By Lorrie Hartshorn
I find you in Paris—you’re sick yellow and the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. The métro spits me out at the top of the street that is home for now, and you’re there waiting, heavy, deafening and exhilarating. I pretend to shelter from you in the doorway of the Monoprix, laughing with the others standing there, gurgling like a child with my belly pushed out as you soak through my shoes and make my toes squeak in the cheap rubber. The air is thick with electricity that combs my hair like fingers, the sky ochre and low above our heads. I feel like you see me.
I tread the trail of backpackers and find you on a beach in Vietnam. You smell different, feel different in my nostrils—the sting of cheap coconut sunscreen and the clean twist of just-caught fish, grilled whole on coals for tourists. I know it’s you, the roll and twist of you, a fingerprint in my memory. You’re dangerous now, a deluge on palm roofs, whipping against bare legs as we watch you from the bar. I want to step out into you, to open my arms to you and cry my cleverness, my recognition into the sudden dark, but I am afraid of something, I don’t know what.
I move to London and let the rhythm of the underground and the late night traffic seep into me, not bone-deep but deep enough. I wait years; I think I forget you. Men come and never stay, sometimes women too; work is a cycle, and the heartbeat of the city keeps me alive, not living. I think I see you sometimes, but it’s never you; you stay above or to one side—left for remembered, right for imagined; I forget somewhere.
You come back, back to me, when I least expect it, laden with flimsy plastic shopping bags while my rough-weave canvas bag stays hooked on the kitchen cupboard door. I kick my shoes, one, two, and move head-down to the dark hall, bare feet sticking on lino. A finger on the hairs at the back of my neck, a heavy rumble like a métro car approaching a station long, long ago, and I look up and you are there. Weighty indigo clouds that buffet against the ceiling rose in a tattoo that is yours alone. I reach up my fingers to you, and you’re softer, more giving, than I ever thought you would be. Your heavens open to me, only me, only me, and I let the waters rise.