AUGUST 29, Barcelona Airport:
Black night. Your hands in my hair, running across my chest. We entangle, blind. Our bodies slick with sweat, with come.
These are the last times. Primordial. Sightless. Before language. Like we are creating the world.
I am in you, awash in pleasure.
The alarm rings. I grope for it, hurl it across the cabin. It doesn’t stop. We continue, as well.
— - - —
We take a taxi to the airport. My innards in knots.
Me: This is the first time we’ve been in the back of a car together.
You: What about Montpellier?
Me, remembering: Right. Montpellier.
You, grinning, changing topic: Monaco.
You, searching: Moulin de la Pipe!
Me: I’m out of M’s. Do you have an N?
You: No, but I’ve got an O.
Me, scanning: Hmm, what is it?
You: Your boyfriend, Oscar Wilde.
- - -
The driver produces our bags from the trunk. I pay him while you go in for your ticket. A plane howls above. You are leaving.
I follow you in.
Me, handing you your origami boat: I added an address. When you’re ready.
You, pulling an envelope from your purse: Here’s something for you, too.
You: Kiss me now. Better for you to disappear.
We kiss. Fierce, tender, passionate as ever.
Then you turn away.
From afar, I watch you queue for security. The guard matches your passport to your face. You say something, share a laugh.
The poster tube goes into the x-ray while you walk through the metal detector. For me, a moment of panic at your potential discovery.
But you both pass to the other side, are reunited, and disappear into the rest of the world.
I sit on a bench and open your envelope. Inside, a simple card without motif, colored in the hue of the setting sun of Moreau’s painting.
Me, opening, whispering your inscription: Your love covers me with gold.
I fold the card and find its cover smudged with my fingerprints. My hands are aglow in golden dust.
I almost feel guilty for what I’ve done, even if it was only for your safety.
Whenever you get where you’re going, whenever you open the poster tube and search beneath the enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa for Salome.
Whenever you find the linen sheet from Le Chateau that has taken her place, I know you’ll be angry.
I can hear you now, from the future, from across the globe, cursing me with the only insult that is ours alone.
AUGUST 28, Barcelona:
Yesterday, when we disembarked in Barcelona, I hid in my confidence, obscured the pleasure I felt at being anonymous again, forgotten.
Our story, which seemed like the only story, hadn’t made the papers, wasn’t on everyone’s lips. I was no longer Salome. I was me.
Leaving the Estació de França, I bought us a bouquet of lilies, and we cut them short and arranged them in a plastic bucket on the boat.
Mr. V. had provided us with this address—dock and slip numbers and the four digits of a combination—a final shelter before our separation.
Its simplicity pleased us: a fiberglass sailboat, less than 30-feet long. Moving about the cabin, we had to stoop.
This morning I lay listening to bird calls and yachts’ stays clanking against metal masts. The air had the heavy density of the sea.
You slumbered in the birth. I climbed up through the companionway and onto the deck.
There was a slight breeze, and I briefly imagined raising sail, casting off the lines, and allowing you to wake only to the Mediterranean.
We walked up through the pedestrian streets of the old city. There was a cloud burst, and the rain came down in big warm drops.
A passageway provided shelter, and we watched as the water beaded on the cobbles then turned to rivulets in search of their level.
You said airily: “The season is passing.”
I didn’t have a response, so I took your hand and pulled you running into the downpour. “Let’s eat!”
Splashing up the street, we came to a stand at the opening to a covered arcade. We sat on a pair of stools and ordered.
My hair and shoulders were drenched, a line of water descended my spine. “For the first time in weeks,” I said, smiling, “I’m cold!”
Spanish omelets in thick wedges arrived accompanied by thin slices of baguette smothered beneath a tapenade.
I tasted, and the potato hidden inside burned my tongue. In desperation, I swallowed, and the food descended like a cinder into my stomach.
Dropping my forehead to the counter, I breathed with my mouth open until the pain subsided.
“Whenever you’re ready,” you said.
I raised my head. You were turned toward me, blowing on a thin sliver of omelet, offering me another bite.
“Before you leave, I want to do one last thing.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“I want to bathe you.”
At the boat, you heated water in a pot on the kerosene stove and pulled the table aside, leaving a space to wash at the cabin’s center.
