Fragments of language and story extracted from the body
–by Temim Fruchter
I never saw her blush.
–Anne Carson, “Powerless Structures Fig. 11 (Sanne)”
blush before death.
–-Anne Carson, “Powerless Structures Fig. 11 (Sanne)”
It’s not a tiptoe of color, nothing gradual, nothing floral, nothing coy. No lace or whisper, no grace or magic, no tipsy shrug. Nothing tiny or subtle or grateful or wanting or shy.
Just heat. Plain red heat.
There are so many ways to burn. I burn from the inside and from the outside and from the top. The heat stays on even after the red goes, like a bulb inside a lamp that’s been left on too long. I burn any time I see you see me, my body’s response to taking shape. I burn watching you walk whether you see me back or not. I burn a sudden cloak, a flushed reveal, an unhiding.
You weren’t first, but you were most. So when your eyes locked into mine a whole island somewhere turned pink. Hot onion pickled turnip bite pink. No roses or sunsets. This was an upset, a reddening, a storm.
*We suppose pregnancy is a rosy time.
The whole time my mother was pregnant, round and wide and pink and singing, the pink somehow making her look like she knew more than everyone else did, I was haunted by my father’s story about the angel Lailah. Lailah, who teaches a child everything there is in the world to know before it is born and then, right before birth, touches the child right above the lip, making a dent there as all of those secrets spill out, disappearing. I could never stop thinking about it, always landing with my finger to my philtrum, like I knew a secret no one else did. Like most everything had been spilled out of me but like maybe, if I put my finger there just so, I would find a little something left.
I got snagged on the tiniest part of the myth.
I remember asking my father does she ever give it back? All those stories? All those secrets? Will I ever remember? I don’t remember whether there was an answer, but I remember how long it took me to fall asleep after.
The answer, I know now, is that she does give it back. Sometimes. And then, only a little.
Lailah’s house is brimming full with excess memory. It is too hot. The heat of all that knowing. There is so much that Lailah trips on it, falling over her telescope, the one that’s not really a telescope at all but a window from one end of the earth to the other. She laughs and curses at the same time. What a life.
Every so often when things begin to smolder, Lailah cracks open a window, just ever so slightly, and releases something small – a history, something true, a lie, even. She watches it go.
And something somewhere drops a million miles to earth and burns.
And someone somewhere blinks twice, feels a flush of heat to the cheeks, reappears and remembers.
The thing is that it’s not just my cheeks. It’s my chest. Always suddenly the same three spots on my chest, heat and wine and confession, like betraying the same three secrets every time. My chest tapping your shoulder. My chest reminding us both. My chest in a pattern that closely follows hope rising and falling, the spotty presence of confidence, the daring of what if, the perfect spinning miss of just sitting still.
I always hope you don’t notice and I always hope you do.
My surface ahead of my words, glowing as it remembers itself before I do. Something about myself I don’t quite have words for. The expression it’s all coming back to me now. The always-shock of being noticed, as sure a way to wake the skin as a hot shower.
You notice, every time.
When we met, I wanted the heat. I wanted longing to get the most of my skin. I wanted to beat like the sky during one of those in-between times, all the colors negotiating who gets to sit in front.
I didn’t understand that the longing would get all of my skin. That I wouldn’t ever be able to hide it. I never wanted to be anything subtle, but I couldn’t even if I wanted to. My temperature would give me away.
I coil hot into the contours of me now. The thrill of being in plain sight.
We suppose that death is a kind of spilling.
We don’t ever suppose that it might be something coming back to us.
We get snagged on the tiniest part of the myth.
The night we first met – a corner table at a low-lit bar – I told you that I would likely get nervous and spill water on you and make a spectacle of us both. You told me to go ahead with the spilling, that you welcomed it. You wanted me to pour water on you. I burned shame and awe and desire and I did it, tipping my glass and pouring the slightest bit of water onto your thigh. We both watched the water slowly fall, skip on the fabric of your pant leg and seep in slowly, growing sdarker blue in that particular spot.
My skin sang. Your skin answered. You noticed. And something came back.