A Wistful Constellation
Note: the following are lyrics taken from a Rammstein song called "Nebel," and are simply to set the stage for the story. I do not own this song or its lyrics or anything about it.
They stand with their arms tightly around each other
A mixture of flesh, so rich in days
Where the sea touches the land
She wants to tell him the truth
But the wind eats her words
Where the sea ends
She holds his hand, trembling
And kisses him on the forehead
She carries the evening in her chest
And knows that she must wither away
She lays her head in his lap
And asks for a last kiss
And then he kissed her
Where the sea ends
Her lips, delicate and pale
And her eyes tear up
The last kiss was so long ago
The last kiss
He does not remember it anymore
Rammstein – Nebel ©
The music is loud and throbbing around me, a raucous blur of techno and house that reverberates off the walls and seems to make the entire room vibrate. The centre of the club is packed, a writhing ocean of bodies and twisting limbs, sweat, and ecstasy. Lasers and coloured dust dance over the twisting shapes, and every now and then a strobe light flashes, marking each silhouette with a blinding radiance that fades immediately yet leaves an after-image branded onto my eyelids every time they close.
It's three weeks into summer and I'm sitting at the same table I sit at nearly every night. It can't be helped. Everywhere I go, mundane life. Single shot of vodka, single shot of rum. A small twist of lemon. Three identical ice cubes melting in the residue of a discarded glass, turning amber as they bleed. Laser lights that pierce the skin and fog machines that spew loaded mist into the ripe tide of bodies. Coffee-flavoured. I wouldn't have guessed, but I can taste the mist on my tongue tonight. Last week they had maple.
Sometimes, I forgo the club scene and opt for a quieter routine. It's rare, but it happens. Sometimes the liquor cabinet in my bland, tasteless room is emptied, and I drink and drink until my eyes water from the pain. I can never determine whether I'm crying because of the alcohol, or her. I figure it's a little bit of both. Then the inevitable high, the slow warmth that builds within your stomach like an orgasm, growing more and more potent in its crescendo. And then you reach that level where it all fades to white glass, and you can't think anymore. This is safety. I embrace my own destruction here, because all thoughts of pink lips and turquoise eyes are gone, until the next morning.
Tonight the beach resort is packed. The club is fit to burst, and I wonder how many people will join the congregation of oceanic dancers as I nurse my drink. Across the room, the DJ is a moving shadow against the stage. Below him, the dancers open their mouths and call to him, voiceless cries consumed by the music. He looms above them, taller and more profound, a king before his court. Their faces tilt upward, throats bared, arms thrown high into the air, creating rifts through the coloured smoke and haze even as they are united in their mutual, although temporary, enlightenment.
This is the place to come to when you want to disappear. The dancers cease to be individual and become a massive wave, which, if you venture into it, will cause you to drown, until your faceless body becomes one with the rolling water.
My eyes pass through the room until they reach the bar. Several stools are taken, young adults and rebellious teenagers drinking from the same glasses. The bartender flashes in and out of visibility as the strobe lights burst above him. The warmth is coming now, but not fast enough. Not nearly fast enough. I throw my head back, down my drink in one. Fuck caution. I turn back toward the bar.
Our eyes lock from across the room.
Her face is starkly attractive, a mesmerizing shine within the gloom. Even as the club flashes in and out of focus, her face is the one thing that remains illuminated, as though a spotlight rests on her and only her. Her eyes seem to loom out of the darkness like an unbidden promise as they bore into my own. She's sitting with two other girls, one very tall with very long legs, and the other with shockingly violet hair.
I set my empty glass down and stand up.
Her gaze is trained on mine as I make my way across the room, wading between ravers and drunken lovers. Her lips quirk ever so slightly. I can't tell if she's smiling or smirking.
"Hi," she says as I draw near. I can hardly hear her over the music. I can't tell what her voice is like.
"Hi there." I take the empty stool next to her without asking. She twists her head slightly, flipping an errant strand of hair out of her eyes. Now that I'm close, I take her in with more detail. Her skin is creamy, like alabaster silk. I can tell it is soft without touching. Her face is oval-shaped, but perfectly symmetrical. Her ears are slightly too large for her face.
"Can I buy you a drink?" I say, mechanically. The quirk in her mouth grows more pronounced. I realize she's smiling. "Mmm hmm."
I raise my hand and signal the bartender. He lumbers over, his large frame offset by the long white shirt he wears. The evidence of many spilled drinks is sprawled across his apron.