Lying on cushions, watching your preparations, I asked, “So, is this going to be a baptism?”
“No,” you responded, looking back at me and pausing for a moment, “this is just a bath.”
You brought a warm washcloth across me, starting between my fingers, across my palms, pausing at times as if to memorize my body.
“You’re going to miss me, aren’t you?” you asked, dipping the washcloth in the pot, then ringing it out.
I didn’t respond immediately, listened to gravity returning the water to the water.
The poster tube sat across from us. I thought with some ambivalence: I got what I came for.
AUGUST 27, Trains to Barcelona:
The manservant wakes us before five and shares the morning’s newspaper. I am desperately hung over and still well more than half-drunk.
A sketch of my face accompanies your photo, along with the jeering title: Salome and her ‘John’.
We dress quickly, urgently, and flee. The groundskeeper drives us to the train in Montpellier.
Our possessions: Two bags. And this poster tube, a testament to our mutual commitment and seemingly inevitable conflagration.
He leaves us huddled in the car, and goes to buy our tickets. We lean into each other, sweating in the stale air and our reek of alcohol.
Your temple is feverish against my forehead. I draw my palm across your shorn hair, hovering then compressing its myriad ends.
The groundskeeper opens your door. You get out and I slide across. He hands me the tickets and indicates the quai.
I shake his hand, nod once, and turn into the station.
Our faces are plastered across half the publications of the Tabac-Presse.
They are calling us other names: The White Queen and her King. Bonnie & Clyde.
My pulse rises, I wretch, taste the acidic bile surge through my throat and wash over my tongue. Your hand at my elbow, draws me on.
You, attempting at reassurance, murmuring: In plain sight. In plain sight.
Then you let out the signal whistle. It’s shrill descending notes fill the hall, drawing all eyes to us. I remember: this is our story.
Me, shifting my posture, matching your gate, proud, repeating the mantra: In plain sight.
We find our wagon, push through the pneumatic doors into air-conditioned comfort. We fall into our seats and sleep undisturbed.
A light jostle from the conductor wakes us in Perpignan. We change trains and are reminded, again, that our reputation precedes us.
You, out on the concourse, pointing toward a news kiosk: Should we ask someone to take a picture of us with all these pictures of us?
Me, shaking my head, feeling less awful but still awful: How can you be so relaxed, so confident?
You, drawing your eyes up to mine and bringing a thumb across my lips: Because it’s almost over. Come on.
We board the next train to Barcelona, take the stairs to the upper deck. A bathroom between the seating and luggage rack.
You, looking back at me: It’s been awhile since we’ve made proper use of public transportation. One more time?
Me, incapable of saying no: Now, you’re making me nostalgic.
We slip through the door, bring the lock in place. Over the loudspeaker, station stops and travel times are announced in multiple languages.
In a sing-song voice, you mimic the varied bubblings of Catalan of German of French while I work on getting my pants down to my ankles.
Your back is turned to me. I admire the crease of your ass, the way your thighs fall away.
We watch each other in the mirror, relaxing in this miniature realm of privacy. We are laughing, kissing, as I glide in and out.
The train embarks, and our wagon jumps as the couplings tighten. I am driven off-balance, deeper into you.
You, cross-eyed with pleasure: What a way to leave France.
AUGUST 26, Le Chateau:
We make decisions. You will leave from Barcelona on the 29th as you stated on the day we met.
I go out to the Porsche, pull off the tarp. Sit in the driver’s seat, engage the clutch and run the shift through the gears for a last time.
The white queen hangs from the rear view mirror. I weigh her in my palm for a moment, then leave her be.
Our origami boat sits on the dash, and I reach across and pull it into my pocket.
I open the trunk and drop in everything that isn’t immediately necessary. ‘Against the Grain,’ pokes up, and I lift it out.
Searching for Salome, I leaf through passages describing her transcendent beauty and am stopped short by Des Esseintes’ final impression.
She is “the monstrous beast: indifferent, irresponsible, insensitive, poisonous.” I exhale and lock her away.
Tonight, we’ll stay for the party, but we pack our bags, nonetheless. We lay out clothes for the evening, then walk to the river to swim.
The trail is a thin line of hardened earth leading downhill, bordered by brambles, shaded by pines.
