Fiction

Can’t

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 FICTION








Can't by Carole Maso




Her pale blue scarf loose in the wind and her hair . . .




Objectively she can watch the descent, until she can’t anymore.


    
His mouth at her neck. And it’s not fear she’s feeling but surrender and dread, a floating
feeling and the full head of curls. The mouth . . . Oh . . .


    
And he stops at her breast and lingers there in a kind of stranding, stranded, surrender,

beached there, can’t, circling, lapsing, oh, not altogether pleasurable, anymore . . . Wings
beating. Useless against. I can’t, Francesco.


    
Shhh, he begs. And what world there is blurs. And time slips.


    
The room: intermingling of dark and light. On the night table four anisette biscotti on a
gold plate. A point of reference. Before and after the descent. Something for the return — should
they make it back. A decanter of amber. Strange drugged beacon.


    
Just outside the window sorrow, the sound of bells ringing. Pius is dead. Paul is dead.
John Paul is dead after only months.





He’d brought her back a black bra from Sicily. I love you.


    
She tries to — I can’t anymore — but he puts a finger to her lips.


    
I’m thirsty.


    
The night nurses.


    
She says to him, Please Francesco, I can’t.


    
He licks the hair under her arms. Precious, most precious. Reading from the Book of
Saints.
He doesn’t skip a single one. Saint Agatha. Saint Jerome in the desert. Most precious .
. .


    
And she can’t help but think of Antonioni in the slowness, in the excruciating heat, just
how much time he takes. She tries to move herself, down, arches her back in an attempt to get to
that mouth now. But then gives in to it — the slow.


    
She is a passenger, she thinks, passive without control of where they are going — across the

desert then? His slow devotion. She watches a black cat licking its hind paw at the window’s ledge.
Outside the smoke. Waiting. Crazy. A small thrashing. Don’t move.


    
She tries to squirm to meet him. Scratching beard. Pazienza, Ava.She is caught in
the lapsing, in the promise of, that eerie other-worldly place he takes her to.


    
And those cries and chortles — the babbling — is that she or just some worldly
reverberation? Bristle of cat and slow and milk flowing. Somewhere a cyclone. A vortex of birds.
Oasis. Hallucination.


    
Stalled now at the left breast. Francesco. In this downward . . . sucking on a rib,
desiring . . .


    
Read to me from the Book of Saints. Their bleary, suffered, bleeding — Oh God . .
.


    
And she is caught in this for years and falling as he descends.


    
Far from the place of God, and no God, Francesco don’t start, but it’s already too
late, already far too late of course.


    
He whispers at her belly, My mouth is already there.


    
Having put down the book some time ago now, I can’t . . .


    
And she is falling, undeniably. And the room darkens with his first touch. And the world
blurs as she tries to fight it, only — Francesco, I can’t. Having put down the film ledger,
the small light out. The humming choir for a moment. And her breathing more and more shallow and he
unlocks the black bra and smiles, Can’t what?


    
I can’t . . .


    
He lifts her striped dress. To reveal garter belt, silk stockings, as he has requested, her
heels already digging into his back. I can’t. She holds her dress in her hand, clenched, as
he unbuttons her sweater. Cashmere. The black Sicilian bra.


    
The feel of his curls on her cheek, then neck, then clavicle. The sound of bells.


    
Striped dress. And the stripes of that extraordinary room — stanza, dark and light — the
Venetian blinds. Her hand in his hair, Can’t anymore, but pressing his head down, wanting,
falling. Undeniably. Oh . . .


    
How did she suppose she’d ever resist this extraordinary, and now total, giving in? Do what
you like, whatever you want, forever, like that.


    
Drained, the wall away, the cat dragging a mutilated bird across the room, passionate

wreckage, shred of bells and — what she had wanted to say — this slayed and begging, partially
destroyed . . . Pressing his shoulders down, Please.


    
Hanging only slightly out of reach. I can’t live. Her head thrashing back and forth,
blindfolded, now. He holds her hands down. I can’t.


    
Don’t. With his brute force now.


    
In the end, a pale blue scarf . . . removed from the eyes or the wrists.


    
What pulses, waiting there, glistening in the dark. The cat transfixed.


    
I can’t live like this.


    
Ava Klein, how are you feeling?


    
And she watches the Roman sun in winter traverse can’t and live.


    
We’re falling.


    
Outside the transfiguration. Outside the mourning. Nailed to the wall, she screams. The
college of cardinals draped in red. The ballots cast once more. All the burnt offerings. Their grave
task. Black smoke. From the cut throat — smoke. From the most precious blood — smoke. A somber
electorate. As they go down. Outside a pope has died. Oh . . . After only months. An
unnatural event. And she weeps.


    
Incense floats above the bed. She’s floating off in its wafting, the perfume, pleasure,
drifting passenger. The world comes and goes, amplified and then diminishing into an incredible
calm. Once more. Beautiful last stanza, Francesco. Bathed in radiance. Just once more.


    
And oh how the mouth will seem fused to that spot, barely moving for a while.


    
What now begins to throb . . . the fingertips throb and the ends of her hair throb and all
thought: I want, I thought, fuck, love, take, now — without care for safety or — the flames.
Look.
In the room. And then a kind of vacuum . . .


    
Live, he whispers and takes and opens, well practiced — and in love with this. An
expert. Live.


