Talking at the party

The Ghetto in Venice, at the corner of two streets. One has a little square at the end. No canals in my line of vision but here is the island’s signature light, smell, buildings, atmosphere. Waiting for someone, for a man, a man I’ve met only once before, at a party in another ex-pat’s apartment the night before last. I’m nervous as hell. I was excited before; he rang me yesterday to ask me and afterwards I spent some minutes with my hand clapped over my mouth but now…. I wish…I think…oh, I don’t know.

It started when I made a fool of myself. “I really admire the Bomb,” I heard someone say and I, ignorant of context and momentarily of propriety, screeched, “What?!” in a ridiculous quasi-American falsetto. Before I could regret it, I found the speaker laughing, delighting in my directness and passion and the next I knew, he was describing his admiration, explaining the completeness, the finality, the purity. Not heartless or mad, just specific in his symbol. I found I liked him.

He and I colonised a corner of the room, mapped our territory with cushions and barricaded it with a wine bottle and two glasses. The gaps in our border didn’t matter: no one else could have got through to us anyway. Wine, talk and honesty all flowed, deep, fast, churning, an uncrossable sea around an island of secrets. We revealed so many that night: describing dreams, philosophies, stories; experiments with drugs, music, girls; details of travels, oddballs, books; talking and talking, avoiding nothing.

“I met a fisherman in Turkey once….”

“…of course, we were terrified our parents would find out….”

“…I thought, and I still do, that it was a ghost….”

It lasted long (no time in our new land), our journey into each other’s histories, the joy where they converged, divides bridged with questions, the whys all encouraging and inquisitive, the answers all patient and genuine. I should tell you how he spoke too: a beautiful, melodious voice, no harsh sounds in it, careful with pronouns. When on a rare occasion he said, “you,” the sound stood out, almost tactile, a tiny, perfect present in return for an idea. I could have died happy when he rolled the R in my name.

“I have a story I am dying to tell you….“

“I’m dying to hear it.”

“I was there in…it must have been 1997, I think…”

And the stories went on, even the ones you shouldn’t tell, the hubris, the illegalities, the magic.

“…she’d forged it, you see….”

“Tell me…if it was bad, feel no shame….”

“…shy….”

“Don’t be…listen, imagine….”

He went in search of more wine. I leaned against the wall: I hadn’t noticed my back was hurting until then. Come back, I thought. I don’t want this to end. Someone else was coming over – don’t speak to me, don’t break this spell, if you speak you’ll wreck me, I’ll flounder in the cold water. My thoughts had some power and he veered off to another group. My friend returned; I saw him shining now, more precious after the interruption. The conversation changed too; it became all convergences, nothing but sharing, joining:

“You’re very beautiful, you know….”

“Beauty is truth, truth, beauty….”

“Keats….”

“I’ve been wanting to touch your hair – may I…?”

“When you said….”

“Hm?”

I bit my lip excitedly. No more words now. He kissed me.

Now I’m going to see him again. This afternoon. We’d agreed to have coffee together. In my mind, the talk continues, we finish our coffee, walk and walk, dine possibly, kiss – but what if we don’t? The question interrupts the fantasy and the source of my nervousness is discovered. What if today is all rot and dross and our mutual horror kills even the dear memory? The sky is so blue today but there are shadows down here in these narrow streets. Light and shade: we made our own that night but they’re out of our hands now. What if I’ve remembered the party all wrong? Were we drunk but dull? No, but the memory is surely sweeter than this afternoon can ever be. Maybe today will be a disappointment, a worse disappointment for what went before. Maybe it – it – is over. Talking at the party was complete in itself. It’s finished now and won’t come back.

But I don’t know that, do I?

Footsteps. He’s coming along the street from the square. Frantic, I hide round the corner for the very last chance to ask myself: should I gamble perfection or preserve it in its brevity forever?

Talking at the party

Tuliptree

Woking, United Kingdom

  • Artist
    Notes
  • Artwork Comments 8

Artist's Description

The idea for this piece came from Waiting II by Theraneand

While the story was taking shape in my mind, I read some poems by kromwellfarkus about sharing moments and decided who and what this woman should be waiting for.

Thank you for the inspiration, both of you! Please, at least, be glad to have inspired another, even if the result doesn’t do justice to the originals.

Artwork Comments

  • ian osborne
  • Tuliptree
  • kromwellfarkus
  • Tuliptree
  • Theraneand
  • Tuliptree
  • BLYTHART
  • Tuliptree
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desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

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