A memory. Six years old. Bare belly flat on the bathtub’s floor, small hands miraged beneath the two-foot depth of water. Dizzyingly hot. I slide my naked body across the slippery porcelain bottom and clamber up into the cool night air of the open window. Knees to chest, I fit perfectly in the small sill. A scanty breeze plays upon my wet skin, rousing an irrepressible, full-body shiver.
The heady scent of lilac, and that hypnotic song I know ventures from my lips.
Shiny shiny shiny boots of leather, whiplash girlchild in the dark…
The older neighborhood kids in the street, out late, playing kick the can, stop and stare.
I can still see my mayhem of a mother screaming about that one. Always with her screaming. Until the words were nothing more than a sound I chose not to hear.
And it was too late anyway.
The implications of myself framed in the window stuck.
His name was Severin, but they called him Piranha. I never asked why they called him that. It wasn’t my place to ask.
Severin was my night-time captor.
(And what a captor he was.)
All of my waking hours belonged to me, and I was free to do as I chose. Free to linger in dirty cafes, scribbling lazily in the margins of left-behind newspapers. Free to stand under awnings in the rain, hugging myself, watching the heavy drops splatter against my Edwardian button-up boots and glide erratically down through the cobblestones below. Free to smoke hashish with three exotic beauties, a mental asylum outpatient and twin sisters from Brazil.
I don’t remember spending my time around men. If it happened at all, it meant nothing to me.
I vaguely remember having my palm read, listening to Nick Cave, and impulsive performances at open mic platforms.
At day’s end, the growing shadows were an indication to bid my adieus and find my way home. To a third floor pied-á-terre on a quiet street. Lit by the familiar orange glow of an overhanging lamp.
As when a child, I would soak in an overhot tub before bed, by now well-acquainted with the concomitant lightheadedness. Even if Severin didn’t come of an evening, I was still the better for it. I loved pinning my hair in a skull-crown, sudsing every inch of my body, rubbing lavender oil into my dewy skin. I loved standing in the bedroom window to dry, a high blush on my cheeks, the diaphanous curtains catching the wind and wrapping themselves around me.
During that time I slept easily, though lightly, and sacred were the nights I’d wake to his haunting form standing over me. I’d hear my own quick intake of breath before he descended.
“Open your eyes,” he always instructed. And I’d look in time to see his ravenous mouth, his menacing glances.
Aside from that, we didn’t really talk much.
Hours later, I’d wake briefly to the sound of the front door shutting, and be consumed by a terrific loneliness.
But by morning it was all as if a hazy, sensual dream.