I have given up on sex.
Long past are the days of flirting and seduction. That deep ache for sex does not visit me anymore. Once it was like an animal pacing around inside of me, growling to be released, moving panther-like in the dark of my lower body, pouncing when provoked. For a long while I missed the animal and on occasion caressed her briefly out of slumber, but it was like throwing kindle on a waning fire; a few sparks but no flames.
I walk to the outdoor market in the early morning when the air is cool, and I stare at the roundness of stone fruit, reach out to touch the soft fur of peaches and run my thumb down into the hidden curve where the stem grows. I watch the hands of the men behind the tables unloading the produce, imagine the roughness of their sun darkened skin. I keep walking, searching for something new, finding the same and then head home. A temporary home, I remind myself. A retreat for now, I assure myself. It doesn’t matter, I convince myself.
Cool tiles under my feet after I kick off my sandals at the door. My feet dusty from the walk, I head for the pool.
Unbuttoned, unzipped, unhooked, I drop my clothes where I stand and then grab a towel on the way to the edge of the water. A sideways glimpse in a mirror and then a window confirm the reality that my body is older. Still pleasant to look at, but older.
I am sort of sitting, sort of hanging mid-water at the bottom of the pool, eyes closed, holding my breath. The cold water surrounds me, holds me tight and the air in my lungs threatens to float me back up. I let it all out, bubbles tickling my cheeks, my eyes. I imagine my lungs collapsing into puckered pouches like the old uneaten fruit in the bowl on the kitchen table, where the fruit flies gather. Everything ages.
I make myself weightless and float up when I cannot stay under one more second.
I daydream in the dry afternoon sun and the dream follows me into the shade of royal palms. I dream while the hot breeze moves lazily across the surface of my skin. I dream of the panther waking slowly from her deep sleep, heavy, musky and drugged with centuries of rest. She would be ravenous.
I read Rumi and Hafiz poems before I go to sleep. My sleep is deep and dreamless.
In the morning, I sit with tea and look out the window. I sit there so long that I hear the afternoon delivery of mail drop in the slot. Almost across the world from my old life, my mail finds me. The tea in front of me is cold and I know that it has been too long, sitting here.
I get up from the table, get dressed, get moving. I think that today will be no different, that nothing will happen, can happen to move me from here to there. Wherever there is. The comfort of privacy is wearing off. I have too much leisure on my hands, I ponder. I am too solitary, I think.
Walking in town is enjoyable because I am a tourist here. If I lived here I imagine, it would eventually feel familiar and the enjoyment might turn into routine, might get old. Everything ages.
I walk past a coffee shop, a boutique, another boutique and a bookstore, which I go into. I remember the used bookstore that Michael and I would visit on Sunday mornings. I remember his hand resting on my neck while he read silently from a book in the back corner of the store between art history and architecture. His hand moving lazily down my back, and never looking up from his book moving it further, his thumb tracing my hidden curves to the place where my stem grows, or would grow if I were a peach. For a second, the panther stirs, then goes back to sleep, lulled by her own low growl.
After the bookstore I walk on, looking in the stores and waiting to be inspired. I pause in front of a yoga studio because a young woman is leaving and we collide awkwardly and she smiles an apology. She is lovely, and young, and moves with that way that young women move, easy and free and powerful in an outward way. I smile back and just as I am about to walk on something inside catches my eye.
I stop and watch. In the classroom, through an open door I can see a man who is almost completely covered in tattoos. He is beautiful. His skin is a work of art, and beneath the art is another work of art. His muscles move under colorful skin like waves over bone and his energy is so engaging that I think to myself, if the statue of David were to come alive, it would move like this. But he is not a statue and he is rolling up his mat and then he is walking towards the door. All the air goes out of my lungs in one long sigh and I have to remind myself to inhale again.
He sees me and smiles.
Hello, he says.
Hello, I hear myself say.
I can feel the panther lift her head.