(and all my girls with artists’ skewed priorities)
“We are not moving a grand piano down to the river—are you insane?” I said.
“I am. We must. Don’t worry—we won’t move your piano…”
“I should hope not,” I muttered.
“…or a real piano, even. I’m not that insane. It’s a shell of a piano—you know, one of the ones wrecked in the flood? It’s gutted.”
“It’s dead then,” I said. “What’s the point then?”
“Shall I move a real piano down to the river for you then?” she whispered, wrapping her arms around my waist and twining herself into every curve and crevice.
She would. She totally would.
I didn’t let her.
But I listened as she made arrangements to haul the dead piano out to the river and I listened to her instructions on how I should dress for the photo and when we finally got to the river—and there was the piano, not just on the riverbank, but on an outcropping of rocks in the middle of the river’s wide bed—I listened to her insane instructions on how to ford the river so that I could sit at the piano in the pose she had been obsessing over for the last few weeks.
“Be careful of your camera!” I cried as I watched her cross the river after me. She laughed.
“I’ll be fine!” she called. And then she slipped and lost her balance and teetered—but didn’t fall.
Two hours later, I was not-so-secretly wishing she had fallen. Drowned her camera. Herself.
“Left hand more to the right,” she said. “The light’s changed. The shadows are wrong now. Baby, don’t slump. Look happy—no, inspired! Transposed. Uncross your legs—no—right thigh higher. Higher!”
“I’m going to kill you,” I muttered. Shifted. Adjusted. Obeyed. Was this love?
It was loving an artist, anyway.
“I’m almost done,” she promised. Lied. Promised again. And then, when the sun suddenly disappeared, then reappeared ready to set and changed the sky into a thousand exploding colours, she put down the camera and sat on the rocks. And cried.
“What are you doing? This is so beautiful!” I cried and ran to her.
“It’s not what I wanted,” she sobbed. “So clear in my head—the picture—the lights, the shadows—your face, your hands on the piano—the light behind—rocks, river, water reflection—so clear in my head—all this work—not one good shot, not one good shot.”
I drew her into my arms and kissed one tear, another.
“There will be one good shot,” I whispered then realized that was the wrong thing to say—what did a good shot matter when one failed to get the perfect shot—hit the perfect note—the intended prize?
“Come,” I took her hand and pulled her up. She released the camera, the ridiculously expensive camera that cost more than our car, and let it tumble onto the rocks. I said nothing. I knew, right now, the camera didn’t matter—it was worthless.
“Look at that sky,” I told her and pulled her, first behind me, then beside me, to the piano.
I slammed the lid down, then climbed on top. Beckoned to her to follow.
She paused. Eyes still wet with tears, she smiled.
“Take off your clothes,” she said. I pulled my dress off over my head in one practiced motion. Didn’t wait for further instructions—bra, panties. Tossed them onto the rocks. Beckoned to her again.
She leaned into me and kissed my lips with a bruising, hard kiss, flesh crushed between teeth.
I beckoned again. She took a step back. Another. Looked left, right—at me—around…
“Come. Make love to me. On the piano. Until we crush it.”
She laughed. Stooped down picked up something from the rocks. Extended her hand to me with it in it.
An osprey feather.
“Put it in your hair,” she said.
“Now say it again. Come…”
“Come. Make love to me. On the piano. Until we crush it and come down to earth among its wreckage.”
“Yes.” Her breath was ragged, harsh. “Now…” she ran for her camera… “Hold that pose.”
For/from Nicole: Cardamom Wool Knob
Next week, from Lara: Peasant Cicada Pomegrante
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