Our story, which seemed like the only story, hadn’t made the papers, wasn’t on everyone’s lips. I was no longer Salome. I was me.
Leaving the Estació de França, I bought us a bouquet of lilies, and we cut them short and arranged them in a plastic bucket on the boat.
Mr. V. had provided us with this address—dock and slip numbers and the four digits of a combination—a final shelter before our separation.
Its simplicity pleased us: a fiberglass sailboat, less than 30-feet long. Moving about the cabin, we had to stoop.
This morning I lay listening to bird calls and yachts’ stays clanking against metal masts. The air had the heavy density of the sea.
You slumbered in the birth. I climbed up through the companionway and onto the deck.
There was a slight breeze, and I briefly imagined raising sail, casting off the lines, and allowing you to wake only to the Mediterranean.
We walked up through the pedestrian streets of the old city. There was a cloud burst, and the rain came down in big warm drops.
A passageway provided shelter, and we watched as the water beaded on the cobbles then turned to rivulets in search of their level.
You said airily: “The season is passing.”
I didn’t have a response, so I took your hand and pulled you running into the downpour. “Let’s eat!”
Splashing up the street, we came to a stand at the opening to a covered arcade. We sat on a pair of stools and ordered.
My hair and shoulders were drenched, a line of water descended my spine. “For the first time in weeks,” I said, smiling, “I’m cold!”
Spanish omelets in thick wedges arrived accompanied by thin slices of baguette smothered beneath a tapenade.
I tasted, and the potato hidden inside burned my tongue. In desperation, I swallowed, and the food descended like a cinder into my stomach.
Dropping my forehead to the counter, I breathed with my mouth open until the pain subsided.
“Whenever you’re ready,” you said.
I raised my head. You were turned toward me, blowing on a thin sliver of omelet, offering me another bite.
“Before you leave, I want to do one last thing.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“I want to bathe you.”
At the boat, you heated water in a pot on the kerosene stove and pulled the table aside, leaving a space to wash at the cabin’s center.
Lying on cushions, watching your preparations, I asked, “So, is this going to be a baptism?”
“No,” you responded, looking back at me and pausing for a moment, “this is just a bath.”
You brought a warm washcloth across me, starting between my fingers, across my palms, pausing at times as if to memorize my body.
“You’re going to miss me, aren’t you?” you asked, dipping the washcloth in the pot, then ringing it out.
I didn’t respond immediately, listened to gravity returning the water to the water.
The poster tube sat across from us. I thought with some ambivalence: I got what I came for.