youth returns in a dream


(picasso’s blue phase, LA VIE, 1903)

She and first love sit the edge of a swimming pool smoking cigarettes.

“Run away with me,” he says as water drops dry on his bare chest.


“Does it matter? I want to spend forever”

as he puts his cigarette out in a puddle of water

“with you.”

She awakens to the only movement in the house, the ceiling fan spinning overhead. Next to her, amore is breathing softly. She caresses amore’s head and, in doing so, notices the purple veins and the thinning skin of her own hands. How quickly they’ve changed! She remembers when she used them like the seductress legs of a black widow a long time ago. Long and spindly as they spun her webs and crawled across his naked back to the fleshy part of his mouth.

She met him at the university on the day when students were moving into their dorm rooms. A cold shiver latched to her spine like a barnacle, igniting when she spied him in the residence hall or the cafeteria. She avoided the temptation of his glances, she spoke to him professionally (she was his resident assistant). Yet, one early morning, as she was leaving for her 7:40 a.m. math class, she found him curled up and sleeping next to her dorm room door with a yellow lemon-shaped candle he had purchased for her weeks before.

“I lost my room key and I thought you could help me,” he said.

She opened the door to her room and let him in.

When she moved into a place of her own, it was two houses away from the train tracks. One day as he was studying in the living room and she was digging in her garden of tomatoes and artichokes, she heard the train wheels approaching and frantically left the backyard to join him in the main room.

“Why do you do that?” he asked.

She forgets some of the tragedy. The time in her childhood when she reached for a boiling pot of water, and it poured down the side of her face. The night in her grandparent’s room when she was awakened by a passing train and fell on a papasan chair, busting open her bottom lip and chin.

She is a burrower.

“I could never leave you,” he said on the doorstep of the house. But when he returned, it was for the last of his belongings and the Picasso painting, which hung next to the window that looked out into the driveway. The locusts were mating as she sat on the white leather couch they had placed on the back porch year’s ago. She waited for the sound of a shutting door.

When he left, his presence remained with her that night.

She dreamt of a room filled with transparent curtains and silk scarves hanging from the ceiling. With every step forward, she’d part the sheets of fabric and feel her way for an opening. When she finally found him, he was sitting on the floor with his back facing her. She saw the other woman too. Clinging to his shoulders in a sick ecstasy with her legs wrapped around his naked body.

She stands on the diving board 33 feet above the pool. Her coach and peers watch and encourage from the other end, calling her name and clapping their hands. She closes her eyes, feeling the sensation of movement as she remains still. “Focus on the lessons you have learned,” she says as she opens her eyes, takes the first step, finds the red flag and flies like an albatross across the sky and toward the topaz blue.

They are floating on the top layer like dead halibut, images and memories of failed relationships, broken friendships and lost loves. Once she hits the water, she fights the current, racing to save them. But, they sink deeper into the depths of a black sea.

A passing whale says to her, “you don’t need them anymore.”

When she was a child, her mother bent her fingers with the hopes that one day she would be a Thai dancer. When he betrayed her with a sketch of another woman’s hand, she wore the scar like a prized possession, a wedding band. She relied on her hands the way a woman walks into a room.

She looks at them now–the crooked nails, the exaggerated knuckles, the purple veins–as they sweep amore’s bangs to the side of her face.

Yes, indeed, they are nothing more than hands.