AUGUST 19, Mirmande to Monaco:

I close the house while you pack up the car.

I find the candelabra on the patio. Its three candlesticks have melted together into a braid of flaccid penises.

Me, motioning to you: Any interest in keeping this?

You, tilting your head, inspecting the forms: Not so much. Your penis is enough.

—–

We drive on back roads.

You: Are you always taking these small roads to elude the police?

Me, telling the truth: No, they just have better places to fuck.

We stop in Die at a rummage sale. Bric-a-brac overruns the streets.

Bins of postcards, magazines. A wooden table with a marble base, each leg a sphinx. A lime green ashtray with an advertisement for fresh jam.

Me, ready to go: I’m pretty confident that there’s nothing here for us.

You, taking my hand: Come on. Let’s poke around a bit more.

A jigsaw puzzle box catches my eye. A woman walks into the wind on a boardwalk, behind her a car and the sea.

Me, suddenly excited: Look. Rolls Royce, Silver Ghost. That was Gatsby’s car.

You, mildly interested in the automotive details: It has 3000 pieces. Let’s get it. We’ll find a quiet place to put it together.

You: We can pretend we’re old. We’ll just sit there, doing the puzzle. We won’t leave until we’re done.

—–

We drive on. The white queen twists below the mirror. You are bent over the puzzle box, sifting through the pieces, searching for corners.

You, holding out your hand, genuinely excited: Look, I found all four!

Me, not providing the respect you deserve: Wow, only 2996 pieces to go!

We park on a rise and walk into a field with a blanket, cheese, a tomato, a peach, my knife.

Standing, we see the cars rush by. Seated, our heads are just visible above the seed stalks. Lying down, we disappear.

The tomato looks as if it might burst. I puncture it with a neat X and suck.

Me: Try it.

You, sucking it dry, nonchalantly throwing the skin behind you: Yum! I feel like a spider eating my liquefied prey.

I lie back, close my eyes, sigh. Moments later, something is tickling my nose. I brush with my hand. It returns.

I look up and see you with two long stalks of grass in your mouth.

Me: What are you doing, hillbilly?

You, through clenched teeth: I’m a spider, dummy. I am looking for a soft spot where I can inject my venom.

Me: Don’t you need to catch me in your web first?

You: Oh, I’ve already done that.

You, authoritatively: Now, stop moving. Resistance will only increase your suffering.

I acquiesce, feel your fingers unbuttoning my shirt. Strands of grass brush against my collar bone, across my chest.

My nipples become erect, goose bumps rise. My cock pushes against my shorts. I feel its head peek below the bottom seam.

You, caressing its tip with the grass: This looks like a tender bit.

Reaching down, you tug at my shorts, bring them to my knees. My cock flops onto my stomach.

You, straddling me, your clit pressing, rubbing against my shaft: Just warming up for the lethal bite.

Reaching back, you pull me slightly inside. My mouth is open. I let out a little moan, attempt to push further.

You, admonishing, pulling away: Hey, no resistance!

Taking a long strand of grass, you tie it around the base of my cock, bring it between my legs, behind a thigh.

The blades radiate out from the stock. You tug from below the seed head and my cock rises in response.

You: Now, my little marionette, where were we?

Your hand tugs hard against the grass, drawing the blade against my testicles, as your cunt swallows me whole.

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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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AUGUST 17, Mirmande:

I wake early, mouth parched, bladder full. Tromp to the bathroom, lift the toilet seat to pee.

You, surprising me from behind, bringing your hand around my cock: Now watch that aim. Want to keep this place clean!

I grunt in affirmation, relax, start to urinate.

You, directing my stream in wide arcs around the edge of the bowl: Woah. Woah. Pay attention. Pay attention.

Suddenly, you’ve got me peeing on the floor.

Me, clenching my bladder: Stop!

You, grinning: Ok. Ok. Let’s try again.

This time you let me finish in peace, give me a little shake at the end, push me out of the way.

You, bringing down the toilet seat: So what’s the plan?

Me: I was thinking we could sit in a very hot car and reread ‘Against the Grain’.

You: Quite the inventive thinker, aren’t you?

Me, ripping you a piece of toilet paper: Without parallel.

Me: How about a swim?

You: Oh, now that I like.

Me, pointing at the ground then turning to the door: I leave you to clean up—the pee—k?

—–

We walk barefooted down to the river. Delicate movement across rough edges of chalk pebbles, underbrush scratching at our calves.

