moan | Fiction
M kneels at the end of the bed, and puts small strong hands around G’s feet, holding them both for a moment, warming them, becoming them. As per usual here the power is out. The sky heavy with deepblue darkens the room early, filling the corners with mottled greys. Both bodies full of water, full of wanting, the way a container brims and sloshes. One body curled at the foot of the bed, the other laid out open on top, both engaged in a delicious wondering.
It is just a foot massage.
No one speaks. Just faraway sounds, birds trilling, cars swooshing by and the odd shout and chatter from the street. G feels M’s hands let go of both feet, a quick coolness before she focuses on the right one. She rubs the bony roundness, pushes the flat muscles, squeezes the heel, lingers in and around toes, pinching the tops slowly. Does she slide off a toe ring? M presses into the strongtendoned arch of G’s foot with her whole body. G feels the arch rise in her. Arch in belly, tight in breath, heavy in hips. G feels the rising in her body but holds still against the mattress. Is it supposed to be more than feet? It’s hard to tell. Her whole body seems to have disappeared, and she wants to lift and arch, to be against ceiling, against sky, a kind of flying, a falling. Is it possible to reach without moving? To push against nothing. M’s fingers slip in and out between her toes and she arches inside like the horizon banded around the planet.
G opens up to a possibility. Remembered nights, quiet lonely desires, a fantasy of abduction bowled over by strong knowing women, holding her, holding her down, everything around her hips rising up against this holding, shoulder blades falling. They explore the most mundane places, they touch skin so rarely touched, they hold her arms back and they hold her sides in, palms against the curve of ribs, they hold her body down. They hold her. Tight. She must be taken, there is no giving. These women take her without asking. It is always against her will. This is the rule. Her desire.
She is in between, falling. Between asleep and fantasy. It is unclear in this light. Just the rising and falling of her breath, her belly, her hips. Is M touching her feet? Is M touching her hips? Is M asleep at the foot of the bed? Is she lying next to her? Slim shoulder blades working, standing out against the muscle of her slender back. Dark now, the daylight gone, the power still out, the corners pitch, the walls enough. Everything graying to black.
As a child, G read the Ursula le Guin Earthsea trilogy, obsessed with the imaginary island archipelago, the evil dark shape that chased the hero and the impossible escape, bleak, nowhere to go, alone, the blackest corners still followed you, to the ends of her earth, her sea, her universe. G never remembers the ending when she thinks of it, which is often, just the endless running and the terror of reaching the edge with nowhere to go.
M steadies herself in the low light, letting her eyes slowly open to the gloom. She looks first at these feet, undressed before her, the woman on the bed lying quiet and open. High arched and long-toed, padded blister on left heel. They are not extraordinary feet, flipflopped and sandaled, a bit dry and trodden. M holds them first, palms to soles, the flat of naked skin up against each other feels staggering, giddy, wild. Then she smooths them with oil, slides her fingers in and out of the spaces at the base of the toes. She slowly swivels off a silver toe ring, touches the naked indent. Thrillshivers reach deep to a place she had given up on. The naked toe feels more intimate than anything. M looks up. G’s face, two heavy rutted lines between thick eyebrows, the edges of closed eyelids, smoothfallen cheekbones, everything lifted in a small loose smile. M draws smooth fingers up and down the naked toe, feeling the bump of knuckle, the smooth nail, the small bulge of skin behind. It feels like she is molding from clay, from scratch, from nothing. She wants to lightly bite. Instead, she pulls harder, absorbed only by touch and that tiny smile, the energy from this body shooting out through its roots and straight into her.
They are warming to each other now, M knows. She is sure she’s not imagining it. The tingle as she moves around G’s foot. M concentrates all of her energy, all her effervescent desiring, into her hands. Fingertips, yes, but palms too. The flat expanse of push, and then the exquisite pull. Her hands explore the insides from out. She never goes further than G’s ankle, delicate point of no return. This is her own unspoken rule. It would deaden. It would dull the sharp edge of wanting. This is what she desires, the moments before the break. She wants to hold the basin steady for a while, enjoying the space in between, everything uncertain. She looks up at G.
A moan escapes.
Morning sunlight streaming and lightbulbs blazing, fridge hum from the next room, and scratchy radio music drifts in from outside. The power is on, for now. Nothing seems amiss.
What am I. What am I emerging from? I hear myself moaning, a lament, in someone else’s voice. There is a body next to me. No, there is my body. No, the moaning is coming from outside me, from the woman I thought was next to me. From my depth, my voice moaning. Nothing seems amiss.
We moan together, apart. A moaning. A mourning. We are complaining. We are saying without words, I miss you already. We say it, years later, as a story in my head. It’s my way of distancing. It’s over and it’s the last time and we moan in the way I imagine sea cows might. A foghorn, long and languid and sorrowful.
Nothing seems amiss. Except movement. I am full like a basin of water; I am gone like a stone in the sea.
She is sure it’s not true. She is certain nothing has happened. What could have happened? The woman next to me is clutching her head. She can’t believe what’s happened. Where have I gone? My feet are the same. The exact same, nothing missing, I am just deep fathoms down, that’s all. I can’t talk, I moan like a fish with vocal cords. A low sound, the kind that only my fellow creatures can hear. The kind humans make machines to listen to.
As for me, I thought that grief would be a bowling tidal wave running me down, forcing me to reckon. But it barely brushes me at all. I thought the death of a thing would be tiny, quick, a slideshute down into another existence. A mercy to begin again. I thought I would come out the other side, mulched and different, a colorful beetle, an elm. It is none of these things. It is a dark shadow, always behind you, when you turn to glimpse it over your shoulder, always running.
For now, we are each our own deepest most resonant wail. The sound of separation and disbelief. She is a black-eyed lament, vibrating with a hollow sound. She does not see me, deep as am, a flatfish against the seabed, one eye slowly growing around to the other. I am a regret, inarticulate. I am a shadow myself. We each tell our troubles to the world. We make a low sound, we are moaning, we utter mournfully, we bewail, we don’t even know what’s happened. We have only this complaint, this sound.
Fid Thompson is a writer and visual artist interested in portraiture, oceanic lighthouse vistas, queering and unlearning. Yes to a mad multiplicity of stories, the in-between, infinite narratives of creatures and the natural world. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa. She has published essays in Guernica and B There.