The Fiction

Bittersweet

From the Christmas, 1999, issue 

(No. 3)

I have a bruise, here, on the upper part of my thigh. It has turned colour in three different places. It proves my skin is alive. The colours are dark, darker than my own skin, deeper than my flesh. I have yet another bruise, here, in the hollow where my back meets my neck. This one is not so visible. But still, it proves that, even in hollow places, my skin is aching to feel alive.

As my skin carries colour differently, his voice carries words differently, skipping syllables and garnishing blunt vowels with the long, patient trills of an ever-distant lover. I remember his cheeks are hollow and his limbs need constant adjustment. I stood motionless in front of his camera, somewhat beyond a decent sense of posterity. My mother always told me that a woman’s posture is important. I can be proud, despite the motions of my life, despite the colour of my broken skin. I am captured now by a nameless, faceless object. I sit still. I am one of a series of Bellocq’s whores. But today I could be the first lady, crowned with a bruise for a tiara and a moment’s rest. I could have a moment’s rest.

Bellocq. Even his name rolls off your tongue like a back-porch whisper.

The thought of his name caresses my aching skin, my broken tongue, my abandoned posture. I wish I carried an artist’s soul. I wish that I wasn’t a dreamer and that my thoughts could become live pictures, like the ones he takes. My life is bright with a tincture I don’t recognize. I can feel his breath on my neck. I can feel his fingers brushing my lips. I can feel him moving my body into just the right light, just the right place between the here and the everlasting.

Men and women, they tell different stories. They take different pictures. A man tells a story from beginning to end. His ending is significant despite the varied contents of the story itself. His tale grows to have a life of its own. A woman is concerned with how a story is interpreted. Men tell stories forward, women tell them backward. Bellocq is aware of these differences; he captures them with a camera lens. As he attempts to tell the story of a woman, of many women, his vision is caught between artistic interpretation and a longing to tell a story backward. These differences are posed, each woman half-dressed, scarred, naked breast, soul escaping, and Bellocq can only tell their stories by looking forward. With his shades of black and white, and his sight dripping all over the place.

When he kisses me it is like being kissed by love itself. A gentle, winged touch that centres your soul. Does he kiss all the girls like that? It is a poet’s kiss. This lover, this photographer; I don’t want to leave this room, yet my path is already chosen. This free life. The blood. The body. The stolen, frozen breath.

“Smile,” he says.

“But not like that.” The beautiful kiss. And then, I don’t feel like a working girl. I feel like a poet’s study, a verse, an ode, an everlasting phrase. One man. I am a working girl. The camera. The lover. The beloved. The sensual feeling of my bare-naked skin, bruises exposed, with skeletal muscles covering the gentle man who exists only for me. He stands in front with one eye to my bare skin and the other covered, extended by the machine. A man who likes things to stand still. A man who likes things to develop on paper. A man who is indentured by taking pictures of rundown whores. The blessed and the cursed. It seems now that I have lost my soul.