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.”
It came in rushes, then slowed – that longing for a place that wasn’t enough. Her skin glowed around his shadow, and with her ear to his heart, she let it pulse.
It was a trap, but not a trap. It was an epoch of abundance. An embarrassment of words, tongues, and gods; all of them unforgiving. Déshabiller du regard. Je veux te déshabiller du regard. She didn’t know if her tongue could do that. If a tongue can be a god, is that too much? There is no too much.
His hands were his method of divination. His words fluttered, and threatened. How did he plan to betray her, if not like that? She would no longer be his, this man who ruled with an iron wand.
“Crush my enemies, and I’ll revere you,” he told her, but he was his only enemy, and it kept her wakeful. “Do I have to send you to bed, L’Aigle Noir?”
They shot glances at each other like arrows, daring the other not to flinch, and succumb to their story; a tale that weaved blades of dry grass through fear, then arousal, then back to fear again. How can you know what makes a spirit burn? To not feel the sting is either very lucky, or unlucky. She changed her mind often.
He discovered there was a word she did not have, so he tried to teach her. Elle est troublante – like a volcano blooming. “Can a volcano bloom?” This was the afterthought, as he watched her float across the horizon.
And so they waited. Delayed. Paused. But didn’t postpone. Never that. They played at the edge, getting closer and closer. There was falling and catching. There was stumbling. Tu me manques. J’ai envie de toi. J’ai envie de te toucher.
He kept track, and she lost track. When the strands were drawn together, they forgot so that they could start again. They wanted to get lost and not find their way back. But they weren’t too far gone. They were barely far enough. But alas, they arrived at a spark, unwavering, and dense.
“It’s as if you are missing a heart,” she told him. “You can share however you’d like to share, but do share.”
“There is no hiding. I am missing a heart,” he said. “We were fledglings, unwise, and now we’re worse. I could die any minute. That I do not want, except a little; la petit mort.” How quickly they hatched, matured, mated, and perished. A life ephemeral.
A blaze of epiphany. Like baneberries in dim light, he could not have imagined the whites of her eyes. Her stare caught his flaws, like fireflies in a bell jar, and his good fortune wandered off like a gypsy.
“I felt it,” he professed, “but I kept it deep down in my heart where it’s dark, and didn’t tell you.”
She kept walking, and didn’t look back to see the anguish and devilry that lit up his face.
“Like you said,” he called after her, “Pour mon bzou.”
He wanders down the path for the not undeserving, to a place where sometimes is enough. A place where electricity surges and hums through his chest, as the yellow light filters down through the canopy, glimmering like a bright spirit who understands – one of the happy few.
And there were oceans.
It’s evening in the morning when he finds his dirty little shrine. She is surrounded by torches that coax the truth like he coaxes the sound that her tongue cannot make. He says they are hidden, but she says they are gone. So they sit on a bed of pine needles, and he tells her their story. Her mouth glows with the light of her mind, and his words unlock a vertigo that makes her want to jump. He sees movement in her eyes, but she doesn’t run. “The face wants what the face wants,” she tells him, as she raises her soft cloak. He watches as a slow French word slips off her tongue, and bends.
And all the moments were God.
“I bleed,” he tells her. “Bleed with me then,” she says. And so they bleed together. He draws a pastèque bath in a large wooden tub, and they sit nestled in bunches of melon, crushed under the weight of want. They smile together as the juice runs down their elbows. “This shrine is not going to get any cleaner,” he warns her, knowing the pastèque will eat itself.
And the drum was full of life.
She sees the hunger in his face, but not in his heart, because like the sound on her tongue, it has been hidden. “If my heart was pulled out of my chest and put, beating, in front of you, would you know what it wants?” he asks. Look how easily he betrays his heart for her, ripping it out of his chest like an Aztec god. She just nods as they sit in their dinner bath, and play like warriors, and he sees how her fire begins in her mouth. Like a dragon.
And there was feeling back in his chest.
He crosses lines like he crosses seas, and together they build their new conviction. They tape off the boundaries of their church, and he reminds her that she is the shrine. “Yes, I am ours,” she tells him, and they blend their flavors until they both suffer, because he can’t wish it otherwise. “But only a little,” he tells her, as his pulse quickens.
And there was breathing.
The forest is dark and damp, and she feels the soft, loamy earth underneath her. The night brings them fear, and awakening, and a language that has no home. He gives her paper thin kisses and whispers those other things – but not all out loud, and even some of them not at all, but they are still there. The sound of her rhythm, and the tang of his anguish sit on the edge of on their lips, and they bleed together, kidnapped for the ages.
Because she was the trigger, the bullet and the gun.