The sun is setting, and I’m hungry and horny, and Girl knows it. She can always tell when I’m salivating.
We met at a bus stop in Chile back when I had first stopped shaving and she had just begun and the ground beneath our feet was just some place at the edge of the world. Later, it turned out we’d taken the same flight there and told the customs agent the same tale of how we were traveling to find out if the stories we’d told about the Chilean wine we’d served to a thousand German and Norwegian guests who came to bathe in the wet Icelandic summers were true.
The time was sometime past midnight. She stood leaning up against one side of the bus shelter. I stood at the other end. Her hair was charcoal, and over her shoulder the stars looked on longingly. I’d read Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson too. I’d seen Interstellar. I knew what black holes do to lights in the sky. And back then, I wanted nothing more than to be swallowed whole.
The bus appeared over the hill. I was counting the number of lines in the road between it and us, building up courage, and before I had a chance to say anything, she said, Excuse me, but do you know if this is the bus to Valparaíso? She added, P.S. Hi.
Oh, hi, I said. Yeah, I think so. Do you?
Yes, I think so.
That’s Girl. She’s always been simple with her words like that; her tongue she saves for other stuff. And she did that thing she does where she rubs her nose with the inside of her wrist—which back then was of course just some random thing a charcoal-haired girl at a Chilean bus stop did—and it made you feel like the birth of the universe had just happened all over again.
And that, to tell you the truth, is how most stories end. Even at a place like the edge of the world. But did you know that buses in France don’t stop unless you wave them down? Standing in place and pulling out your wallet is not enough. This is one thing to talk about when you pour French wine, and whether or not Chilean buses share that custom with the French, Girl started doing jumping-jacks by the side of the road. I was thinking whether I should save her or if she was busy saving me, and in the end the bus driver gave us a look with eyebrows like the Arc de Triomphe, and the bus swooshed us by, and I said, P.P.S. Hi back. Such was the start of the best adventure in the history of the new universe.
This is why, when we have nothing else to do, we howl at the moon, Girl and I. Because it’s in the way, you see, of all the magnificence on the other side.
Listen, I have a thing for informational pamphlets—Girl says it’s what stokes my hunger, information is—and on the plane to Chile, after devouring the safety instructions, I pilfered a scrumpled-up travel brochure on Cerro San Cristóbal, originally named Tupahue, from the bag of the cloud-gazing lady in the white pearl necklace next to me.
So, by the bus stop, looking for something to take our minds off the bus’ taillights shrinking on the horizon, I said: Locals tell of a boy at the beginning of time who shot a charcoal-blue marble down the hill at the foot of his village, and the marble rolled and rolled all the way to Valparaíso, and finally it arrived at the harbor and kept going and going right until it dove off the edge and splished into the water. There a fish caught it just before this fish was eaten by a bigger fish that was then gobbled whole by this giant octopus, and the octopus was so big that, in turn, no other creature in the ocean could eat it, so it just kept growing and growing. All the while the marble sat quietly in a dark corner of the creature’s vast stomach, decaying slowly, slow like wine, slow like rocks in space, slow like famous last words. Over time, it dripped tiny drops of liquefied glass into the octopus’ blood stream. Soon, it became part of its inner organs, which as the octopus grew and as it aged, growing to almost the size of the entire earth itself, turned increasingly inky and dark, until the day its veins popped all at once, I said, spreading my arms out wide, like the birth of the universe, and the remains of the giant octopus, the blood and the blubber, the DNA and the entrails, all rained down over the earth, and that is how night was invented and also the taste of ink.
She said, And then they, the locals, bob their eyes and tell you the marble is still rolling, is always rolling, inside of us, in everything around us, and as recently as a few years ago, courtesy of a sheet of music and the Voyager program, parts of its inky blood just left the solar system in the form of a Blind Willie Johnson tune.
That’s Girl, see. She’s a ball of blues, and when she’s down, she takes me to all the spaces between the stars. Girl has things stoking her hunger, too, is what I mean, and one of those things is the stuff beyond the horizon. Chile, for both of us, was never going to be the end.
