In the street outside the well lit place a few murmurs of unseen music and the smell of traffic hooked me. Memories of other moments on the edge of an abyss- other angel wings- spread over yet another city .
It was futile. I willed myself not to live in the past- to let everything be new. I knew I needed to keep my feet on the ground so I did inventory.
What were the facts?
She was a poet? None of them before had been poets. Monsters, mysteries, goddesses, mothers, mistresses and madams. but none of them had a way with words.
Away with words, I mused.
Thus, ever the eternal optimist, I proceeded to convince myself that my path and she, because she was on it, were inevitable.
I must have looked like I wasn't paying attention because she grabbed my shirt in a bunch. For someone who seemed so scrawny she was very strong.
She twisted her lip in a tough mime.
"If you're going to come with me you got to leave everything behind. Travel light. Got it?"
I nodded. It was easy. She had it all figured out.
With an abrupt nod she turned away, and quickly clipped down the block, like a voyage that left on time.
Towers, silver in the moon light, loomed above us. From some direction, a clop clop clop of hooves on the street.
At the edge of a levee overlooking black water, sudden glints of oily, sweat soaked moon-light and the smell of wet rope mingled around us. A tug-boat troubled the back of a massive barge. Lights burned bright across the water near the locks. Smoke hung in the air.
"Well, what do you think?" She asked.
I tried to find an appropriate response but all I could think of was how the location seemed perfect for a film noire scene. I felt like lighting a cigarette, taking a couple of deep drags, and flipping it into the water next to the floater. But I didn't have a cigarette so I just shrugged and said nothing.
She must have guessed what I was thinking because she said, "This isn't a movie."
"I know that." I replied. "But I'm not sure."
"You think too much. Anything is everything."
"You expect a lot. Is that how poets are?"
"Something like that." She replied.
"Life isn't a poem." I replied, only half believing it.
She arched her back as if expecting me to scratch it.
I pushed the issue.
"I thought you were a poet."
"I'm still a girl."
I'm sure she expected me to accept this on faith but I wasn't in the mood so I just sneered.
"That's not going to work". She said.
"Pretending this is less serious than it is."
"What are you talking about?"
"Vanity, I suppose."
"See. Never mind."
"I'm not usually so slow."
"Slow fast, what does it matter?" She turned toward the water.
"Look, it might not matter to you but..."
"No buts. Moments that matter happen all the time."
"They do, so, really, it's not so special, not like you're trying to make it seem."
"Well, excuse me!"
She fumbled in her pocket and drew out a digital camera.
"I'll show you what I mean.", "Here, take a picture of me." She demanded
She tossed me the camera and backed up until she was at the edge of the levee. The water behind her rippled the distorted face of the moon as a rat swam across it's path. The ripples spread out in a halo of black and white until they encountered the upraised lump of the floater.
"Not exactly an uplifting setting." I said asI walked to her side.
"So?" She snapped belligerently. "I'm not looking for a scenic vista here."
"What are you looking for?"
"A context. I'm all the content this picture needs, I want to find out what the juxtaposition of this context does to my content."
"Shouldn't content be self supporting?"
"Don't be naieve. Nothing is self supporting. It's all a point of view. If I took the picture it would be entirely different."
"So you're trying to discover what my point of view..."
"Don't make this about you. It's not. You're just a random element."
"Perhaps, but it seems to me that I'm a necessary random element."
"Well, you're not. Neither am I. The tree would fall just fine without either of us."
I didn't have anything to add to that so I turned her toward me and kissed her. When she pulled away she looked shocked.
"Why did you do that?"
"Oh, I don't know...boy meets girl...moonlight on water...the context must have gotten to me."
"Well don't make too much out of it. I'm not that kind of girl."
"What kind of girl?"
"A kind girl."
"You think I'm looking for kindness? You did say you were a poet didn't you?"
"And I don't fuck on the first date either."
"You don't have to fuck."
"What are you, queer?"
No, just tired."
"Can't get it up huh? Must be tough, being an old guy."
"No it's not that. It's been a long time since I've been in a situation that was worth the effort."
"I know the cure for that" She said. "I said I'd show you. Come on. Take my picture."
She pushed me back a couple of feet and then returned to the edge of the levee.
I held up the camera but then she waved her hand in front of her face."
"Wait a minute gotta get the medecine."
She set her bag down and dug through it. I held the camera to my eye. Her fingers withdrew from the bag something shiny.
She raised her arm in the air. On the back, fine hairs shimmered, etched by moonlight. In a diagonal slash of red that streamed down her arm and dripped off her elbow, she brought her other hand across the muscle like a bow. Behind the now bloody arm her face was serene. The ivory sheen of her teeth and each strand of hair that snaked her forehead seemed alive.
I took the picture.
"See?" She said.
She wiped her arm on her jeans and pressed it into the fabric of her thigh to cut off the blood.
Far out, over the water, Dixieland jazz and the counterpoint of a tugboat whistle. A jet of steam the shape of the sound rode the tugboats forward stack.
The creosoted deck planks trembled as it's wake washed the pilings.