• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 12


Your neck around mine. That as much as anything I'd have you remember.

We magnified the modest strokes with such providential meaning in the first flushes of love! Holding it to the light when it first caught my eye, you said it was something destined to find us, something plucked from the eternity of our togetherness. Ours was an irresistible conjoining, "beyond the austerity of wishing". I should've thought it trite from the lips of any other man on Earth, but you had the guile to make an apostate of the strictest adherent. I had learning and possession enough to question all the insubstantial truths of the world but yours.

The air was still thick with dust and the smell of cold diesel when the reckoning began. I was the fifth to be seated and the least knowing of all. The first four felt the benefit of the barber's strap: not I. The blade was dull with overuse and rather carved at the roots than cut, my falling hair flecked with the blood that spread over the neck of my dress as it ran off the slope of my nose.

They threw me in with the schemers and fallen women and drove us through the town like an unruly herd. The mob fell on us with all their spleenful scorn: this one made them fat whilst we knew only want; that one earned her silks laying bastards by the score; this other's saddled with the bastard of a bastard now, the sorry bitch. They at least were the sole architects of their shame. The friends and favourites who pushed through the crowds to spit their disgust in my face did so with the curse of your name. I took everything they could give in your stead. Some of their indignities weren't devised for men.



The bruises darkening, my eye swollen shut, they marched me back to a mocking parody of home. Children tore out the fence posts and flowerbeds and ran laughing through the gutted glass for the sound of it under their shoes. Their parents took their fill of the interior, ambling in and out with the jumbled relics of our togetherness piled in their arms. I sat in a corner of the kitchen and blackened unregarded. They were all but done when a neighbour with spite in reserve for a last mortifying word told me of a woman in Arles, beyond the austerity of wishing, sharing in a traitor's spoils.

We still hang entwined in sight of all our irresistible conjoining, you and I, held close by scribbled hate and the dried-in shit from the outlying sties. The eternity of our togetherness.

I hadn't expected Arles to be half so pretty. I want you to know it wasn't your name she called at the end.