We lay a blanket on a limestone shelf in the sun. The river is drawn into a channel and runs fast and deep.

Me: Going in?

You, reclining: Not yet.

I sit with my feet submerged, and skip stones downstream. A catfish’s whiskers poke out from below a rock on the river bottom.

I holler and slip in. The current draws me downstream. I release myself to buoyancy and momentum.

You are lying on your back. I stand dripping above your legs and shake like a dog.

You, pulling up your knees: Hey, you’re getting me wet.

Me, working the bad pun: That’s not something you usually complain about.

Your leg comes up to kick me, but I grab it at your calf and drop on top.

You, hitting at me but pinned: Asshole! Botanist!

Wrestling, I pull you off the blanket and roll you into the water.  You let out a gasp and attempt to pull away, but I draw you in close.

Submerged rumble of water punctuated by a mutual breath as we rise to the surface.

You, smiling, not resisting anymore but just because: Fucker!

I draw you across me and we float downstream on our backs. My hand slips beneath your bathing suit.

Me, marveling at the change in surface tension as I bring a finger inside you: My lovely, your wetness is not that of the river.

You: Poetic. Then, closing your eyes: Just don’t stop.

My feet find purchase on the river bottom, and I hold you suspended in the liquid flow.

Your arms above your head bend with the current.

There is no effort. This is a gift that you are giving me, that I am giving you.

You arch your head back, submerge your face as you come. Then reemerge, gasping for air.

You, reaching: Hold me.

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AUGUST 16, South to Mirmande:

We are driving again. You at the wheel. If anything, today is even hotter.

I have keys to a house on the other side of the Rhone. We just have to get there.

I continue to read ‘Against the Grain’. Des Esseintes is now collecting carnivorous plants. They are gradually driving him—and me—mad.

Me, closing the book: Fuck this!

You, a little cross: No, keep going.

Me: I can’t. No more. This guy is too weird. He’s becoming a bad influence.

You: Come on. Keep going.

Me: No, seriously, I can’t. It’s unhealthy.

Me, emphasizing: Allow me to remind you, we stole Salome because of this book. I’m not going to let it turn us into…into botanists.

You, not understanding my commitment, half-laughing: Botanist. That’s our new epithet.

Me, bringing the book to the open window, releasing: Oops!

Des Esseintes and his crazed obsessions bounces and spins on the pavement behind us.

You, breaking hard, pulling to the shoulder, truly angry: That was a gift!

Me, taking a breath: This is our first argument, isn’t it?

You, repeating: That was a gift!

Me, a dark whisper: fine.

Rising from the seat, swinging the door open, I return to ‘Against the Grain’.

The book is splayed on the pavement, it’s cover ripped, spine dented. I sweep it up, find it opened to the last page we read.

I return to you, and take up where we left off, reading to the bitter end.

——-

Both of us BURNT from the road.

We dip down out of the mountains of the Ardeche, cross the  Rhone river, drive up switch-backs to the hill town of Mirmande.

I leave you at the house and search for dinner.

You are out in the garden, drawing beneath the fig tree.

The fruit is unripe. Clumps of green orbs tight to the branch. I feel a pang of sadness that we will not share this taste.

Half-naked in the heat of the kitchen, I cook a chicken and bring it to you.

We share a plate, pulling the flesh from the bone with our fingers.

I return inside, and pull a habanero pepper out of the pot from the meal. I place it in a dish and bathe it with olive oil.

Me, dipping a piece of baguette into the oil, passing it to you: Here.

I tear a piece of bread for myself and taste.

The olive oil coats my tongue. The pepper’s burn rises on the spine of the bread’s crust, settles in my throat.

The heat radiates subtly outward to the chest, forehead, finger tips. I float thankfully above the furnace of my body.

Me, tearing you another piece of bread: Sorry about the book.

You: No. You were right. It ends poorly. I like his taste in art, but Des Esseintes can’t be our role model.

Me, grabbing your hand as you reach to dip a finger in the oil: No! It burns too hot. Use the bread.

You: Okay.

You, grazing my nipples with an index finger: And does it burn too hot here?

I bring my lips to yours, brush them lightly. Pull back. Look you in the eye. Caress your ear lobe. Don’t speak.

We go inside, lie down. You drizzle the oil across my chest then lick me, bite me. The pepper’s burn remains on my flesh.

I bring you on top of me, bring your breasts to mine. The opening pressure of penetration, your gasp, as I bring myself inside you.

You are in the fetal position rocking against me. My finger tips graze your back.

