The Amber Curtains
The man might be standing in the frame of the doorway, looking through the open window. He’s watching a woman walk along the narrow street. The shop windows are filled with fabrics, shoes, perfumes. She stops and stares at a dressmaker. She places her gloved hand to the window. Around her the men and women in thin coats walk quickly.
All this is visible from the window. The yellow dress is on display with a blue corset and white lace. She pushes forward to the front of her boots and blows her breath against the glass. Beyond, inside the store, there’s a smug expression on the clerk’s face, he sees the tear in the shoulder of her dress.
The woman walks further along the shop-lit street. The edge of it overlooks the river, then comes back to where she is now, lying facing the doorway, from a room with blood-red wooden floorboards and an old chandelier that shakes when the train passes. She can’t see the man.
The train passes and the chandelier shakes. He watches it swing and she does not move. Impossible to discern if she is asleep or awake. She’s on the unmade bed wearing a thick corduroy dress torn at the shoulder, cut low at the breast, falling just below the knees. Washed out, thinned, the fabric clings to her skin, and he watches her ribcage nearly pierce, nearly tear, through it. With her eyes closed she feels him watching her. That’s how I witness it. She says nothing. Keeps her eyes closed, hides beneath her eyelids, waiting, he sees everything, as I do.
She enters a fit. Her legs clamped together. Her knees open then shut in a careless butterfly motion. Hands clenched there is a palpitation of her body as she gyrates in a series of positions. In her feral state she gradually shrinks then expands. Violent. Deliberate. The man watches in silence.
Her body lies still.
The streets flood with commerce. Men in navy suits and women carrying children walk quickly as if moving to the mouth of the city. As if rushing towards some kind of permanence, like saints, they could give each other dreams, the relics of love, preserved perfection.
From her apartment there comes no sound. A red light radiates from the sun reflecting off the parquetry floor. He leans farther from the doorframe to get a better look at her hips. There are three blood-red satin screens in front of her windows. Red pushes itself from her bedroom and into the corridor.
She raises her legs. He takes three steps towards her apartment then skips back down them and enters the street. I wait. He returns. His arm outstretched holding a pomegranate.
He enters the first step of red that’s fallen on the white tiles outside her apartment. He peeks his head in. Her body has deformed itself, grown bestial in its positioning: hands like claws, legs elevated and exposed, head jerked to one side. With her eyes closed she can feel him watching her. She can feel him scanning the shape of her body, the torquing of limbs, the accumulation of sweat, ugliness, does he see how her dress is torn?
He casts a shadow over her. She opens her eyes. He tells her entering her room is like entering an exposed vein.
Do you belong to whoever wants you?
He smiles and pushes his fingers into her ink black hair half delirious at how she opens like a fan.
Her body is docile, on the verge of fainting. He places his hand on the small of her back and feels the thread. Her flesh is soft. He dips his hand up the back of her skirt. He rolls her over. In the movement of his hands the fabrics divide. The corduroy separates from her skin.
Flashes of indigo, velvet, and lace.
He traces the rough seams of the corset. Blood rushes. It’s almost painful. Nearly impossible to restrain himself he tears through the layers of cloth. Stops. Slides his hand between the corduroy and velvet. His fingers entwined in the ribbons of her corset. I shout his name, “Marcus. Her head turns towards my voice. He catches her mouth, her serpentine movements cross his body, he pulls her into him. I again shout, “Marcus.”
Black coiffure hair falls in loose curls onto his shoulders.
Shirt undone he crosses the room and slams the door shut. I scurry up a staircase and stand in the frame of a doorway, looking through the open window. She stands with her hourglass silhouette in a room stained red.
We memorize the blue velvet curve of the corset.
Holding the bedpost, back turned to him, is that your name, Marcus? Yes. He holds her hips. She smiles and says, The East River holds a barge named Marcus. He says he’s seen it. Take your shirt off. He does.
Holding the bedpost, back turned to him, she waits for him to untie her. One slow pull of the ribbon. Eyes shut. The velvet, like sheets of iron, unfastens its hold on her ribcage, spine, hips, on the small of her waist. Thick fingers hungrily pull the ribbon until his hands are entwined in strips of satin.
Dear Lover, your hands are not moving fast enough.
He sinks his teeth into her shoulder. She screams. He pulls at her thick hair and she moans. With her back fully arched and her knuckles white he pulls off the corset and enters.
The train passes.
Eyes closed, he draws her in. The chandelier shakes. He pulls, shoves, grabs, thrusts and she meets muscles with language, kisses, licks, moans. She persistently tells him the story of love but he cannot hear her.
Opens like a fan. Helpless. He holds her whole body in his arms.
In a fit of murmurs and moans she again tells him the story of love. He interrupts her. She is speechless.
He starts to weep. He’s weeping.
She curls herself onto his chest staring at his face for the first time. She wants to steal that purplish blue stain beneath his eyes. To steal the sorrow that collapses him.
In the sleeping she, Katya, claims the room. She, Katya, claims her body. He lies entwined in sheets and pillows. Can you hear me? His chest rises and falls in a steady breath. Am I making sense?
The train passes. The chandelier shakes. A liminal space. She climbs out of bed, slips her robe on, burns Jasmine oil. The early light highlights the muscles of his back, his calves, his thighs. I am shocked by the shape and opalescent hue of his morning body.
When he wakes the room is completely rearranged. The red satin panels hang on hooks from the ceiling. Yellow curtains with white trim are drawn across the window. An oriental rug is spread across the floorboards.
In the kitchen she bites into the sliced pomegranate and looks back at him. A Japanese robe slips off her left shoulder. He swallows.
I never caught your name.
The sound of the wind is deranged and beating against the window.
The light of day -
It must be early.
The sweet pomegranate lingers on her lips. Yes. She crosses the room to him. His attention shifts from the wind, from the hour, from the sweet, to remembering her long narrow touch, to remembering the satisfaction of their ravaged bodies. Heat rushes to his face as he gathers the sheets around him. Swiftly with one pull from the corner of one sheet she drags the bedding just out of reach. The wind picks up.
He lies naked on the bed.
Branches rap against the window. She walks past the branches and they stir behind her. Her body vulnerable. Geographically he tries to place her, there. To keep her before the window with its amber light, but she passes like she can’t stop.
Just out of reach. Mouth shaped in yes.
He lies on his side and watches her.
He doesn't know how to begin. To leave. And so he falls back onto the unmade bed. She takes her robe off, climbs on top of him, delicately traces the dark stains below his eyes, and places his face in her hands.
When did you become such a mess?
He wraps his thick fingers around her wrists. The train passes. The chandelier shakes. The blood-red satin screens swing on their hooks. He finds her mouth with his mouth, finds her neck, her chest, pulls her in, keeps her, there.
M.A.A. has an MFA Graduate degree from the New School in Creative writing. She received her BA at Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. She is most inspired by this quote, “"This is what makes writing wild. One returns to a savage state from before life itself. And one can always recognize it: it's the savageness of forests, as ancient as time. It is the fear of everything, distinct and inseparable from life itself. One becomes relentless. One cannot write without bodily strength. One must be stronger than oneself to approach writing; one must be stronger than what one is writing. It's an odd thing- not only writing, the written word, but also the howls of animals in the night, of everyone, of you and me, of dogs." - Marguerite Duras, Writing. M.A.A. wishes to return to this savage state.