by Faith Eiran
I am watching him closely from afar. His dark hair tends to dull in the light, making me think it is unwashed and fragrant. His arms, useful, care for the flames, ensuring the warmth and light for the next minutes. He pretends not to notice me again and again, and we weigh each other in between our weekly candid conversations. I am waiting; wading through myself, hoping to understand that entity in all its myriad glories through the events to come this night.
I have come to this sand-pebble-driftwood beach tonight scattered, partially known; pieces still searching for their polar opposites to anchor them in place. Shattered I am, and shattered I shall remain. Shattered until I cease to seek. Shattered until I know myself. And so, I feel myself; rough upon the soft sand, heavy with need and my own morbid grade of humanity, taking stock of what I have, what I do know. The solidity of my physical form should not be mistaken for a totality.
The fire wants to go out or to consume, and the delicate balance of maintaining the stage where it does neither so as to provide service reminds me of the boy-man who is tending it. I will find my destruction in his consumption, and he will find sustenance in my destruction. While we continue this interplay we will both be maintained in the manner to which we are accustomed. This is a self-perpetuating balancing-act-cum-cycle that I insist upon. I insist upon it because I cannot fathom knowing myself in any other manner.
All the languages I have learned, and some I have not, have different ways of knowing. Knowing people, knowing things, knowing biblically, knowing familiarly, knowledge. English is the only language that presumes to know – to know all in every way. All knowledge is attainable through one path. I have often pondered this reality inflicted upon speakers of the English language. Our native tongue mandates that we be in command of each and every aspect of something in order to lay claim to ‘knowledge’. This fact both piques my interest and devastates me. The first because the implications of this circumstance are immense and awful; the second because I am preoccupied with knowing myself in my entirety, and if there is only one way of doing so in my mother tongue then I shall remain perpetually in search of new angles from which to view myself through this single lens of knowing.
He is sitting across from me, quietly staring in my direction. Through the limpid smoke of the fire his gaze behaves as a mirror, and reflected to me are all the sensations of my emotions, parsed out, laid bare to my scrutiny. Reflected to me are my stability, my breath, and my eyes, which call and coo, inviting both him and myself to partake of what I offer. Reflected to me is my own reflector, which shows to him all the things that I see in me.
This double mirror, each of us twice reflected, gives me pause. I see him in me and me in him and see myself seeing this; this has the effect of distorting my own experiences to the point of clarity, and I am thrilled at this first foreplay. The mental aspect of these nights is far more arousing than the physical. The physical just draws out the culmination of myself.
Because I can see so clearly, I examine myself and dissect each and every thought that occurs, emotion that wells, swoops, or swings. I pin them up on black velvet pin-boards, and wait for them to die so that I might have a commemoration of this night. So that I might know them, and thus, know myself anew.
They are colorful, like butterflies, and I covet and savor these specimens.
I smile at him, and he reciprocates. We’re actually quite close, to tell the truth. But this game has begun, and we shall only be close again when we forget one another separately. Perhaps when this happens we will revert to the easy and combustible camaraderie that we once had, and I will remember again what it is like to search for a new angle from which to see myself in this mirror-world.
I want to speak but am afraid of the bell-like clarity of my tones. Afraid that they will dispel the smoky-sultry-sumptuous shrouds that have begun to swirl around us. The barely tangible, not quite realistic surrounds that have created an effect. This effect mutes the moonlight and enables me to see more clearly the reflections that mirror between this man-boy and I. If I speak and my fears are realized, I will cease to see, to learn, to know. This would be for me a travesty, for as of yet, this night has proven fruitful, and I have glimpsed more of myself through what I perceive to be his eyes than I have seen in a long while. Since the last one, I suppose.
Instead, I begin to hum. The kind of hum that is virtually inaudible but that brings such pleasure to the hummer; the kind that settles deep in the throat and tickles the nose and lips and reminds you of an incredible kiss that you know will leave you gasping and slightly blue in the face but can’t stop. I hum to promise myself such pleasure in the future; I hum to invite, knowing that my own pleasure will be sent out, like I siren’s call, and he will respond entranced, dancing upon the almost-silent sound waves that beckon him forwards.
The jagged timbers that edge the beach stake out the borders within which we operate. They dictate our surrounds and muffle the droning of the waves upon the shore. He throws a few more sticks on the fire, causing it to spark at me, and I climb more securely into my blanket. This blanket, which coats my skin and saturates my senses with the smells of my childhood; I am slightly haunted by the sensation of my father’s voice when I shelter within this blanket.
My father is the only man who ever truly understood me. He imagined me before I was conceived and created the life I was to live by the end of my first solitary breath. I was his plaything, his jewel, and his confidante. He was my everything, and my daddy’s-little-girl syndrome has yet to be fucked out of me. My father’s voice was like a scent; you didn’t so much hear it as smell it and taste it in your mouth. His death has made it impossible for me to forget him and his place in my life, and I still search for someone who can teach me, forcefully show me, as much about myself as he once did.
