In the pocket of my dress is a knife. Is this your way, Mr.
Rochester, of asking me to cut the thread that ties your heart to mine? As you are saving me for a rainy day? Where I am there are thunder clouds and cells of rain. You, however, have mine. The woman is lying on the water, chin up, arms spread; it could be her legs are softly churning beneath the water, keeping her afloat. They roll her, lifting her in the swells, sliding her into the troughs. She could go out to sea that way. God knows what is swimming beneath her, circling. I can barely see her. I only noticed her when I was on a swell and she in a trough.
I hear the humpbacks in the distance. The water there by the pier is clear, turquoise almost. From the beach, you can almost see it, where the water turns dark and meditative. The old guy fishing there, his pole dug into the sandy shore, showed me the sheepshead fish he caught, showed me its weirdly human teeth, told me there are submarine canyons on the slope off the shelf just past the pier.
No one knows how deep, he said. No one knows what is here. I paddle into the deeper blue, my kayak over depths of sea no one knows. The air is cooler here and so is the water. The waves push me one way, then pull. I float, rising and falling. A fish swims below me, a sheepshead maybe.
It swims past the sun, down into the blue. I think about what else is swimming past the sun, what might lurk in the submarine canyons. I turn my head. I see the woman again, so still on the waves. She comes level with me and her face is pale and her hair is twined with kelp.
She turns her head and opens her eyes. Another swell lifts her, gently. She looks to me like a maiden sacrifice in some monstrous story. Then I hear it. I think of a fire-breathing dragon. If I paddled past the pier maybe yards I might almost be among them. I back paddle instead, frantically, splashing like an amateur. The dead woman rides the same wave with me for a moment and then she glides past me, her eyes open, toward the horizon, toward the gentle whales. God damn you , get out of me! There will be a next time. I awaken from an exhausting day in Prague and someone else is in the room.
I push my legs out of myself to get out of the dream.
Something pinches my heart; a spike, a spear, a thorn, a needle. My feet hurt from standing all day. You touch my foot so gently that I snap. Out of the pain. I rolled my head back like a wave to laugh at the pick-up line. I divulge this story and you are not jealous. It becomes our inside joke. You are holding your camera and walking towards me. I am sitting on a dark rock so huge that three of me can sprawl on it without touching.
You are so handsome in that black shirt. I know we live here. My hair is longer and whiter.
Your hands hold the camera like a lotus. I am inside a souk outside Marrakech. There is a camel here that is supposed to disclose our fortune. I saw it all. I know I am not supposed to be here. The weather accepts all strangers, even those feeling impotent. They push against resistance, faces bent.
In the end it comes down to liking yourself and finding the courage to move forward. I could think of nothing. So I emptied my pockets, turned them inside out. But the weather grew more important to the story than was necessary. Leave it hanging then, like them.
You thought it might go on interminably, and maybe it should have. But someone has to take charge. Even the man on the bicycle, wearing fuchsia cycling shorts, even he has a destiny. He needs to find it himself. His time is now, as we prepare our last impostures. You wish to sit nude, chin buried in your hand. But I will mount the horsey breeze and ride it wherever it takes me. It helps to go out but I should be grateful for the candle crown sweet buns, extra light. Two female mannequins wearing ankle-length blended cotton and cashmere bathrobes and color-matched fuzzy slippers were each holding a glass of juice and an alarm clock.
Their shoulder-length hair was perfectly coiffed and their snow white teeth gleamed between smiling fire-engine-red lips. She stepped to a spot where she could see her reflection in the glass and frowned. Removing her brown knitted cap, she placed it in a pocket of her army field jacket and shook her head.
Her white hair had become mashed against her head and now poofed out into a tangled mass resembling a football helmet made of cotton.
She took her brush from the other pocket and tried to comb it out. Unable to get through the tangles she gave up and put the brush back. When Rhonda returned, she was pulling a new grocery cart — with a large red ribbon on its handle. Tessie transferred her sleeping bag, a garbage bag filled with clothes, a small bag with toiletries, three dog-eared and yellowed paperback novels, two small pots and a torn brown paper bag with three cans of soup, a can opener and half a package of crackers into the new cart.
She picked it up and locked the gate and went back in the store. A few blocks down, Tessie stopped in front of Romance Hair Salon and tapped on the window.
When a man with a thick black mustache and a shiny bald head appeared, Tessie pointed at her cart. He smiled broadly then pointed to the door. A moment later he opened the door and stepped out. The tire on my old one broke. Come in and let me shampoo your hair and clip off those split ends.
Tessie placed the cart against the wall and followed Damion into the salon. He turned on the water and raised the nozzle and began to wet her hair with warm water.
He rinsed it out, then put in conditioner and massaged it into her hair, and ran the water over her head for a few minutes.