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March 11, 1999 - Image 19

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-03-11

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16B - The Michigan Daily - Literary Magazine - Thursday, March 11, 1999

ALOE
Continued from Page 7B
small. From the roof, no stars seemed
bright, no car horns seemed loud. There
was just the mumble and whisper of the
dispersing crowd, all around us, below
us, in the street. I was numbed after
what I had seen. Vaguely, I felt some
sort of loss at the passing of the fire-
works, the event. She was silent beside
me, the lull, slow motion for her.
"Like clouds a'streaming," she said
finally. And we left.
Her house was dark and silent. Her
unlit driveway was so dark that there
were no shadows at all, even though the
stars were bright. Her forehead was
pressed against the left side of my col-
larbone, her hands knotted in the small
of my back. I smelled her shampoo, her
characteristic smell that made my stom-
ach twist. Somehow, I could never
recall the exact smell when she was
gone. She rocked her forehead back and
forth, over and over, and then stopped.
Then she'd start up again, God knows
why. She said nothing. What I wanted
to do was to reach down and hoist her
into me. I'd press my lips into hers,
warping her mouth open. I'd move my

hands and try to press into me, all of her
that I could. But we were moving too
slow. Not enough was happening. I
couldn't do that sort of thing, not then,
and escape being cut painfully short, in
mid-sweeping-her-off-her-feet. She
wouldn't mind doing that. Aloe would
say something, too, to make it worse.
So, I said nothing. And I did nothing. I
pressed my cheek against her temple,
and said goodnight.
"Is your yearbook around?", I yelled
on the threshold.
"What?" she yelled back.
"Your yearbook."
"On my desk," she yelled. The water
rasped loudly, beating down her sylla-
bles, mixing them together. The wet
tiles made her voice tinny and faint. My
heart sounded in my throat and my
hearing was dim. She had left the door
to the bathroom open.
"What do you want my yearbook
for?", she yelled.
"Why do you think? I want to look
through it."
I took a couple of steps into the fog-
ging room.
"On my desk somewhere. On the
left-hand side, I think. I'm almost sure.
Just my yearbook?"

"Yeah. What's wrong?"
"Nothing, unless you can think of
something better to do."
I was almost sure that I hadn't heard
that. I wanted to believe that I hadn't
heard that. I kept walking into the bath-
room. The lights from the make-up mir-
ror were blinding. The heat in the room
was unbearable, pressing and pushing,
making me want to climb out of my
skin. How long did I stand there, not
looking at my reflection in the mirror?
My own wet hair soaked the neck of my
shirt through, pressing, pressing. Just
the shower running, only the water hiss-
ing.
"Aloe, what does that mean?" I
asked, moving closer.
"Unless you can think of something
better to do, just what I said," and her
voice danced.
I asked her over and over as I moved
closer. The heat smothered me.
"Where are you?" she laughed.
"I'm right here," I said leaning
against the wall of the shower stall.
"I'm not turning around," she
laughed again.
I wanted her to say it, say the
whole thing all at once. I wanted her
breath heaving in an effort to get the
words out fast enough, one to push
the other, needing to escape. I want
you to come in this shower because
I want to kiss you and oh god in the
highest heaven press myself against
you feel the naked arc of your wet
shoulder touch where your limbs
join in invisible divinity remember
what my skin feels like joined with
someone else in uniform saturation
forget what the tile feels like mash-
ing the soles of my feet see what
you look like nude humble and

