Mauve Imperfecto

Internet Archive Book Image / Contes mauve (1921)

A French ghost of a holy war
sat in a green iron chair on the veranda
she was smoking candy cigarettes
and wiping the sweat from her thighs
the champagne was warm
and the memories were cold
like ice cubes against her white stomach
tender glaciers
effortlessly gliding across her skin
she listened to the rough shuffle of Sunday feet
skirting across the plaza below
startling pigeons into the air
the screams and giggles of youth
the pointed gestures and grunts of adults
and as she rung another orange
against her plastic juicer
she watched the liquid run fluidly
like rain against a window
or blood down her arms
and thought helplessly
about when she was a little girl
and her head being pushed into the wall

She went inside her apartment
looked at the tangled sheets on the bed,
the spill of red wine,
the glass bowl once full of ice
now merely a listless pool
that shook like a baby’s smile when she walked
she ran her fingertips across her wall of photos
smiling faces of loved ones static in a memory chain
she put her burning lips to two fingertips
then pressed them against her mother’s moment of time
she traced the outline of her father’s face
with the tip of a chipped red nail
she stopped before her very favorite portrait of all
her husband, her children and herself
a different piece of history, a different place
when she knew how to smile

She went into the kitchen
and ran the juicer under the faucet
she looked at the bottle of wine
two-thirds gone
the orphaned cork crooked by its side
she looked at her high-heeled shoes
kicked into the dusty corner
just before he mauled her
with his strong American arms
she remembered how he had pinned her
against the door of the refrigerator
thick arms like bars right above her shoulders
and she thought about how he had stared into her
with those steely eyes
how she felt his unshaven face
when he kissed her so hard
she saw the tiniest puddle on the floor
where one ice cube had slipped from the bowl
and landed there
she saw his dress pants
hung over the back of one of her dining room chairs
the belt still looped through it
and his shirt poised like a sail
across the shade of her favorite lamp
she saw his shoes and his socks
strewn across the carpet
his boxers near the foot of her bed
She found his shaving kit
unzipped on the bathroom sink
his tie hung over the curtain rod
his set of keys on the coffee table

She found his wallet on her nightstand
his watch beneath her pillow
she remembered how she had asked him
to take it off
for it was snagging her hair
when he was pinning her hands
behind her head
she found the condom wrapper
roughly torn in haste
she remembered how he struggled
how he was shaking
as she tried to help him put it on
she remembered how his skin smelled
like his wife’s perfume and cigarettes
she bit into him
as he moved recklessly above her
and how he came all too quickly
for he was starving deep down inside

She remembered how she had knifed him
with a shiny, new butcher’s blade
as he clung to her after climax
his salty sweat running into her eyes
and the knife didn’t go in so easily
his back was bony and thick
she remembered how she had to push hard
and move the knife around like a stick shift
she remembered
how he winced and moaned
asking her in a quick, shallow breath
“What are you doing?”

And now she stared down at him
dead and cold
a stranger’s eyes propped wide with disbelief,
with terror
with the wonderment of betrayal
she kicked at his foot
ran her hand across the hair on his chest
kissed his chilled forehead goodbye
she washed the knife clean
put it back in the block
she called up the police
and told them
about the dead stranger on her floor
“We’ll come in a hurry,” they said
and she rushed out the door

She withdrew a candy cigarette from her purse
as she sat on a bench in the park
She watched the children play with a colorful beach ball
she watched the rainbow twirl in the air
strike someone in the head
and she heard them laugh
as they kicked and ran
beneath a platinum sun
she heard the sirens
growing louder and louder
she heard the screech of tires
and the rapid slamming of cruiser doors
she smiled when she felt they had found him
when the body bag zipped up in a final, fluid motion
and she tossed her candy cigarette to the ground
got up and crushed it with the tip of her red shoe
and joined the children playing
maniacally laughing and smiling
slapping at a rainbow ball
beneath a platinum sun
the mauve blood
caked beneath her nails.

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