for our first date in months, we went to the museum. i was short twentytwofifty and you were angry at me for finally solving the problem i couldn’t a/void. we came to see what a man with an eyepatch had made out of some glass. ‘from sand. from fire. comes beauty.’ read the sign. (she thought the french was better: du sable et du feu naît la beauté. she also thought the fullstops were poorly placed. i thought beauty wasn’t the only thing could be born of sand and fire. other things, too. like homesickness. and the inferiority of centuries.) it was refrigerator cold and there were plaques here and there and i swayed on my faint feet and you communicated mostly in short sharp sighs. it was nice. it was tense. we took pictures. we held hands.
the centerpiece scared six hundred years out of me, six hundred years that fled with the indignant shame of realizing you’re not the best at something after all and you never were, not even close. nationalism punctured, i guess. the pride of a city’s glaziers crunched under the heel of one man’s venetian dreams. ‘laguna torcello,’ the plaque said. have you ever seen something so beautiful it hurt to look at, i said. yes, you short-sharp-sighed. i wanted to say something but the words couldn’t get past all the sand stuffing my throat. (the sand, envious of art. the sand, homesick for the dunes.) it was nice. it was tense. we took pictures. we stopped holding hands.
finally I fired up the forge in my mouth and melted my melancholy down into something clear enough for you to see through. i feel like a monster, i said. it’s so mind-blowingly beautiful and all i want is to break it to pieces. you looked furious. you looked delighted. i worried you’d think i was terrible, you said. i’ve spent this whole time wondering how many pieces i’d have to smash before you’d finally look at me. i looked at you. i grabbed your hands and i looked at you. then i looked over your shoulder at laguna torcello, so innocent, so harmless. let’s do it, i whispered, and you went wide-eyed like no like you’re bad like you looked at me on the date before this one. i dragged you to the edge of the exhibit, heart beating savage sabotage beating artistic murder beating gleeful perversion, and we whispered a crime scene into existence. if anyone had stopped taking pictures and holding hands long enough to listen, it would have sounded like this:
this one, candyfloss jungle gym for the heaviest friend we’ve got
this one, plucked like a javelin reed and launched straight through
this one, punch-popped like a pearlescent balloon animal
this one, diaphanous, firm one-footed stomp
this one, globulous, cucumber-coloured, two hands twist and yank
this one snap off spiral ends and use as golden water goblets
this one, sturdy, challenging, let’s give it to our friend with the anger issues, let him make better use of it than any china set (phone book (author’s ulna))
these ones, we eat.
boiled sweets the size of boulders
(what d’you suppose is in this one? you asked. we paused. red velvet, you said. no, i said, blackberry cream. and this one? peanut butter. this one honey rose, toffee fudge, black cherry chocolate. you’re better for tasting than i thought, you said, and looked at me in a way that made me think you’d added a word in for propriety’s sake. you pointed something out, wavery wafer, crossroads of wasp hide and scalloping seashell. i thought bath tub, then lounge chair, but you whispered this one, I’d fuck you on.)
this one, drop and shatter
this one, ineffective coat hanger
this one i’d leave alone, you said. give it to the child, i think he’d like it. i think i like you, i said. you took a picture, panorama sweep, pristine and unmolested by our vandalous hands. our vandalous hands, holding chaos ‘tween the palms. our vandalous hands, clutching each other so tight.