The wind comes up, blows at the curtains at the French doors, cools our bodies.

We rock like this. Tender. Delicate. We are overlapping, joined, one.

Me: Are you happy to be with me?

You: It’s all I want.

After, I get up and walk outside and watch the clouds coming up the valley, the hard grey line of rain progresses across the fields.

I turn back to look at you.

Your arms are stretched behind you grasping the bed-frame. Eyes closed, your lips slightly parted. The rise of your pubis.

You, not looking: Come back here. We need to do that again.

Rain clatters on the red tile of the roof, sweeps beneath the lintel onto the room’s stone floor, and we start all over.

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AUGUST 15, Chartres, South:

I wake, stretch. I see you in profile, straddling the hotel balcony’s railing, the flying buttresses of the cathedral your backdrop.

On top, you are wearing my shirt, beneath you are naked, studying the map.

I watch you bend your knee, bring your big toe up to grasp the railing behind you. Your heel and buttock, opposing curves, almost touching.

Me: Hey, you.

You, looking, then feigning confusion, pointing at yourself: Me?

Me, grinning: You.

Me: Come over here. I need a kiss.

You swing your leg over the railing. My eyes drift down, between your legs.

You, pulling at the hem of the shirt: Perv.

Your hand sweeps my hair back, brushes sleep from my eyes. You kiss me on either eyelid then on the lips.

You: Good morning.

You, pulling the map aside: We made the papers.

The front page: A photo of Salome’s empty frame. The title: Vol Osé au Musée Gustave Moreau.

Me, sitting up, anxious, returning to the reality of the last days: Shit! Do they have any leads?

You, straight face: Nothing much, just something about the getaway car—a Green Porsche 914.

Me, blanching: What!?

You, kissing me again: Just kidding.

Me, taking a breath, turning toward the half-open closet, and the Louvre tube: Did you hear that Salome? We made the papers. Front page.

You, extending: Salome! Time to call your mom. She’ll be sooo proud.

——

We return to Departmental roads heading south. Two lanes, harvested wheat fields on either side. A moment of living in another time.

The heat is oppressive. Sun directly overhead. Sweat soaks through my shirt.

You read ‘Against the Grain.’ Something about a liquor organ. I barely listen.

You, closing the book: You know, I’m a little disappointed you’re not wearing your driving gloves.

Me, just a smirk of recognition. We are both wilting.

Rows of plane trees, their canopies providing an amalgam of shade and the blinding serrated edge of the sun. A fan’s whir with each one we pass.

We traverse towns, shuttered, silent, seemingly abandoned.

You, pointing to a fountain in a central square, emphatically: S-T-O-P.

Together, half-obsessed: Water.

I dunk my head into the cool, pull up and splash a loose pattern of spray across the fountain’s base. Let out a whoop.

You, no inhibitions, jumping in: I’m going for the full baptism.

Me, admiring the curve of your breasts, your nipples erect: More like a wet t-shirt contest.

Turning your back to me, you raise your skirt, pulling your panties aside, presenting your submerged cunt.

You, looking up at me: So. Are you coming in?

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AUGUST 14, South to Chartres:

Last night, I had bound you to the bed frame, when the cops knocked at the door.

Your wrists were crossed above your head, immobilized by the rope, while I ground against you, digging my finger nails into your chest.

You looked at me in a panic. I gave you a little smile, closed my eyes and kept twisting, feeling you fill me.

They banged again, and I got up naked and swung the door open. “On baise,” I stated in my best French.

The officers were blinded.

I held them like that with my body, revealed our innocence, let them know that they would never possess what we possess.

Shifting to the side, I exposed you powerless on the bed. “Perhaps you’re looking for him,” I asked?

They both shook their heads, muttered apologies.

“You get back to your work and we’ll get back to ours.” I turned my back and returned to you, leaving them to close the door.

——

This morning, you dressed me in the stockings.

You were down on your knees, gingerly rolling the silk up my calves to my thighs, attaching the suspender clasps from the garter belt.

I quietly watched you in this small act of devotion. “Do you still love me?” I asked.

“Do I have a choice?”

“Nope.”

——

The police remained on the street as we exited the building. You had seen them from the apartment.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “the best place to hide is always in plain sight.”

In a minor token to anonymity, I was wearing a pair of Wayfarers. Salome was safe in the crook of my arm.

She was rolled in a poster tube from the Louvre between cheap prints of da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and David’s ‘Coronation of Napoleon’.