Thinking of my father causes me to wonder what these two men would say about one another. My father was a harsh man. Confined to a marriage with my mother, his lover’s sister, he determined that I should never know the pain of denial that he and my Uncle Jasper had to endure. I was his only soft spot, and for this reason, I think he would like this new man. I know this new man’s parents will disapprove of me. I am far too gentile for their precious son. But I think that he and my father would get along.
This night inspires comfort seeking and thrill knowing. I cuddle up to the possibility of dangerous excitement and nuzzle into it. It has give and warmth, like a fur rug. Settling back into a languorous anticipation, waiting, I continue to watch him watching me.
His body language doesn’t speak to me directly. I feel like I need a translator, and this is how I know that he wants me. Although the light obscures my vision, I see his veins in his arms and I imagine the blood that swirls through them. His Jordanian mother’s influence; the odor of garlic and tahini; the slight infusion of American-grade laid-backness overlaying his arrogant male inbreeding. He is virile, and his blood will mingle with mine satisfactorily. His animation is the kind that requires a body to become pliable in response, and mine starts to soften as his desire becomes more apparent to me. This boy-man’s sex appeal is astounding, and my breath slows and deepens.
As I focus on him and my reaction to him I am struck by how beautiful it all is. I feel love and angst and fear and I am so turned on I can barely stand it. Each of these sensations hovers and flutters through my stomach, and I gleefully pluck each one out in order to pin it up against the dark rich material so like the sky I sit under. As each one dies and is immortalized I notice how my father’s voice wrapped around my tonsils as he cast my future in my mind. My future included all of these possibilities and more, and each emotional butterfly personifies a part of me. I mentally prostrate to my father’s memory and begin to turn away from it in order to prepare myself for this boy whose name means ‘happiness forever’.
I weigh the angles of his face against the curves of my breasts and stomach; I contemplate the choices presented in my father’s voice, hold them up to the firelight that this new man in my life has created and maintained. I want to weep for the beauty that I see in myself through his eyes. I want to weep because I cannot see everything.
My vision is eternally, tragically, limited.
Limned with the imperfect form of every verb so as not to be complete, my ability to see allows for gaps and craters. With a mother tongue such as English, my conscience demands of me that I learn new languages in order that I might know others and thus know myself to the fullest and most broad extent possible. For, in spite of all that this night has permitted me to know, I do not know how he sees me seeing him, nor do I find the outcome of our future interactions.
My vision is eternally, tragically limited.
But perhaps because of this, every time, I decide. I decide to know something without knowing everything else. I acknowledge my English language heritage and refute it; I decide to know in the Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, Hindi and Gaelic senses of knowledge. Conhecer,connaitre, conocer, conoscere, jananaa, mothaich. I will know him. In Hebrew I’ve been told that there are several different words for knowing, one of which implies knowing biblically. I will know in this sense too, as well as I can. I grieve for my never-had ability to speak Hebrew, for if I did, I might truly truly know him through this sense of the word.
So this night, I will know him without knowing what will come. I pray that I will continue to know myself.
I contemplate his face for another few moments, secure in the knowledge that now that I have made a decision the evening will move rapidly. As I have decided, so shall he, and we will avoid speech until tomorrow when the sunlight obscures our clarity of vision, and then we will feel compelled to tell one another more about ourselves. Even though we are close, we have much to learn, and I will take him on my journey of knowledge searching through other languages. He will search for my mirror to reflect against his own, and perhaps he will have found it by that time and will know himself slightly better.
I pray this is so, for then each subsequent partaking that he and I share will expose even more rawness and potential, and he will prove to be invaluable to me.
He walks over and reaches out his hands, filthy, and I imagine myself holding them. I hold them. He doesn’t pull, and neither do I. We are connected, but immobilized. This immobilization enables me to slip in between him and I and I count the ticks of our un-syncopated heartbeats. The ticks are off beat to the bass of the waves, which carry the call of the greater unknown through the air. This orchestra of uncertainty plays into physicality between the twice-reflected creatures we have become this night. The notes, the beats, and the silence swirl together and slip into my limbs, heralding the induction of my next lover.
I have the same fantasy I always have before each man. It is more and more perfunctory each time, but always the same.
I am on my knees, before him. His body is fixed, static. Mine is not. His pleasure is not my pleasure, but I am pleasured nonetheless. I am generous and selfish and I wish to be defiant and deny his effect on me. I wish to control the situation, but cannot.
“Come,” I hear his voice say. And I do.
A lover of letters, words, phrases, emotions, beauty, terror, love and hate. Faith writes stories to paint the pictures that only she is seeing.
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