“Don’t stare at me like that!”
I had cried out in a fury, but Duak kept her gaze locked on me. Looking at her blood red lips. Burdened, I repeated gently, “Don’t stare at me like that. They’re going to figure it out…” My face was blushed; my heart was foaming up, flowing from my breasts onto Duak’s snow-white skin. Forgive me, my good Lord! I’m in love with her soft, smooth skin. Her majestic body is as light as a leaf swaying in the wind. Her long hair is always flawlessly pulled up and has a permanent healthy sheen, ever the noose around my neck… Her sweet almond scent never drifts from my nose; I dare not breathe. If only I could die… If only we could die, and have our own place in the afterworld. A simple, bare room would do. If only she and I could stand intertwined in a tight, warm embrace for an eternity.I am frail; slave to this exquisite woman. She knows it too and challenges me, her every wish my command. I adore serving her. Guilty as charged. My guilt devastates me, but she is unlike me. She is quite strong; my sweetheart gracefully shoulders all of my anguish and never lets go of my hand.
“Duak, what are you trying to do? They’re almost here. Eat your food and get that foot of yours out my crotch!” As I came to my senses, the din of the cutlery in the restaurant filled my ears, her scent still vivid on my nostrils. I am scared and breathing from the mouth. The four of us are seated at a round table; myself, Moure, Duak, and her husband Luka.
This is a private restaurant and club where we ate occasionally. As usual, we are seated at the dining hall that has an Eastern Asian theme. We appreciate the décor here—“we” being Duak and myself. Additionally, we like the fact that Luka and Moure frequently step out for cigarettes. They smoke so often that it feels like Duak and I are out on our own, dining by ourselves. That is how all this had started in the first place… Now the two men are returning from their smoking break. Duak starts telling me something. I want to savor the last few instants before Moure returns, and focus my gaze on Duak. By now, her words have shed all sense, and I merely perceive the melody in her voice. It flows like a calm brook, as her beautiful head undulates over her fine neck with such passion and force, in a display of rock-like confidence.
Duak smiles slightly. That means there is nothing to worry about and I am relieved. She abruptly moves to the chair next to me; her hand wanders on my legs. She did it again! I feel numb from my forehead to my knees. I cannot find the strength to refuse her again. I feel empty in the gut and pained in the heart. The din of the restaurant leaves my ears again. I cannot keep my eyes and my body off her skin. She grabs my hand, and says “Rebecca, come!” Perhaps, she did not even utter the words. The rumble in my heart makes me dizzy. For a while now, I have been unable to differentiate what is real from what I imagine. Mesmerized, I drag on after her as if in a dream.
As the two gentlemen approached the table, Duak smiled at them and pointed to the restroom. Too embarrassed to look Moure in the face, I lowered my head, fumbled around in my bag, and swiftly walked off before they got to the table. Duak was aware that I would not get up if the men reached the table. It had happened before; on that particular day Moure had sat down next to me and had kissed me on the cheek. It felt like a metal hook had been jabbed on my face, ripping my skin. A rusty, hard steel chain connected to the hook was thrown down my throat. It did not stop but ripped through my gullet, and into my guts… It slit through my womb and ended up on the ground between my legs. The hook at the other end was still buried into my face in the exact spot Moure kissed… My involuntary reaction was to touch my cheek. My teeth ached at first. I just sat there, between the hooks, my insides bleeding. I had been impaled. Motionlessly, I sipped my wine, which smelled of stale grapes and looked more black than red. The alcohol stung my wounds even worse. I was being punished. I yielded. Despite the burning sensation, I kept drinking. Duak watched me in silence. I could not look at her, but I felt her gaze. My love, my dear heart had me figured out that day. She made sure I never had to live through that again.