You opened the door to the Porsche for me, and I slipped her behind the head rests.

You walked around the car and let out the signal whistle. I reached across the seat and unlocked your door.

You pulled the white queen from your pocket, a lanyard around her neck, and hanged her from the rear view mirror.

We coasted down hill, past the museum, its entry symbolically blocked by red & white police tape.

You turned right onto the Rue Saint Lazare, and it felt like we were entering an entirely new chapter.

“Where to next?” I asked.

“I want to take you to Chartres,” you replied. “To the Cathedral!”

“Is that your way of asking me to marry you?” I teased.

“No, no, no,” you scolded. “Not that.”

“Chartres. It’s like a great big book, carved in stone and etched in glass,” you said. “When it was built barely anyone could read.”

You described it lovingly, starting with it’s stained glass windows. Their details and symbolism, their narratives of biblical passion.

Then you added me in.

“I want to see you there,” you said, “want to see the color of those stories bathed on your face, want to kiss you beneath their light.”

Your talk was cheese-ball romantic, but it was making me horny. Heat was rising from between my legs.

I reached a hand beneath my skirt, pressed my knees together and drew a finger between my lips and onto my clit. “Go on.”

You spoke of the labyrinth, inlaid in black and white stone in the floor below the cathedral’s nave.

I brought a finger inside, felt my vagina clench involuntarily around it and electricity radiate outward across my body.

“I want you to stand at the labyrinth’s center,” you said, “enclosed by the six petals of a rose.”

“I will walk from the entry the winding path 800 paces until we are reunited.”

“Count them.”

You looked over at me, down toward my hand.

I was making small circles on the tip of my clit then dipping back into my vagina. “Go on. Count the paces.”

“One.” You paused.

“Go on.” I was begging.

“Two.”

By three, I had already come.

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AUGUST 13, Paris:

Four PM, and we are getting ready. The car is packed and parked a few doors up.

I sit at the table, smoking one of your cigarettes. I unwrap your two new pairs of stockings.

Me: I want to see you in these.

You, kissing me: After I get my wish.

Me, pocketing one, passing you the others: Alright then. But I get to put them on.

I stand up and we move toward the door together.

You: Ready?

Me: Ready.

You pull the door shut behind us, and we stand on the landing listening to the click of the elevator as it rises.

We squeeze inside, press for the ground floor, lurch downward. I brush your bangs to the side.

Me: Here we go.

You smile.

On the street, we are all business. I relax, hold my hand to your back, guide you back into the Musée Gustave Moreau, pay for our tickets.

We walk up the stairs to the second floor. A couple points and stage whispers at the artifacts on display in Moreau’s office.

We hold back, wait for them to move on. I pull on my new kid gloves. There is not a guard in sight.

You, scanning: Now.

I jump the barrier and enter Moreau’s study. In three steps, I am behind his desk.

I pull out the chair, crouch down, and disappear.

——

Five hours later, the sun sets. The museum is silent. My legs are an agony of cramps.

Beyond the wooden back of the office chair, I have studied a bronze bull on a marble plinth for an eternity.

I push back the chair and emerge from below the desk. A motorcycle on the street. Then calm.

I pull your stocking from my pocket. Bring it over my head. Then slip over the barrier and back into the museum.

My heart roars. I must trust what you’ve told me—that the museum is empty, without alarm.

I race up the stairs, three at a time. Plunge across the first gallery and up to the top floor.

Salome is there. Hovering, naked before Herod.

I open my knife. Watch the brushed steel bee on the head of its handle welcome the spine of the blade. Then I cut.

In less than a minute, Salome collapses before me on the floor, her frame displaying remnant canvas threads and the pink of the wall behind.

I close my knife, roll her up, turn to the window. My mouth is desiccated and I doubt I will ever manage the signal whistle.

The handle turns effortlessly. I push to open and the alarm SCREAMS.

No time. I step onto the cornice. Look at the gap between the museum and the roof of the next building and jump.

I hit and roll. Salome remains in my hand. The alarm squelch is deafening.

In a moment, I am back up and running to the base of the ladder that leads to our roof. Climbing. Ignoring the acrophobia.

At the final rung, I find your rope.

You, just above, face obscured by a stocking, reaching down to me, hissing: Hand me Salome. Hand me Salome.

I pause, shift my weight and bring the canvas up to you. You take it, disappear over the edge.

For a moment, I stand there suspended, immobilized. Police sirens mix with the alarm.

