting with a “hello good morning” or when sharing the occasional glance whenever I was out. She stared at me as if she was convicting me of the reason her eyes had become so white.
Benjy spoke to her under his breath without blinking, her hands fixed firmly in his and a vain embossed in his neck that made its way under his shirt as if it was headed for his heart. They were there for some time with Benjy’s pleading becoming less and less mannered.
The woman that wore the nursing stripes appeared from behind the curtain with a stethoscope around her neck and blood pressure monitor bundled in her hand. “Come miss” she said I thought in a patronizing way. It was the way one spoke to a toddler. The woman in the gown took the lady’s hand the way a child takes their mother’s hand on request. While being lead from the room the woman in the gown repeatedly in a monotone called for “Benjamin.”
Benjy left the room with them keeping his eyes away from my gaze or acknowledging the mess of broken glass, spilled juice, pieces of biscuits and an aluminum tray left in the doorway. I thought about the woman’s wide white eyes until Benjy returned to the room with a towel under his arm and a bin in his hand. He fell to his knees as soon as his feet made it pass the curtain and started pushing and pulling the spilled juice back and forth and side to side against the tile. His frantic fingers were cut recurrently on the pieces of glass which he took without even a murmur wiping the red pulps of blood against the white curtain in the door way splotching it with red streaks. “She’s my mother” he said with his eyes still fixed on the tiles.
The girls had invited us sometime after our meet at the waterfront to a beach in St. Mary. It was one of those beaches that weren’t in the tourist’s brochure with a picture of the cool but warm blue waters calmly caressing a white, sandy shore. It was someone’s birthday and Benjy was eager to see his friend again. Vanessa was desperate to see me again, he had lead on, while we sat on a tree stump we found in the back of his yard. We were both sweating under the whip of the evening sun with our salty drizzles falling from our faces to our knees and drenching the palm of our hands and shirts.
I thought while sitting on the stump embarrassingly trying to remember what Vanessa looked like but the only thing that came to mind was her scent that made me cough at the thought and my chest tighten. I remembered her slapping her dark thighs. I could remember the rattling sound the beads on her wrist made with her every swipe at the mosquitoes she convinced herself were up and about, flies and or whatever other small, annoying thing that inconveniently pitch and buzz when they fly.
It was already dark when we got to the beach on the back of a long drive. The vibrations of the throbbing music, the distortion of excited voices spewing slurred words made their way up the beach over the romp of the boisterous waves along with a glare of a flickering light in the distance. Benjy and I walked through the shade of a crescent moon and a night sky with few stars. The sand was still warm and my toes and soles of my feet were tender from scraping against the jagged edges of pebbles, rocks and broken glass left behind by empty rum bottles.
Benjy’s friend met us up the beach. She emerged from behind a shadow wearing shadows and as soon as she came Benjy disappeared with her as inconspicuously as how she had arrived.
I stood there in the dark by myself first gazing at the flickering light that I was close enough to by then to realize was a tall fire shivering in the sea breeze. Then I looked out to sea and wondered if that was where Benjy and his friend had disappeared to. Maybe they were runaway lovers. The old, rude man in the car from that day at the waterfront was the administrator bridling their love for one another in ball and chains. Trapped not only in ball and chain but also to one another the romantics chose to die in love to live together. The beach trip was set in place and they knew that was there chance. On the shore they lined their pockets with stones that they knew under water would feel like boulders. They anchored their hands one to the other with a tight grip and walked out into the ocean shaking while trying to stop their teeth from chattering in the cold water that got warmer the deeper they went with every step they took. They took their last breath with eyes fixed on the other wiping the salt from each other’s cheeks.
But then I looked out to the sea and saw how tall the waves were and how choppy the water was. I heard how hard they thrashed the shore making the sand echo like a room of cement walls. The scene was much too rowdy for that banal love. They must have been elsewhere casting a larger shadow than they could ever by themselves. A shadow mutated from their appetite for each other with two heads, two backs, four arms and four legs.
