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It's A Long Way Down

June 5, 2017

Her husband doesn’t call anymore. We leave our phones in the room now anyway. Too many pretty people here. White pebbles and locals raised in a land without modesty. She takes her top off like all of the other girls, lies diagonally to the water. Evenly tanned chests lap up the brutal rays. A joint sticky with sunscreen and a wet copy of Cat’s Cradle. The pages smell like sea salt. She asks me if I can afford another two Coronas. I tell her I’m broke; it’s time to go home. She says that she’s broken; she’s never going home. Lies and lies and lies and lies.

It took me too long to learn her name. She knows this. I had to ask for the last time last week. Two towns ago. A little coffee shop in the Jewish Quarter. A honey cake I bought her because this city is known for them. She says that hers are better. I don’t believe her. She stirs her black coffee without reason. Without blinking. I justify my work for the Galactic Empire. She tries to explain what the food is like in Ljubljana but never comes close to convincing me she was really there. I tell her it takes more than miles to get away from what we’re leaving behind. No response.

Several evenings later. Air thick with the sound of insects celebrating the sleeping sun. She reclines against weathered steps. A harbor infested with the stern lights of a hundred sailboats. They sit in perfect circles of turquoise. A man with loose skin, worn like ox leather, passes along the sidewalk above us. Our lips are quiet. Limbs of assassins. He hums something that sounds like some song from La bohème. We go unnoticed. She hikes her skirt up, confesses that she told her husband about me. No idea how to handle this. She claims that their relationship makes for certain allowances. She hikes her skirt up a little more, says we can talk about it later. I hope we don’t.

Wild boar sausage in spicy mustard. Dalmatian wine bought from the alleyway line. Crammed against a narrow counter against an open kitchen. A menu written on loose leaf, errant items scratched out. No one is having fish tonight. The chef jokes in broken English. His laughter splits her open. Fill her glass. She is putty. Fill her glass. The flames hiss, reflect off every wall, bloom around his hurried blades. He sweats into our lamb. I’ve never had lamb so good.

There is a castle on top of a hill. There is a bridge below it. Hands in hands pruned by Bohemian beer. There is a boy pinning a girl against a stone wall six hundred years old. There is a sinking ball of fire that will one day swallow them up. Mighty river she wants to swim in. I say we are drowning fine on our own. There are pickpockets smoking cigarettes. Street vendors and carefully crafted small talk. There are blue lights beneath the dance floor. Tourists lost on a side street. We send them in the wrong direction. We laugh until we are mad. She asks if I remember the time we sent those tourists in the wrong direction. There are endless plates of cheese. She throws coins at my head because she wants me to feel cheap and used. There are twenty toes curled against the headboard of a rickety bed. I think it’s broken now. There are nights and nights and nights and nights.

Two cocktails for the price of four. An empty bowl of olives because we can’t pay for dinner too. The waiter asks what we’re having and she tells him a quarter-life crisis. He says he’ll see if the bartender knows that one. Vacant chairs when he returns. A half-melted cup of lemon gelato and a bottle Prosecco flirting with the surf. She shows me a photo of him. Broad shoulders and hands that look like they hurt as much as she says they do. We lay back and she cries on my chest for several years. She wants to top off the ocean. I try to find the words but realize they don’t exist yet. I stare up at the stars and remember that we are nothing.

An hour into the Adriatic. Speed boat tickets for 140 euro. In a one-piece that hides less than two, she slides her hands along the skipper’s abs. I pull down my shades and wink at him so he gets that I am disposable. A set of newlyweds bathed in zinc. Wife wears a hot pink visor and Husband never removes his shirt. They hold our plastic flutes while we dive into the lagoon. To them, we are bronzed and godlike. Behind a clump of bushes on the far side of the cove. Fingers held tight to skin by spandex. She comes the hardest whenever I remind her that she’s married. She tells me that I will never see a more immaculate beach. This haunts me.

A skeleton shakes his hourglass at midnight. A pair of kids who ditched the pub crawl. I teach her how to two-step across X’s that mark where twenty-seven noble men were executed. Their heads hung in baskets for two decades. A stranger offers us a bump. Now she wants to run forever. I tear after her across the abandoned square. Hand cupped over the top of her gin and tonic, she shouts that she’s heading south from here. I lose my footing and fall, leave a faint red streak across the cobblestone. Here now I am for always.

Rocks like razors. Bare feet and a slick palm on my shoulder blade. Marching. We are marching up the cliffside. I imagined a city rising out of the sea and now that city has come to me. It’s a long way down, I tell her. She calls me a faggot, says if I don’t jump, she’ll push me. Sweet cheeks and a filthy mouth. She presses it to mine. I can taste her cavities. She belongs to no one. Her Midwestern tongue counts backwards from ten. Heels dig in. Turquoise rushing toward us. We are bombs upon all of creation. We are drowning fine on our own. We are we are we are we are.

© 2017 Joshua J. Doguet