    
He brings her knees to her head. Takes the pale scarf . . .


    
The odd angle at which we are suddenly positioned. Via Dante Alighieri — the right road

lost. Tourists coming and going. American Express. Francesco, I can’t.


    
God his head. His mouth now . . .


    
Almost, almost . . .


    
The way she writhed against his giant hands, mouth, erect. Close up, you are like . . .


    
And isn’t it all just a little much? All the small tortures, her little half protests and
sighs and his insistence, swelling, the music bordering now on the film-scorish. He takes out his
light meter. Francesco . . .


    
He stares at her, adjusts the blinds slightly. He is so absorbed that he barely sees her,
looking up. Like one blinded. Now on her breast. Gorging himself. And she whispers, caught off guard
— and how can she be off guard? But she is, always, still. The words sound strange to her: Up
close you are like a statue.


    
Her dress. Blurring stripe, fading stripe in her bliss filled eye. As he goes down. I can
taste you already.


    
Each time it is something of the same: Up close you are . . . You are . . .


    
Falling. Sound of the breath, of the heart beating. I can feel your heart. I can
feel.
And the bells burn.


    
They’re falling.


    
It’s hopeless. Holding her as if in music or in prayer. Bellissima, he whispers.


    
It’s hopeless.


    
As if in prayer. His lips parting, Dear Ava.




Morning and the nurses.


    
Into that slowed up backward beating time, where the heart is yet to be broken once again,
where the heart is yet to be mended, again and again. You know Francesco, I think it is
hopeless.
Her heart and dress ballooning in the room. Sad last stanza.


    

Tiny white parachutes. Someone help me . . .


    

He moves his mouth as if in prayer down her silken leg now slow. Oh . . .





Why did she think if she loved him, she’d be safe?



And she straddles the question, mystery, body, the absence of God, in its perfection.
Shudders and the praying one looks up frightened all of a sudden whispering into that radiant center.



The great convulsive, floating, contracting —





    
Madonna, he gasps now, having . . .


    
It’s hopeless. One scarcely, scarcely knows what else there is to be done. She smiles, as if
there is some relief to be had.


    
Shall she tell you about relief once more? Refreshment? Once more?


    
Up close.


    
A kind of whispering, motion of the tongue between teeth, lips. Whispering, coaxing, then
harder almost devouring. Yes, like that. Holding his curls in her hands, forcing slightly the
head. What do you want? And then he sucks hard — her fingers in his mouth, she can touch his
tongue on her. He wraps his hands around her neck, then breasts, then holds her waist, encircles her
waist with his arm, for a better angle, There. Clasped like that. All the points and ways of
entry. There.




This is the Francesco she loves — the one she met when just a girl really, a student of comparative
literature in Rome. She was just cantering, seventeen, then. Idealistic girl in a blue scarf looking
into the endlessness of ocean and future. Fuck me again, she begs.


    
From the cut throat, birds. From the severed neck — rough this time — birds fly.


    
Striped wall — the light filtered through the blinds. Bells. The way his mouth . . . Source

of heat, source of all inspiration. Those patterned operatic — How many afternoons did we spend
like that? A lifetime ago.


    
She drenched and swollen and —


    
Live, Francesco says more to the nurses than directly to her. And then, Get some
rest.


    
From the severed neck, a flock of birds fly. And outside the window now, bells.


    
Making love all night. What does she see when she closes her eyes? Bells turning sorrow into
a song.


    
An anisette biscuit. A drained decanter of amber.


    
His favorite striped dress.


    
And across the wall.


    
It was at the beach at Rimini when he first took her hand. I wore a pale blue scarf. Hair
escaping in the wind. Dark glasses. A glittering sea.


    
Tumbling to or toward this: a hospital bed. Even then. The destroyed bird on the window
ledge. Feathers in the mouth of the cat.


    
He gets up to leave. He’s an F-stop away. He’s in the dark.


    
Twenty-four years old at the end. Already past her prime. One last time. Having come from
another woman’s body. She tastes her all over him. I can’t . . . Fluttering on his open, his
most expert . . . I can’t live like this. And she watches light travel across the wall.
Utterly dizzied. Such sadness and pleasure and beauty. I can’t live. A square opens behind
her eyes where mourners slowly enter one by one in black, waiting. And as more and more populate the
beautiful piazza bordered by palaces and saints and extraordinary trees something opens like a rose,
Oh . . . Such spaciousness, or hopefulness — never having experienced such option, such
possibility, and perhaps never to again. But was this not everything and enough? Certainly enough.
From the sexual bath of light promise comes. In that extravagantly striped afternoon room.


    
A woman weeps and turns her face away. The veiled afternoon. Outside a pope. Mournful bells.
Birds in their bunting. A black flock swoops. People gather in the square. Witness gladiola and
rosary.


    
Outside in bright light: milk, birds, smoke pouring from the cut throat. Blood flow and
sorrow. Left at the edge of the bed: a pale blue scarf. It shall blow in that breeze at Rimini
forever Francesco.
As he leaves once more, as he goes off again for some months at a time with
the most beautiful woman in the world again.


    
She reaches for him through smoke. I love you, he says, and he is off.


    
A nun holds a black bouquet. An extraordinary space opens in her.


    
Francesco, I can’t live like this anymore.





©1997
Carole Maso
and Nerve.com