You Were Lost Within My Sights (Lara S. Williams)
We flattened ourselves between the soupy heat shimmer and sharp yellow stalks running down the hill toward Cooma Presbyterian Church. Ants made ladders of our ankles, leaving bubble bites in landmarks. You held Melville in your hands like a bible and pored over the words with little gasping sighs. Wedding bells rang and rang in circles.
The bride wore grey, a detail I liked but you turned your nose up. I wanted to protect her small and pointed limbs.
‘She’s not lying. It is what it is and it looks like that.’
‘She’s not pretty enough to wear something so plain. Colour does wonders for a poor complexion.’ You closed your book, cover torn almost to separation, and folded up onto your elbows. ‘You wouldn’t want me to wear grey. You would want white.’
‘I would want you.’
‘In your skin.’
They kissed and bowed their heads beneath stiff rice and paper shredded into circles. He held her hand and she dropped it and touched the shoulder of a guest and he took it again. It was hot; their images bled into the crowd at the church steps but they stood still, faces turned to the horse and milk cart soaked in ribbons and punctured cans.
You kept reading and I watched as they climbed in and he put a hand to her cheek, she turned her head away, and a man, her father or uncle, passed money up into her hand.
‘They’re not in love.’
‘Nor was Hemingway.’
‘He loved money and prestige.’ I reached across your perfectly perfumed wrist and took the book from your lap. ‘He’s the one you should be reading.’
‘Should and didn’t and will one day far from now.’
‘Let’s walk. Get out of the shade.’
We left the book and rug and the empty malbec bottle and walked south, over the wire fences clung with sheep fleece dry and tufting in the beautiful stillness of air. You had a long gait best suited to rough hillocks and holes and cracked mounds of cow shit. Our feet stank. We walked along the property perimeter, church to our backs.
‘Why would people get married out here?’ you said. ‘There’s nothing to see.’
‘It’s sublime. It smells like things living.’
There were the bones of a cow crumpled around an empty post hole in the earth. You picked up a rib, longer than your longest silences, and held it straight from your sternum, touching it to mine.
‘This is death. This place, those smells, are things dying. Every day. And people who come here,’ you pointed to the cart dusting its way up hill, ‘to start lives are really just tying themselves to the inevitable date when they will exhale and ash and disappear.’
I pulled you close and the bone twisted and was swallowed between our chests. ‘But they will die together.’
‘Die, die, die.’ You stepped away, your rib falling around our feet. We kicked away from the fence and you wouldn’t let me rest my arm on your shoulders. I could hear crows screaming and the sun was so clear the slide clip in your hair was forced to shine. I wanted to smooth the lines in your forehead.
‘You won’t be like this forever, will you?’ I asked.
‘What we saw back there, that was honesty. You are pessimistic.’
‘I wanted to drink and read and say little.’
‘This isn’t a place to say little. We are huge here. This is huge and you are ruining yourself trying to be small.’
‘Is that why your brought me here? To be stretched and filled?’
‘To see love.’
‘They weren’t in love.’
‘I’m not talking about them. What about this?’ I gestured but you wouldn’t look and I hated you for it. Everything was yellow and brown and blue like a larger, brighter Monet and individual trees were inked on the hills where I could see the leaves and their every pointed stalk.
‘It’s empty, hot. It’s just land. There’s nothing beneath this.’ You picked up a handful of dirt and spread it up your forearm.
‘You make yourself ugly.’
‘I am what I am, hideous and handsome.’
I laughed and your teeth shone. We hugged and I told you again to read Hemingway. You said he was dead and had nothing to say for this new world.