Diary of a Separation (an open window, the summer heat and an erotic memory)

The past always creeps on us. I don’t know if that is a quote by someone famous or clever, or both. It is merely the thought running through my head as I hold a photo of S in my hand. It is a rather unusual picture, though. Not in terms of quality. That, I have never expected when using a camera. It is unusual in that I remember exactly what came before and after it was taken.

I remember the day of the week, too. Sunday. I also remember the season. Summer. And I remember the love-making that happened before this photo was taken. I especially remember my nose nuzzling S’s back as we lay in bed, eyes semi-closed, limbs intertwined, both our bodies naked and sweated, sheets pushed off and wrapped around our ankles. At the time I used to fall asleep holding S’s belly. A belly that had become softly rounded as a consequence of having A. I remember that on this particular warm day A was sleeping on his cot next door. His window, like ours, had been left slightly open to fend off the oppressing heat of this, my first summer in London, and create a much-needed draught in our fifteen-floor flat. It was 1998. A was six or seven-months-old. S and I were first-time parents. Y was not even a speck on the horizon but she was already being thought of.

S’s cascade of blond curls (the rollers had come out the night before to curl up her normally straight hair) pushed back against my face. So did the bottom half of her body. It was all part of the secret language we had both developed in the two and half years we had been together. The signal for me to join in the choreography our bodies were already performing.

The sun, streaming through the east-facing window, caught us in the midst of this sweat-drenched, erotic, Terpsichorean moment. It was the inadvertent witness to the “before” of this photo.

A woke up at the same time our bodies disentangled in a moment of pure synchronicity. Snuggled up and holding each other closely S and I could hear his breathing in the room next door.

As his breathing turned to sobbing, I got up and took him to the lounge to sit with me, leaving S behind in bed to catch up on some much-deserved sleep.

A gentle easterly breeze wafted in through the lounge window at the same time I sweated my way through my workout, bringing with it, however, an unwelcome visitor. This was the stench emanating from the local drainage system and which had by now climbed up the full height of our building. The nasty smell was a summer-long issue that, alas, had not been resolved yet. A scrunched up his tiny face, his tongue lolling in his mouth, eyes looking at me quizzically. Every now and then a smile made an impromptu appearance on his cherubic visage.

After a while S came into the lounge, wrapped in a thin, multi-coloured throw blanket. The type that can easily double up as either a sarong or sofa cover. The material, barely hiding her nakedness, accentuated the contours of her beautiful body. She lay down on the couch and dozed some more. A kept staring at me, failing to notice his mum had also joined us.

I used the singular before when referring to this memory. I wrote “photo”. In reality, there were two pictures. The first one I took whilst S still slept on the settee. Her left arm obscured part of her face. The sarong/sofa cover half-concealed her well-shaped, dancer’s legs and thighs.

It was the click of the camera that snapped S awake. By then I had moved around and was now standing almost in front of her. It was then that I pressed the shutter again. The result was an image of contrasts. A’s face, all innocent and angelic, was the opposite of S’s, full of desire and vigour. Mother and wife. Protector and woman.

By now A was dropping off a bit. The heat had become more stifling and the breeze had died down almost completely. I took him in my arms, still moist from my workout, and carried him to his cot, walking slowly, with his head pressed against my bare chest, my deep voice a whisper in his ear. S followed close behind, her warm hands caressing my back. We put A back on his cot and went back to our bedroom, the “after” beckoning us to our bed. The sun smiled again.

(image taken from unsplash)

London-based, Cuban writer. Author of “Cuban, Immigrant, and Londoner”, to be published by Austin Macauley. Has written for The Guardian and Prospect.

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