Thursday, 25 August 2011

Death Masking Love - Friday Flash

To mark the kindle publication of my collection of flash fiction "52FF", I've reproduced one from the book and which appeared in #fridayflash in December 2010.

She brought the end of her fingers to her mouth and moistened them in her warm saliva. The whorls of her prints glistened in the meagre light of the room. But it wasn't her own outlines she was interested in raising.

His hand lay outstretched in his sleep, palm exposed. She splayed out her fingers so as to graze each pad with his. To seal her contours with his and have them sear into hers. She would not allow that we are each born with our unique stamp woven into our fingertips. The perfect match, that seamless superimposition of one upon the other, must exist. Unfortunately, even in his sleep, his was too broad for her to span with her dainty little hand.

Undaunted, she caressed her index finger downwards and began to trail the creases and wrinkles across his palm. She wasn't a trained chiromancer, yet maintained her own superstitious credo of the significance of the lines. She understood the notions of the heart, the head, the life and fate, each having their own thread. Just she couldn't unravel them to yield the centre of the labyrinth. They refused to give up their runic Braille quite as easily as the digital phrenologists claimed.

Instead the lines offered tiny windows into how sensitively a man used his fingers. Whether the ridges and folds suggested a tendency to a closed fist, a restlessly flexing tension, or a more open-handed receptivity. The portents on this one were good.

Having crisscrossed his hand enough times to make him flinch it reflexively in his sleep, she carried on down the exposed wrist. Veins and arteries picked out against his pale skin. The hair there so fine and blond as to efface itself. Unlike on the reverse side of the forearm, where it flourished like jungle vines. But here, the red and blue lines stood out like a road map. The major trunk routes of pulsing blood and the minor tracks back to the heart. She knew that a wedding band was always on the fourth finger, because people used to believe it to have a vein leading from there all the way to the love muscle itself. With such a mish-mash of venous vermicelli in the wrist, she couldn't be sure how they could have traced it so limpidly. Before the dawn of the anatomists with their scalpels.

There was always something too fragile suggested by the upturned wrist, too vulnerable. So she moved quickly on. She found herself at the elbow and wondered at the change of skin topography. The permanent fold there raised a livid red scale. Yet here was the most symmetrical set of features on the whole skin. There could you witness the cellular architecture of the human body in all its intricacy. Tiny parallelograms, each with a facility to shrivel or stretch, to concertina and overlap their neighbour. The shuffling orchestration was simply divine. She licked the elbow with her tongue in appreciation. It tasted of interrelatedness.


When she woke up, he was gone. He hadn't even extinguished the overhead light, even though it was morning and ribbons of light were streaming through the blinds. Lashing her to the sheets. Seemed like they weren't such a good fit after all.

She stared at the indentations left in his pillow. The case rucked where it had cradled his head, bearing the sunken contours from the downward pressure. More wrinkles and creases, only this time turned inside out. Lacking for the supporting body they served. The vacated lines, the abandoned seams, having opened the quarry of her own body the night before. The death mask of another potential relationship, pressed down with airless finality.

Once, just once, she yearned to wake up and find the smooth impression of a fully-drawn face still lying on the pillow next to hers. Not having to commit the features to her wistful memory, but to be able to revisit them afresh everyday, in the flesh.


Li said...

That's a very delicate and haunting piece. And congrats on getting your collection out!

Sulci Collective said...

Thanks Lisa!

Linda said...

Congrats on pulling together your chapbook! I remember this particular story, very lyrical and, yes, haunting. Peace...

Anonymous said...

This is very touching. See what I did there? It is though, and a wonderful subject. I like the slow attention of this and particularly appreciated the image of the empty pillow after such an intense exploration of presence. All sorts of reverberations in this as you've mentioned in the title, about love, our knowledge of each other, what it means to be alive and then to disappear in death. Certainly one to whet the appetite for your full collection.

Tony Noland said...

Finely written, as always. Like a tracery of capillaries.

Larry Kollar said...

How can a "love 'em and leave 'em" story be sensitive? You managed it!