Red light district at 5 am, mostly vacant. Windows framed by the glare of neon tubes: Empty chairs. Generic interiors.
We pass a lone prostitute, dressed as a school girl, bathed in the blue neon of her shop window.
Seeing the car for the first time, you let out a lurid whistle.
Me, vexed: Stop hitting on my car. No whistling allowed.
You, unrelenting: Seriously. If you just grow a mustache, we could make some vintage porn with this one.
You, softening, kissing my cheek: I love it.
I turn the key in the ignition and rev the engine. You make yourself at home, placing the origami boat on the dash.
Me, turning to you, not quite believing that you’re there, that we’re here: Ready?
We drive south and cross the border into Belgium. Past Antwerp and Gent then on into France. The weather’s too cold to remove the top.
‘Against the Grain’ is on your lap, and I ask you to read me the first chapter.
Your voice is melodic. Each sentence is sumptuous, central points girded by clause after descriptive clause.
Des Esseintes is folding into himself, completely alone, constructing a fantasy world where he arranges every detail.
Me: Do you ever want to do that? Just disappear?
You: Isn’t that what we’re doing right now?
We stop at a service station. Stand at the counter and drink an espresso.
You, dipping a sugar cube into the coffee: Do you smoke?
Me, looking right and left at the smokers around us: When the time is right.
You, pointing at neighbors’ packs: Light or Regular?
Me, without a strong opinion: Just as long as it isn’t menthol.
You, pushing off and jostling the man to your right, excusing yourself, then to me: Shall we?
You, arriving at the car, pulling an open pack of cigarettes from your pocket: I got you regulars. I hope that’s ok.
Me, confused: Did you just steal those?
You, slotting fingers between the buttons of my shirt, looking up at me: I thought the time was right.
Me, shaking my head, stretching into the car for the lighter: Ok. Then let me light one.
The coil comes up red hot and you inhale. We share the cigarette on the hood. My tongue grows heavy and limp.
I brush a fleck of tobacco off your lips with my thumb, then brush your lips again before taking your mouth in mine.
We kiss like this for an eternity, our mouths partially anesthetized, cigarette staleness overwhelmed by desire.
Outside Le Treport, I accelerate hard into a roundabout, tap the brake, then give it a clutch kick. The car drifts.
We travel sideways, twisting past exits. Braced between the seat and the wheel. Gravel ping on the undercarriage.
Me: Woooooaaah! Then, interrupting myself: More driving—or the hotel?
You: More! More!
We make a second loop, then I relax the gas and correct the wheel. We rise through fields, then the ocean joins us to the right.
The coastline curves, and we glimpse at chalk white cliffs, their shadows on the water below.
We park by a deserted bunker at the cliff’s lip facing the sea. You race from the car and climb on top.
I pull myself up the worn, blackened concrete. You are standing at the edge, staring back at me in a monochrome sea of clouds.
We smile at each other. I hear the waves and the stab of seagulls calls. Then, you take one step backward and disappear.
Me, running forward then forced onto hands and knees as vertigo takes over: Shit! Shit! Shit!
I peer over the edge.
You are lying a few feet below on a thin shelf. When you see me, you start whistling.
Me: You can’t do that to me!
You, sitting up and reaching out a hand, naïve: What?
Me, bringing you up: What!?
Me, thinking ‘pretend to kill yourself,’ saying: Whistle.
In a moment, you are on top of me. You embrace me, biting my lip. I let out a gasp and taste my blood.
You, taking my face in your hands: Don’t tell me you’re getting attached.