Love Letters to Earth

by Henry Quicke








The priestess places the anthropologist’s palm over her bellybutton.

The anthropologist splays his fingers and presses them into the priestess’s soft skin one at a time.

The priestess brings one knee up and puts her hand on the anthropologist’s wrist.

The anthropologist moves his face closer to the priestess’ neck and inhales deeply.  Then he exhales so his breath brushes her skin.

The priestess smoothes the top of the anthropologist’s foot with her big toe.  She looks at him as if she has something to say, even though she doesn’t.

The anthropologist allows the shape of her hip to mold his palm.

The priestess allows her lips to open slightly.

Their movements create a new swaying pattern in the hammock, while the flashlight beam makes an elliptical pattern on the wall, an orbit disordered by unexpected gravity.

She stops caressing his lower back and abruptly pulls away.  “You only want to sleep with me because you know you are going to die,” she says.

“That’s not true!” he protests.

“It’s my fault,” she says.  “I never should have told you first.”

“No no, really it’s good that you told me.  I would have been mad if you hadn’t.”

“No you wouldn’t have.  You would have been dead either way.  But now I’ll always wonder.”

“I’d fall for you anyway.  I’d fall for you even if I were going to live forever.”

“Do you promise?”

“Promise not to kill me and then you’ll see.”

“So that’s it!”  She folds her arms over her bare breasts.  “You only want to sleep with me to save your life!”

She turns to face the wall, and he follows, wrapping his arm around her.  Now he’s in the uncomfortable position of having to convince her that sleeping with her is more important to him than his life.  It’s really a game, a lover’s game, since they both know his life has lost all meaning outside the moment.  He has only now, and the continual forking toward now’s end.

“When I was a boy, I dreamed of traveling the world,” he says.  “Then I did it, several times over.  Now I wonder, even if you released me, where would I go?”

She puts her hand on his arm.  “When I was a girl, I dreamed of someone telling me stories.”

“That was me,” he says.

“The story I remember was full of light,” she says.  “The words were light.  I could see that the words were light and that the light was all around me but none of it was directly on me.  The light shined everywhere but on me.  When I moved, the light moved, too.  Once, I hid behind a tree and then popped my head out, trying to trick the light into shining on me.  I finally gave up, telling myself that the light was everything but me, the light was the world except for me.  Was that the story you told me in my dream?”

“No,” says the anthropologist.  “The story I told was about a whole world of darkness that had just one small piece missing.  The missing piece was felt but not seen, a hole that all the world’s light seemed to drain into.  If the world could find its missing piece, it would then be complete and bathed completely in light.  Meanwhile, the world moved around its missing piece, slowly defining its location but still unable to see it, until the missing piece became the most important part of the world.”

“Oh,” says the priestess.  “I must have dreamed of another storyteller then.  Sorry.”

The anthropologist traces her areola with his finger, then crosses gently over her nipple, as if to cross it out and remind himself not to go further.  He does anyway.  He lets his finger mimic a water droplet as it runs down her breast, then down her stomach, where it pools in the soft hollow between her hips.

The priestess turns back to him.  She allows her fingers to roll down his arm and across his lower back in tiny rivulets.

“You see?” she says.  “This is a kind of note-taking, too.  Only better.”

The rain taps at the thatched roof and drips off into the mud.  Notes are being taken.  One day, thinks the anthropologist, the rain will stop and the world will tell its story once and for all.  Meanwhile, there is only the desire for it.

He glides his fingertips over the priestess’s damp inner thighs and down beyond the flashlight beam.

He hears only her breath now, her sighs and small gasps.  This begins to unnerve him, because it makes it seem their conversation has ended for good and the sequence has begun that will lead inevitably to his death.  He wants to touch her somewhere that will make her talk, dirty or otherwise.  As his hands travel over her body, seeking the magic spot, her breath only quickens, and words seems further and further from her mind.

It occurs to him that he has roamed the world as he now does her body, searching for the world’s g-spot, if by “g” it’s meant “gab” or “garrulous.”  He’s had no better luck with the world than he’s having now with the princess.  The problem is that the throes of desire make talking impossible, or unnecessary, or insignificant.  Or maybe we just forget.

It’s a problem with the construction of the world, he decides, and he wishes he believed in someone or something to blame for this.

He can’t stop it from happening any longer.  He’s gone too far.  He’s been pushing up against an invisible barrier, and now the barrier will either break or spring him backward into oblivion.  He wants it to break.  He can’t think of a reason it shouldn’t.  He can barely think at all anymore.  He wonders at how a world that once seemed so full of possibilities has narrowed itself to just two.  But mostly, he feels the surge of desire that he will gladly let carry him to his death.  He understands that this is how you die; you fight it, you accept its inevitability, and then you finally crave it so much you leap into it.  There is nothing now he would rather do.