The Last Morning

Annie Spratt

You know how a cat will suddenly sit up and focus intently on nothing? Like its seeing ghosts or things that only it has the ability to see? And it will then stalk off in a random direction towards a point in space, all its senses bent on…? That was suddenly Jennifer. She sat propped up against the headboard, encased in a reliquary of pillows and linen, a tendril of her dark walnut hair caught between her thumb and finger, slowly twisting, and her eyes focused on a point in space six or eight inches above her bent left knee. Unlike the cat, however, Jennifer’s projected self wasn’t at her point of ocular focus. She was inside, right behind her eyes, in dark contemplation.

To ask “what are you thinking?” is such an intrusion. Being with someone who is comfortable enough and secure enough to be silent with you, to not speak and hide themselves behind a flow of words and just exist next to you, is a gift. Allowing someone to drift in and out of the layers of their existence, to not demand or require their constant presence, is a gift in return. So I didn’t ask. I did take the opportunity to draw myself in next to her arm while she was absent from her body and from our physical space together.

In bed and intimate places, distances contract. Inches become leagues. And my advance into her closest personal space from the vast distance of a foot and a half felt like the traverse of three climatic zones: temperate to subtropical to tropical. Lying on my side next to her, with my head on her arm, allowed me to reach out and touch her. Again. Her left knee pointing at the ceiling had her lace hem sliding down into her lap, her thigh exposed. I traced the line from the crux of her knee: traveled across her yastus medialis to the highway of the sartorius then to the gracilus; all those Latin words to describe a dancer’s power and grace wrapped in a sheath of softest milk. My journey ended in the pool of antique white spider’s tracery and silver satin that framed her hips and her pelvis and where her athleticism and physicality and emotional intelligence and warmth converged into a coherent place on her map. One of those hers of her.

My touch roused her back to the place where I was, but didn’t arouse her, that was in the recent rearview mirror. Now she was simply deeply relaxed, as was I. She smiled and shifted and gracefully uncurled out of the bed, adjusting her silver slip back into place, and glided through the archway into the kitchen and began the ablution of the coffee maker and the ritual of caffeine. I caught the scent of her as she escaped; her smell was cotton and the wind off the sea and the pages of books, but now her smell had been emulsified with the scents of sweet muskiness and sweat of sex and me.

rolled into her ghost; the warm indention in the bed next to me she left behind so I wouldn’t be lonely and forget her, and gathered her pillow into my face and breathed her into my lungs deeply, and I watched her. She had to go dance, to prepare to dance at least. She had an important audition at the end of the week, and I could only assume that was what had caused the increasingly common moments where I would watch as she receded away into herself, behind her eyes. Because of the audition and the necessary work, we were up early everyday, usually before the sun. This morning was different, at least a bit; that twist below our abdomens and the urgency in our primitive brains had risen in both of us before the sun had and we’d fucked each other through the sudden coming of Joni Mitchell’s “Song For Sharon” That had randomly been chosen by the CD alarm. And now I watched from her bed as she went about making her coffee in the kitchen as the sun came rolling and tumbling and shouting like an excited child through her east-facing kitchen window.

She would pass now and again across the river of sunlight, and when she did her slip would ignite in a radiant transparency and she would be revealed; naked, soft and hard contradictions shining in a golden corona, like an angel of inconsistency and unpredictability and refuge. Joni had moved on to “Coyote”, and Jennifer stalked like that ghost-seeing cat along the smell of coffee and back up the stream of the song into the bedroom balancing two cups. I propped myself up and received her offering, and she silently slipped into the bathroom and the driving rain of the shower.

Joni had gotten a year older and had decided to sing “The Silky Veils Of Ardor” to me alone. I drank my coffee and looked at a poster of Margot Fonteyn, frozen in unspeakable grace and hung like a constellation of a dancer, and at a pair of nearly worn-out blush-colored toe shoes in an eggshell colored box on her dresser, and a vision of her poor feet, looking like something you’d expect to see on a wrestler, brutalized, came into my head. I put my cup down next to the book I’d brought her, Neruda love poems, that sat virginally on the table beside the bed.

Presently the shower stopped and she issued from the bathroom, hopeful arms of steam reaching in vain after her. I watched while she wrapped herself in a silk kimono, like something from Degas: green and lavender and gold and lapis. She wound a ribbon around her waist, the waist of a boa constrictor I’d laughed when I first was allowed to fully touch that part of her, the powerful core of something feral. She felt like a lamia when she was given over to desire and sometimes I felt she might wrap around my body and crush me while lost in her fervor.

She then floated back onto the bed: a serpent of warm milk. I looked up into the serpent’s eyes, a sparkling liquid green, and her warm milk turned into porcelain.

“Hey, listen.” She said. “We need to talk.”

Jim Naremore is a new, emerging writer who’s first novel, The Arts Of Legerdemain As Taught By Ghosts, has recently been signed for publication by Belle Lutte Press. His most recent short fiction, “Jeffery”, will appear in the spring 2016 issue of Emrys Journal. Jim lives and writes in Indianapolis under the dispassionate eye of a thirty-foot high mural of Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut.