Unforgettable

by Dominique Margolis

            You sent me a photo of you naked, looking away, your face half-hidden by your hair, your hair as long as mine but covering half your face, your hair black as crow feathers under an implacable sun that crushes blue out of its reflections.

            Your skin is the color of the bread that I never ate, perfectly golden, in no need of the sun to refine its patina, a few shades darker than mine, our two skins swirls of ochre off the High Road to Taos.

            You are still in Santa Fe, and my dog and I moved west for a job and to forget you, but you had to have my new address a thousand miles away.

            You were for me, then within reach, further than physical distance. And yet, how can I not feel you closer than my eyelashes as my fingers scout a path back and forth along the muscles of your arms?

            How do I stop lighting the fire that you lit over there, naked under a rainbow in a sea of wild sage?

            Why, tell me, why do I love you so? We never even kissed! Once, before the slow unfurling of the wings of our embrace, we remained in their downy crux and drank from the minute space between our lips.

            But now, what do I do with that icy, glossy photo of you looking away?

            And who took the photo?

           

            It does not matter who did. And if you had sent me a picture of you having sex with her, and if I could see her face, perhaps, then, by scrutinizing the way she did not see you, I could understand why you keep flying towards my heart and closer, still, to that place where my face, hidden under my hair, meets yours.

#

            "Do this test," you had told me the first time we had met.

            It was a psychological test. You had asked me questions and checked tiny boxes on the hood of my old Jeep. I had kept answering you almost thoughtlessly while peeling bits of chipped gray paint.

            "That's what I thought!" you’d exclaimed, brandishing the crumpled piece of paper. "We flew too close to the blue planet and our saucers crashed. Bad technology!”

            I had burst out laughing. It was summer. You were wearing a gray tank top like the skin of a dolphin’s belly. I could see the tips of your scars, battle scars like blades of prairie grass. "We are damaged goods," you had continued, "mutants who can live only with their hearts in the stars and their feet off the ugly. But people think that we are more stoic than old Greeks. Go figure!”

            Pearls of sweat had been forming in the hollow of your clavicles and shone like snow in the moonlight. I had wanted to say something mundane, something to erase the truth that your words had squeezed out, something that could make us trot away like two children hand in hand under the sun of a new day, but you had needed to leave, so I had stammered a few platitudes about the stars when suddenly, urgently, you had embraced me.

            The sun had been bouncing off the window of the health food store in front of which my car had been parked all along. Our entwined images had hopped onto the refracted rays towards the heart of Santa Fe. Halfway there, you had released me on the branch of a promise to see each other further north the following week, to see each other on your piece of land off the High Road to Taos. And on that piece of land was where we had met again.

#

            We had arrived at almost the same time. My dog was with me. He jumped on you and welcomed you with a lick. He had never acted that way towards a stranger. People who did not like us said that we were alike, the two of us, not the friendly type.

            I wanted to look inside the roofless adobe ruin in front of which we had parked, but you were in a hurry. “Come on, come…” you kept repeating. “Come on.”

            You were leading the way. My dog was tailing. I was in between the two of you. It was a narrow, uphill path. The vegetation was so dense that I could see nothing but leaves, bark, and earth and you walking ahead of me, your gait as supple as that of a mountain lion.

            I wanted to go back down, but my body refused to turn around, and my dog would not have followed, I could tell from the look in his eyes. Piñon branches kept scratching my forehead, threatening to blind me while I kept walking, eyes nearly shut.

            There were elk footprints in the clay soil. So precise were their outlines that they looked frozen in time, and yet they crumbled like old bones under the pressure of your heels even as you tried to avoid them. In turn, the dust particles mingled with piñon sap and with the spiciness of your scent.

            If you had been a wild animal, I could have stopped to thank heaven, the gods, even the ones whose existence I could not remember, thank them for putting me on the trail of a magnificent but chimerical animal who slowed down when I wanted to touch its flanks as if it could read my thoughts, without discouraging me.

            Until you stopped so abruptly that I ran into you. Fast as lightning, you pressed your whole body against mine, your whole body.

            There was the sound of thunder inside me, and then the sound of our sunglasses colliding, and then… the sound of thunder in the distance.

            We were in a sea of wild sage, like in the photo, but there was no rainbow.

            You sat next to my dog and gave him a piece of cheese. And I felt like an outsider.

            “We could have driven,” you remarked. “There’s another trail for off-roaders, but I wanted to show you… »

#

            I never knew what you wanted to show me. Do I have to decipher it on your skin still glowing under the softer sun of my memory or in the photo that you sent me? Was it the rainbow that should have been there, then, instead of in the photo?

            In this sea of wild sage, you looked like a spirit coming out of the clouds up that steep trail and riding the wind on your way back to earth, the wind twirling in your hair, your hair long and black like your dark glasses, like my dark glasses that were too heavy on the wings of my nose. So why talk about the tenderness of my memory when I cannot speak of our gentle gaze but only of the relentless sun reflecting off the silver feather that you wore as an earring?

            Perhaps you already knew that the manager of the health food store in front of which we had first met had told me that the woman with whom you lived had attempted suicide when you had tried to leave her. Perhaps you already knew that the manager had told me that you had not had the heart to leave, after that, and that you were still sharing the same adobe. “It’s a shame,” she had told me, as I was looking for a few coins at the bottom of my purse to pay for two pounds of organic carrots, “because from inside, from my cash register, cross my heart and hope to die, I saw love at first sight. You and Lee both shone brighter than the August sun, like two people electrocuted.”

About the Author

Dominique Margolis is an emerging immigrant author who grew up in rural France, moved to the USA as an adult, learned English as a foreign language, and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Denver. Her prose is published in French in Anna Evans’ Communication Intuitive – Rencontre avec le Monde Animal (ALMP, 2004)). In English, her prose was recently published in The Nasiona, The Centifictionist, and The Dillydoun Review.