The word speaks of limpets, steadfast brickwork, implacable against sea currents, against storms, against file and hammer, against knife, against boot. As I first heard it I felt my hands against grain, cheese grater jagged and rough. The word sounded in my palm, forced it open and grazed me.
She said it by the shop front, reflecting in the mirror of the glass, as the ribbons of meat hung down from their hooks. Her whole name. She’d told me it all in one, as frank as the brushing down of an apron, smoothing it down against the wind, flattening the white, pushing away the wrinkles.
And then she turned back to look at the sky, at the black birds flying across the blue and then again across the windows, refracted and scattered among the painted letters. All the colours of the world seemed very fine, bright reds and whites and blues and gold all sun bleached and certain.
The world set upon a slope, down to the sea front, tumbling. And I, king of the pavement, scanned the horizon and laughed and took her hand. The air was gelid and tanged at my nose hairs, bitter and potent. The salt and the red flesh, the rabbits newly hung.
As she tipped her head back to laugh I could see the blackness of her nostrils, and the stretch of her neck. As white and freckled as a pebble. I imagined my hands were creeping upon it as the scrape of tide along the shore, forward and back again, rapid wet black and creeping drying tan.
We walked with the concrete under our black clod feet and talked without looking at one another. I was glad to watch the steadying shops and street signs go past, holding onto them as firmly as I could as she laughed again and again and slipped occasionally in her uneven heels.
If I could just catch the billow of one her skirts, purple narcissi against the sky, inky sprout, parachute. If I could fall into the pail of that inside out umbrella, would I be closer to her than I am now? Would I furrow with my hands to the blind veins of the bulb? Would I find her there?
Or would I be swept under water as the boat capsizes, churned and choked, guttered. Would I gulp to the surface to find a pair of clean hands sawing at the surface in earnest, prizing away with bloody hands one and then another barnacle, and throwing them all to the sea.