The kingdom is gone. The people have died. National Geographic takes pictures, OCT, $2.83.
| With him, words are always said from three inches apart.
Any more, and one or both of us aren’t listening. Any less, and there’s nothing to say, or no means to say them with. Three inches is the best distance to be talking.
I’ve never seen his face because I’ve never looked up. My whole mental mugshot of him is blurry and indistinct, like an over-exposed photograph, but I know where everything is. Keeping very quiet and still, I don’t close my eyes while his lips move over mine. Flesh-colored fractal patterns line the edges of his Roman features.
Not that it matters, but Oregon October is raining. Puddles form at my feet, our feet, but in the darkness, who can tell?
He lifts my shirt, and in the outright absurdity of what we’re doing, I laugh. It’s a defiant, closed-mouth ‘ha’. Whether he heard it or not, I’ll never know, but we’re so close to the concrete wall that we could be painted on.
So much water has come through that he’s standing ankle-deep in the Gulf of Naples. Me, I don’t know where I am, maybe somewhere in mid-Spring Hawaii. Exotic, lukewarm waters. Small fragments of color shift in the darkness, ever-changing.
His filmy dark eyes move across my abdomen in ancient manifest destiny, staking claim on what had before been uncharted land. Hand, head, body, all of his collective shapes branch off endlessly into nothing. Without regard to native life, he’s three inches from my navel when he says, “What’s this?”
I don’t see his face. I don’t ever see his face. My breathing stops as he examines the characters, written in thick black marker but faded from a few days’ wear. I’m not looking, and he isn’t, either. Not anymore. It’s written like an expiration date in bold, capital letters.
Vesuvian winter has fallen on his, our, Pompeii. He steps out from under the cover. Rain like ash catches on the crest of his cheek, it grays his young black hair.
Oh, he was buried in the rubble and tephra. If only I could have seen it, a portrait of sacred and lost eroticism on the stone walls of night. I must have been looking at something divine.