After René Magritte’s Golconda
Hundreds of men are suspended in the air. Behind them is a lilac-blue sky and red tiled roofs. Each man is different and I search for the one most similar to you. None of them are. They wear bowler hats and dark overcoats in 1953.
At the cafe, I order a frozen hot chocolate. I smile at the man across the table. He doesn’t know how long it is since I’ve been on a date.
“I’ve never had a frozen hot chocolate before,” I say.
He pulls a face. “It’s too sweet, a milkshake.”
I almost tell him right then—this isn’t going to work.
The men do not rain down in Golconda, the clouds are thin and white, not rain clouds. The men stand on nothing, their feet are flat.
In another cafe, a man says, “This will be fun.”
“What will be?”
“This. Us. Spending time together.”
He reaches across the table and takes my hand and all I can think is—he is a stranger. I order a Campari and soda, for no other reason than you and I spent a summer drinking Campari. His hand is too warm, but I don’t pull away.
Sunlight hits the mirror and I am dazzled.
He says, “Are you okay?”
“Yes. I just cannot see.”
Golkonda is a ruined city in India dated from the 16th Century. It was known for its diamonds and was protected by a mud fort. Magritte’s poet friend chose this name for the painting. Neither he nor Magritte explained why.
My hamburger couldn’t be less appetizing. The bun shows my teeth marks from my last bite, and the meat patty and lettuce spill.
I lay the burger back on the plate.
“Is it no good?” he says.
“It’s no good.”
We ate burgers in your car and we were so young. It was your first car. You sucked on your Coke and raised your eyebrows at me in a question when there was no question at all.
A woman sings—I’ll wait for you on the other side.
In an Italian restaurant, the man across the table slices every sliver of fat from his steak. Surgical precision may be useful in a man or it could be painful.
I twirl the spaghetti on my fork, against a spoon, so that the strands become a tight bundle at the end of the fork before I lift it to my mouth. It takes forever. I want to be at home and let the spaghetti whip about my lips, my cheeks, splattering marinara sauce.
She isn’t getting tired, over and over she sings—I’ll wait for you on the other side. I have decided it’s me singing to you, rather than you singing to me. If you were here, you’d say, “Could you play a different fucking song?”
My therapist quotes Albert Camus to me. Not the one about the midst of winter and the invincible summer within. The one about carrying on, just carrying on and this is the superhuman achievement.
I tell her I cannot get those men out of my head. The men do not fall through the sky anymore, nor do they stand, waiting. Now they ascend, they leave so fast—whoosh. They vanish.
At a club, a man says, “Would you like to dance?”
“I can’t,” I say.
“I can’t either, but we don’t have to do much.”
We step onto the dance floor. He takes my hip and I close my eyes.
The song is heavy with electric guitar and it turns my stomach, the guttural way it twists, thumps and screams, slides back and forth. You used to love this song.
I lean into his neck and say, “Get me over this.”
He pulls back. “What did you say?”
“I need this.”
We danced in our front room. We were so young—our dancing was more like jumping. We were bursting. The elation! Then we got older, slower, leaned against each other, your mouth pressed against my ear.
I follow the man into his apartment. He doesn’t push me against the door as soon as we walk inside. I want it. I want him to trap me between his body and the door. He goes to the kitchen and snaps open two Coronas. Bottle tops clatter into the sink. I told him at the bar that I drink beer, although I haven’t for years. When we were kids, Corona was our beer. The taste sends me back back back.
He watches me over the bottle as he drinks. He plays Jimi Hendrix because I told him that I love Hendrix, even though that was you, not me. “Purple Haze” starts and Jimi kisses the sky.
The man sets his beer on the counter and draws me against him.
I lean into his neck and say, “Is this you?”
He pulls back. “What did you say?”
“I want you.”
In his bed, he is above me but it is your fingers that thread with mine, push my hands back into the mattress.
You stop, drop your head and laugh. “Golconda? Are you using a safe word on me?”
I smile. “What? Did I say Golconda? It’s just a word I like.”
You kiss my mouth and we move again. Your body temperature becomes mine. It seeps into me. I have not forgotten this. I am consumed by fire.
I lean into your neck and say, “I am very sad without you.”
But you aren’t listening anymore.
I try to sleep in our empty bed. Jimi sings—I can’t go on like this. I tip my head back and all of those men hang above me and not a single one of them is you and every single one is you. People say, how are you? No one says, how are you in the middle of the night?