You, reappearing at the lip, urgency: Come on!

I tug on the rope and release the last rung of the ladder. Hoist myself up hand-over-hand. You pull at my clothes, drag me onto the roof.

I lie on my back, breathing hard. Then we drop through the skylight into the apartment.

Me, parting the blind, police cars out front, utterly trapped: What do we do? We can’t leave now.

You, authoritatively: We can leave in the morning.

You, pulling away the stockings covering our faces: Until then, let’s fuck.

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AUGUST 12, Paris:

We visit the BHV department store to buy each other little presents.

You, pointing to a pair of kid gloves, inky black, asking the sales girl: Could we see those, please?

You, turning to me: Right hand.

I hold out my hand. The glove slips on like a second skin.

You: Left hand.

You, admiring: Aren’t you dapper. Now, you’re ready to drive again. If we can just find you a monocle…

We purchase a folding Laguiole knife for future picnics. Its juniper handle glows from within.

I bring you to the rayon lingerie where we discover other items…

—–

Outside, the heat rises.

Me: Could I buy you an ice cream?

You: Absolutely.

I pull you close and we stroll down to the Ile Saint Louis. Midway across the Seine, we lean against the railing, watch the boats.

You: Remind me of the signal, again?

Me: Like this.

I exhale and whistle three descending notes. You repeat.

Me: Perfect.

We come to Berthillon. A placard out front announces several dozen flavors of sorbet and ice cream.

Me, underlining ‘caramel au beurre salé’ with a finger, remembering our first meeting: Look. This is the place for us.

You, complicitous: Hmmm. Let’s taste something new.

We share a black currant sorbet. We find a bench, and you drape your legs over mine.

I hold the cone, and we bring our heads in close, licking from opposite sides.

Me, noting it’s dark pink, whispering: The same color as the walls at the museum.

You: I guess we should take that as a good omen.

My tongue contracts from the sorbet’s tart flavor, then the after-impression of cold remains on my pallet.

The ice cream starts to melt and a thin stream runs down my hand. You bring your tongue further down, delicately lick my fingers.

——

Squeezing through the skylight up on the roof. We have our first picnic.

Paris arrayed below us. Cardinal points of Sacré Coeur and the Eiffel Tower.

Victuals hobo’d together in a blanket. I pull out the Laguiole knife, cut a thick slice of sausage, peel away the skin with the blade.

I pour two glasses of warm rosé and drop ice in, listen to it crack. Watch microscopic bubbles froth.

The sausage is hearty, simple. I rub my lips together, register the meat’s fatty residue then cut it with the wine.

We stand and you pull me to the roof’s edge. We lean against the single metal band of the railing. I breath and ignore the void.

The rungs of a ladder, set in concrete, recede in a line down the wall below our feet.

There is a gap of six feet between the top rung and where we stand.

Across a roof top and forty feet below stands the Musee Gustave Moreau.

You, pointing to the museum: Salome is right in there.

Me, thinking of your wish: Yes.

You, looking down: And this is where I’ll hang the rope.

Me: Yes.

Then we sit, our legs dangling over the edge, like kids at the pool ready to slip in.

The Eiffel Tower lights up in white. I lie back and stare at the sky of sunset, streaked with color, thinking of tomorrow.

I feel your hand against my thigh, then moving up and pulling at my zipper, bringing me out. I am too anxious now, only mildly aroused.

You: I’d like another ice cream cone.

Me: I think the shop is closed.

You pull at my shirt, and your hair cascades across my bare stomach. Your tongue runs against the head of my cock.

You: Mmm. Maybe I’ll settle for this lollipop.

You: Remind me of the signal again?

I whistle the three descending notes as I feel the head of my cock immersed in the warmth of your mouth.

Me, releasing to pleasure: Let’s hear you now.

You, pausing for a moment, pulling away: Let me finish my desert first.

I whistle the notes again, concentrate on the sweep of your hair against my skin, the heat of metal on my back.

My feet dangling, heels pressed against the wall. I rotate my hips upward, but you hold me in place with a palm to my balls.

You, bringing your tongue in lazy circles around the tip of my cock: Lollipops are said to be a choking hazard.

Your nails dig into my side, distract me momentarily, make me gasp in pain.  Then you slide my cock down your throat and squeeze.

My head swings back and forth, eyes squinting, registering blur of trees, ochre of chimneys, some cloud somewhere.

When I come, I have half-blacked out. Your lips are at mine, moist. The salt of your tongue mixes with the pepper of my sperm.

