Eye of the storm

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The two women had sat for most of the morning and early afternoon on the sofa, smoking and drinking whisky in paper cups.

 

“Clarissa, you’re an angel, a star, to have come. To be quite honest with you, getting drunk is the only thing I have on my mind, now.”

“Is there ice?”

“No, Clarissa. I don’t think so. Come inside, out of the rain. You can leave your umbrella in the foyer.”

“Won’t it get the floor all wet?”

“Oh, well. It doesn’t really matter, Clarissa. The housekeeper is coming tomorrow, anyway. Well, give me a hug. Don’t let us act as if we were strangers. I’m glad I telephoned you.”

“I didn’t want you to be alone. Nobody should be alone when something like this happens.”

 

“Just like people. All people have an agenda.”

“Are you sad about what happened, that the two of you don’t talk anymore, like you did as inseparable children?”

“I don’t care. I don’t care about her shallow relationships. I don’t care that she doesn’t respect my time. I don’t care about her European lovers.”

“You do, if you say it like that. This is only faith speaking to me. You must see the transparent. Once, she was graceful. She moved in the world effortlessly. You should forgive her. This hurt, this bitterness, this regret will kill you, harm you. I’m only saying this for your own good.”

 

“I hate her now, you know. She wasn’t always like this. I remember when she was scared of the dark. I remember when everything in my world was cold. Even her words; and one look from her was laced with winter. Snow flows like a rivulet in her blood, behind her every gaze. For sure, I loved her once, but what did I love, Clarissa, what did I really love? She doesn’t care for me. She thinks that she’s going to live forever in her Prague, hidden away from the world, our world, with her fur babies, fur children. Those two slobbering dogs of hers that are so attached to her.”

“Are you jealous of her? Did you ever think of scratching that itch to find out what is beneath the surface tension of it all?”

“Sometimes I don’t know the answer to that question.”

 

“Is it because she’s beautiful?”

“I don’t know. I guess I don’t see her the way other people see her. There are times when I love her so much that it hurts. That’s when it gets difficult to breathe, difficult to think straight. But, I have to let go of all my hurt and wounded feelings, and the fact that I’m an outsider to her. She would have used the word “interloper”. I’m really good at this. Distracting you from what you really wanted to come and talk to me about. Can I hold your hand, Clarissa?”

“Yes, if you want to. If it will help.”

 

“Well, my sister – she moves in the world like a volcano woman, as if she were on fire, you know. She moves in the same way that she speaks, and this defines her fake persona, her fake personality. She has no character. She has no norms. She has no values, and she’s also bitten by alcoholism. She drinks wine as if it were Pepsi. Like I said, she’s a volcano woman when you meet her for the first time. You don’t see her truth. It’s like an invisible bird-shield around her, and no one can come into contact with her because of that. There was this one time she slept with this American from Oregon. He was just passing through Johannesburg. She thought he was the one. She thought that he was going to save her.

 

“I think of her, and then I think of all these men, these pseudo-relationships. As if she could go up in flames, turning everything around her in her natural environment into ash. Yes, and for the longest time, I thought that that was that. It gave me something to play with.”

“But, you’re doing okay now?”

“Do I not seem okay? I’m talking about her as if she were still alive.”

“No, not really. I think that you want me to be honest with you and not keep anything from you.”

“Kiss me, Clarissa.”

“You’re making me nervous. You know that I’m with someone. I’m married now, and I take the vows I took seriously.”

 

“Yes, so you say, but you still came when I telephoned you to tell you the news that my sister had taken her own life. You’ve been with other women.”

“Oh, that was years ago. I was with women when I was in university. Do you want a drink of water, coffee, tea or sushi? I can order something for us to eat. You must be famished. We’ve been sitting here like this for hours.”

“You weren’t with me, Clarissa, or have you forgotten that?”

“No, Miranda, I haven’t forgotten.”

“Yes, water will be fine. Yes, you’re right. It will be dark out, soon. I wish that you could stay.”

 

“I wish I could.”

“Stay with me; do you know what I wish? I wish that we could be like this forever. There’s a law now – perhaps you’ve heard of it – that says a woman can get married to another woman.”

“I’m happy in my own way, Miranda. What is ‘happy’, anyway, right? It never really worked out between us.”

“Once, there was a Clarissa and Miranda madly in love with each other. And yet, Clarissa, you’re still a child. You’re reckless and play the innocent with my heart. So it goes with all the women in my life. All they seem to do is play crooked, hungry little games with my heart.”

 

“If you wanted me to come here just so that you could say mean things to me, to my face, to hurt me, Miranda, do you want me to leave?”

“You know me, by now. I only hurt the ones I love completely. No, Clarissa, you know how badly I want you to stay. There’s so much wasted time that I want to make up for. So, Lloyd makes you happy, then? Well, Clarissa, just so you know, I have admired you from afar. I have always admired you from afar. Keep it as you would a note in your pocket.”

“Lloyd has his moments.”

“Yes, I’m sure he does have his moments. You’re a pastor’s wife, now. I’m sure not one of your exes could believe that. You still take my breath away each time I look at your face, Clarissa.”

“I wish you wouldn’t.”

 

“Spend the night with me, Clarissa. Embrace me; let me feel your love. Let me cling to the impossible dream of you.”

“In another world, Ming, we would have been together.”

“I know. I know that on so many levels. You remembered.”

“Yes, I remember. I remember everything, Ming.”

“You only called me that in another life.”

“Yes, more than an eternity – more than a lifetime – ago.”

“If you want me to stay, Ming, I’ll stay with you.”

 

“And, if Lloyd needs you?”

“Lloyd is a grown man. He can take care of himself. He can fend for himself.”

“And the children? We could have had children, too.”

“Yes, Ming, we could have had children. The children are teenagers; they can heat something up in the microwave if they’re hungry. You need me, Ming.”

“Yes, yes, yes, I do need you, Clarissa. Now, will you kiss me? Turn your head and look at me, so I can stroke your cheek. Come down from where you are; come down from your house, your horse, your wedding carriage, your mountain of mountains. Your mouth is a summer in New York.”

 

They took off their clothes in the dark of the bedroom. Clarissa unhooked her brassiere before pulling her sweater up over her head. Miranda was wearing a long skirt that touched her ankles and a blouse tucked into it. Clarissa was feeling nervous, in a way, as if she had never done this before. As if she had never kissed a woman before. Even in the dark, she could feel Miranda’s eyes on her, watching her slow and careful movements. When Miranda kissed Clarissa, it felt as if a river came rushing over her – a waterfall. Clarissa’s lips were warm and tasted of the whisky that had helped both women overcome their shyness and inhibitions. Miranda kissed Clarissa’s neck. Miranda’s mouth was dry. The spark was lit. They could not go back to just sitting on the sofa, drinking whisky, smoking menthols and pretending that they didn’t have a history.

 

“You still taste like vanilla. Confess, Clarissa. Don’t I make you happy?”

“Oh, we all have fears.”

“I didn’t use that word, “fear”. I used the word “happy”.

“Yes, Ming, you make me happy.” Clarissa smiled in the dark as Miranda stroked her bottom lip with a finger.

“This is our last night together. Did I ever tell you about Santa Barbara? How much I loved that soap?”

“We have all the time in the world. You can tell me all about it, now.”

“I wanted to have blonde hair like Robin Wright, who is in that show, House of cards, now.”

 

“Give me your hands.”

“Why, Clarissa?”

“I want to pray for you.”

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