A pair of hands grabbed my face covering my eyes. The owner of the pair of playful hands that smelled of smoke snickered and in the same breath said, “guess who.” I could feel the beads of the bracelet against my face and a pair of breasts on my back, I said “Vanessa.” She lowered her hands and I spun around. She wore a mask that I took off to see her face to preserve my initial guess that it was the girl I had met at the waterfront. She giggled gaily when I took it off and grabbed my hand. She pulled us both forcefully in the direction of the party having no concern for the mask that fell in the sand due to the sudden thrust she employed causing the thing to slip from my fingers.
We passed the fire that she explained was a pile of sticks, wood, bottles, boxes, tires soaked in someone’s gasoline and anything else they found on the beach earlier that day. They wrapped its base in zinc and wood to prevent it from spreading whether accidentally or otherwise. Then she pulled me toward the congregation of turning hips that were sweating rhythmically. She clung to me throwing her arms around my neck. We danced. It felt as if we were dancing separately together as my mind drifted back to where Benjy might had been. It was if a thin piece of glass had been placed between me and everything else. As if I was simply peering at everything from behind my side of the glass.
She whispered to me how happy she was that I came. Even though it was said under her breath I could hear her every syllable clearly over the music and the sea. After she told me her secret she left her chest on mine and I could feel her heart beat quicken and her breaths shorten. My legs were suddenly heavier, my breath felt progressively thinner, the party began to resemble something placed on a spindle and my heart began sounding louder in my ear than the combination of the waters that a fisherman’s wife would find unnerving and the music.
I felt as if it was making its way up the lengths of my body first from my gut to my throat then from my toes to my throat. I coughed a few times hunched over on the sand. “Come” she said leading me by my arm again, this time cautiously. She barked at others to get out the way until we made it pass the excited bodies to a small and narrow space. The place was in the shadow of a boulder. It was a large boulder that was being illuminated by the pile of burning debris.
We sat there as I tried to catch my breath. Vanessa rubbed my back while asking in that soft tone of voice as if we were still whispering secrets, if I was feeling sick as I sat there trying to thread together the sensible parts what had happened.
I think that’s why I kissed her. I did it as if I was whispering a secret to her cheeks and lips that the rest of us couldn’t bear to know. Or maybe I was preventing what sounded like a concern coming from the bowels of her gut from sounding like a shallow rhetoric emitting from the throat. Or maybe I was obliging her aid in the only way I thought I could. Maybe that’s why I laid on my back looking up at the shadow that I realized had her eyes closed when I ran my hand through the lines of her face.
It felt as if we both left climbing the invisible rungs like the smoke of the flames that rose into a sky that was still starless. Then we lingered, suspended, before tumbling back ashore like the ocean spray.
For the most part my eyes were shut on the way back. Benjy was deep in contemplation about the future he envisioned. He carried on scurrying from topic to topic first of his night spent with his friend before returning to tomorrow that he saw through porcelain and marble lenses and gifted in foreign fabric stitched together by skilled hands.
On occasion he gave his ambitions a rest by asking about my night with Vanessa to which I replied “it was fine.” I never told him that she wasn’t there in the morning. When I woke up all I saw was sand reflecting the light of a pale sun that was still stretching. I was covered in the sand from the waist down. At the brim of the scene was a boulder that resembled a peak of a hill from my backside.
I found Benjy by chance. I stumbled out of my narrow space then saw him standing in the water that was now calm. It divided then reconnected at his ankles below his pant legs that he had rolled up meticulously in even, rectangular rungs.
I opened my eyes to the sound of Benjy saying “look. We might get some rain.” I looked up sticking my head through the window. I felt that the wind had started to pick up carrying along a slight chill within its breaths. I looked ahead and saw that we were driving toward a blue sky littered with dark clouds that were rushing to make off with what had been to that point, a familiar summer.