It was like love at first sight. She, by stenciled cap, Another Christian Mom for Nixon! enrobed in coke and thrift store polyester, with hands that rose like startled birds from her lap. I was Death, I said, as played by Henry Kissinger, and aimed an unwrapped stogie between her breasts.
Our courtship lasted for hours.
The house, foggy, an old farmer’s place newly rented, off a gravel road marked with an arrow and a bright-eyed Buddha on a stump, deep in conversation with the Invisible.
Heavy furniture, tall black windows cold to the touch of our foreheads as we cheered our host’s root-heaved patio, graced with a table: an abandoned shirt fluttering on a limb, the slowly turning pages of a magazine, as if a séance were underway.
In the parlor, beneath a picture of Angela Davis, perhaps, a shouted chat. Beery kisses. Our little todentanz, a deux, from room to candlelit room.
Her hair, red, a bonfire to roast my innocent fingers in. Crates of paperbacks, smelling of mice. That couch.
And then the kitchen, where the forgotten photographer evidently found us: stiff-backed, side by side, hands blurred in mid-ascent, as if caught in the act of plucking with questionable fingers morsels of quiche or pumpkin pie from the untouched feast before us, mouths ajar in guilty protestation or just the dazed look of about to be lovers.
In the background, a boy in a crushed velvet cape strides confidently into the future, stage right, followed by a cat with a silver bell at its throat. (One nameless, both dead.) As we too will soon be making our exit, through an orange and black crepe paper curtain, a shadow and a shadow mounting hardwood stairs to one of paradise’s little slant-roofed bedrooms, where, with a glance at the narrow, crumb-strewn bed, we’ll decide to do it stand- ing up, at the mirrored dresser, our absent roommate’s pocket change making a sound like faint applause, as we lean into it.
My face like another moon over her shoulder she’ll say, later, each of us eying a slice of red velvet cake in a tractor beam of refrigerator light, and shivering at the same time as a sudden draft sets the cardboard skeleton in the doorway doing a jig.