"What would you like?" I ask the girl. "Anything strong," she replies.
I order three straight shots of vodka for me, a Scotch on the rocks for her. Seconds later they're on the counter, and the bartender vanishes back into the dark.
"Not planning on taking it easy tonight, are you?" she says, with a hint of amusement. I smile at her. "The night's still young." I down my shot as the girl takes a sip of her Scotch without flinching. I'm impressed.
"Nice to meet a girl who can hold her liquor," I quip.
"You'll find I'm full of surprises," she replies seductively. The music thrums around us; I glance at her mouth. Her lips are delicately pink. I feel a sudden lurch in my stomach and turn away, reaching for the second shot glass. More.
Twenty minutes later I'm in the midst of my crescendo, feeling warm and dozy as the alcohol numbs my veins. The girl and I have skipped the bullshit ("What are you majoring in?" "What school do you go to?" "What do you want to do after school?") relatively quickly and are murmuring into each other's ears at the bar. Her friends have long since vanished; I don't remember them leaving, or care. I'm solely focused on her face before me because I don't want to lend my mind any margin of wandering.
"I've got a confession to make," the girl says after a while, her voice slurred from the alcohol.
"I'd been watching you for a while before you came over here."
"Is that so?"
"Yeah. And I'm wondering why you were sitting in the corner over there, with no one to talk to."
My hands wrap around her waist and tease the small strip of skin where her shirt rides up over her jeans. "Waiting for the right person," I say, coyly. She giggles, encircles my hands with her own. "What's your name?"
I lie to her. I never tell them my real name. It saves hassle, and it's easier this way. I can never remember them, and they will never remember me.
"And you?" I echo her question. She smiles, and tells me her name.
For some reason I can't bring myself to say it. I cup her face, my fingers tracing her jaw line. Her cool skin trembles beneath my touch. I stare deeply into her amber eyes and marvel at the depth in them. I can see emotions barely hidden beneath the surface, emotions invisible to all else but me, because I have walked the very path she now wanders on. Her eyes have flecks of gold in them.
I smile, somewhat sadly, and name her Goldie.
She smiles faintly at my nickname, as though somewhere else. Then she grabs my hand and pulls me off the stool. "Dance with me," she commands.
I finish my drink and let her lead me into the ocean.
* * * * *
I lose track of time as we move to the beat, letting the rhythm speak for us. We dance, our naked souls vulnerable and bare to the world. My arms are wrapped securely around her writhing form, pressing her tightly to me, and I to her. For some reason I don't want to let go of her, my mirror image, this piece of myself in another body.
The music comes to a grinding slow, a long note hovering above the wave of bodies like a net. The DJ raises both his arms, and the crowd explodes into movement, crying out in rapture, arms thrown skyward. Their eyes roll back into their heads, their mouths freeze in euphoric smiles as their blood runs backwards. Vibrations strum the floor, crawling up nerve endings to the spinal cord to the tops of their heads and beyond, an earthquake in their own fantasies. I can see their high. They are floating enchanted, on top of the world, higher than the sky and the wind. So high that they won't ever come back down.
I wish I could know what that felt like.
Goldie is warm and supple in my arms, her body covered with perspiration. The waves around us move as though in slow motion. The lasers drift over the room like searchlights. The strobe lights turn blue, eyes watching me. Suddenly, I feel as though I'm suffocating.
I need to get out of here.
My hands fall down Goldie's shaking hips to squeeze her ass. She squirms, delighted. I whisper in her ear.
"Let's go outside."
She doesn't respond, but her hand finds mine in the dark and hold, tightly.
I lead Goldie through the mass of bodies, all glistening, like sea creatures. Her small hand is soft in my own. I look over my shoulder at her and those haunting eyes gleam out of the mist back at me.
Outside, the wind is cool and like a balm on our fevered skin. We make our way down the grassy slope at the rear of the club, towards the vast expanse of beach that lies beyond. Behind us, the music cuts the night. I can still picture the crowd pulsating to the rhythm, the veins inside this club, this heartbeat. A sickened life. A virus.
Our shoes touch the sand. I look at Goldie, she looks at me. Her mouth melts into a smile; I beam back, drunkenly. A large flask of vodka is nestled in the front pocket of my jeans.
"Where do you wanna go?" she asks me. It's the first time I heard her speak without being smothered by the music. Her voice is low, husky. Gentle. A feminine voice.
