“…Longing, of course,
becomes its own object, the way
that desire can make anything into a god.”
– Mark Doty, excerpt of The Death of Antinous
“Read to me.” Black hair barely covers his eyes.
“What, right now?”
“Would you, please?” The fire crackles and releases flames toward the moon.
I take a sip of my beer. Pull out a cigarette and light it with the flame from the campfire.
“I know you always have a book on you. Go get it.”
I laugh. Take a drag. “Okay, but you have to promise not to fall asleep.” I grab my book from the truck and when I make it back to the fire he is focused on rolling a joint. “Another one?” I lay down beside him.
“What are we reading tonight?” He is smiling at me and I hold up the book.
“But what if I want you to read to me?” I kiss his neck.
He lights the joint, takes a few quick puffs.
“Well, the whole point of you reading to me is so I can listen to your voice.”
He passes the joint to me and I roll my eyes. “Don’t you want to find out what happens to Grendel?” I tease, holding the book up. He blows his smoke at me, “I do if you’re the one telling the story.”
“And I felt as if you were the end of the earth and there was nothing else”.
— Nikolay Punin, from a letter to Anna Akhmatova featured in Anna of All the Russias: A Life of Anna Akhmatova
The arch of my back is cold from the touch of the bed of his truck. I smell pine, I smell campfire smoke. I open heavy eyes and the stars are swirling in a sky that isn’t quite black. I turn on my side and he smiles a famous crooked smile.
“Do you see Orion’s belt? Can you see Mars?” He grabs my hand and points it toward the sky and he laughs a throaty laugh. I reach for a cigarette and he already has a lighter lit, anticipating. I stare back into the sky and trace the stars like a map.
He places his hand on my thigh and tells me I look beautiful but I don’t hear it. I hear cicadas, I hear coyotes, I hear the croak of God in the forest. I slip his hand off my thigh and jump off the truck.
“Don’t you just love nights like this?” I throw my hands up toward the sky and twirl.
“Now, don’t fall into the fire!” He jumps down to me and grabs my hands in his.
“And, what if I’ve already fallen into the fire?” I smirk. His hands are on my face now.
He kisses my nose. “Then you must be a dragon.”
I giggle, “So, are you here to defeat me?”
He picks me up by my thighs and carries me back to the bed of the truck. “You could say that.”