One year. 100 articles. So we're having a Reader's Party. Come along to Upsidecrown.
2 July 2001
Zeugo means "I join together". Zeugma is the thing joined.
That was the hundredth time we have made love. Counting the three times, two early on and one when you came back a day late from that weeklong conference in Leiden, when it was over almost before it started. Definitely not counting that one time when it actually was over before it started, which you were very kind about. And not counting the one time last week when you said that it didn't feel right, and asked me to stop.
You were teary and jittery all that night, and couldn't really explain why. Finally you dropped into a performative slumber, all fits and starts and muttered words in your native language. I was exhausted from the humming nervous tension of sharing a room with your anxiety, but I still stayed up for most of the night, watching you sleep, playing the guardian of your rest.
Zeugma also means a yoke, something, which joins together two animals. Like the lines that cross on your wrists.
Praxis is the act of doing. Pragma is the thing that has been done. The deed.
I don't know quite why, after three months, our languages are still so alien. Without boasting, I always had a gift for foreign tongues, and the sheer number you speak suggests the same. But, if anything, your English gets worse week by week, showing utter contempt for your adopted country, and my Swedish, always non-existent, has hardly lifted itself from the tomb and walked.
Medieval Latin, Ancient Greek, and the little guttural noises you make when you come. Lying, soaked in sweat on a disgusting, overheated June night. Body shrieking with the sudden and overwhelming sensation that the sheets underneath you are made of ground glass and honey. Then having to reach over to the nightstand and scribble down a couple of practice sentences before you can work out how to say how good that was, and ask if you would like a glass of water. It isn't natural.
Water is doable, love is doable. Yoghurt, - not. Every neologistic time we must explain the concept at length to one another, then settle on a word to use for it, usually an unwieldy compound. I don't know why, but just sticking a definite article and a mutable ending on the end of an English noun never seemed to work - you always forgot it, and the next time I tried it would peer up through your heavy blonde fringe, your mouth moving imperceptibly. Trying to remember an address, or a phone number you used to dial every other day two or three years ago. Same thing with me and Swedish. Generally, it makes sense that we avoid any topic involving concepts from later than about 1400. It seems to work peculiarly well.
Amor means love. Error means a mistake. It also means wandering
which is what you do more and more, scissoring your legs out of bed, pulling on yesterday's clothes. Pulling a hand through that unruly bed-hair that, after fifteen minutes asleep, makes light of the hundred brushstrokes you lavish on it every night. If you wake me, you tell me you are going for a run, and usually the next thing I feel is you slipping, night-air cooled and naked, back into the bed however much later. I'm lucky - I sleep heavily and rush back to Morpheus like a guilty lover.
But then, on the occasional night, I wake with your leaving, and cannot sink back beneath the surface. I read. I make tea, and I wait for you to come home. I've been doing this more and more. You take three, four hours to make it, and the moment you arrive you shoo me back to bed. I'm lost as soon as my head rests on your shoulder.
Euphemen means to pray. It also means to keep silent.
I don't think you are having an affair, unless it's a very hurried one. But I do wonder what you are doing on those greying predawns. Something else I have noticed. When you go out in the rain, you come back with perfect, bone-dry hair.
I won't ask. I won't ask yet. Chances are it doesn't translate.
And that's not all. Your eyes are getting darker - blue through green to hazel - and your skin paler. You tell me that between the fog and the rain London gets less sun than your hometown, far to the north. Warmer, but darker. So you're losing your tan. I don't know whether you believe it or not. You're turning the colour of those chicken-white cicatrices that trace a perfectly white, perfectly smooth X across the upturned skin of your inner wrists. You tell me you used to wrap things around them, but you always looked like Morten Harket, or a heavy metal singer. Heavy metal is siderion, something made of meteoric iron. I can't shake the feeling that it isn't the right word, but I know what you mean.
I ask you why the crossing-over shape. You smile with one side of your mouth, tell me to ask the one who made them, never tell me anything more.
But I am not one of those who needs to know everything about your past. Everybody has secrets. Between the thirteenth time and the seventieth, I slept fourteen times with one of my students. Worse, I dealt with the guilt by lowering her marks.
I can see you stirring. Another run. But not yet.
Give me a thousand kisses. Then a hundred.