She twirled a lock of hair around her finger and put it in her mouth. Do you wanna go for a walk? she said, pointing down the road to Valparaíso and beyond, and before we did, I grabbed her hair, and she ripped off my shorts, and we did it on the shoulder of the road until our sweat steamed off the asphalt and we searched the skies for exploding sea creatures. Then, too, we howled at the moon, erasing it from the firmament with the charcoal in her hair and banishing the tides to hell, ‘Cause we, we said, we’re a tidal wave. And fuck everyone who doesn’t believe in love at first jumping-jack.
Later, still entwined on the shoulder of the road, I combed her hair, and she dubbed my cock the Hardon Collider, and when she asked me my name, I said, Call me Tinderbox. And this, I know, is the moment Girl always travels back to when she comes. Mine is the one after, when I pulled out and pulled her up, and she kissed me, and her skin was so electric in the starlight it lit up the lines in the road.
Somewhere there was Valparaíso and there was a bus and there was a harbor, and we were still here where we were, and we didn’t care, because now the Earth had spun for us.
Then we came back, and right now, a few months and some spins of the Earth later, she’s eyes the size of saucers, and they’re on me from across the table at her parents’ house. We’re looking, just looking, and it’s like I can taste her hair grow. How the hell does she do that? The air in my chest feels like a bus crash, and I want to jump her right now, blow the stuff off the table with everything in my lungs, huff and puff and watch the pots and pans, the glasses and steamed veggies, scatter to the winds until rocks or marbles or whatever come tumbling out of her and in the distance a pack of dogs start howling at the tapestry of our limbs twirled into a knot in the reflection of the melting IKEA parking-lot at the end of the street as we inflate and take to the skies and implode into a fistful of stardust.
But her dad’s at the head of the table. He’s hemming and hawing, discussing the declining respect for butchers or burglars or bunnies or some such thing, and her mom’s in the kitchen nursing the venison and the sauce bourguignonne. Her mom’s apron is whiter than the white in God’s eyes. She is talking to the dead meat. This means dinner is imminent. You can hear onion wedges sizzling on the skillet. Behind us, the TV is sputtering. The Dalmatian is lying in the balcony doorway, half in, half out, watching a squirrel squirreling across the backyard, laundry swaying in and out of the growing shade, some other dogs across the road, Eyjafjallajökull like a massive bear behind them, the journey of a single leaf falling from the apple tree in the neighbor’s backyard. And all I can think of is the taste of the golden sweat glistening in Girl’s suprasternal notch.
Nobody’s mind is on the volcano.
Against the living-room carpet, her mom’s heels are silent. Did you know the Danish word for venison is vild, she says, which means wild? She says this leaning on the table with one elbow. Underneath the apron, her shins look black-and-whiter than the legs of Brigitte Bardot in Manina. She lights a cigarette. Before exhaling she says, Open season, and she bats an eyelash towards the food on the stove.
We rise. We pass through the smoke. We breathe it in. We dine standing. I don’t bother hiding the bulge in my crotch; there are things more wild here than the venison.
* * *
Against the blacktop by the bus stop outside the IKEA, the lines in the road look like they’re chasing down the end of the world. Girl comments on this. For all you know, she says, maypoling round the bus stop lamppost, the lines’re playing Hide-and-Go-Seek, and if we close our eyes, when we open them again, they’ll be gone. I say, What then? And Girl says, Then we go seek them. I say, At the end of the world? Girl says, At the end of the world. Against the darkening sky, her voice is an eruption.
Girl has her hand in my pocket. She’s teasing. She slips down, and I swear the tips of her hair are flaming hot. This is what we do to each other; this is what we feed on. Her locks leave burns on my skin; a few pubic hairs are singed as she unzips me with her tongue. She does this like a twig drops a leaf. It couldn’t be more natural. And here is Girl’s secret: inside her mouth she hides a marble, wet and glistening and about the size of the tip of her nose and ready to spill out over all the universe, and she says, Close your eyes, and I do. I think of the lines in the road.
PETUR HK prefers trousers with pockets. He also translates fiction and teaches English and other flighty things at Skive Handelsskole. His students have dreams of becoming stock brokers and executives. They call him Batman because his birth-name is too hard to curl your tongue around. His girlfriend calls him Peach, among other things. His real name means rock. Rocks have no pockets, but they’re good for other stuff. Some of his previous work has appeared in Hobart and Gulf Coast.