Next morning I leave a note on Alaia’s door saying “At picnic”, sneak out of the Metropolitan and set off for Pippa’s high-rise. The morning is sunny and hot, yet when Pippa opens the door she is dressed in what I’m coming to recognise as her trademark outfit, having seen her in two differently-coloured versions of the same thing—a clean dark-green sweatshirt and matching dark-green sweatpants, with the same short black silk gloves. Her long hours of fitful sleep and fevered non-sleep, of which I saw a brief slice last night, have left her looking exhausted. Her presence feels, for want of a better word, scraped. She seems eager at the prospect of our picnic, however, and we set off towards the beach, carrying plastic bags and finding it entirely comfortable to say almost nothing to each other.
Coming down Second Avenue, we see Evelyn on the left. Before she notices us, a voice calls her name. She turns to see Flames outside the deli on Kingsley Street on the sunny pavement, making eyes at her, and I sense a bit of history flickering between them. From her body language, her unspoken thought would seem to be: You wish, don’t you, Flames. “Hi Flames!” she breezes … and I can see your memory of your very first meeting, when you knew that he saw you as wild, free and self-sufficient, walking with a sway through the beauty of the night, like a part of the night itself—a sweet, sexy woman whom he passed at a corner. The second time he saw you, you were parked in your van with the door open, staring through the windscreen in thought. On your pale brown skin a simple golden band necklace hung and flashed in the sunlight, and when you saw him watching you, from some way away, you knew what he was thinking: Oh girl, he was thinking, how beautiful you are. You smiled through the windscreen and touched your golden band. He saw you as embodying how lovingness and warmth could exist in a natural and instinctive form, whatever kind of place it found itself; and when he looked in your eyes, then he felt plugged in to a warm electric fountain of rich brown light.
Your awareness of him grew, then, slow and sure, until a gorgeous realisation came to you: you wanted to look at only one of those around you, who wanted to look at you alone—Flames Alleyne. You loved the way he moved. When your gazes met, you loved the kiss in his eyes that were the colour of an earthenware coffee-pot. He sounded golden, when he spoke. You knew that this was way premature, but in your mind you tried the magic word boyfriend and felt its warmth. His dark sensuality and sharp edge of wildness bewitched you.
So, before too long, the morning sun streamed, hot and seeping, through the open bedroom window as you both woke, sleep-warm. Breathe in the sky! In a horizontal talk you informed him, later: “It’s amazing, but from age twelve until now, aged twenty-five, every single period of mine has started one or two days past the full moon. It’s strange, I guess.” And so it went, and then for a while you made music, as you’re happy to recall, looking back upon the two of you in various scenarios: as good friends, laughing; as lovers, under neon or in bed (milky meat of coconut, with pomegranate glaze); or as sensuously deep appreciators of the simple deliciousness of those hot croissants and butter, that morning after that drunken night.
And by and by it ended, too, having run its course. “You know,” you told your sister on the phone, “whenever I suggested an idea of my own, I could see Flames wondering if I wasn’t turning lesbian: he says they’re the only women who are allowed to have ideas of their own.”
Nonetheless, it was a precious and important chapter in both your lives, if brief. You won’t be spending time alone together any more; but you know that he remembers, he knows that you remember, and you’ll each take the memory of the other to your deathbed.
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