I stand in the shallows, concentrate on the current at my ankles. You sit half-submerged watching dragonflies graze the water’s surface.
We lie by the river. My head, on your stomach, rises and falls with your breath. Others arrive. We close our eyes, ignore their chatter.
Me, absently: For such a great big chateau, it sure is hard to get a private moment.
It is time. Cocktails are served on the terrace before the ballroom. We cross the threshold arm-in-arm.
Me, wearing your sunglasses, holding back: We are not alone.
You, pausing for my benefit: No, we are not.
A cellist plays Bach, her back framed by the ochre wall of Le Chateau. I have heard but cannot name the piece.
You: Let’s listen.
I lean against the balcony and draw my arms around your waist.
The cellist frowns, bows her face toward the fingerboard. I hold her music as I hold you: harmonic, precious, unbearably ephemeral.
The piece ends, a sprinkle of applause. The manservant arrives, carrying a tray of champagne flutes. I take one for each of us.
Other guests approach, ask our names. We talk of our month sailing around Sardinia, our plans for the coming weeks.
Easy lies leavened by others’ stories of human things: a return to work, memories of the last month’s passions.
Conversations multiply and, in turn, divide us. We both orbit individual spheres in the garden, distributing our fabrications.
The champagne rises in my head, calls for replenishment. Laughs turn shrill. Connections deepen as meanings turn increasingly indistinct.
For a moment, I lose you, imaging you as a you were yesterday—turning for me, naked before the window, your hair across your shoulders.
Then I see you glowing, animated in conversation with another couple, your hair so close-cropped that you could be someone’s brother.
Me, touching a wrist as I join you: Hello, lovely.
You, grinning: Listen to this—these people think I look like the girl who stole Salome. Isn’t that funny?
Me, no choice but to smile, roused by the very impossibility of the truth: I thought the same thing! Remember? We even saved a clipping.
Dinner is served in the ballroom. We are already tight. Our feet slip out of their shoes and caress under the table.
Your hand strokes at my cock as you nonchalantly elaborate on a point. The desire becomes too much.
Me, to our neighbors: Please excuse us for a moment.
I lead you out. The sun has set, and lanterns are arrayed around the garden. I pull one off its stand, and we run barefoot to the river.
We splash up to our knees in the cool of the water.
You, grasping at an overhanging bough: Here!
I drop the lantern, hear its wick fizzle as the light is extinguished. Your hands wrap around the branch as I pull at your dress.
Your pussy and belly are exposed in a star-tinted grey. You pull your legs out of the water and wrap them around my ass.
Party sounds clatter and bounce down toward us as if from some psychotic jukebox. We accompany them with our own animal music.
When it is over, we lie on the bank together, wet and dirty, cooing, touching. No longer suitable for company.
You, asking: Are you ready to dance?
AUGUST 25, Le Chateau:
Mr. V. told us, “go anywhere unlocked.” We were free to explore. “And,” he added, “everything is unlocked.”
We strolled along the retaining wall to its end and looked out at a semi-circular waterfall that lay further up the river.
Behind us, the water wheel beat its laconic tempo.
“Want to look around inside?” you asked.
We walked up through the LeNotre garden. The topiary stood at waist level, and you hummed while skimming your hand along its top.
We pushed through French doors into the ballroom. It was cavernous and bare save for a swing with a pink settee hanging at its center.
I ran for the swing, and taking its two lines, twisted myself clockwise into a knot. “Come push me!”
But you had turned back toward the garden and were lost in the thunderheads building on the skyline.
“I’m waiting,” I said, lifting my feet. The ropes twisted back toward equilibrium and whipped me around in dizzying circles.
When I came to rest, you were down on one knee before me. You grasped both my ankles and asked, “Ready?”
I nodded and you pulled me back toward you, then up in an arc over your head. A moment of weightless joy ambushed by gravity.
You remained stationary as I receded from you, pumping my legs to gather momentum. “Wheeeeeee!”
You stood in the line of my trajectory, dodging at the last moment. “You don’t need me,” you called, “you can do it on your own.”
“But,” I said, craning my neck to keep you in sight, “it’s no fun alone.”
The manservant arrived, utterly breaking the mood. His timing remained impeccably poor.
