She had always had a soft spot for irrepressible thieves.
As a child all of those about her felt free to share in all her pretty ways and the golden silk threads of her talismanic hair. She invariably occupied the centre of attention at the dinner table, consulted as to this and that. Although all she wanted was to eat, her generous nature made it easy for whomever to reap a reward from their inquiries. Her need and willingness to make an effort garnered so much more credit than your typical show-off, not to speak of the benefits to the development of her character. Of these matters she was to remain unaware until such time as introspection became a necessity and a resource. She took an especial delight in the rare persons who knew how to conduct themselves in an artful manner. They were all thieves, of course, because she did not whether out of modesty or discretion spontaneously give of herself, and so they took because they were able and she opened the door to them.
In addition, her parents encouraged her to be transparent about everything. “Making someone believe what isn’t true is the same as luring an animal into a cage for one’s own purposes. You take away their freedom in many, many ways.” The image and its lesson had stuck with her and she very early found the benefits of truthfulness before those, as her father said, she had “no reason to distrust.” Things always worked out, sometimes unexpectedly and delightfully. Problems swiftly found solutions.
Which is not to say that in the midst of all this transparency she became at all confessional. She did not feel encumbered to report, one temperate party-filled summer, how a number of squirrelly boys managed to insert their stiffened wild-life members into her. The occasion did not present or she would have. In the balance, disgust contributed to the seal over her lips; it had finally outweighed squirming pleasure and she had gone on to preserve what survived of her innocence. As for the boys, they chatted freely among themselves and not one of them lost the memory of her sunlit downy thighs – it seemed in truth to be all they remembered poor in epiphanies as they were. In later life a blur had deposited itself where should be her face.
Patricia Farsome’s Memory Cellar
An earlier event of similarly great proportion and moment she did not share with her parents but did communicate to a six-year-old companion. She drew the memory of it forth and shared it for the vintage it was and would become, uncorking it with an ease that had she been knowledgeable of such things she would have to attribute to the powers of her innocent mind, for there was no struggle and no musty smell about the cork – its dust of the fairy variety. In fact all sparkled as she poured out liberally for herself and little Belinda. They were both elfin even to themselves, as she realized for she had felt wonderfully self-aware. In still later memory, the year would inevitably possess a subtle pétillant that was not to be spoken of – so light and buoyant was this immaterial liquid.
“I was carried out to sea!” she proclaimed to her little companion whose name she had now forgotten.
So a passerby had overheard this slice of their conversation that, for whatever reason, like so much else of its type she had never forgotten. These eruptions from the past continued to give direction and assurance. Not much else interested her in death or came to her unless it be similar occurrences. What caught the fancy of the fleeting eavesdropper, however, was instead the children’s sharing of worlds and how they occupied each other’s own particular universe. Reflective, he continued on his way having not touched her life in the slightest.
All the terror had gone and she trumpeted the loss of her protected status – put at risk by her having waded out too far – with an unquenchable appetite for an event that they could both relish in recall.
“And a boat picked me up. Arms reached down and pulled me out of the water. Most of the time I was underneath.”
What she didn’t tell most counted – the curious and conspiring gulls wheeling above and peering down as she stepped toward the looming wave, the sense of the yellow-brown sand that she’d just left stretching on all sides behind her, the attentive but indifferent blue of the sky distant and deep, deeper than the sea but sharing many of the same borders: tops of umbrellas, chunky bodies, the summer houses like paintings and one or two refreshment stands issuing whipped candy and mustard smells, and her preoccupied family on the beach who must have looked away or had no time to react if they had certainly been watching her when the wave washed over and undermined the sand beneath her feet when it retreated so that she had no grip and her flailing arms did not prevail over the strength of the outgoing tide. She spoke of none of this nor her mouthful of salt water that made her sleep in a grey place of air flesh before she bobbed to the surface and reached out her arms. What had lifted her? The mercies of the world – “I shot out of the water!” These times of mortal salvation would repeat themselves and she knew she wasn’t alone.
As for the preoccupations of parental lily-white hearts in their black tulip blood chests, their inaccessibility dropped no veil between her and their distracted arrangement on the beach. She remained without trauma or rebuke.
Of greater import: where might she and her sense of herself be now if she didn’t linger from time to time in the thought of this roguish wave slightly too large for her that had marked her course? Sometimes the big things count for less than they promise and a single wave among all the rest of its kind is not a big thing to the casual observer. It brought no evidently consequential excitement her way.
“The sand slipped from beneath my feet!”
She reached through time and made present the waves and the gulls, the shifting sand and the terror, all her own plastic components – little goddess whipping up a world in her mind’s kitchen for their shared feast. She and her friend devoured it all.
