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issue three

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Second Chances
by Zinta Aistars
       It has been two, no, three years since I last leaned out the window like that, bare breasted and laughing. Back then the man below my window was already my lover.        

Gathering wood from alongside the shed, his cap pulled low over his eyes, long hair tied in a tail that curled in a dark apostrophe down his back -- I had been watching him for some time, my heart ripe and full. The impulse came over me in a sudden heat. I waited for the moment he would glance up at the window on the second floor, I knew he would, and then I pulled my shirt open, already laughing. I was that confident of his response. That confident in my own glory. His mouth opened, a circle of astonishment. The wood in his arms dropped with a clatter at his feet. He flipped off the cap, throwing it in a long neat arc into the pile of wood, and came bounding back into the house and up the stairs.

But this was not the same window, and the man below had never looked my way. His hair was short. His cap was pushed back off his wide forehead and his eyes were focused on the far horizon. I liked the slope of his shoulders; a looseness that indicated one could lean on such shoulders, or curl up just beneath, ear pressed to the steady thump in his chest. He watched the horizon as if waiting for his ship to come in. Maybe it would. Maybe it would be my ship.

I thought of that steady thumping inside a man's chest, and of how long it had been since I had allowed my breath to slow and match the pacing of a man's heart. There had been men. There had been chests. Smooth ones, like babies' bottoms. Furred ones that tickled my nose when I pressed my face against them. Concave ones that rippled with hard ribs like washboards, or fleshy ones, like down pillows. I wasn't fussy. Not about chests.

I watched him watch the horizon. He was directly below my window, his cap a bull's eye. If I nudged the geranium pot on the windowsill with my right hand, just so, just a little, it might easily slip, fall, land -- right on target. That would get his attention. I wondered if he would shout obscenities, shake his fist at me. Then he would notice my open shirt. That might shut him up. Or not. It might throw off the pitch of his voice, make it climb, climb higher, until he was squawking like a pissy duck. I would lean my chin into my hand, smiling, my shirt open to each side, breasts resting on the sill, blushing tips pointing at him, and listen to him squawk. Eventually, he would realize he was that close -- that close -- to losing my respect, and the only manly thing to do would be to open the door to the house and bound up the steps.

He moved. He took a few steps forward, in the direction of the sea, the tips of his sandals over the edge of the sidewalk curb, and rocked slightly on his heels. It was almost as if he were mimicking the rhythm of the sea. He seemed to rock with the waves coming in, going out, in, out, rock, rock.

I heard myself sigh.

I let my eyes follow the direction of his gaze. The sand had slipped up on the opposite side of the street, scalloping its edge with lacy golden shimmer. Brightly colored canoes were stacked up on a three-tiered rack to one side, framing his view. A yellow canoe, a red canoe. Blue water, blue sky. Perfect sun.

If he would turn, if he would glance up for just a moment, I would be able to tell the color of his eyes, even from this distance. And the summer was a fine thing, a feeling more than a season. A warm glow, with one day melting into the next. The sand smoothed the edges of time like it smoothed jagged stones velvety soft, tumbling them back and forth in the waves.

Sometimes I imagined that other place -- with the woodshed and the bounding steps coming up the stairs -- as belonging to another lifetime. I could almost imagine that the woman in the window, her head thrown back with laughter, hair falling loose over her shoulders, her breasts creamy white and rose-tipped in the sunlight, was another woman. Someone else's memory echoing inside my skull, a misplaced image, a borrowed fantasy. It made me feel a little like a voyeur. I was pretty sure I envied her. I replayed her memory in my mind so often that I had counted the steps on the stairs and knew that her lover would reach the top at the sixteenth step. He only took eight. He skipped every other one.

The man below scuffed his right sandal against the curb. Hands in his pockets, he picked up his foot and tapped his heel against the sidewalk, shaking out the sand. I thought he might be fingering something in his pocket. Keys? Loose change? A stone he had picked up from the beach earlier in the day?

The blue mirror horizon remained a straight line; no ship, no sailboat, not even a canoe. If he was waiting for someone to appear on that horizon, that someone had drowned at sea. But he might not be waiting at all. He might just be looking. His days had melted one into the next, the nights into mornings, the mornings into long golden afternoons, and the afternoons into cool summer evenings, bandied about by sea breezes until they dipped back into night. Who could tell anymore? It was why we came here.

I pursed my lips, licking them moist with the tip of my tongue, and blew a kiss at the back of his head. At the last possible moment, he dipped his head to one side, and the kiss flew by him. It landed in the street, where the scallop of sand began.

     At the eighth bounding step, the door flew open, and the woman at the window turned, her lips moist, her shirt thrown across the windowsill. She could see in her lover's face how beautiful she was.

The man on the sidewalk turned. Thinking he had heard something behind him, above him, he looked up at the window in the second story, but he saw no one. Curtains ballooned softly out the open window and a geranium bloomed bright red in a clay pot on the windowsill.

hould I try it again? Should I unbutton my shirt and lean out the window?
S
MCR
This work is copyrighted by the author, Zinta Aistars. All rights reserved.

(1123 words)
 
photo by Maria Pavlova
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