“Do you ever fear for your eternal soul?”
I’m not sure why I said it. I was not actually feeling contemplative. Just the intense vulnerability of lying naked, splayed. Both our passionate fluids evaporating their heat in coolness across my chest. After draining me physically, she always had the keen ability to silently extract thoughts like these from the momentary clarity her fucking would cause in me.
She didn’t answer.
Her fingernail lightly scratched a path up my forearm to the ticklish part inside my elbow, making me jerk away and laugh lightly. I hated pulling away from her. Instinct said “cling”. Reflex defied instinct. She always played with that space between.
She rose from the bed, fingered the coins on the nightstand, turned over her shoulder to look at me and smiled a very serious smile. She didn’t answer.
Instead she left me, padding on naked feet to her toilette and began to draw a bath.
Fearing for souls, eternal or not, was not a habit of mine. So, why did it occur to me, at this of all moments, to broach the subject with her after a night of unendurable rapture? And worse, why didn’t she answer? She always had an answer. We would always lie together after and she would solve my questions. Though my paradise was fucking her, the afterglow that followed was my lasting ecstasy. Her answers fed me. Such a unique perspective. Mystical, even.
I did not fear for my eternal soul, but I feared I had somehow, after all these months of coming here, finally offended her. Had I made her sad? Doubt? I would rather die.
From the next room, she began to sing a light, unselfconscious melody. Its sweetness aroused me and I touched myself in answer.
“Oh,” she stood in the doorway, interrupting her song as she noticed me. There again was that very serious smile. “Come, lover. I have drawn you a bath. “
Her words were always remarkably chosen. I lingered, bringing myself to a boil as our eyes locked in embrace. I came.
She approached, leaned toward me with one knee on the bed and kissed my fingertips, licking at them with the pinkest tongue. She braided her fingers with mine, urged me to my feet and led me to the bath.
It was warm and smelled of affluence. I stepped in and let myself sink until the water, and whatever she had put in it, covered me entirely. A moment later, I shifted so that only my head emerged. She was singing again.
She sat on the edge of the gilded tub and worked a sponge to lather between her finespun hands. Her gentle melody bathed me in emotion while she cleansed my body. Everything she did was ritual, practiced. Muscle memory won by tussling with a thousand lovers. But it always seemed just for me. She was a virtuoso of presence. The world she created only had two inhabitants. On occasion, a few more.
She finished by working an exotic oil into my hair as her song came to a close. I wasn’t even sure it had had words. She reached for one of her many exquisite tea cups – they seemed to be everywhere – dipped it into the water and poured the contents over my head. Thinking back, I’m certain she did this six times. Ritual.
She sunk the cup a seventh time and lifted it before me, stopping.
“I do not. “
Her fingertip traced the edge of the cup as if she could make it resonate to sing her song. We both luxuriated in that moment for some time while it began to dawn on me that this was the answer to the question I had asked an eternity ago. I did not respond.
Listening to Beauty was like this. You listened. You were allowed to ask an initial question and then expected to simply listen. It was not, however, simple. Beauty wished to speak uninterrupted, if She wished to speak at all. At times, you could only hear what was not being said. Resonating with Her in empathetic vibration.
This lover had taught me this. She was, among many other things, Beauty’s voice. And I was devoted to listening.
She locked her gaze on the cup. “This is you. . .with your. . .eternal soul. “
I listened. I sensed she might be toying with me.
“The cup is you, lover. You are of the finest porcelain. Fashioned by the most skilled artist. The designs drawn upon you are the culmination of centuries of mastery. I adore you. “
She fingered the tea cup playfully as though she loved it. She may have. She let a finger dip into the water, disquieting the surface in concentric ripples.
“The water in this cup is your soul. Here, it is contained and you carry it with you all your life. It is separate from you in many ways, but inseparable in others. Yes, you are a cup and it is water. But, together you are a cup of water. “
She then plucked another cup from a nearby shelf and filled it with water. Repeatedly tipping one over the other like a skilled cocktailier, she blended the contents. She set the second cup on a nearby tea table and took another from the shelf, performing the same ritual.
The third glass she let fall from her hand into the bath while she stared intently, even sadly, at the first. She leaned toward it as a tear fell from her cheek into the bath.
I listened to what was not being said. I listened for a long time. The water in the first cup had been warm. Now it had to be cool.
At once, she tipped the first cup and drained its contents into the bath. Then she quickly seized the second cup from the table and did the same. With a cup in each hand she stirred the water of the bath for a few moments and then drew them both up again, full.
“This is why I do not fear for my eternal soul.”