Blame it on the third margarita, on the Mexican sea swallowing another sun, on impossible tans and manes of salt-licked hair and nights thick with reggae beats. When he whispered, I’d like to sketch you, coaxed you out of the limoncello-yellow bikini upstairs in a ten-dollar hotel room, no windows, no air conditioning, no questions from the staff. Follow. Blow smoke rings as he hums, tracing skin and sinew and that part of your neck that you say is too bony, but he studies as if it held untellable secrets. Sit an hour, sweat-polished, while this stranger deep-dives and chisels into your soul with a charcoal stick, maps your nakedness. Don’t think of winter back home, or the car or the cat or the job. Stay still in body and thought; stay in the perfect, false summer of possibility. He will abandon this island first, leaving you to slide fingers over the masking tape that remembers your pose, captured by a vagabond artist who knows and understands the everything of you, except your name.
On the Rocks
Someone, this summer or a thousand summers ago, painted Giovanni ama Maria in apple-red nail varnish on the flat piece of volcano worn smooth by time. John loves Mary. Same story, different language. L.M. 13-6-16 was scrawled on another rock in black block letters. A birth? A death? My bet is loss of virginity. They mark that kind of thing over here—get born, get first communion, get your cherry popped.
It happened to me once—it only ever happens once—up the road, west of the bay, where a line of cars snakes along the Via Posillipo, each one shrouded in last year’s newspapers. Buy a condom, a packet of tissues and a roll of tape from the old man at the top of the hill, get to business. It won’t last long. Not at sixteen.
Add half a century now. Lie back on the ancient child of Vesuvius, husband of forty years snoring into the crook of your legs, matching the waves’ rhythmic dance. Once, like the mother of these rocks, you had fire.
The couple on the next rock starts making out, hips grinding through the thickness of denim, tongues exploring each other’s in an easy serpentine mating ritual. I turn my head away, more from shame than politeness, and think about dinner, about sipping wine in silence, about bickering about which movie to watch while the cooling embers sputter an indignant last breath.
“Go for a drive?” I say.
“Up the hill.”
On the way, after the climb through sun-pinked walls and rooftops, we stop by the man at the top of the hill. I buy everything he sells except the condoms; John parks in the old spot. We tape newspapers to windows with urgent fingers. We get to business.
Christina Dalcher is a theoretical linguist from the Land of Styron and Barbecue, where she writes, teaches, and channels Shirley Jackson. Recognitions include The Bath Flash Award’s Short List, nominations for Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions, and second place in Bartleby Snopes’ Dialogue-Only Contest. You can find her work in The Airgonaut, The Nottingham Review, and New South Journal, among others.