by yuriy tarnawsky
1. the girl with the lavender breasts
Once, still barely into the woods of my life, I came across a girl with a white face. She stood on the level of flowers and they tickled her cheeks. The flowers were white but still I saw her. Her lips parted like orange segments in my fingers and I heard her blood whispering my name. This was the beginning of a new era in my life for after that it was all mornings and dew. I actually grew younger. With my fingers, I pushed back the hands of my clock and my eyes looked out from under them like two wild flowers. Giant openings of indescribable shape appeared above the horizon and through them I saw a mauve I remembered dreaming about only once or twice in my childhood. We talked about the future next to open windows with thick maple trees rustling outside and the wind carried the news of our promises to swallows and doves. At dusk, I’d speed toward her pursued by concrete and the sounds of our age and the orange streaks in the west from which I was fleeing pointed the way to her home. She complained I didn’t kiss her enough but the truth was I had hardly time to breathe. Yet this wasn’t the problem. She meant no harm in complaining. I believe she really loved me then and was like a little girl capable of dreaming only about ice cream and merry-go-rounds. I didn’t believe in angels until then. But at that point I started writing about them. I’d see them fully submerged but breathing in bathtubs full of water. The folds of their voluminous blue robes stuck to their flesh making it look like that of drowned people or those feeling cold. But still they were beautiful. Sometimes it was impossible to get past so many stiff goose-feather wings crowding on the sidewalks. And some of them had wings like moths, tie-died in browns, and oranges, and pinks, and blues. Still others were nothing but long eyelashes and I’d let them stroke me to sleep. We took many trips. I especially remember one to an Italian lake. In a hotel on the edge of a city and the sky, with the window wide open, we made love without stopping for eleven hours. Cold sparks, like those of sparklers, streamed out of the openings between the muscles in the back of my thighs and I was afraid for my life. But I lived to see the dawn. Naked and embracing, we went up then to the friendly window and agreed with the world it was our brother. Then hunchbacks began to find their way between our souls and I’d be surprised to find the color of my heart crushed inside my chest. Algebraic formulas, huge, in the shape of old-fashioned sofas and dark green, were continually being stacked up between our faces and in the end it was impossible to see anything for the sound of so many typewriters. Then, one day, I was lying in a bed made from brown wood. Only she and I were in the room. The door was locked. The one window was wide open. It was of the European type with crosses in the frames. By then her face had gotten like a bayonet that’d been buried in the ground for a long time, eaten away by rust, so that I could hardly recognize it. But still she was beautiful. She was naked. She stood on the background of the window, her right side turned toward me. Her breasts were conical and lavender in color. They look like two anthills of the white ants of milk. The outlines of her breast were painfully sharp and so, strangely enough, was their color. Then, literally out of thin air, she took a handful of excrement in her right hand, smeared her breasts with it, got up onto the window sill, and stepped out into space. It had neither top nor bottom and the smell and color of mountain pinks.
2. the woman with the sprained mind
This time it was a woman with a sprained mind. I remember noticing her face was unsymmetrical when I first saw her but I chose to ignore that fact then. It was as if she were constantly looking into a crooked mirror and was making others see only her image. This is always a bad sign! Beware of people like that! They’ll bring you no good! They’re better off in caves or cells! Her thinking was a narrow, rocky, and steep path curving too sharply, as if out of a great deformity in the terrain. But it led nowhere. And besides, there were no reason for it to curve. Life, after all, is the smoothest of pains covered with soft grass. When I met her I said: “This is my destiny!” and tears of joy came to the corners of my eyes and mouth. I had to wait over three months for her to reach me and showed the patience of a medieval monk. As a reward, she gave me a handful of menstrual blood on the edge of a garbage-strewn wood and clamped my flesh in a painful vise of gold. I begged her to let me look alone at the stars on the other side of the smell of hay. And she did. But her footsteps and breathing were always behind me like a lodger in the next room of a cheap rooming house. I tried to feed on the edges of flowers and oceans. But at night sobbing would arrive at my lips like the tide. She hated it. She said the gnashing of my teeth kept her awake. But in reality it was the creaking of her ancestral soul. Eventually, I learned to accept her like my face. I said to myself: “There’re things to be done in life!” and I worked on my roots and the confines of my body. I even began to think her beautiful—her, the woman with the ashy skin. I called her my beautiful Gila monster. And taking walks at dusk or siting in cafes I’d stroke the hideous excrescences on her spine saying they were no different than flowers. But my fingers bled and my mouth trembled as we returned home through tamarind groves on the edge of the bluest of skies. As I’d press my lips to her cold skin, the beating of her saurian blood just beneath it would be like a worm that’d already found its way inside my mouth. But you know about this already. I’ve described it elsewhere. And, besides, these are only the externals. Here I’d like to get to the heart of the matter. And it lies in her childhood, in the process where the blood and bones of two families merge, making grisly gurgling and cracking noises. She was a pretty child—a daisy with cornflower eyes. She grew in the garden of her family life. Her parents tended her and under their care she began to deform. At sixteen she was already a monster. I saw a movie of her at that age. Her skin was already ashy then and ashes dripped like saliva out of the corners of her turned-down mouth. She walked toward the camera. She was huge. She stepped over the houses and transmission lines whispering she hated herself and the world. And the world fled before her with its tail between its legs like a dog. Poor creature! She sensed there was something wrong but knew not what or where. She tried to touch her sex and her hand wound up in the middle of the night. And you know how many genders hide there! But still, through a crack in her brain, she saw a slender woman galloping on a horse along a plain and she wanted to be the woman. As a consequence, she set out in pursuit. On the way, she stumbled on a cassock and nearly drowned in the bog of her vulva. It was then I extended to her my hand. She took it. I set her on the horse and the two outlines merged, once more becoming painfully sharp. The horse was the color of my blood and we rode off toward the vein-blue horizon. But she remained on the ground, sitting cross-legged in the gravelly dust, a puffy old Indian woman wrapped in a greasy blanket. Her flesh grew. It began to cover her face like long hair. One day she parted it and saw a dark-haired young man committing sodomy with a girl. She stared avidly at the couple. Absentmindedly, she whispered her name and the man turned his face toward her. Their eyes met. After that it was only a matter of time. I never saw her eyes again. She grew closer and closer to herself until there was no room left for me. She took up the whole world. She’d shrink back in fear as my hair would stretch out its baby’s hands toward her. And she’d hiss pronouncing the color of my eyes and skin. Then in February, she began to look furtively out of the corners of her eyes at the colored shadows on the wall of the sad people going through crude imitations of the act of love. Her love hadn’t been love. It’d been the painful clutching of a hand that hadn’t knitted properly after a bad fracture. It’d been the blood-curdling scream of a woman that’d slipped off a cliff. “I must go to find myself!” she said getting up from the chair. I said nothing. I merely offered her the small mass-produced plastic doll she was speaking about. The first Friday in May I called her all afternoon but her name had already changed. On coming home I found all the windows in my chest wide open. They were also of the European type with crosses in the panes. Then, as the hair on my head stood up, I realized I should have raised the veil of the woman I’d married to find out her name was Soledad.
My flesh and pen have been busy lately. Among other things they’ve been going through the difficult pirouettes of pain. I realize these are basically distasteful. But I hope I’m not too conceited to feel that in my case they do possess a certain grace. Lately also, I met a good old friend of mine, a flat-cheeked fellow of black steel from my true home town, Ulm/Do. I kissed his cheek (no deeper meaning there) and he promised to help. Who knows what color veil the future will bring?
Listen, it’s a good thing I can write about this!