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beautiful press yes press you into
me all at once in a single motion
and forget lose myself with you for-
ever until it never ended all at once
again and you and me and all the
things that I might loosely ever find
the merest inclination to say might
disappear from beginning to end
from nozzle to drain till towels
make us dry forever and ever amen.
But she said none of that, no sexual
prayer. Nor would she ever, because
she liked the way her words sound-
ed ambiguous and unfulfilling. I
understood and realized until I
couldn't stand it any longer.
"Can I come in?"
"If you want."
The rush of the shower was drowned
out by the blood in my ears.
The sight of her bare form rubbed
indistinct, by heat and motion was
numbingly beautiful. I wanted to push
my hand against the glass, to the image
of her pink shape. But I was afraid, that
she might turn around and see me,
catch me doing something not irrever-
ent, but too reverent, for the moment. I
undressed as she rinsed he hair, trying
to match the ballet of her washing, but
then feeling like I was doing so. The
color of her, pink, dark shades in differ-
ent places, I wanted to touch them all,
feel them all in their different shapes
and textures. And then I was naked,
feeling strange, desiring in the daylight.
The steam came down on me over the
top, the shower boiling over. It didn't
wash me, just poured on me, indiffer-
ent. I wanted to stay there, but I knew
somehow I'd ruin it, over-thinking, and
I opened the door.
I can't think, can't recall the exact
chain of events. Distinct memories
come to me like shards of dream. She
wouldn't turn around. I stood behind
her, naked, wet enough to be cold, for a
bewildering span of time. For a paralyz-
ing moment, even in the presence of the
unmistakable Aloe Vera, I felt like I had
gotten in the wrong shower, as if there
was row upon row of shower stalls,
each with a naked, blond, adolescent
girl in them. I stood there, and the spray
rebounded off her body, wetting me
slowly. She wouldn't turn around. She
rinsed her hair in the same mechanical
way, bent over, flip rinse flip rinse. She
straightened. The spray sprinted over
her head, making her hair whole. It
became one, large, blond strand, and the
water ran out of it in huge, gelatinous
rivulets. She turned, her eyes shut tight,
against, the water. They fluttered open
and she was against me. They fluttered

shut again. It was all heat and water and
still is, in my mind. I can't remember,
whether she pressed herself into me, or
whether I finally moved. I remember
that I kissed her for all the times I had-
n't. I remember her sweet weight in my
arms, that her mouth was milky and
smooth, and that I thought of clock-
towers, swans, and things toppling to
the ground. I remember that I don't
remember, and I feel despair, like I've
lost something for the last time, even
with reprieve, after reprieve.
One particular image comes with
ease and clarity. I pulled her back in
when she went to get out, and wrapped
my arms around her waist. She was a
perfect fit. I pressed my cheek to the
back of her neck. Her hands covered my
arms for a moment. One squeeze and
they were gone. And she was out.
We moved to her room and crashed
into her bed, soaking wet.
It's hard to tell when we are finished.
It sort of leaves us, fading, like mist
burning off. My skin was so hot. The
sheets were wet and cool. Her face was
so earnest through her wet hair.
"I don't think -"
"I know," I said.
The screen was down again. They
have a thing in the theater, a scrim, it's
called, that's solid or see-through,
depending on which side it's lit. It's
always there, though, always. I got out
of bed then, hearing the next words
before they came. I pulled on my reluc-
tant clothes. They stuck the whole way,
clinging to my damp skin. I went to the
door and leaned on the door-jam, wait-
ing for a parting. There was never a
kiss. She sat up. The sheets were well
off the bed and she was completely
nude, unashamed, beautiful. Her naked,
artless immodesty wanted me to paint
it, write it, photograph it. She just
looked at me, chin up, eyes vaguely
squinting, blinking seldom. I left, with
nothing to say. The time with Aloe was
just what it was, in a boy's dream.
I want to hold the times in my hands.
You hope, you wish, you dream, and as
soon as it fades into "never again", I am
with her again, with my body. I saw her,
the next week-end. We went out and
came back. We sat in the living room on
her couches, close. The lights were out
and she asked me to rub her back. She
talked about her last boyfriend, the one
that lasted two years, "the only person
outside my family, that I've ever loved".
Aloe was the agony of incongruity; not
the kind that puzzles, but the kind that
hurts. It wouldn't happen again, not this
soon. But it had started again. My mind
said "maybe," already. She had told me
once, every time, that she didn't feel
good about being with me, with her
body.
"What if it never stops?" she said.
"Then it won't," I said.
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