I am a water-logged corpse, bloated and partially melted, drifting in murk.
Every so often I float through a bloom of algae to the surface, where I see
Letitia looking down at me. Or Syd. Or maybe some home care nurse.
People’s faces interchange, voices blend.
Syd, or Letitia, says, How much did you take?
Enough! She is cross with me for that answer, scowling. It must be Letitia. Syd doesn’t scowl.
Keep my hand, keep it. The current is taking me. I like the warm current but if it takes me it will be hours before I come back around to you. Don’t let go.
She says tu est dans ton lit, Thierry. You are in bed. Tu est chez toi. You are home.
Don’t let go. I’m sinking again. It’s nice to sink, but I want to say things.
Why won’t she call? Why won’t she write? Where is she among all the party girls and the liberated women? Is my touch toxic?
Je ne comprends rien! she says. Tu parles en allemand. German? Don’t be ridiculous!
Speak French, she says.
I berate her for what feels like an hour before I realize I am in fact addressing her in German.
Letitia, do you understand me now? Am I speaking French? Oui, Thierry. Oui. Vas-y. Go on.
I love her, and I make her sick. Why am I the least bit surprised she has fled, when I yearn to worship her purity as much as I want to drown it in silt and slime?
You think everything is always about you, Thierry, like most men. Maybe she is just heart-broken, or has some obligation unrelated to you. You are such an egotist. An incorrigible egotist.
I confess! Everything you say is true!
You’re speaking in German again, Thierry.
It’s true. I cannot see her as anything but something which is drawn to me or from me repulsed!
Repose toi, she says. Rest. Rest.
Rest? Rest? You tell me to rest? I am rest! I am rest! I am rest given flesh! I am surrender given shape! I am the strangulation of the will and its coronation above all! I am the Earth’s hot clay, clean and dirty all at once, wet as a womb and a rain-soaked grave, warm as a lover’s embrace carrying you off to sleep!
I sink again and come to, how much later? What century is it? Sydney? Sydney?
Tu est reveillé, she says. French, so it must be Letitia. Yes. The one and only. You raved yourself to sleep, she says.
You are good to me, Letitia. Loyal. Steady. Yes, she says. You are immune to my toxicity. Yes, she says. I want Ren. I want the Lady Ren. Yes, she says.
Epouse moi. Marry me.
Marry me, tomorrow. Don’t scoff at me! I’m serious. Marry me. You shake your head and ignore me as if I’m being glib.
Repose toi, Thierry.
Go to sleep, egotist.
That wasn’t a no. Letitia? Hello?
Not you. I know you’re there. You’re always there. Leave me alone.
I want to be alone, tonight.