"Away from here," I reply. She leans over, takes off her shoes, holds them in one hand and grabs my hand with the other. I mimic her, kicking off my shoes and scooping them up as we wander across the white sand.
The clouds are seamless in the night sky, sifting through the gentle canvas of stars like vapour. The tide is going out, black, smoothly, in the incandescent light of a pearl moon. Further away from us, a bonfire showers embers into the darkened sky. Darkened shapes recline around the burning driftwood, features indistinguishable from the logs at this distance. We're alone, except for the slow rustling of bushes and the hushed voices of other fevered couples in the shadows.
I continue on, Goldie at my side. I chance a glance at her. Her face is faultless in the moonlight, pale and smooth. I stop for a moment, lean over and kiss her. Her lips respond to my own, hesitant yet greedy at the same time. I stop after a moment, savouring the taste of alcohol and lemon on her lips, before leading her on. The wind rises, electric. She shivers. I pull her to me; arms go around waists. The music is still playing, but there are no dancers. The cool sand feels soothing on my toes. We walk on.
Some time later, we have vanished from the eyes of all but the stars. The entire beach is vacant, except a reclining chair that lies next to a palm tree hut. We weave our way towards it, still entwined, drunkenly infatuated, in perfect synthesis.
We collapse onto the sand and then we're nestled in each other's arms, using our body heat to ward off the evening chill. The wind rolls slowly over the waves, and the moonlight paints silver ripples on the calm ocean. The music has wandered out beyond the rocks and finally drowned at sea.
I unearth my flask and tip it to my lips, savouring the sharp kick as the vodka works its way within me. I lick my lips, then offer it to Goldie. She tilts her head back and opens her lips. Gently, with painstaking care, I pour the liquid down her throat. She coughs slightly and then giggles from the awkward angle, to which I join in. I'm mesmerized by the curve of her throat.
"Tell me something," she murmurs at length.
"Anything. Just tell me something. About you, about me. Anything. I just want to hear your voice." Her eyes are wide and pleading. I tuck a lock of auburn hair behind her ear and she blushes lightly.
"My favourite season's spring."
"I like seeing things come to life. All the buds, turning to flowers. You see them before, and you see them after, and you can hardly stop to—" I gesture drunkenly, a poet in my inebriation— "just... appreciate, I guess, what it took for something that small and insignificant and become something noticed by everyone who passes by."
She looks deep into my eyes. I stare back, and then she's kissing me.
I take my time with it, not rushing like before, allowing every second to imprint itself into my memory. Her lips are soft and yielding against my own, an acquiescent symphony. I can taste the vodka on her tongue as she slips it into my mouth; I part my lips willingly, revelling in the sensation as she runs her tongue over my own, moistness moving experimentally.
After minutes she pulls away, breathless. Her cheeks are slightly pink, her lips swollen and full. Messy hair. I smile at her, she smiles back.
"Tell me something."
"I like pomegranates," she says, then giggles. "No, scratch that, man. I fucking love pomegranates."
"Why?" I make a face. "They're so messy. How do you eat them without staining everything around you?"
"I don't," she sighed happily. "The mess makes them taste sweeter."
I shake my head, bemused. It seems to take me forever to complete the motion. I'm drunk, and I know it. But I take another drink from the flask anyway. The crescendo builds.
We trade the flash back and forth, swapping stories and kisses, laughing into each other's hair. Goldie wants to be a nurse one day. She likes gerbils over dogs and cats. She's read The Catcher in the Rye exactly seven times, all the way through. She prefers crushed ice to cubed. Her favourite colour is pale yellow.
The tide continues to swell softly in the moonlight. Silver shapes dance on the water. We laugh and talk the time away, and then the flask is empty and I'm wearing Goldie's heeled shoes, imitating a woman's walk, and she's in hysterics on the sand, rolling and gasping for breath. Her giddiness rings in my ears as I stop my pathetic strutting to collapse next to her, voiceless from laughter at my own cleverness. The stars blur into luminescent moving streams and then settle once more, and I'm taken aback at how many of them there are, these constellations, suspended over our heads like a diamond web. And suddenly I feel nostalgic, and I want to know why, why¸ I'm condemned to this agonizing spiral I'm stuck in, doomed to experience the same sordid emotions again and again. Why can't I have the constellation I've always yearned for?
I look down at Goldie's face in the moonlight. Her amber eyes stare back at me. I shrug out of my jacket, fold it for her to rest her head on. "Are you comfortable?"
