Author: Leonore Wilson
Location: Napa Valley, California
Leonore Wilson lives and teaches in Napa Valley. Her work has been in such magazines as Quarterly West, Pif, Madison Review, Rattle, and Five Fingers Review.
It’s half past seven in autumn and I’m waiting. I’m left with the sand of the day, the azure of twilight. The rain washed out his footprints. The wind wracked the hammock where he slept. The war erupted like a volcano of blood, like a deluge —blazing.
We met in a nightclub near Carmel. I watched the men at the bar. They had carved out eyes, gas burner hands, voices dirty and wet as unswept balconies. I wanted them with my fierce Lenten guilt, the heat of my longings. I blew bubbles like a schoolgirl, turned my leather, twisted my cross. I held the wine in my mouth like the coveted host.
He was stationed at Vandenberg, this man with midnight green eyes, comparable to nothing, nothing I’d seen. He brought me a rose. He was sick of the Air Force and his hometown in Kansas. He undressed the rose at the bar as if he were parting me under my skirt. “How do you hunger?” he said. “When time’s running out?”
I thought of words like topaz and emeralds breaking open my mouth. “What difference does it make?” I said. “What difference does it make?” “Talk to me dangerously,” I said, my words getting fainter. “I belong to no one.”
He took me out to the beach, to the feathery air, to the open black void. I could see people in the lights of hotel windows like glints in a pearl. Sensual love and mutual sorcery.
“Where did the others take you?” he asked. “Tell me,” he said. I smelled the tang of the sun and salt on his skin, heard the bound despair of a plane overhead. “How can you move in your clothes?” he said, removing them bit by bit, unwrapping me like the future, a fire of thin flame. The feathers fell perfectly.
“When a friend of yours dies, he keeps dying in you. Here we take root,” he told me, facing my flesh.
Inside I trembled, wept, spread like a flag before him.
“You’re my homeland, my creation,” he said. “Creation is a stain, a change in purity.”
I never asked his name.
“I’ll tell you exactly who I am,” he said. I studied the wild geography of his spine, the down of his ass. A white flash sliced the sky. The great roistering waves mounted us like tattered wings. “I am what is, what was, what will come to be.” “Free me from guilt,” he said. “From remembering.”
As he spoke and turned around, as he touched me, cruised into me, the Pacific covered our bruises under its marvelous silks.
“How long does a man spend dying?” he asked. I fed the whole world when I comforted him, stroked him like the portrait of myself.
On the strand was his shroud of medals, his professional blue fatigues. “I want to discover my feelings,” he said. “At last my own feelings. Of what I know and knew, of what I have lost along the way. Being in love is my nature. It’s you I want to keep on seeing.”
“How can brothers kill each other?” I asked. “For a fistful of dust, is that all?”
“The shape of life is the shape of impoverishment. Let’s hold each other to the shadows,” he said. “Let’s wrap each other around our necks. Love is not an emotion, it is what conquers,” he said.
On breaks from the base he came. Letters were never needed. We made love on the veranda, in the hammock and in the meadow. Among sticks and rocks. Among green bushes in sunlight. In the winds of the universe. Wheat, cherry trees, apples, and smoke surrounded us. “Always goodbye,” he said. “Desire is our definition,” he said. “There is no cause, there is no effect.”
I prayed to Mary, to the god of dead statues. To skinny trees, to the forbidding mountains. My blood was delirious and wanting. My song going nowhere. All because I fell into love, fell into life.
I tried to claim my independence. I tried to linger in others’ eyes. The tesserae of the world, the excess of worldliness. Beauty’s intransigence.
He’s restless in my memory. I hold onto shadows and light, among so many things lost. I call him and he doesn’t come: my meaning, my miasma, my reasonable dead.
I would trail back to him if I could. Walking or fallen. My drug of withdrawal.
“Goodbye because I am arriving,” he said.
“But what does that mean?”
“Equality is disorder,” he said.
“But what does that mean?”
“We broke every rule,” he said, then disappeared.
I don’t remember his name.
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