AUGUST 18, Mirmande:

I woke at some intermediate moment, far after midnight, well before dawn.

The waning moon flooded the room, rendering a shadow play of grey, of black and white.

I disentangled my leg from yours and left you to sleep.

Salome was propped in the corner in her tube. I lit three candles in a candelabra, and brought her outside.

The breeze rose and fell, rustling the leaves in the trees, sending the candle’s flames flickering.

I rolled her out across the rough stones of the patio and set a pebble at each corner.

Then, I sat on the ground, cradling my head on my knees, and watched her dance between the candlelight and the moon.

I blew out the candles, catching the brief whisper of each flame’s death as it met my breath.

I recognized my melancholy. But I wouldn’t allow myself to identify why.

You lay sleeping when I returned, the contour of your penis below the sheet, the rise and fall of your breast.

I slipped in next to you, briefly took you in my hand, squeezed, then left you to your dreams.

—–

This morning, we had the courage to return to the car.

You drove us up toward the Vercors. We parked at a small hotel, Moulin de la Pipe, and you went inside and asked about diversions.

When you returned, you suggested a walk to a waterfall. It seemed like a good idea.

You backed the Porsche out and then turned onto a dirt track that cut through fields of sunflowers standing at attention.

“The concierge mentioned that the hotel’s original owner was Jean de la Pipe,” you said. “Apparently, he smoked a lot.”

“If we owned the place,” I responded, “they’d have called it Moulin de la Sex.”

You smiled, then added: “He mentioned something else on the subject.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“‘Une pipe’ in French means ‘a blow job.’”

“Did he ask you to give him one?”

“No,” you said, “just a simple vocabulary lesson.”

“Well,” I responded, “you, for one, will be highly cultivated the day you return from Europe.”

We parked and switched-back down a steep trail to a broad shallow stream with low brush at its banks.

We held hands as we walked up the stream bed toward its source.

The water’s contour led us into a slot canyon, its walls green with moss, and we could hear the roar of the waterfall somewhere ahead.

Then, we were before it, a thin hard exclamation point of white descending from above. We waded up to our knees in the pool at its base.

“I feel like an ant,” you shouted. I smiled in response, closed my eyes, and let the mist wash across my face.

—–

Later, we returned to the Moulin for dinner and found the patio overrun with banquet tables. The annual fête du village was this evening.

In a far corner, we found a pair of seats, and you went to order us a bottle of crémant.

We sat and drank, gradually emptying the bottle as the restaurant filled. A band started playing a waltz, and you asked, “Shall we?”

You led me out to the open expanse of the floor. We wove between old couples and parents with children to find an open slot.

“We could come to this party every year for the rest of our lives,” you said, “and we’d never feel out of place.”

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