"Mmm," she murmurs, her voice so low I can barely hear it. "You?"
She presses her forehead to my own, our eyes locked once more. I can see starlight swimming in her.
"So what's your story?" I eventually say.
"What do you mean?"
"You know," I respond quietly. Mechanically. "You're with someone. Aren't you?"
Silence, for a while. Only the overlapping waves. Cresting foam, whiteness in the black, but never grey.
"Yes... well, no," Goldie eventually says, haltingly. "It's... complicated. Like, there are all these... hints and stuff..." she looks up at me, eyes pleading. "But... I can't really tell with him."
I nod, once.
"What's her name?"
"Who?" I ask.
"The girl you're trying not to think about."
I debate whether I should tell her.
"It's okay," Goldie says softly. "You don't have to say anything."
I look down at her once more. My jaw is set, tightly. She kisses my cheekbone, once, and I soften. Her body moves closer; our lips are apart by a margin so small and so insignificant it might as well not be there at all.
"Do you want me?"
"Yes..." she breathes.
"I want you too." My lips brush over her collarbone and she shivers with thinly disguised desire.
"You know I'll think of him."
"You'll think of her."
"It won't last."
"It doesn't have to."
She looks scared, and tired. My head rises, my lips take hers. She sighs, a soft, trusting sound, and slips her arms around my neck.
My heart thunders blood in my ears as my lips caress her own. I can feel her breathing, my hands sliding over her waist, slowly pushing the soft, flowing cotton of her blouse upwards, pooling under her chin. Her skin is radiating heat; I run my palms across her fair stomach and she trembles wildly. "Higher, please," she whispers.
My hands, moving of their own volition, reach under her shirt, finding the soft, reassuring roundness of her breast. She exhales sharply as my hands move faster; her kisses grow more frantic. Desperation.
The world is vibrating, so many colours, a beautiful miasma inside my head as my hands strip her bare. Bra and shirt discarded. Writhing bodies, soft whimpering. Her hands lock themselves in my hair as my head descends to her chest. My mouth closes around her nipple; her back and neck arch as her vocal ecstasy rises.
Then, breathing hard, her hands are pulling at my shirt and my pants and before I know it I am exposed to the breeze, and her tugging, prying hands. Words die in my throat as she moves her hand faster; my fingers grip the sand and seize fistfuls. Her eyes are wide and languid, her mouth melting into a perfect smile as she brings me closer to the edge.
"Wait," I gasp, and I flip her over so that she straddles me. She understands and quickly we tug at her jeans, and she kicks and squirms until they are heaped in a messy pile in the sand next to us. Her panties are light pink, and have a pattern of roses on them. I slide them down her gloriously pale legs and throw them aside.
This is the moment where it all fades away, and I immerse myself totally in the present. Fuck the past, fuck the future. I want her, and she wants me.
I enter her slowly and we both exhale loudly, our bodies join in harmony as we start to move. Her hands find themselves on my chest and remain there; I reach upward and cup her breasts gently, rolling her nipples between my fingers as we rock back and forth. Her voice climbs in passion, her head tossed backwards, her auburn hair flowing around her face like a perfect aura.
"Need you..." she groans softly.
My eyes shut, but I force them open again. I want to watch her. I don't want to forget this.
Hands moving desperately, skin against skin. Voices, joined in euphoria. Push-pull rhythm throbbing deeper, careening into warmth and safety, thrusting the silence from the dark.
I stare into her face and the stars beyond, an esoteric backdrop to her exalted body. The cool evening breeze still touches us, but our bodies are hot. I can feel the pressure building within me as Goldie begins to whimper, making soft little noises that cause my fevered blood to scream for release. She writhes above me, holding me tightly, and suddenly she clenches, letting out a moan and calling me by a name that is not mine. As she trembles with passion I can't decide whose face I'm looking up at. And when I finally ejaculate like an Indy racer taking off, I am unsure of who I am wanting. Her voice mixes with mine as we call out to the night sky.
But did we expect an answer? I can't say.
Goldie collapses against me, her hair smoothing over my chest like a sheet of rain, her sweat soaked limbs around me, breasts against my stomach. We cling to each other, each seeking warmth and affection, possibly even love, hoping to find it under this night sky, somewhere, even in total strangers. I can't say what we've found. But we found something.
I hear the sea again as our breathing quiets. I am frightened. Not of what I've done, but because that inevitable moment is fast approaching, the moment where it all crashes and burns like a train wreck, and I will have to scavenge for bits of flaming rubble to replace what I am about to lose.