“Mr. V. wishes to see you,” he stated dryly.
I descended, and we followed him to the kitchen. Mr. V. was stooped before an open oven, fishing out a platter with a mitt.
A pair of cooks kneaded dough at a long work table. Mr. V. motioned for us to sit on stools at the far end.
He placed porcelain dishes before us and offered each of us a desert spoon.
Inside each bowl sat a single caramelized fig, dissected lengthwise into two equal halves, its flesh and seeds steaming and exposed.
Leaning on the edge of the table, he stated candidly, “I wanted to share this taste of summer with you, before it disappears.”
I brought the edge of my spoon against the fig and effortless separated a segment from the whole. I paused, then brought it to my mouth.
The taste was lush, explosive, tender. The fig melted across my tongue, overwhelming everything else.
You seemed equally transported. “Rode vloed,” you stated, mouth half-full.
Mr. V. glanced at you quizzically then spoke, “Today, I need to clarify a few items. Despite your guilt, you remain safe here.”
“Unfortunately,” he continued, “this safety is but a fragile by-product of my wealth and isolation. Tomorrow morning, company will arrive.”
Looking to me, “Salome,” he stated, “it is your head that everyone craves—every paper and magazine. My guests will be no different.”
“Right now, you are more luminous, more recognizable than the painting you have stolen. You must change.”
Then Mr. V. turned to you, and declared flatly, “I will keep the car.”
You glanced at me. We both remained silent. I was rubbing my spoon’s handle, wishing I had a knife to excise every word Mr. V. had uttered.
“She is too iconic, too dangerous for you. At some later date,” he continued, “when the world has moved on, you may take her back.”
“And, after all,” he chuckled, “you already travel with two women who are unique in this world. Best not to be greedy.”
We returned to the room, and sat together on the windowsill. I wrapped my legs around your waist while you dangled your feet out the window.
The sun was at its zenith, bleaching the landscape. We sat there entwined in silence.
“Can you do something for me?” I asked, bring my nose then my lips to your cheek. “Can you cut my hair?”
You drew my head away with both your hands and looked at me, held me with your eyes. “Let me get the knife,” you whispered.
I slid a leg aside, and let you jump down to rummage through your bag. Hearing the blade snap in place, I looked back at you.
You were sitting on the edge of the bed, rolling the knife across your palm. “Undress,” you murmured.
I disrobed, turning slowly for you, allowing the layers to fall away until I was naked. Suddenly shy, I crouched and turned my head.
You came next to me and asked: “How do you want it?”
“Like a boy.”
The blade was too dull and pulled at my hair. Without my speaking a word, you knew and returned to your bag for scissors.
When you were done, you brought my hands to my scalp. Then you lifted me off the ground and brought me to the bed.
We lay there, kissing tenderly. When you came inside me, tears ran down my cheeks onto the pillow.
For once, the manservant let us be.
AUGUST 24, Le Chateau, Saint Laurent-le-Minier:
We wake beneath crisp linen, sheltered from the heat by 500-year-old stone walls. Our room’s ceiling is at least 20 feet high.
I lie on my back, sheets at my nose. My eyes migrate from one corner of the ceiling to the next. You stretch and yawn, and I pull you to me.
Me, reviewing yesterday, knowing that everything has changed: How are you?
You, reflecting, squeezing me as you murmur: Good.
I go to the window and push open the shutters. Sun floods the room, heats my chest. The white noise of water enters.
You, from across the room: I’ve said some unkind things about rich people, but this place is making me have second thoughts.
Me, turning to look at you, but sun-blinded, only seeing darkness: Why is that?
You: Not sure.
Me, rubbing my eyes, bringing you into focus: You want to know the key difference?
Me, returning to you: Here, we’re dealing with old wealth.
You: Har har.
I flop down next to you and nuzzle at your neck. Your hand lies delicately on my belly. I look to your face. You stare at the ceiling.
You, turning your gaze to me: You know, for the first time, I feel like I am in a room with the appropriate proportions for my appetites.
Me: Yeah? So what does that mean?
You, bringing a hand up and slapping me hard on the ass: It means I’m hungry!
Wrestling, you pull me over, entangle me in the sheets. I let you pin me, admire your body just above and the ceiling floating far overhead.
