There was a life, somewhere between the coincidence of stepping on a manhole at the precise moment all the lights in the neighbourhood went out at once—oh, so briefly– while walking back from an exquisitely choreographed flamenco spectacular at the theatre, on the one hand, and that rainy winter’s day she first read Pablo Neruda’s poems in translation on the bed of a black man, on the other. There was a continent, a theatre programme, and a life in between.
There were two brown blankets, that was all. No pillow, no sheets. The absence of a pillow was compensated for by the sunken part in the middle of the mattress, where his body habitually lay.
The young woman could not remember why she was in the house of the black man. Ah, yes, her friend was visiting someone else who lived there, but that did not explain the bed. She might have felt dizzy, or had a fever that day, and felt unwell. In any case, the black man offered her his bed to lie on, and a book of poetry, by way of remedy.
It was not love, or even sex, since he was not her type, being a man, even though he oozed sex appeal of the taut, muscular kind dancers possess. She, being pale, ugly, white and quite chubby, perhaps even fat, was not his type. And so the bed was just a bed, and the brown blankets were simply brown blankets, and not, as it happened, some oblique political statement about austere essentials in the name of the struggle for freedom.
The black man turned his back on her out of necessity, since his desk faced the window, and there he sat studying for his exams scheduled for that very week.
When she awoke the bed springs creaked. He got up, wordless, and returned with a cup of water for her. He did not ask if she felt better. He asked her which of the poems she had preferred. The one about the numbers, she said.
He laughed, confirming to himself his intellectual superiority. He said it was the easiest one to understand. She said she did not know, since she had not read all the others yet.
©2018 Allison Wright
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