The balcony was as long as the room, around eight meters, but it was quite narrow: when they’d sit on the chairs, they could barely cross their legs. And so they would stretch them out over the railing, wiggle their toes and laugh like children while the wind caressed their feet. The wind almost always blew from the southwest, carrying even more warmth and more humidity. On the balcony they’d have a drink mixed with water before sunset, before taking off onto the streets that were sometimes dirt roads, sometimes wider streets congested with traffic. That one drink before sunset was for him an indicator of how the evening would go: instinctively, almost secretly, he would measure the time they’d need to drink it up; the longer the time, the calmer the evening. It seemed to him that after the first one, the glasses only followed the rhythm they’d set up at the beginning of the evening.
At night, the balcony was lighted by the neighboring lights. He kept asking for it to be fixed, but it seemed that in the land of the beautiful sea and terrible roads this would take a while. One night, he made a promise to her and himself that he would find tools to fix the light on the balcony. So they’d be able to drink like normal people after dinner. She kissed his right temple while the southwest wind tangled up their long hair together. He likes the touch of her lips, the scent of her skin under all the suntan lotion, the shower gel, the cream for her body, hands, feet, everything mingled up with her perfume. He likes it that underneath all that, under that milky way of scents, he can always make out her very own scent, the naked scent of her skin. Just like the first time he woke up beside her: he first gently touched her with his index finger, wanting to make sure she was there, that he wasn’t dreaming of her lying beside him. Then he smelled her. He sniffed her, first once, then descended down the line of her body that slept sideways, sniffing like a dog up and down mountain ridges and valleys, with the thought and desire of going home. Her scent was a guide towards the calmness and the home deep within his chest. Because he had no other home; this woman became his home, this woman deeply settled inside his body.
“I talk to you often, I tell you stories and I describe things… I want you to know all the details that I see and perceive, I want you to know… Usually they are just simple, almost everyday things, but I can’t stop myself from telling you…”
“I know… I talk to you like that sometimes too, when I miss you,” she answers, drinking up her first one.
The inviting night takes them for walks down narrow paths and streets, in search of bars with a view towards the blackness of the open sea, or towards the lights of the city stretching out over the surrounding hills. They drink up the second, third and fourth drink, until they feel hunger. Then they slowly enjoy some food, relishing every bite. She teaches him how to taste things down to the very core, how to keep every morsel of food against the palate, soaking it up slowly, not “like a beast”… He listens and learns the tastes: as if he’d never tasted a galaxy of foods before meeting her. And really, to him food tastes differently when he tastes it with her beside him.That
evening, after passing through some of the bars where they had had felt good the previous night, they decided to go back to their room, to the balcony; to listen to the waves of the sea crashing on the rocks beneath them, to have a little bit more to drink, just a little bit, and to then cuddle up into each other, multiplying the warmth built up in their bodies during the course of the day. Like bricks in an oven, one of them would say, once in a while.
The balcony was dark, but there was a lot of light from the surrounding. Its atmosphere was somehow just right. The wind had changed its course, blowing coolness from the east. Sitting next to each other on the long and narrow balcony, she was looking at his hair, at the wrinkles around his eyes. He was looking at her gooseflesh arms. Her thin, light arm-hair was barely visible, but it was there, upright from the coolness of the wind. He wanted to tell her how much he loves her skin, but he gave up: a man has to be extremely gifted to be able to keep telling his beloved new tender words, without repeating himself. And repetition is just one of the processes that wear out loving, experiencing, living. Wear out life in general, yes.
“You noticed that girl out on the beach today?” she mentioned with a smile.
“She didn’t look too bad.”
“I wasn’t looking at her like that… I saw her back, her white skin, her red hair against that goddammned white skin… and the line from her neck to her chin, when she turned a little to face the wind… If I didn’t know you were lying beside me, I’d think that I was imagining you again in other women while I miss you…”
“… Those are pretty words…”
“It may be a habit: looking around for you, in everything and every woman, even when you’re next to me.”
“I’m with you…”
“… I know…”
“Maybe that’s why I grew this belly, so there’s room for you…”
Her tinkling, gentle laughter, strong enough to fill several domes.
Then the music underneath them roared: there was a big pool and patio there. The music boomed suddenly. It wasn’t music they’d listen to. They looked at each other, made a toast with their eyes and took a sip. The music continued, loud and foreign, strange…
Suddenly, amid the cacophony of unknown languages and strange sounds, she stood up and started dancing. On the narrow balcony. He sat there with the glass in his hand, staring at her. She swayed to the rhythm of the music underneath them, looking at her lively feet, her hands curling about as if dancing on their own, not forgetting to smile at him every time their eyes met.
Her dance: a steady sway, strong enough to fill several skulls. The neighboring lights multiplied her shadow, her arms doubled, like an Indian goddess.
“It’s a wedding,” he said.
dancing. To the music they’d never listen to. To the music that sounded alright to him just then. While he watched her dancing.