There is a knock at the door which does little for the ambiance. You release me. I rise, cover myself and go to answer.
Manservant: Mr. V. wishes to speak with you. At your convenience. I will wait in the hall.
Me: One moment.
Me, turning back to you, wrestling into pants and shirt: Hold that emotion. I promise I’ll be right back.
The manservant leads me down the hall and out to a balcony. Mr. V., back turned, stands before the water wheel.
Mr. V., hearing my approach across the gravel, turns to me, enthusiastic: Hello, then!
Me, ill-at-ease: Hello.
Mr. V. taking my hand: So did you finish the book?
Me, puzzled: The book?
Mr. V.: Yes, ‘Against the Grain.’
Me, reviewing the last three weeks, our meeting in The Netherlands: Yes. It took a fall, but I did read it all the way to the end.
Mr. V., with far too much passion: I thought you would! And I understand you did not come alone.
Mr. V., pausing, taking my hand again, leaning in and whispering: Did you do like the book? Did you bring your own Salome?
Me, bending Des Esseintes fictions into my own, driven to the truth: Yes.
Mr. V., arms in the air, a snort: Then, bring her here! I must see her.
Me, returning to the room, finding you seated on the windowsill: Mr. V. wants to see Salome.
You: Can we trust him?
Me, not knowing the answer: I think it is the only choice.
I carry her out and unroll her before Mr. V. He studies the painting. I watch his eyes, listen to the wheel creak in its perpetual circle.
Mr. V.: Beautiful. Worth millions, they say.
Mr. V., rising up: But you were not listening. I want to see your Salome!
Me, understanding: Let me see if she’s dressed.
I return to you, the poster tube under my arm.
Me, motioning toward the tube: A little confusion. Wrong Salome. Mr. V. wants to meet you.
AUGUST 23, Calanque de Sormiou to Saint Laurent-le-Minier:
We fuck all night. Even through the trailer is up on blocks, it creaks and rocks with us.
Each moment of detumescence is just a pause before a return to passion. We are scratched, bitten, beaten, exhilarated.
At dawn, I throw open the trailer door and walk barefoot down to the Mediterranean to bathe.
In the water, the stench of sex of sweat on my body dissipates, but my cock throbs and your scratches sting in the salt water.
I float on my back, ears submerged, a stupid grin exposed to sky. The only thing I am thinking is that I want more.
I walk to the little store, buy a baguette and a small bottle of orange juice.
As I turn to pay, I see you in the car, eyes hidden behind wayfairers, on the front page of the paper.
I take a breath then feel the adrenaline course through my body, my heart pounding.
Me, nodding to the proprietor, scooping up the paper and proffering a five Euro note: Bonjour.
He responds in kind, places my change in an acetate tray. I pocket it and turn for the door.
The walk to the trailer is nauseatingly long. There is no place to run. I am concentrating my energy, preparing for what will come next.
Me, opening the trailer door, then panic spilling over: We have to leave, now.
The puzzle is far from done. But you are placing the final piece in the chest of a ghostly woman suspended on the blank canvas of the table.
You, confused: Aren’t we were going to finish the puzzle?
Me, grabbing at clothes on the floor, brandishing the paper: They’ve found us. Now. We have to leave now.
Me: You—not Salome—you made the cover of the paper. You, your sun glasses and the Porsche.
You, in shock: But the puzzle…
Me, ballistic, stuffing everything into a bag, knocking over the chair, dragging you to the door: Fuck the puzzle! Now! We have to go now!
I can hear you sobbing as I push you into the car, but there is another thing I know: I am not going to let us get caught.
I draw the gear shift to the front left, release the clutch and back into the lane. There is no one in sight. It is barely 7 AM.
Me, kissing your hand: Ok. It’s going to be ok. Just, whatever you do, don’t put on your sun glasses.
You, cracking a muted smile: Ok.
We roll past the store, turn up the road out of the Calanque. In the mirror, I see the attendant come to the landing and wave as we leave.
Me, watching him turn into the store and reach for the phone: Fuck.
Discretion abandoned, I gun the Porsche. There is no time. We are miles from the nearest cross-road.
Me, pointing to the glove box: Get the map! We’ve got to disappear.