I rose from my seat, took two steps to my right and was now walking away from the table. I was much calmer. We headed towards the staircase. This hall was crescent-shaped, held inside the wings of a gigantic bird. It was Duak and Luka who first brought us here last year. As I walked in, I felt the embrace of a massive winged creature. The large and astonishingly elegant statue of a bird loomed over the whole dining area. Through a staircase, it ushered the diners down into its nest. As you arrived at the end of the stairs, to the center of the hall, the softly drawn eyes of this matronly bird became noticeable. In its mouth was a bunch of grapes, the gentle promise of an enjoyable meal for the visitors. Engulfed under the wings of this mighty mother, the dining hall had an air of serenity and sincerity. Faces around the dining hall radiated with trust and with the joy of good food. This was a refuge that looked nothing like the rest of the city, a secret place isolated from all else. A home that brought an unusual sense of attachment and belonging…
“Rebecca, come!” Duak’s voice is leading the way. We climb the stairs. Each step takes us farther from the nest and closer into our own mystery-filled cosmos. Duak proceeds ahead of me. I follow her deliberate steps inside her long black silk dress. I eye her ankles; I watch her fly on her spike heels, light as a feather. I imagine that she has picked this dress which fully revealed her back only with the intention to turn me on. With envy, I wonder how such a fresh and pure beauty can exist at all. My jealousy grows. Suddenly, I realize that we have been through two steps only. Yet it feels like minutes. My eyes move from Duak’s back to her shoulders. An aura, a wave of light envelops my love. I get confused; my passion is driving me delirious! I want to climb all the stairs at once. I want time to accelerate so that I can leave the crowd behind! As I get more impatient, time seems to slow down. It must be the Lord’s way of punishing me. I pray in my mind and beg for patience and forgiveness. I want to forget everything except for the divine female walking ahead of me. Repeated over and over my prayers provide the strength I need. I lighten up.
And little by little, I prepare myself for Duak… As I take another glance back, I realize that we have almost reached the end of the stairs.
Moure, my son, my mother, the whole city, my life… everything is so far behind now. Duak turns to me and holds my hand gently, leads me to the end of the stairs. Her eyes full of love, this beautiful woman pulls me out of the dining hall into a corridor with velvet walls. Here both the sky and the earth are soft and red. The shaggy velvet carpeting also adorns the walls; the ceiling is quite high and decorated with icons: angels, saints, virgins. Golden borders extending at the junction of the wall and the floor serve as a reminder that one still stands on solid ground. I walk, letting my free hand brush the wall. The melody echoing in the corridor seems to fill me through my fingertips. We approach a coffee table propped against the wall right in the center of the corridor. It has long wooden legs decorated with gold leafing and a white marble top. Above it, hangs a large mirror, with ornate curves on a golden frame apparently made of the same wood. Duak pulls me by the hand, and we stand in front of the mirror for a few instants, admiring our reflections. The green satin dress I wear barely holds on my slim shoulders. I caress the cold marble of the coffee table and notice the chipped polish on my nails. My hair is done carelessly, and my makeup has long vanished. I think I look weary and ugly. I turn to Duak, a smile on my face. She is also contemplating her reflection in the mirror. Lord, what a beautiful woman. How fresh she seems, how peaceful and self-confident.She touches my cheek, inviting me to smile, and I am happy.
Our spike heels stab the soft carpeting as we walk towards the powder room. This place is right next to the ladies room and is meant to be used to freshen up makeup, to adjust a dress, to fix a busted seam, or to make love. The walls are made of cool grey marble, and inside, there is a burgundy velvet sofa, large silver framed mirrors, and crystal chandeliers. I find myself on the soft couch kissing Duak. Her lips are lusty and red, and her breasts firm. Lord forgive me! Her back is smooth. I want to touch her more, even more. As I feel her body weighing on me, as I touch her belly, her groin I feel my mind leaving me completely. I let go. The twinkle of the crystals is intensifying. Eyes closed, I make love. Duak now leads me, my hands, my lips… I do not need to think as I make love to her. I just do whatever it is she wants. She holds me in a gentle, sometimes rough passion and does not leave me until she is satisfied. I do whatever she wants; I do it with pleasure, with a smile, with insane joy, with passion.
After we fill up our lovemaking time Duak and I break apart, despite ourselves. We did not get enough. This is what always happens. Promptly fixing her hair and makeup, she puts on her alluring smile and is ready to return in no time. Then she waits for me. She is alarmed a bit, asks me to hurry. She is impatient. I like it when she gets this way. I am not sure though. Normally, I am not fond of rushing. I smile and speed up immediately. As we quickly pace through the same corridor, her reflection in the mirror winks at me. This is an indication that she is pleased, and it soothes me. As we arrive by the stairwell, she squeezes my hand slightly before releasing it. As our hands separate, I feel compelled to look towards Moure, and it is painful suddenly. I want to see, to ensure he does not understand… He is chatting away with Luka, does not notice me, does not know.
