You smiled when I said you were like a trove of buried treasure; you smiled, glanced downward, silenced my cliches. But it must be true, you know, because if I'm the kid, then you must be the candy store . . . isn't that the way it goes? I'll admit, though, that there are those days when it's hard to tell the difference between the cat and the canary, both of us padding around with that sudden, unmistakable feline grace, always landing on our feet, purring quietly as we brush the occasional feather from each other's lips.
There's no denying it, he says, just look at us. We are ectomorphic, you and I, and strangely transparent. Our hearts beat against the bones of our chests like some endless click-track of the soul. Our thoughts fall through the empty cages of our skeletons, bumping and rattling the bells and whistles of our pinball bodies. We have no secrets.
I smile and think of the eight pounds I've gained since I met him. Of my breasts suddenly as large as small grapefruit, weighty in my own hands, miraculous to watch in the bathroom mirror, like some late-blooming peonies hanging firm upon their stalk. I tell him about the Raggedy-Ann doll I had when I was a kid, how it was rumored that inside the stuffing of her chest was a tiny red candy heart, protected forever by all those layers of cotton. He laughs and counts my ribs again, but gently this time, careful not to cause an echo.
And when I touch you it is my mind that goes wild. It is my brain that puts on body paint and runs naked through the jungle of my senses. The pressure of your knee against mine unwinds the primordial memories of slick wet logs steaming near rainforest fires, where I squatted in the dark and watched your teeth flash on the flesh of animal bones. You touch my hand and we talk of logic and enlightenment. You might just as well touch my gray matter; we might just as well run between the trees, the shiny wet skin, the scent of woodsmoke, grunting our names to the stars.
What I remember is the music, the feel, the accordion notes glancing off the amber walls, colliding with the crackle from the swollen belly of the woodstove, ricocheting between the dancers as they polkaed the beer-stained warmth of the waxy sawdust night
A waltz was different, a sway, a shift, a dip of an uncle's arm where he held me high above the dancefloor, safely tucked between his ribs and my aunt's costume pearls, all of us smiling as the fiddle sighed, round and round through the rolling body-sea
But it was on the stage, on the corner of the stage where they laid us to sleep, that's where the throb of the guitar crept into my bones, unselfconscious four-year-old sprawl, drafts of clean air from the side door cooling the sweat on my cheek, patchwork quilt cradling me under the watchful eyes of everyone who was my mother, the floorboards rocking the twang of the strings
Tonight I cannot sleep through the soft, insistent whisper of the cat's paws on the carpet, but then, then, the rhythmic stomp of a hundred pairs of feet was my lullaby, and I dreamed pin-curled, pink-dressed kaleidoscope dreams, my heart beating to the pulse of farmers dancing their winter