by Aki Schilz
Andre performs a poem for his ‘mesmerisingly beautiful wife’ on the pavement outside the house where the party is we have just stepped out of, and just stepped into, moments after falling asleep. His hair is dark and half of his face is lit by a lantern hung from a tree, and though I know it is day the sky is dark. You touch your hand to mine. The sun is behind a wall. He says he married her after just three months. He tells us she is beautiful. ‘So, so beautiful.’ I forget the poem.
‘It’s possible,’ he says.
We grin at each other.
Let’s get married, I say.
We do a two-person conga. I close my eyes.
Outside there is a lawn sloping down into bright white streets circling a house stacked twenty storeys high, with tall French windows at ground level that catch the sun and balconies leaning out at angles that might be impossible or even dangerous if we were awake but are beautiful here. So, so beautiful. It is warm, and there is music playing. Women are packing belongings into cars with open doors and blacked-out windows. They stack boxes, and throw materials into the boxes. Dresses with long, pleated skirts. Tasselled curtains. Reams and reams of fabric. It spills onto the white streets. There is no wind to move them. The women gather the colours in their arms, over and over. There are no men here, and no flowers.
There is a pool. In my dream I can swim. I have been told to use the steam to cure the redness in my face. I think it is embarrassment, but I know I cannot blush. I catch sight of myself in a half-smeared glass; the redness looks like something feathering in tiny, fanning strokes across the ridges of my cheeks, from inside my skin. I look more closely. The marks could be tribal patterns, in miniature. I bare my teeth at my reflection.
You tell me I can swim naked. I remember that I left my green bikini in one of the lockers banked at the side of the pool, a haphazard set of squares and rectangles, doors open, keys scattered and glinting across the misted tiles leading to the pool, where I dip a toe in at the edge. I can’t tell if it’s cool, or warm. You point at a man cutting through the water in a lane lined with a bright yellow rope. The rope is plastic; the strands flick out stiffly as the rope twists. As he swims, water clings to the man’s body like a second skin. The hulk of him glistens. Becomes less and more human with each movement. The body as object. The body as flesh. Flesh as object. Flesh as meaningless. He has not come up for air. The water conceals nothing. We both laugh.
We haven’t stopped touching. Lightly. Elbow to forearm. Finger to wrist. Just enough to check for skin. For the tremor of a pulse. Just enough for closeness.
You push me up against a wall, but gently.
It only takes a few months. Let’s dream we are kissing. Let’s dream we are married. Let’s dance a two-person conga line through bright grass, silver water, and sun-white streets.
We are happy.
We are happy.
We are happy.