In my chest, I feel the police cars drawn to us like metal filaments to a magnet. They are out there.
You, anxious: Where are we going?
Me: Anywhere off this road. Anyplace empty. At least, until nightfall.
I burn up through the switch backs and hit the straight away, push the car down this endless corridor.
There is no pleasure in this velocity. Five minutes of purgatory and dust and we hit the next street. Beyond the engine, silence.
Newly composed, you point right, and I follow your lead.
We drive on, too fast, away from the coast, skirt the center of Marseilles, into suburbs of stiff compressed townhouses.
Me, glimpsing a sign for the municipal prison, urgent: Still too many people. Get us away from this.
You, squinting at the map, controlled: Working on it. You have to trust me. Next right.
I see the intersection, ignore the stop light, and turn hard. Another block of houses, then empty road, bordered by vineyards.
We pull over, out of view, behind a copse of trees. Weigh the paper’s news, the radiating capillaries of the map. Search for an escape.
You, gently: We could abandon the car.
Me, not ready for the sacrifice, drawing a line with my finger: No.
You: What, then?
Me, finding the destination, Saint Laurent-le-Minier: Remember that party I mentioned on the 26th? We’re going to show up early.
Suffering below the sun’s incremental transit, we subsist on the pine trees’ shade, the baguette and orange juice.
It is very late, driving. Beyond anxiety and dehydration, cicada call through open car windows, night smells of sage of bergamote.
We see Le Chateau lit-up across the river like some Mississippi paddle boat stranded on the wrong continent.
A massive retaining wall runs along its edge. A formal garden laid out at its bow, and a hundred-foot tall water wheel spins at its side.
Me, nodding as we turn up the drive: This is it.
We idle at the gate, and the groundskeeper comes down the hill to meet us, holding a gas-flamed lantern by a pole.
Me, presenting him with Mr. V.’s card, seemingly unnecessarily: Good evening.
Groundskeeper, knowingly: The 914. Mr. V. told me we might be seeing it again for the party. As it turns out, you’re a little early. But no matter.
He walks up the gravel driveway, lit by our headlights, then waves us into the stables.
Groundskeeper, ambiguously discreet: Collect your bags. If you don’t mind, I’ll put the 914 under a tarp to keep the dust off.
AUGUST 22, Calanque de Sormiou:
Today, there were only two things I wanted to do: work on the puzzle and fuck you.
We spent the morning like hunter gatherers, sifting through pieces looking for colors to match a hub-cap, the board walk, the sky.
You sat naked in the heat, sweat beading on your chest, making neat mounds on the bedspread while I filled in the puzzle’s edges.
When I slotted the final piece of the frame in place, I let out a little squeal of glee and clapped my hands together.
You looked over, mildly bewildered.
“What team work!” I exclaimed and jumped up. My head crashed against the ceiling, and I dropped to my knees.
“Ouch,” you said and pulled me onto your lap. I nestled my forehead against your chest, feeling somewhat wounded but mostly stupid.
“Where does it hurt?” you asked.
I pointed to the crown of my head, and you kissed me there gently.
I pointed to my elbow.
“Really?” you asked. Then you drew my arm up to your mouth and kissed me there while looking me in the eye.
“Is that all?”
I pointed to my collar bone.
“There, too? Am I going to have to kiss you all over?”
I nodded mutely. You unbuttoned my blouse, and drew it off me one arm at a time.
Then, you lay me on the bed and stated, “I’m just going to start from the bottom and move up from there. Any place that really hurts?”
I brought an arm behind my neck and propped myself up. “Everywhere,” I stated, drawing my free hand around in a circle.
Your lips were at my feet, kissing my toes, then drawing them apart and tickling me with your tongue.
I watched your meticulous work, felt the brush of your caress. I brought my free hand to your side and rubbed my knuckles against your ribs.
I thought that I didn’t deserve you and that this thing we were living felt like the right kind of thing to be living.
Your penis started to rise. I stroked you gently and admired the tight quadrangles of your abs while you kissed a shin.
I wanted to taste you. I came up on my elbow and pulled you closer to me.
Your knees upset piles of pieces, undoing most of the morning’s work. “The puzzle!” you implored.
“Fuck the puzzle,” I retorted, taking the smooth rounded head of your cock in my mouth.
