“I want to kill them all so there’s only us,” you said.
I was wearing a bright dress, the light flowing one, remember? It was a rife July evening. The air was sticky. A trickle of sweat running down between my breasts. Your words smelt of some Bulgarian wine, or maybe Hungarian, or maybe. I’m sure it was red, one of the cheapest, one that only those who aren’t rich in money can afford. They are rich in other things instead.
“I want only us,” you said.
The sky was bursting with pinkness, the day was evaporating from the streets. The sunset was spilling out lazily. July, we were both twenty and everything was there for us. Your tongue was sweet and you didn’t want to stop. More and more. It didn’t matter if it was love or if it would last until tomorrow, forever or never again. We were right here, right now. The night was ours and it was swelling only for us. I felt heat and wetness when you ran your finger up my thigh.
Kill them all so there’s only you and me.
I sat on your lap, you pulled up my dress. We may have looked innocent from afar — just like some two lovebirds, embraced on a park bench. I felt your rapid breathing on my neck. A little girl ran past us chasing a squirrel.
Maybe we shouldn’t? What if someone sees us?
I put your fingers in my mouth.
“It turns me on when you have second thoughts, when you’re all so shivery, unsure. When you blush, eager and warm, when you become wet.”
All of them…only you and me.
“Would you like to?”
You touched my hair and pulled it lightly.
It was clear what is not supposed to be said. That we were not allowed this one sentence. Not a single love, not a single you. Nothing that could tie up, bind or limit us. That this relation must never turn into routine, a home, children, dinners, lamentation, family holidays, bathroom renovation. That only in this way we will last.
We had various, less or more serious relationships, we dated other boys, other girls. Remember? You carried me around and I smelt your sweaty neck. One of those many girls whose name has since slipped into oblivion was waiting for you just then. Maybe it was the owner of the earring I found in your sheets right after we made love. A green, teardrop-shaped one. I swirled it in my fingers, so it reflected light on the wall.
You stroked my naked belly.
“What is she like?” I asked.
You told me she painted her toenails bright red and had a tongue as sharp as cats do.
She has passed just like all of the others. I didn’t care too much, but you, quite the opposite. Sometimes, out of the blue, jokingly, yet with anger and resentment, you’d say that all those boys, that they look at me so hungrily, that I know what they think, what they imagine. And I would answer:
“Come on, let them look, let them touch, you know I’ll only allow it when I want to.”
We would go our own ways, kind of separately but always alongside, so that we were close in every moment, even after a long absence. There were days that I missed you, and days that I lived my own stories, where you had no place. I knew you would come back. Like a chorus.
I wanted it. I didn’t. It was a long time ago. A long time ago in Poland. In a block of flats in the suburbs, with the ceiling hanging so low that every single thought released from one’s head would bounce back, hit the floor with a bang, and shatter into pieces. The lift was broken and a ripped-out piece of paper hanging on the door informed that this was due to people pissing in it.
My parents were gone to the allotment, the flat was tiny and cluttered with books but luckily all ours. Finally, we could make love on a bed. Like adults. Slowly and without worrying that someone would catch us.
You said: “I see us together in twenty, thirty years. We’re lying down just like this. Naked, messy, you with your satisfied smile.” I answered laughing: “No way, definitely not.”
“Because in twenty years I’ll be a whole different person. Someone you will never find. And even if you do, you won’t recognize me…”
“I’d recognize you even in the most sophisticated life camouflage. I’ll bump into you in an unexpected moment and take you by surprise. I’ll say: You’ve become a beautiful woman but you’re still just a girl — you’ll hesitate whether to stay like this or leave; after all it’s been so long. You’ll pretend to be surprised: — Sir, you must have confused me with someone else — you’ll ask: Are you sure we know each other? — And after a while: — Have we had the pleasure? — The gleam in your eyes will prompt the answer — Oh yes, we’ve had the pleasure, and more than once. Sweet tension between us, no idea what comes next. You’ll wear an elegant, black knee-length dress, with a zipper at the back. I’ll come closer and then slowly, gently unzip it.”
