Why am I here? I have forgotten. My head is full of cotton wool, the sounds of the world around me muffled and far away as though I’m wobbling my uncertain backstroke down the big Barton pool, eyes fixed on the pockmarked concrete ceiling.
Her skirts draw me closer and catch my eye. Oh they are lovely, purple rustling taffeta and silk that begs to be stroked and slipped through fingers. They whisper as the wind tosses them and slither invitingly. Flap flap like the sheets on the line on drying day and I wonder if I could hide in there.
Diffidently I raise my eyes up the length of her body. She is taut and fully stretched. She doesn’t look at me, her luminous eyes fixed firmly upon the horizon but I feel her gentle welcome. Quickly child a soft voice writes on my heart.
Like a minnow or a sly puff of wind I dart into the amethyst folds. Gently, kindly, the fabric caresses my sore skin. Like mothwings it wraps around me, insubstantial as cobwebs but I feel as safe as though stone walls lie between me and the real world which tumbles on – somewhere else – around a corner. Out of sight.
Wriggling so my head lies on the pillowy warmth of her thigh, I look down the strength and length of her arm, twisted as a steel rope, to see what keeps my azure lady pinned to the ground. At the end of her satiny sleeve is a knot of flesh. A grinning demon has her held fast. His eyes flash maliciously at me sheltering in the lady’s petticoats. Ha ha, he laughs – do you think you are safe?
Look at me. I am the irresistible centre of the world. The black thrusting tower at the centre of everything. I am the unavoidable pinion, the scaffold to the events that unfold. And you, little thistledown seed, you cannot escape. The world is still happening to you Laura, even if you don’t look at it.
Dark man with your lips beaded with blood. I do not see you man. I look up at the soft sky. I feel the silk on my skin. I see the endless lilac cloud and then the soft cloud behind that and further back I see the stars.
Hot white, blazing blue, burning yellow they trace time across the abyss. Always moving, tracing beginning and ends they turn endlessly. Giant, ponderous uncaring. They do not see us in their stately progress. Inexorable they move like the sea. Immutable, unconstrained. Unknowable.
I feel the lady’s tremble of laughter in her flesh. She knows too. She knows. I nuzzle my face into the milky white, blue-veined strength of her thigh. We will be the stars she and I. We will be the wind and the high wisps of cloud. We will be the delicate unfurling new leaves and the eroded brown skeletons, lifting from the autumn bonfire on a line of smoke in a wintery gust.
Look, look he says, I have laid out love for you on a cloth on the green green grass. Wine in a flask from the end of the world, iced cakes, sweetmeats laced with endearments. We can while away our lives here. Sweet in the dappled shade of the tree. I would hold you, shape you, love you.
Bang bang on my flesh, sharp insistent talons from the real world. Back there in the distance they scratch at my side. Shaking my head to dislodge their insistent gnat-like whine I look up. Up the sleek stretch of her to the resolute pale face with blooms set in black curled hair. She is so sure and beautiful. Lady, lady I cry with my eyes. Why are we still here? How can we be free?
Show me how to leave the sharp hard earth? Show me how to be free and safe for always in the billowing sky? I look down again at the tangled hands. Lady you are holding him as much as he holds you. You are leaning on his outstretched hand.
Now the fortress of silk doesn’t seems as secure as it once did. Lady are you not here to save me? Now I see a flicker round her eyes. Is it sadness and regret or just a speck of pollen from the sweet-smelling blossom? But she does not answer. She does not let go of his hand. The smiling wolfish man with the polished pleasing face and the burning eyes. We do not fly away to safety.
Breathe, breathe the fronds of silk whisper against my hair. Wait, wait the wind plays on the china blue leaves. Not long, not long her stiff curls jangle. I will not save you sweetling says the resolute set of her spine, her muscles corded ropes of strength – waiting. Soon soon I will fly away and save myself.
Watch me, watch me.
Watch me darling and learn.
So for now I feel the breeze lick my face and cool the wet salty lines on my cheek. I breathe in the clean smell of her skirts like fresh bread and lavender. Consolingly her skirt tickles my back. It colludes in my hiding from the noise back there. The hot burning spit of it.
Breathe breathe until the world calls me unavoidably back. The lady will soon be gone, free from her laughing determined devil.
But the stars still wait behind the veil of cloud.