Spent—simultaneously their bodies shuttered in a gratified paroxysm. Their muscles then eased into indolent postures in concert with the circuitous rhythm of deep inhales—exhales. Nemo had to suppress a cough that rattled around deep below his sternum as the two rolled over to drift into a somnolent repose. Within those minutes of pliant time-and-space that come post-orgasm their heaving respiration ebbed into calm currents.
Their damp bodies pressed against one another as they were swaddled in the warmth emanating from the bed where they had just made love. Twisted about their ankles and thighs, the sheets hung from the edge of the mattress to drape down along the blue-marbled box spring and onto the burgundy carpet. Languidly, Odessa raised her thumb to her mouth and ran it tenderly along the soft groove between her lips; she mused over how—with his chest pressed against her bare bosom and supple belly as his hips inched in a swivel right-to-left to grind between the cauldron of her pelvis—Nemo had whispered: you have the perfect kissable mouth…
Her thumb rubbed against the tactile grain of her bottom lip as the corners curled upwards into a smirk. Odessa’s face was a pleasant arrangement where fine angles convened into round textures, which gave one the vague impression of a welcomed threat; ineffable in mind to the many men who looked at her, yet a composite lure of siren song and jagged reef. There was moisture along the hollow of her clavicle and the slope between her breasts was jeweled with sweat. Odessa’s figure followed the same aesthetic formula as her face: a composition that flaunted health, splendor, and the symmetry of a weapon.
Her eyes were a fractal blue and simmered with intellect and will. An ex-boyfriend’s grandfather had once told her that when she smiled, she always smiled with her eyes first and then her face would follow. She really liked that man and had wept quiet, bitter tears at his funeral. It had felt as if someone had squeezed an immature persimmon within her guts. He was a small Armenian man with white wisps for a mustache. His posture was a plumb line that ran through his wiry frame. He loved to invent nicknames for people.
“Hello, Yerazig. How are you?” he would say as she walked into his living room. An accent would always fall hard on the last word of his sentence. Squinting through the circular lenses of his glasses, he would then offer her a Werther’s Original from the glass dish that sat on the coffee table beside the fishbowl occupied by plastic replicas of aquatic flowers and a solitary Betta. Its long fins appeared metallic, undulating crimson and an iridescent turquoise.
An oval mirror that hung upon a wall adjacent to her side of the bed reflected a view of the bedroom window, open but veiled by gossamer curtains of a pale-ivory fabric embroidered with intricate geometric patterns of interlocking crescents. The window was illuminated by a diffused glow that consisted of a negotiation between the sulpher light emanating from metal lampposts and the slight, gold emersion of dawn. She could see the cast of traffic signals upon the leaves of a wilted elm tree that stood crooked on the lawn outside: alternating red, green, yellow. The deliberate arrival of morning had begun and Odessa closed her eyes.
“Nemo.” Odessa said in a hushed voice and then paused.
“Hmmm?” came the drone of reply.
“Do you know what the meaning of existence is?
Do you know where we come from?
The reason we are here, and where we’re going?”
Other than some random avian trills and warbles from outside, accompanied by small pull-and-push sounds of oxygen being exchanged for carbon dioxide within their lungs—the room had remained silent. Moments passed. The orotund engine of a sanitation truck passed by as its suspension knocked against a pothole. Then, with three syllables issued through measured breath, Odessa answered her own questions:
“Me. I am.”
Nemo reached out with a clumsy right hand and gently squeezed the flesh of her thigh. Lightly scratching a listless circle on her mons veneris, his drowsy finger wriggled through a black tangle of pubic hair and then fell still. With her eyes closed—listening to Nemo breathe near her ear, each subsequent breath becoming slower, deeper—Odessa noted the precise moment he descended into the endless fathoms of sleep.
Slumber—that terra australis nondum cognita of the mind.
Nemo began to dream:
Struggling to pinpoint his vision on the long, long flight of nine
Arrows, they blur as they arc across the blind-light white-chalk moon.
Myriad spires—twisting like spade-shaped flames lilting along
The black tips of wicks protruding from the slow wax of melting
Candles—adorn the balance-act heights of a citadel’s crown.
The citadel’s flying buttresses, columns, ribbed vault ceiling:
All erected with precision-cut precious metals and stones.
—Walls of jigsaw glass stained with coral, sea foam, and burnt orange.
Nemo plummets from his perch on the little rowboat, to drown,
Yet the tides impel him on towards the port harbor of Bourne.
Odessa dragged her thumb along the vermilion borders of her lips, up their lengths to the two ridges below her round nose. It had already been seven months since they had wed and Odessa was still delighted to discard her maiden name. “Oneiroi” had always seemed to roll smoothly from the speaker’s tongue only to collide with their gums and teeth. The feelings associated with her new surname were reminiscent of those she experienced as a child first entering the education system.
Checking attendance off of the register, the teachers had called her by her first name, as opposed to her middle one—Camille, as her family had always done to differentiate between her and her grandmother, for whom she was christened in tribute. Her fellow classmates followed suit and soon, between school and home she was leading a double-life—albeit a relatively normal one. Little Odessa was thrilled by the application of the “new” nomenclature to this person she already was; this solipsism of existence she seemingly inhabited, once commonly referred to as Camille. It added an element of mystique and novelty to her juvenile world. It was the first time she was to learn a lesson concerning our protean existence and the malleability of supposed reality.
Wandering in thought beyond this humid room and the four walls which held it, her mind swayed with visions of the big sky swelling with light; remnants of night devoured by morning; shadows outside their home leisurely shifting their diaphanous shapes. Placing her palms flat against her abdomen, Odessa drifted off into a lull and fell asleep.