I loved you, dear, for eating that big juicy peach in the museum of hunger.
The museum of hunger! Oh what a grim place it was. My stomach was growing small by the second. The palpitations it produced killed the hushed whispers of the guide – the lovely chap in a sailor's uniform who could not stop looking at your legs. But then I guess he was just so happy to see us. Even that odd German couple who had seemingly wandered here by accident. Every chance visitor was his personal triumph, and each time he spoke I feared he was going to swallow us. You and me. The German couple. But most importantly – your legs.
Me, I kept staring at the black and white photographs pinned to the walls with those horrible rusty nails. I was trying to find a face that would resemble mine. It makes no sense, I know, but that's what I do. And then there was the smell. The smell of the famine and the rotting corpses. And, of course, those heartbreaking letters from desperate men fleeing to America. Boarding the ships filled with deadly diseases and the leanest of rats. Children, too. Babies.
In the meantime, the juice from the peach was dribbling on the wooden floor, streaming silently through the cracks in the dark boards beneath our feet. I could not resist the audacious simplicity of the act and so I loved you for that. I loved you for the juxtaposition. I loved you even more for the German couple that was looking at you in fear and disbelief. They kept whispering something to each other, that anxious cooing neither of us could catch. They looked at you as if you were some exotic creature, possibly a germ, that had invaded their privacy and could infest their young family for many generations to come.
And then, later, I loved you for stripping naked on the beach, in front of a dozen suburban kids playing volleyball or just sitting on the sand counting the seagulls. You stripped naked. You never cared for one second what any one of them could be thinking (I did!) the moment they saw your breasts and your thighs.
But that's what you did. You took off your sunglasses, then you took off your summer hat. The dress, the bra, the panties. In that order. You only kept that enormous childish wrist-watch that was currently all the rage. And the boys? Oh the boys. Sixteen (that's right, I had to count them all) Leopold Blooms sitting in the distance, ogling the fireworks. Your fireworks, dear. Stacked against my lust, jealousy, pride.
It was cold, too. This was late August and the sun was doing its cynical round over the city. But again, you cared not. You just walked over to the edge of the sea, straddling the fine line between erotica and pornography, and dipped your toes into the freezing water. The gooseflesh was palpable. The gooseflesh tickled my chest and was felt in every household that side of the sea. You gave a scream, turned around and walked back. While I was trotting by your side, feeling like an idiot, wondering if I should hide my head in the sand or else shoot up like a kite. Which is a metaphor that works, and I believe the beach boys (pale, as pale as a Winchester ghost) were lucky that day. After all, in those five minutes stretched into eternity you gave them all the sexual education they needed. And still they had more, because you took three full minutes to dress.
What else? Because there was more.
Ah yes, I loved you for going off in the pub. This, I think, was in the evening, and you pushed me through the black door. The football season had just started, and this being Saturday afternoon, the place was mayhem. We were lucky to find a place at the counter which in my mind was no luck at all. The counter was covered with a million layers of invisible beer patches and my fingers stuck. On the screens, it was Liverpool versus some newly promoted fodder who apparently stood no chance.
But looking at the score (scousers were 2:0 up) and the sea of red scarves soaking the room wet, you held on to your Swedish beer and you stood up. They were chanting glorious abuse and it took a while for them to notice your presence. You said you wanted to have a bet. They winced at your dress, wondered how exactly they were being fucked over (it was a beautiful white dress, remember), took a minute to think it through and then burst into laughter. At which point you put your glass on the floor, took out a fifty-quid note and said Liverpool would lose. That simple. And I loved you for that.
The one wearing a Steven Gerrard t-shirt, he was the one who shook your hand. There was less than a quarter of an hour left in the match and everything unfurled like a classic Buñuel film. Which is to say, it was surreal. In fact, you barely took a second to blink or smack your full-blooded Sicilian lips in those insane fifteen minutes when Liverpool let in one, two, three goals. It wasn't football, it was genocide, and if the Gerrard guy could utter something, anything, it would have been a whimper. Instead, he offered you his fifty pounds, crumpled beyond disfigurement, but you just finished your beer and told him he could keep that. It was charming, and there was nothing discreet about that kind of charm. You joined me at the counter as the sniveling hordes were leaving the premises, turning the place into an empty used condom. Me, I loved you for that.
And later that evening – of course I loved you for hating the umbrella. Any umbrella. Because the moment we left the pub, it began to drizzle with the softest of needles. I took out my umbrella but you just waved it off. With your wrist-watch working. With your hair tightly done. With your white dress looking as hot as it did in your Instagram account.
You simply did not care, and you continued doing so when the giant aquarium above our heads was shattered and the rain scorched us. You said it was fine, and I loved you for that. In the meantime, we could not find the bus stop, either because it was too dark or else we were too drunk to think straight. At some point an old man raised his head from the pavement and asked for cigarettes. Instead, we gave him the umbrella.
I thought that night, for it was night already, that there is nothing in the world as moving as helpless, unprotected beauty. And occasionally, when the street lamps split the darkness and I pulled out your tiny figure, I could see exactly that. You were looking so vulnerable, you were sugar melting. And we did not even have an umbrella to give us a fake sense of protection. So what happened next was you grabbed my hand and screamed (because everyone has to scream in the rain) that anything would grow bigger in such profuse rain. Even modern lovers like us. But instead, what I saw was not just your dress but your whole body shrinking from the rain. Inch by inch. Until the dawn broke and you turned into nothing. And, again, I loved you for that.
from 'Stories for Modern Lovers'