She guides him to shore, at the south end of the archipelago, and he uncovers the map in a place where beauty never lies. “There is a very thin line that sometimes I fail to see,” he tells her, and slowly he builds a bridge between what he feels and what he understands. Together they will travel there and back again.
She wriggles her bottom into the cool sand and encourages the fray at the hem of her skirt, as she watches him smooth the delicate bronze surface. His eyes dance as he tries to decipher each symbol, and his hands trace each line of longitude and latitude, pausing at the places where they meet, and she unravels.
It’s a map not unlike other maps, but his hands are methodical, and his gaze pushes deep. His heavy heart pours over every inch, and he sees what others haven’t. “I know I shouldn’t say, but, your eyes…” he tells her. “I have to focus, to not get lost.” The way he says it, makes other men sound hollow, like conch shells. Disoriented, but trusting, he tucks her voice into his shirt pocket to be his compass. “Keep helping me, woman,” he whispers along with her soft sounds.
At ten paces away he already misses her scent. Her thoughts. The way his hands might rest on her hips. “Keep me close,” she calls to him. “Yes, I’ll keep you,” he informs her as he rolls up his sleeves, “But only the brave dares into the unknown, seeking the new.” She carries his words to the far corner of the map, where she bathes.
She soaks in the current, and he notices that when she’s silent, she looks down to her right, to wonder. His attentive grasp makes her cheeks blush rouge and she casts her eyes downward, in her favorite cardinal direction. “Also…” he adds, “Your lips… they tremble slightly before you bite them.” Flustered, she says it’s the biting that makes her lips tremble, not the other way around. “That, I do not know,” he muses. “I saw it not just once, and possibly more than twice – but I know you do not tremble for the casual.”
When daybreak comes, he feels naked, and yet there are still many miles between them. “Be as good as you’d like to for me,” he tells her. She warms, and in her mind she is good. “You have my full attention,” she tells him, but his coyness makes him look away, and so she does the same for him, giving him a place to be. “No, keep watching,” he tells her. “The shyness will leave, and then something else will arrive.” He sees a wave of tension wash over her. “Don’t be afraid of me,” he implores. “Let me be afraid of me.” But she wasn’t afraid of him. She was afraid of the things that were not him. But as always, the gap was still there, and the bridge was not yet built. What was the catalyst? He did not know, but it was undeniably happening.
“Three senses to go,” he reminds her, and she imagines checking off each box. “I could kiss you goodbye now,” he mused. “Both sides. Left, and right.” But, would that be both taste and touch? Neither of them ask out loud. “A good kiss can stop a clock. And a heart,” she whispers over his shoulder, and over the sound of the empty shells. “Find me soon,” she tells him. “I’ve found you once already,” he reminds her.
She is the last thing he thinks of when drifting off, the first thing when he wakes, and everything in between. He wishes he would have murmured these things into her ear, while still in the place of half-sleep, but now he can only tell her with his eyes. “You should have looked for me there,” she speaks to his silence. “That’s where you would have found me.”
He looks East then West, and wonders how often she must get lost. How many times must he continue to find her? “I believe you are always found. I just happen to tell you,” he assures her, resting his cheek against her forehead, “But those things that I find with you, are sometimes almost unbearable.”
“But do you enjoy the unbearable?” she asks, hopeful. “I want whatever can be,” he confesses. “Both the affliction and the cure.” His words rang in her chest, and it took her back to where she dwells –amidst the push and pull, the call and response. It was their dance, and they moved with the tides. “But the details, how they slay!” she wails, as the first one struck deep. It made her legs buckle, and brought her to her knees, in the wet sand. He’s fond of reciprocation, you see.
He reads the map when she sleeps, and then reads it again. When he awakens her, they begin to build a confessional from all that they have. A sacred place, where words can be stripped bare. A sanctuary for thirst and ambition. “How long can you wait?” he asks. Her heartbeat matches his pauses, because never is too long. “If you stare like that, not long at all,” she replies with eyes blazing aquamarine.
At nightfall, they cross a bridge into their place of abandon, where she confesses, and he absolves her eager heart, again and again, in a language not her own. He will demand more confessions until his head swims in them, because he is her salve, and she is his Isolde.
He reminds her that absolution does not come without sacrifice, and peril, so she stands close to the wall of inhibition – their own prime meridian – and she understands what she must relinquish in order to give. “Come closer, still. Tell me dearly,” he whispers urgently until she leans in far, and shows him those unwritten parts of the map. He kisses every scar, and they bless the darkness that shields them. They vow to never find their way back.
“Do you love me in these hours?” she asks, as he re-discovers each region. “I don’t know time with you,” he tells her. “You are always with me, whether you want it or not. You are now forever responsible for what you have tamed, and what you have set free.”
When the fever dissipates, he watches with graceful sorrow, as she wades out far into the wine-dark sea, and turns to look back at him. “I will find you,” he assures her. “I always do.”
© Elle Wonders 2009–2016