I pushed you toward the trailer’s side wall. Your ass was compressed against the window’s screen, your head bowed beneath the ceiling.
My knees and shins dug into the dull, hard edges of puzzle pieces while your hands traveled the length of my body.
After we walked down the dirt lane to the restaurant.
We had made the most limited efforts at being presentable. I could smell you on me, my blouse was misbuttoned. We were turning feral.
We both ordered oysters, and you asked for a mignonette. I chose to eat them as they were.
I slid one off its shell and into my mouth, registering the liquid of the sea and the limp weight of the offering of its body.
I swallowed it whole, and felt as it cleared a path down my throat and into my stomach.
“My god,” I said.
“Uh, huh,” you responded, chewing in a kind-of bovine rapture.
As if on cue, we leaned toward each other. Your hand came to the nape of my neck and our tongues were in each other’s mouths.
“Wait,” you said, pulling back and laughing. Holding your hand up, you showed me a puzzle piece that was caught in my hair.
“We’re really letting ourselves go, aren’t we?” I asked.
“It’s exactly as it should be,” you responded, drawing the piece’s edge in a line down my forearm.
AUGUST 21, Monaco to Calanque de Sormiou:
Before sunrise, we are back in the car. The air is cool and moist. The smell of the sea follows us inland and west.
You: I think I’ve had enough of rich people.
Me: I think I’ve had enough of people.
You: Can we do what I said? Can we go and make the puzzle together and not leave until its done?
Me: I’d like that. Although, there’s a party on the 26th that I’d like to go to.
You: Then we’ll need to be focused.
Me, pausing, asking the question I’ve been resisting: And the 29th…are you still planning on leaving?
You, looking away: I don’t know.
We drive through the early morning, past signs for Nice for Cannes for Frejus and Toulon.
You, brushing at the hair behind my neck: Do you think we’ll get caught?
Me, glancing through the rear view mirror at Salome rolled in her tube behind us: We’ve made it this far.
We drive several miles on a pot-holed, one lane road, through an arid landscape of maquis and bleached limestone.
Me, cresting a rise, pointing: Look.
The road winds down between two fingers of rock that jut into the Mediterranean.
Fog lays on the horizon. The sea and sky are joined, indistinguishable.
You, gesturing toward boats at anchor: It’s as if they’re floating in the sky.
Me, smiling: They’re levitating.
We wind down to the water and rent a small trailer, parked 50 meters from the beach. The car is half-hidden in a slot behind.
You, unpacking: Salome goes in the trunk. I want to share this place with just you.
Inside, we have to stoop. There is just enough room for a double bed, a table, a single chair.
You, clearing the table and emptying the puzzle onto the bed: Ok, time to get to work.
We are naked on the beach. My toes digging moats in the sand. Sharing a ratty beach towel.
Little waves of the Mediterranean lick the shore. A horizon of clouds.
Your leg straddles mine. Your index finger counts down my spine, pausing at the hollows between each vertebra then rests on my coccyx.
I shift my legs, hoping your hand will continue.
You, detecting my intention: Oh, no no no.
Your index finger executes a u-turn. You call out rising notes as you draw a line away from my groin.
Me, turning my head: What am I? Your Glockenspiel?
You, suddenly up on your knees, banging out imagined chords on my back, humming along: more like my piano.
Me: Just no Willie Nelson, ok?
It goes on like this. Steel drum, cello, acoustic guitar. I close my eyes and hum to your rhythms. Together, we are total dorks.
You, relenting, bringing your two hands to rest one on either butt cheek: How about if I play your other instrument?
Me, shifting my legs again: Rhetorical question?
Your hand pulls at my thigh bringing my legs wider apart, squeezes my testicles.
You: One sec.
The snap of a tube of sun screen. A line of cold from the top of my butt crack down across the underside of my rising cock.
A hand rubs me and I murmur my appreciation. Abruptly, your finger presses at my sphincter. My body tenses.
You, next to me: Shhh.
You, bringing your tongue into my mouth and guiding your finger into my ass: Don’t mind me. Just plugging in the amplifier.
Your finger burns, then my brain crackles with the pleasure of fullness.
I find myself involuntarily rising to my knees, pushing against the rough terrycloth of the towel, forcing you in further.