I go out to the Porsche, pull off the tarp. Sit in the driver’s seat, engage the clutch and run the shift through the gears for a last time.
The white queen hangs from the rear view mirror. I weigh her in my palm for a moment, then leave her be.
Our origami boat sits on the dash, and I reach across and pull it into my pocket.
I open the trunk and drop in everything that isn’t immediately necessary. ‘Against the Grain,’ pokes up, and I lift it out.
Searching for Salome, I leaf through passages describing her transcendent beauty and am stopped short by Des Esseintes’ final impression.
She is “the monstrous beast: indifferent, irresponsible, insensitive, poisonous.” I exhale and lock her away.
Tonight, we’ll stay for the party, but we pack our bags, nonetheless. We lay out clothes for the evening, then walk to the river to swim.
The trail is a thin line of hardened earth leading downhill, bordered by brambles, shaded by pines.
I stand in the shallows, concentrate on the current at my ankles. You sit half-submerged watching dragonflies graze the water’s surface.
We lie by the river. My head, on your stomach, rises and falls with your breath. Others arrive. We close our eyes, ignore their chatter.
Me, absently: For such a great big chateau, it sure is hard to get a private moment.
It is time. Cocktails are served on the terrace before the ballroom. We cross the threshold arm-in-arm.
Me, wearing your sunglasses, holding back: We are not alone.
You, pausing for my benefit: No, we are not.
A cellist plays Bach, her back framed by the ochre wall of Le Chateau. I have heard but cannot name the piece.
You: Let’s listen.
I lean against the balcony and draw my arms around your waist.
The cellist frowns, bows her face toward the fingerboard. I hold her music as I hold you: harmonic, precious, unbearably ephemeral.
The piece ends, a sprinkle of applause. The manservant arrives, carrying a tray of champagne flutes. I take one for each of us.
Other guests approach, ask our names. We talk of our month sailing around Sardinia, our plans for the coming weeks.
Easy lies leavened by others’ stories of human things: a return to work, memories of the last month’s passions.
Conversations multiply and, in turn, divide us. We both orbit individual spheres in the garden, distributing our fabrications.
The champagne rises in my head, calls for replenishment. Laughs turn shrill. Connections deepen as meanings turn increasingly indistinct.
For a moment, I lose you, imaging you as a you were yesterday—turning for me, naked before the window, your hair across your shoulders.
Then I see you glowing, animated in conversation with another couple, your hair so close-cropped that you could be someone’s brother.
Me, touching a wrist as I join you: Hello, lovely.
You, grinning: Listen to this—these people think I look like the girl who stole Salome. Isn’t that funny?
Me, no choice but to smile, roused by the very impossibility of the truth: I thought the same thing! Remember? We even saved a clipping.
Dinner is served in the ballroom. We are already tight. Our feet slip out of their shoes and caress under the table.
Your hand strokes at my cock as you nonchalantly elaborate on a point. The desire becomes too much.
Me, to our neighbors: Please excuse us for a moment.
I lead you out. The sun has set, and lanterns are arrayed around the garden. I pull one off its stand, and we run barefoot to the river.
We splash up to our knees in the cool of the water.
You, grasping at an overhanging bough: Here!
I drop the lantern, hear its wick fizzle as the light is extinguished. Your hands wrap around the branch as I pull at your dress.
Your pussy and belly are exposed in a star-tinted grey. You pull your legs out of the water and wrap them around my ass.
Party sounds clatter and bounce down toward us as if from some psychotic jukebox. We accompany them with our own animal music.
When it is over, we lie on the bank together, wet and dirty, cooing, touching. No longer suitable for company.
You, asking: Are you ready to dance?