I wasn’t sure whether to take any of this seriously. In my spacetime there was no in twenty years, let alone in thirty. I was in right-here, and I was in right-now. I had you now and didn’t want it any other time.
It was one of these rare evenings that last forever.
We were standing on the balcony. We saw lights going out in other flats, one after another. I was humming a song and you were tapping an unsteady rhythm on the railing. My legs were bare, and the chill was so pleasant. Stars were blinking at us and I thought that maybe out there, in this night sky twinkling with silver dots, is an identical, parallel couple — a boy and a girl, just like us. They are looking in our direction, they see us standing on one of the balconies attached to one of these same-looking, concrete, ten-storey buildings, surprised that we, too, are blinking at them.
And then time sped up rapidly. It was morning already. You’ve sneaked out thinking I was still asleep. Without a goodbye and without making any noise you ran down the stairs. And you haven’t turned around. You couldn’t have known that I was standing on the balcony, still bed-warm, that I was watching you go, that.
I didn’t want anything. Had no expectations. I let you go although I’d never really had you.
Perhaps you were afraid of your “me and you in thirty years” dreams. Maybe you didn’t want to scare me off with such a fat-fetched thought. Maybe it was the right moment to stop it, retreat, before. To run away only to avoid waking up at a point of no return.
How could you have known I was watching if you hadn’t turned around?
You left the city the next day. I stayed. We went our own ways again. Separately but alongside. I didn’t miss you. I didn’t want to.
I played different games, had fun with different people. After some time, a letter came. Three pages of passionate confessions, to be read between the lines. Three tsunami-strong pages. I drowned. I lay numb and breathless for hours, days, weeks. You’ve tied me up with this confession; you’ve done what we were never supposed to do to ourselves. Not a single love or you in those three pages, but all the other words screamed it out. I buried the letter deep down and decided to forget.
As I was forgetting, you were sitting on the pavement in one of hot southern European cities, drinking wine out of the box, someone was hitting the drum and you were breathing fire and spinning around to the rhythm. The coins were pinging. Languages were mixing: Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, English, Italian. One smile was enough to become best mates, friends for one night. Beer, wine, vodka, jazz — “Te quiero mucho” — you’d whisper to those nubile and keen. You’d close your eyes, but something was missing. You knew exactly what.
The heat of the summer night lasted.
You picked strawberries in some place. You painted pictures and sold them on the streets. In the evenings you danced with fire, letting the music lead you.
In winter you’d feed pizza to local rats at the Notre Dame. You’d watch the reflection of the Sagrada Familia in a pond, and when you threw a stone, the building would dance and bounce its hips. You pitched a tent between the lake and Chalikounas beach, each morning you’d dig out some coins from the sand, and when you collected enough, you’d go to this surfer bar and order a mojito. You met some paragliders and you jumped off the cliff with them. A half Finnish guy building houses out of straw gave you a ride.
You bought the ticket and headed further South. The bus glided through the sand night and day. From time to time you’d look through the window and, like a mirage, see some girl holding a desert fox, or a ram hanging upside down and dripping blood. One day you spotted a huge skeleton, maybe a camel’s, or an elephant’s, or maybe some dinosaur’s. In this scorching heat, everything seemed both possible and unreal. The bus sped, sometimes it would stop by some stand where one could buy something that resembled a rat shashlik, they’d treat you with a cup of hot sweet tea with mint. You’d say “Shukran, shukran”, but it was everything you knew in this snake-like, swirled serpentine language. The locals would nod and no one knew if they understood or just nodded. Forty degrees Celsius in the shade. The bus stopped. Someone made it clear that you won’t go any further because this was where the disputed territory started: Western Sahara. Unofficial border. He spoke French and was about your age. His uncle’s cousin or maybe his cousin’s uncle, ran a hostel. Verygoodpriceforyoumyfriend. You walked down a narrow alley, then an even narrower one, to the left, around the corner and then into a dark gate. This is where you stayed. In a room painted green, on a dirty, greyish mattress.
The next morning, the sand on the beach by the ocean was bright and fine as never before. On the horizon you spotted a small plane on a dune, a miniature replica with a plate informing that right here, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince.
And then you remembered:
You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.
translated by Marcelina Karcz