Across the Breath of the World
Elena puts her hands into her red hair, sliding her fingers in, like reaching into hanging ivy. She gathers thick strands into her palms and makes fists, pulling back hard and causing her head to tilt back, exposing her throat to me. With the sun behind her, she is a silhouette of orange fire and smoke, elemental and molten. She is a raging summer wildfire. Once I was Ophelia in the river, wrapped in water grass, twigs in my hair, eels nesting in the folds of my sleeves, drowned and tied to the current. One, two and then three years on, I washed up on the rocky shore of Elena, and she combed the river from my hair and made a pie from the eels, and blew life back into my lungs with her soft mouth against mine, with the strands of my black hair woven like spider’s silk around her thin white fingers. We meet once, perhaps twice a year, whenever she is in town. She pours herself into the city like bourbon into a glass, soothing and stinging all at once. She never ages, the skin around her eyes and lips as smooth as it was eight years ago, her red hair mixed with no archipelagos of gray or white, the hollow of her throat still a shallow bowl that I can feel as a ghost against my lips as I sit across the cafe table from her. Bez doesn’t know that I am meeting Elena today. I feel as though I am being unfaithful to her, that I have taken our love for one another and hidden it away inside a small silver box, put at the top of my closet shelf, something both treasured and a responsibility I wish to not think of just now. Elena’s words have a gravity of history which draw me in to her, as they always do when we are together. I fall into her orbit and circle around her, a satellite threatening to heat into flame as the conversation spins on. Are shooting stars puppets, hung from black threads tied to the fingers of destiny and inevitability? Or do they choose when to fall, breaking loose and skimming like fiery coals across the breath of the world?