We don't speak for a long time, instead letting the sea murmur for us. I simply lie beneath the moon and hold her, staring at the sky. The stars shine brightly. The wind rolls by, and this time I am aware of its chill. A small part of me wants to walk away from her, away from this place, this seaside town. That part of me wants to go back home, wherever home is for me, and leave this emptiness behind. Forget it all.
But I look down at Goldie and I realize it's too late: we are where we are and I harbour no regrets. I lean down and kiss her again, slowly and with tender care, and she responds fully, desperately, her pliant body pressed into mine as though she fears being swept away with the tide.
"Hi," I say quietly.
"Hey," she smiles, weakly.
"We should probably go," I mumble quietly.
"Not yet," Goldie whispers. "Not yet. Please, just stay with me for a little while. Please."
I settle back against the sand.
For the next hour we lie quiet, not speaking. The sky grows darker and then lighter. It's late, so late it's early. I can smell the sea strongly, the aroma of salt and freedom. We spend the entire time watching the stars.
Just when I think Goldie's fallen asleep, she speaks. "Do you like me?" Her voice is guilty and hesitant, full of hopeless loneliness and what's left of my heart goes out to her. She's hurting, just as much as me, perhaps more.
"I like you," I say simply, letting the depth in my voice speak for me. She looks up at me and she knows I'm telling the truth. I would love her if I were capable. If I knew how. I tell her so, and she cups my face, wordlessly.
Eventually, we reach an unspoken agreement and we both sit up, reaching for our clothes. I watch Goldie as she dresses, pulling her white blouse over her head and hiding her nakedness behind her jeans, before dressing myself. The sky is still black, with the barest hint of purple. It will be dawn soon.
The club will be closing shortly. The drunken ravers will be vanishing amongst the shadowed trees, the rebellious teenagers wandering away as the bonfires died out and the birds started singing, back to where their parents worried and their beds waited.
I glance at Goldie once more. The corners of her eyes are bright with unshed tears. I feel a terrible wrench of sorrow in my gut and blink back pain of my own. She knows. Her silken hair blows across her eyes and with infinite gentleness I brush the wayward strands away.
At last she whispers, "I've got to go. My parents—"
"Yeah, no, I understand," I reply, just as softly. We kiss once more, but it is over quickly, because I know to draw it out will only serve to sharpen the pain. She tugs at her blouse, straightening out the wrinkles, smoothes her jeans. I stand awkwardly, hands at my sides. There is a slow, pregnant pause.
"Will I see you tomorrow? At the beach?" she asks, half hopeful, half frightened. I don't know where I'll be, but likely not there. Too many boisterous idiots thinking themselves a Calvin Klein poster boy; too many anorexic women with their gold watches and their designer sunglasses.
"Yeah," I say, "maybe. Want me to take you home?"
"No," she says, "my friends back at the club, they'll take me." Violet and long legs. Yeah. "Yeah."
Her hands fish in her pockets and she unearths a pen and a scrap of paper. She scribbles her number down on it. "Call me," she says, looking at me. "Please?"
She hands me the paper, and I smile at her. "Yeah." She comes forward and wraps her arms around me, and we hug, a last parting. Her face is buried in my chest and I inhale the scent of her hair deeply, over and over. Strawberries. I kiss the crown of her head once, then her forehead, leaving a lingering circle of heat. Then she turns and walks away.
My heart is throbbing with longing and I want to call out to her, call her back, but my mouth doesn't open and she continues on her way, back down the beach the way we came. Back to her friends with violet hair and long thin legs, to hear them giggle about boys and watch the bonfires die in the pale orange light of the coming dawn. Her form grows smaller and smaller into the distance and she leaves slender footprints in the sand. I watch her until she's out of sight, then turn and face the sea again, where the water meets the horizon in a flat, empty line.
I've gone melancholic because I know that no matter what I do, no matter where I go, I'm doomed to yearn for a wistful constellation, one that will likely never happen. I close my eyes against the slowly lightening sky, letting the tears build up, but I don't let them fall. Even now the stars are fading, and what happened here will be known to their eyes only. Two separate pairs of footprints, leading in different directions. And by the time the sun has risen, the wind will have wiped all traces of our encounter from the face of the earth.
I open my hand and let the paper go. It catches the breeze, borne away into the ocean, and I go out and drown with it.