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tension when one body feels another without touching it

By Meg Tuite -


Everything grieves a location, negative space, an end. But don’t we pack those bones that never stop aching into the strings sitting in the dark, where guitars slack and pianos drag, and the proximity of skin is no longer safe and breath is as close as the stillness of another departure?

Rain. Damn. It drove so many days on Cape Cod that summer. Packed clouds of mutinous ammo. I watched you strap in umbrella tables on the rain-slick deck of our dripping restaurant we would waiter together. That postcard sound of streaming showers took me with the disturbance of you, dark beauty thick accented answering, “Cortina d’Ampezzo,” when asked where you blew in from. I bolted to the bookstore to buy an Italian dictionary.

Wind sucked your face into mine. Nothing tethered me to the past more than your Pepto-Bismol pink bicycle with no gears and a basket. That one tooth that sabered itself against the others when you smiled. You were a treasure, haunting and inescapable.

My boots dragged me through puddles to a pier every night after work. Words didn’t hold water. So much strange hunger a note never knew. Talk was the rite that moored most people’s lives. We had nothing but our bodies to tread. Trust was some lap of ocean we rocked through.

The dictionary was tossed in the garbage. We skimmed across the surface of each other. Two bodies blew out the windows of conformity and daylight. We spent days and nights under cover in your loft bedroom. We would still be laying there if the fingernails of reality hadn’t scratched the mist out of us. Off we went to clear tables and wipe water spots off of glasses again. We snuffed out a summer in this manner.

Lust drained sequentially in time to your advancing English. You took lessons from everyone at work, in the streets. The candle sputtered with each new word you spewed at me in bed. You were rabid to share ideas, philosophy on life. I didn’t want growth budding into our soggy landscape. If I opened my eyes from pretended sleep, your mouth was moving. You were excited, agitated by your pronouncements. Lulled by your accent I mapped my hands over the pulsing river of scar on your neck and chest. That shut you up. You guided my fingers to other parts.

The days, nights replayed themselves. We took orders, filled glasses, fanned out steaming plates on platters, opened wine at tables, sucked down bottles in the back, sweat, stashed cash, and cleaned up when shifts were over. Cigarettes, espresso, and more wine. Then bicycles. Back to either your room or the pier. Barely a breath of who I was before trancing out on you.

And then, just like the slip of an autumn blast, one day it was over. The town packed up its huddle of seasonal employees. Most of us were ripe to go. Summer love spattered off porches with bags packed, a spittle of tears, while a train of random cars ripped out guilt and muffler-free.

You took my hand and stroked your scar with my fingers. “My mother did this.”

I had my own gnarly stories, but instead of words my tongue licked every raised edge of skin I could reach. You grabbed my chin and held up a finger to stop me.

“This scar you see with eyes,” you said. “Yours crawl out from twitch and cough. A shake that sobs the insides.”

You kissed me, got on your bike and rode away.


Meg Tuite is author of five story collections and five chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Poetry award for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging and is included in Best of Small Press 2021. She teaches writing retreats and online classes hosted by Bending Genres. She is also the fiction editor of Bending Genres and associate editor at Narrative Magazine.

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