“Shall we go?” she suggested, finishing the drink.
“We don’t have a gift, and it’s a wedding.”
“Hell, a gift.”
He also finished his drink. He knew that in a moment one of them would pour another. The sweet habits of their life together…
“We do, of course we do!”
“That perfume of mine, remember? It’s still wrapped! We can give it to the bride!”
He didn’t like the idea that some stupid groom would enjoy the perfume of his beloved. And probably he won’t, surely he won’t: which newly-wed couple would rummage through the gifts, and what’s more, unwrap them, look at them, use them? Nonetheless: some wet-behind-the-ears ape would eventually enjoy the scent he considered exclusively theirs.
They put on some clothes, took the perfume, took a bottle for themselves (I’m sure they don’t have our drink at that half-ass wedding, he said, and he hated mixing drinks because it mixed up his mind) and ceremoniously left.
They barged in at the beat of the loud music, almost dancing while pushing their way towards the table of the newlyweds. The wedding guests were eyeing them, but they cheerfully approached the table, congratulated the couple. The bride offered her cheek out of habit, the groom, barely able to stand after getting up as if lifted by a crane, gave them a limp handshake and collapsed back into his chair. The bride carelessly put the perfume on top of the heap of gifts. She didn’t even look at it.
The music roared around them, new music, unusual, unknown… And yet, familiar, wedding-like, deed-a-riddle, bum-brrum, oompah-oompah… They joined the crowd of sweaty wedding-guests and started dancing, following their movements. They were trying to blend in. They left their bottle on the neighboring table, they danced, he asked the waiter for a bucket of ice, two large bottles of water, glasses… they drank and danced. When the wedding guests broke glasses, they cheered. They looked at each other with smiles on their lips, they toasted to one another, they kissed amidst the drunken, dancing wedding guests… They felt at home, though they hardly understood a word.The bot
tle went quickly, too quickly. The hosts, by then acting cordially with them as if they were close family members, immediately tried to find a replacement. They gave them a bottle of transparent rakia (grape rakia, goddamn it, he realized at the first sniff), knocking their glasses against theirs, their eyes full of wonder and questions: how can you drink so much, how can this witch hold her liquor more than our men, how can this drunk man not look at our women, all made up and pretty, why does he not take his eyes off this white-skinned, freckled young woman… Their women began to wonder how their men so openly cannot take their eyes off the young woman… For shame… She’s a witch… Tut-tut.
They drank more and more, the rakia blurring their vision… She could barely make him out in the crowd of drunken wedding guests, he could barely manage to shake off the heavy, sweaty, hairy arms which relentlessly tried to embrace him and pat him on the shoulders… The reasons for this overfamiliarity were clear to him, but not acceptable, although he was getting drunker and drunker.
She disappeared suddenly, like a twitch in a sleeping eye. He started looking for her. He struggled through a forest of arms, amidst the smell of garlic, rakia and sweat, the noise resounding in his head, afraid that she had gotten sick, that now she is vomiting somewhere alone, turning her stomach inside out with him not there to hold her. He just walked on and on, like an enchanted sleepwalker. His head started clearing up, but his body was as sluggish as a wet sponge…
He saw her leaning against someone, walking towards the coast, farther off from the wedding. He was glad he had found her, there and then. He walked on, trying not to stumble over. It appeared to him now that rather than walking together, the man was dragging her. He managed to reach them, he somehow managed to reach them.
“Hey,” he said when he was a couple of steps behind them.
She heard his voice, she turned around.
“Hey… where have you been?” she said, smiling.
Their tongues were heavy, their tongues were heavy like desire and insomnia.
“Come on… Let’s go,” he mumbled.
“I’m coming… isn’t this our direction?”
“No, it’s this way… come with me…”
“I’m with you, I’m holding your hand.”
“No…no! That’s not me!”
The guy dragging her felt he needed to contribute to the conversation. He left her standing alone, staggering, and headed towards him. His speech was incomprehensible, and somehow hostile.
“No!” he said while he saw her looking for something to lean on, just about to fall.
“Hey!” she whispered, slowly heading towards him.
The man who had been dragging her was quick, he was quick like lightning, he struck at his face.
First there were the stars. Then pain in the forehead, in the temples. It throbbed like a compressor. Then there were her eyes.
“Are you going to get up, sunshine?”
The earth was suddenly hard, cruel. Her palms, her words: that was soft. Gentle.
Her scent: it seeps into the blood, overcomes all other scents.
Her scent, while she puts several pieces of ice on his right temple.
He turns his gaze towards the balcony door. Dawn is coming. She sleeps beside him. She holds his right hand with both palms. Her fingers are intertwined with his, she is embedded inside him. She breathes next to his body, dressed in her summer evening dress. Her cheeks are pale, her lips tremble wearily. Every once in a while, when her muscles relax during the first stages of sleep, there would be a small, uncontrolled jerk of her legs.
“You’re so beautiful… You’re so beautiful,” he whispers to her, grateful for everything in this world.