On they skipped in their manner – little unformed legs in ankle socks, the hair bounce and faces absorbed. And so, in part, they seemed to each other – cute – while completely oblivious of the departed adult who saw a universe-shaping phenomenon. Totally never mind him. Back to the house’s lion head brass knocker that she liked to pound – not this time for the door opened as she reached up her hand, and lowered it again. Scruffy in her dress, she was a dark thing but for the deep shine in her eyes of coming from there to here not knowing that it was a form of passageway that would only become brighter and vaster but always itself. The worm of life burrows through something it doesn’t understand but identifies as the universe for reference sake. Much much later she thought of herself in such terms although her mother who stood apart and ranked with authority did.
She had forgotten the other’s name, and then remembered.
In they ran, the hall dark with wine bottle light, up the stairs to where, ten years later in her bedroom, they furtively drank their Liebfraumilch from antique-looking goblets purchased for the deed and smuggled into the house.
They had carved space out of the afternoon when they decided as one and without much end in mind to obtain these drinking vessels, relieving them from shop window obscurity, their gold-rimmed ruby crystal on cut shanks to round pedestals. How else drink from the liquid world, observe extended nipples, strawberry mouths, lips glazed with skin salt to be rinsed with German wine that they in all ignorance had purloined for the enchantment of the name from Daddy’s cellar?
They were literary events, overly impressed groan-filled readings of The Story of O, again from Daddy’s cache, in this case dog-eared as it had attracted them. From word to flesh and back again. “Tie me up!” What would serve on the crumpled bedding? Nothing for it but to resort to the watchful, uncorrupted hall and filch one of Daddy’s ties, grab one from the very end of the rack and keep it forever.
“Not too tight!”
“I don’t want you to get away!”
A clumsy effort that didn’t decrease excitation.
“I think one hand is slipping out!”
Belinda turned and pulled at one end with her teeth, effecting a greater abandon to her lower limbs that the engrossed Patricia rewarded with a flurry of hair and tongue, prolonged handgrip forestalling a return to modesty. All flowed from, all depended upon the split.
Two flesh toys took command of the world that afternoon and never let go their hold on it. Certainly the world had no hold on them although it fought back in an all too common tale where the sunlight would swallow them up if they moved, but they braced themselves and assimilated the shine of things. No more the heedless immersion of before, it seemed a contract for adulthood.
How to tackle their eventual disgust with each other? Patricia resorted to her father’s library, heavy with his smell, and followed where the carpeting seemed more worn than elsewhere and found pay dirt in the first volume she extracted, too much dirt as it proved to concern itself with “what to” rather than “how to”. Normally cautious to imprint, her mind effectively logged each and every Kama Sutra position as essential knowledge with the question remaining as to a suitable partner. This would require some study. Back in her room, she gave it proper due and finished her labours with the darkening of the late afternoon light. Sitting there with her brain as tired as her bottom, she had a lot to think about. First, she itemized her qualities – wondering about her thin calves and whether the globs of fat and flesh higher up would compensate the discriminating teenage eye (she dared not consider anything more elevated). She didn’t discount her toes, or the arch of her unaccountably high foot that she recognized, however much it added to her self-esteem, would require an admirer’s greatest commitment for its discovery; back to her toes – with relief at being past the biting stage. What was left? Flat tummy and a less and less alien outcrop on the chest – something they wanted a lot. So soon that night, she felt ready, reformulated in her mind and ascendent if only from her bed, out her window at two in the morning with the pimp moon, the sailor boy orb – droit de passage in the sky. Her skirt billowed to parachute her – the moon took a glance beneath this falling object.
Wasted on the sleeping city, the streetlights burned silver for her sluttish brain until she herself was a bipedal lamp prowling for a like entity – not unique but original. The streets are never empty, evidence one’s own presence, with doorways faithful to their purpose, and a cat charred as a black heart making its feline choice to cross in front of her. Without recourse, her fear is undeniably brave. He is in an all-night diner and her spine is steel. She doesn’t pause as she reflects – she is like water, infinitely flexible, dealing with shot light. The door’s three steel hinges perform their function never mind how puny is her arm, and she floods in. All of her unidentified strangeness sheathes the immediately familiar: baskets of fries in hot oil, the master chef in stained white. She takes a neighbouring booth, plants her elbows, examines the menu; when no one comes, she goes to the cook guy behind the counter. He attends to her without a moment’s relaxation and the genie acquiesces to the rub of her wishes. With a blink she rejects the thought that enters.
Returned to place, as she waits, it is time for a long exposure. The eyes look up, the mouth speculates, the body rises and brings a cup of coffee with it. She offers up thanks for the considered “It’s okay?” All is normal. Her queenly nod is normal. The meeting of her eyelashes seals two universes and she tilts her head. She could laugh at the comedy of it and at her sense of ease. Unwashed body presents the first difficulty, but she rides with it, focuses on the lapsed hair, the lip’s virgin black down, the gaunt cheeks and, lastly, thankful for the shards of smashed soul mostly in the eyes.