Stay

He tucks his hair behind his ears as he speaks to me, lime and gin on his fingertips. He flicks two cubes of ice into a glass, asks me for the fourth time where I am going next before I hear him. He wants you to stay, she says. I check the empty space on my wrist. But I am tired of the time.

There were specks of chilli around the rim of your glass, your lips. Our mouths burned as we tried to read Japanese. Your eyes were x-ray scanners and I wanted to stand before you so you could see beyond my skin. This, the first time, like a menu with too many things to order. The taste of all of them to be soon forgotten as we left to take shelter from every observer we didn’t want to know.

He fabricates drinks from eras ago. Enlightenment on my tongue, I only want to talk of Chopin and Debussy. Do you want to stay? she asks. Outside, there is the splinter of lightning and the delicate beginnings of a prelude. He smiles at me. I turn away towards the night, to every dark body silhouetted between burning candles and velvet booths. Her heels click into mine. I dip my finger inside my glass. Against my tongue, the hint of chocolate, and I am dizzied by the cadence of a cocktail shaker, spinning circles between honest hands.

I fogged up the passenger window of your car as my knees met your eyeline. Your breath fell heavy as you hastily removed chocolate wrappers from around me. I clasped my hands between my legs as if in prayer and forgot the road to take me home. The wind shook the car from its course, sweeping the wheels to where we wanted to belong. When you pulled up at your house, your hand met the end of my fingers to the beginnings of my thigh.

He cuts his finger on the lemon knife when the window is hit by a flying bird. Blank faces turn to confront their reflections in the glass. His blood pools to form the shape of a heart. The heat of bodies gather at the edge of the room. From this height, I wonder how we are still breathing. But our stirring exhalations manifest into ghostly forms on the window, and we have to look above them to see outside.

In the forgotten corner of your lounge room was the iridescent glow of a television screen. We listened to a song without a chorus for nine minutes. I found you in every verse and closed my eyelids against your chest. Your fingertips smelled like Nutella and the things I knew I couldn’t have. Where your mind was I did not know, but found glimpses in your reluctance to turn the screen off and envelope us in the dark.

Behind the glass I think of the possibilities of things. Not falling. But what could happen behind it all. I wait for the glass to blow in, for us to be sucked out into the skyline. But there isn’t even a sound. Bodies disappear from our sides and the evening resumes. Conversations are returned into glasses shining in candlelight and hands met underneath tables. We remain still, looking outwards to where my body is mirrored against a foreign distance.

You removed your watch. Not when we were cleaning the dishes or when you laid me down on the kitchen island that smelled of soap and citrus. But afterwards when you led me up the stairs and closed the blinds. The faint singing of a television rising upwards through the bottom floor. Of the blue light that couldn’t quite be extinguished.

We press our hands into the glass. She asks me when we should leave. The sun and the moon balance on an equal plane in a pink sorbet light for one long moment. We follow two separate globes suspended between skyscrapers. One planet defines us: her blazing desire to never let go; the lunar hold on me that can’t quite shed the weight of time.

Within your room, I became the colours of the Earth. Hours dissolved into oblivion when we didn’t know that the moon had already fallen. Your watch: the only indication that the month had ticked over. When outside it was raining and beating the pavements clean, you asked me if I wanted to stay.

I am the embodiment of fleeting love, grasped for short moments to only be let go into the air like rainbowed confetti. I wonder if this is it. For if I go now, I might discover a disparate future. Below are the feathered remains of brilliant flight and people standing in wonder at the sky. The buildings beacons of reflection, glowing indigo. I withdraw my hands from the glass. The ripples of my prints indent. And once again, time stops me from forgetting.

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Image: Larm Rmah

Elsie Mellor PhotoElsie Mellor is a piano teacher and writer from Victoria. She prefers the old Romantic’s approach of holding a well-loved book and writing by hand, and is currently penning her first novel.

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