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AUGUST 11, Paris:

Yesterday, I didn’t exactly apologize, but I told you where I’d been, what I’d done, what I wanted to do.

I gave you a small gift, the white queen from Moreau’s chess board.

Pilfered from the museum apartment without consequence by simply leaning in and taking it.

You said you’d grant me any wish. I told you my wish. Today, you’ve worried this wish, knocked it around in your head, rubbed at its edges.

I brought you to the Eiffel Tower. The cobblestones at its base inlaid with tourists and vendors.

We wound between blankets arrayed with miniature, LED-lit Eiffel Towers.

Tops shot into the air and hung suspended fifty feet above our heads.

I looked up through the steel girders toward the summit and executed a Sound of Music pirouette.

I turned to you, smiling. But you were elsewhere.

“Hollow,” you said. I could hear a kind of wind in your voice, like you were slowly deflating.

I took you by the waist, brought your nose to mine, looked you in the eye. “What’s hollow?”

Your gaze shifted toward the throng surrounding us and for a moment I saw what you saw.

An icon’s infinite repetition, consumable for 10 Euros, an endless cycle of human transaction, distribution and false mythology.

Banal, vulgar, meaningless. You had taken Des Esseintes’s rejection of humanity in ‘Against the Grain’ to heart.

“The bottom obviously isn’t working, so how about the top?”

I pulled at your hand. You were clutching at the white queen. I cradled her in our two hands, and we brought her up together.

Out on the observation deck, we gazed down at the Seine and the long straight line of progress from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe.

I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the thin metal grill, focused on the feel of the breeze, the distant bubbling of city.

“You know,” you said in the most matter-of-fact voices, “I think I’m falling in love with you.”

I smiled, kissed you once and pulled back. Your mood had shifted.

“Hang on,” I said, “this deserves a celebration.”

I pulled a plastic bag of confetti from my purse, purchased especially for this kind of occasion.

You shuttled the queen into your pocket and cupped your hands together.

When they were filled, you let out a whoop! and sent a cloud of geometric forms into the air.

They caressed us, caught in our hair, as they drifted down with gravity.

We stood in their dappled pool and watched as the remaining confetti showered down on Paris.

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AUGUST 10, Paris:

In the morning, I find you there, next to me. I toggle between rage and relief.

I rise silently, dress and tip-toe out in search of breakfast and composure.

You are still in bed as I bring croissants from the street.

Me, squeezing a big toe: Hey, breakfast!

You, stretching, sitting up: Hey.

You take a croissant, pull at its edges. Its outer shell cracks and shatters. Steam rises from the dough beneath.

Me, arraying yesterday’s postcards on the quilt: And something for your visual appetite.

You don’t speak, stare at the cards.

I pull away your plate and tug at the bottom seams of the t-shirt—my t-shirt—that you’re wearing.

You bring your arms up, recline.

Me, proffering the image of Salome covered in jewels: Hold the postcard.

Me, searching for the mascara in your bag then unscrewing the cap: Hold still.

I draw a blooming orchid between your breasts and array the eyes of wisdom across your ribs.

I circle your belly button with a jewel, two birds of prey above. I look to your face. You watch me working in the mirror.

I move to your collar and add a row of pearls. At the base of your neck, a final pair of cobras face each other, hoods open prepared to strike.

Me, pushing back, admiring: Let me find some music.

A portable turntable sits in the corner of the room. I flip through LPs, come up with The Doors.

Me, bringing the needle to the record: These guys sound better alive than they smell dead.

You remain silent.

Me, speaking to you in the mirror: Dance for me. Be my Salome.

You, rising from the bed and spinning once: What are you going to give me?  The head of John the Baptist?
Me, relieved you’re here, relieved to hear you speak a full sentence: Whatever your wish.

You, spinning again, then reaching toward me: Come dance with me, I don’t know what I want to wish for yet.

I twist the volume UP and circle you in a half crouch as the bass and guitar join the drums. You spin and spin.

Jim Morrison bellows “Break on through to the other side.” I attack.

My hands entangled in your hair. Our mouths in fury, biting, tearing.

You rip at my shirt. Buttons ping and skitter across the floor.
Mascara slathers our bodies.

Your jeweled forms now blotched, unrecognizable beyond the top bloom of the orchid sheltered between your breasts.

I pull you onto the table. We find our pace, loving, hurting.

Our fuck is a rhythmic violence that goes until the needle skips at the end of the record.

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