Does he really not understand? Did he not realize anything while I was feverishly lovesick for months on end? Does he not even notice my eyes? Poor Moure! We got married seven years ago. I thought I was in love. I was excited because I did not trick him into anything. I loved, I made love, and I gave him a child. The poor soul was a good father and a good spouse. He did his best to keep me happy, to take care of me. He did not expect anything from me in return, and he did not provide much actually… I am certain that he and my son will have a very beautiful garden in heaven. A few moments ago, I made love to Duak for the fifth time, again almost right in front of Moure’s eyes. My poor husband! Is he really the victim? He must have some role in my errors. He must… for I cannot bear all this on my own. Duak nudges me from my back gently to lead me. I start descending the stairs, my eyes on Moure.
He is tall, thin and always well groomed. My husband is polite, smart and naïve. My father was big and tall, a mountain of a man; hence when I met Moure, he had seemed very different and inviting to the touch. My mother was a tiny woman, and next to her, my father appeared imposing. I always thought that he overpowered her. My mother looked like a frail little bird next to him. Her voice was tiny, and her words were fearful. The steps under my feet seem to sink. I lower my head so that I do not fall. I was protective of my mother and was always afraid of what my father did to her, or rather of what he could be doing to her. I could not help but getting mad at my dear father… could not help hating him. I wanted him to die so that we could be rid of him. He was quite the tough man in his youth. He was authoritative, and his word was the law around the house. But all this was not sufficient for him. “Smile!” he would say with a model smile displayed on his face. He had never raised a hand on , but the mere possibility scared me to death. I cannot imagine what would have happened if I had ever disobeyed him… And now I suppose I will never find out because he died last year, five days before I met Duak.
I had spent all of my life wishing that my father died. But so much has changed after his death, and I realized that I had grossly misunderstood everything. My guilt escalated out of control and engulfed me. I suppose I am still engulfed in it. I lived in fear of encountering his ghost, until the day Duak and I met. She shook my hand so tightly that I thought my father’s soul had possessed her. The strength and might in her eyes reminded me of him. I was in mourning that day, but I warmed up to her in a moment, I wanted to take refuge in her and talk. For a few hours, I felt peace inside this bird’s nest. I ended my mourning.
My mother cried a lot after his death. For days on end we kept her sedated, yet every time she opened her eyes, she would cry again. She resumed her mourning right where she had left it, as though the hours she slept had never happened. We had to give up on the useless medicine, and she experienced her grief to the fullest extent. We had to take her to the emergency room a few times. Her blood pressure had gone up, and her heart acted up, but she remained alive and suffering. It would be months before my mother managed to pull herself together, back to normal. In other words back to her normal self. She returned to a state which did not provoke the feelings of anger towards my father, and my pity towards her. I saw my mother as an abusive, selfish, manipulative person who would not even condescend to dispense a drop of her love.
Since that day my eyes grew even darker, my brow thicker, my hands stronger, and my neck longer. My back is bent more than before. My heart is heavier, guiltier and angrier. This woman has given me an injury I can never be rid of… one I can never cure. Carved it smack in the middle of my forehead: “I was unfair towards my father!” and he died… During his illness, I showed no affection towards him; I thought this was his punishment for the years he spent abusing us. I was mean to him. I was not concerned. “Smile Daddy,” I said during his hardships. “Suffer while smiling,” I thought to myself. My vengeance occurred silently. My mother was content watching from afar. She made it obvious that she saw it and I was proud. I thought that my mother “loved” me. I was proud of my retribution. Lord! I’m in pain now, the things I have done to my poor father! As I got to know my mother’s reality, my memories became even sharper. I recognized that her stories were huge lies. I remembered that she was the one who actually “used” my father.” I realized very late that when he asked me to smile, my father had wanted me to be “happy.”
That night Duak had touched my cheek “let’s make a toast while we smile” she said. I understood that she meant “I want you to be happy.” Each moment I pass away from my lover, I am tired and hurt. Angry. While making love to Moure, while talking to him, I constantly have my father in mind, and the anger I feel towards my mother. I do not realize that my husband is embracing me, and do not hear him. My only peaceful moments are here, next to Duak; the moment she touches me, the world slips away. Another me emerges from within, someone with no issues and no troubles. Someone who enjoys loving, making love, touching, receiving and providing affection. I don’t know; sometimes I am not really sure if Duak is really showing affection towards me. She must be!
