Strip me to the bones. How do you do that? With just a cutting glance. It used to be. Words would stretch. Gossamer. Between us time would pulse. Echo deep. Pounding like the drum. When I bit down, pierced the skin, juice would run all the way down to my elbow. Peaches so ripe they make you blush. Tongue travelling over summer salted skin, seeking sticky runoff.
Beneath old sheets, sleeping bags, coarse wool, we met, discussed, rejoiced. The smell is damp. The colours muted. Where we shared things that could not be spoken. Talk between flesh is silk and sandstone. It’s the gamut from warm to smoulder. When I close my eyes it is a sunset. Pale orange. Blush rose.
When we loved and were loved that summer at the cabin, two moths drawn to the lure of a college summer in the woods. Neither knowing the jagged edges of being broken. Neither knowing even that we had been less than whole. But the summer turns to autumn and snow will fall and then, when it melts away and the next season blows off, summer will return. But it won’t be the same. It won’t be ours.
When I see you again, your glance will still cut. This time like a scalpel. Sever right ventricle from left. Engrossed with a friend, she will laugh and sip her beer. Hold your arm. It will all sting. Salty wounds will run tracks down my face. But in the dark and only ever in the dark. Quiet tears. There were no promises made and every promise broken.
“How are you?” You’re speaking to me. “Good to see you again.” But all I’ll hear is the way the drum skins echo – flesh on flesh tattoo. “See you.”
You won’t. See me. Not like before. See my shell. That is all.
I still see, you’ll tell me later. What we have will never be broken. Beneath the cold, smooth nylon bag, I will answer. It is always broken. Because now I see that we are both moths and we are both flame.
You’re just a man and I’m just a woman. Why do I have so much trouble convincing myself? Because a peach is just a peach until it’s running down your throat. Then it is part of you. Some of it stays, always stays, locked into cells, tiny fractions socked away.
Disentangled, we weep invisible blood from gaping holes where once we were one. Forearm peels from chest, calves untwine, hand from neck, fingers brush back hair, pull away. Scabs will form, skin toughen, callous. Every time. We meet. Singe and heal, moth and flame.
When tears drip, it is for that first time. I mourn. Tender skins unblemished by the past. Feeling all. Love before we knew what love was.
Tapanga Koe grew up in rural Ontario. After several years hitchhiking around Canada, living beside the mountains in the Yukon, on the golden prairies of Manitoba, and along the beautiful east and west coasts, she returned to Ontario to raise a family.