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an archive of pleasures, wounds, sublimations
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12.24.02, tuesday afternoon

Two summers ago at the Mosquee de Paris, Niva and I imbibed mint tea from tiny etched glasses that stung our palms with the liquid heat they contained. Later we sank our forks into a tureen of stewed lamb and dates, the gravy of which we spooned over couscous on white porcelain plates. More than the flavor of the lamb, I remember the sweetness of their dates, the rich flesh that melted off the pits, even now, because they were the first ones I had ever eaten this way and because they were the ones I devoured in the company of la Niva, who, despite an otherwise impeccable profile, ate rather sloppily, spilling saffron-scented grains with aplomb while I watched, slightly mortified, manners minded by that voice called Mummy's, resounding even in Paris, far far away from them, my mother and my father, just as Oakland is far far away from them this afternoon.

Of course I didn't let them know that I would be abroad, far from the borders they have known for little more than my entire life-span, because they would have worried. But I should have known better, because they would have worried even if I had chosen to stay in San Diego all those years ago when I had to make a Decision between two cities, theirs or a strange city that was not marked by anyone else I had ever known. (The Decision, of course, was easy; I chose the unfamiliar.) They worried; I received e-mail after e-mail from them, wondering if I was ok. Na, call us as soon as you get this message. We love you.

. . .

A week later, I called them from the Basque country during the late morning while Niva glossed her lips red. Outside our window, the street was lively with the unfamiliar: strange tongues wagging as inhabitants, permanent and not, bustled round town, selling or buying or making coffee, tapas, goods. Our host sang gustily as he swept the narrow hall beyond our window, hiking the volume, easily, as easy as hiking a woman's short skirt in drunken darkness, until we could not escape the notes, the lyrical love-notes the unknown and unnamed singer was tossing to her beloved. Mummy wondered what was I listening to and did I know that today was her birthday?

The distance between us was immeasurable, longer than the distance between continents, beyond the reach of lyrical love-notes.

. . .

Weeks later and making home again in the Attic, I called my father. How was Paris? he asked, calmly crossing miles in one question.


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