I finally arrive at the end of the deep staircase. I look up, and the hall dining hall revolves around me. The eyes of the great bird look at me in madness; I almost hear the wild call of the creature. I rub my face. As I reopen my eyes, I see Luka ogle. I have seen it before, but not to this extent! I turn around to see if he is staring at Duak, and I face her angry eyes. I lose my balance and stumble. Luka jumps up from his seat and holds me from my waist. Good God! Trying to remain polite, I escape near Moure. I dare not look at Duak’s face again, but in the periphery of my vision, I see that they embrace and kiss. In an extremely polite gesture of cheekiness, Luka helps my lover, his wife sit at the table.
I realize that Moure’s hand is in my own hand a few minutes later, my cheek is wet. Did he just kiss me? Lord, I’m a mess, I pray silently. I try to join in the conversation. I thought I managed to catch the discussion, but after every utterance I make, Moure explains that I am tired. Why? Am I saying the wrong things? Do I look tired? What is it, am I really tired? I take a few sips from my drink. I cannot figure out what this cold, tasteless and colorless drink is. Duak and I lock eyes; her eyes are angry, but her stare is still childish and attractive. Duak is an ambitious woman. This is the first time I read this on her face. Perhaps it is not. Do I really want to jog my memory to remember? I do not. Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to forget what I just have seen. My Lord! I need her so much. Please do not let me be wrong again. Please!
I cannot delete the ambition from Duak’s stares. Across from me now there’s only a woman who wants to get revenge from her husband. My eyes fill up. Duak is not even aware; she gives me blank stares. I’ve lost her.
I feel something on my lap, looking down slowly, I see Moure’s hand. Lord, does this man never leave me? Poor Moure, is he aware of any of this? Does he love me despite this?
I want to end the evening but cannot find the strength to do so. I can no longer bear to look Duak in the eye as I no longer wish to face her anger. Moure’s hand feels tight in my own. I cannot look him in the eye either; I am guilty, but cannot let go of his hand. Why am I here, between the two of them? “I must leave immediately!” I stand up. Something is stuck in my throat, Moure notices my moist red eyes, and gets up in alarm “Okay sweetheart, whatever will make you feel better” he says. His only concern is my comfort and peace, and to feel peaceful in return. This time around there is fear in Duak’s eyes. This is the first time she is not smiling. Then again, perhaps it is not. I am not really sure.
We leave them seated at the table and walk out. I hear Moure apologizing, taking the burden on my behalf. I want to flee this bird’s nest immediately and to go home. My husband’s hand is still in mine; I drag him quickly. At once I want to climb those stairs. The angrier I get, the more time seems to slow down. The Lord is punishing me, and there seems to be no end to it! There is still an opportunity to turn around and take one last look at Duak and Luka, but my heart is not in it. With all that time on my hands, I now have a chance to refresh my memories, to reminisce. I remember Duak’s fury during our lovemaking. I remember how she dominated me through her gaze and her words. Why is it that I remember this now? Why had I chosen to push these memories away? Did I really want to know the answer? No! This much will suffice for now. I need to get out of here. I must get to Moure’s garden and rest inquietude. I got to find some peace of mind. I arrive at the last step. Then, I change my mind and take a look. Duak has her back turned. Luka and I lock eyes, he smiles and waves. I miss my step, and I stumble again, this time Moure catches me. He takes my arm and escorts me all the way to the door. In front of the coat check, he gently tugs at my arm to indicate that I should wait. Ever the gentlemen, he fetches my coat. Through the glass door, I peer outside where it is snowing. The air is quite cold but pure. In the dark street, I see black shadows struggling amidst the snow. People knee deep in the snow, their heads lowered, walking with great difficulty, snowflakes piled up on their backs.
I walk out without waiting for Moure. I take a deep cleansing breath. I am not feeling the cold. I now turn to a new page, one that is already stained by the traces of my old scribbles. I turn to this page in full realization that it will all get even more confusing as I write. My husband arrives, and I take his arm. Poor Moure! My poor husband. He takes me home. I look at his face, and I kiss him on the cheek before we sleep. He feels loved. His eyes have that certain gleam. Poor Moure, I cannot leave him.