The Butler Scholarly Journal

oh, to be a rose upon your cheek!

By April Howard

I have a memory of you, one that can never be corrupted by the passage of time. It was in a garden in June.  

There you lay in this expanse of green, this garden of ours. You had collapsed by a rose bush, the blushing petals of one low- lying flower rested upon your cheek. You looked at me, lying beside you, eye to eye, nose to nose and you grinned at me. You closed your eyes. I admired you, all of you; the soft line your lashes form, the curve of your dark pink lips, the light you radiated like a twinkling candle. The sight of you reached into my cavernous chest, grabbed my heart from where it sat alone on its pedestal, and squeezed it dry.

I gasp for breath.

I put my forehead to yours and you smiled. Your breathing fell into that regular swing that sleep imposes. I recalled the first night we spent together. No red- hot passion consumed us then, we felt as though if we touched each other too much, we would implode. So, instead, we lay with foreheads touching until sleep carried us away. Two candles flickering in each other’s light.

You were asleep then in this garden of ours. I am sure there were spiders and worms and slugs crawling and sliming among us, but I see only butterflies. They fluttered their wings, like flakes of paint, throbbing in the still summer air. The Sun fell on you. I remembered the girl the Sun fell in love with all those thousands of years ago, the one of which Ovid writes, sealed in her cold tomb with young hands held up towards the sky. Her throat, whose swan song was a plea of innocence, has crumbled to nothing now. The Sun cannot reach her any longer, but he could reach you and he did, spreading out all over your body wherever he could reach. Your skin glowed golden under his touch; you blossomed for him.

Arousing slightly from your slumber, you reached out your arm and with your hand you pressed my waist holding your hand there, my narrowest part. I remembered our first date. We went drinking, we went to a gay club. We danced inches apart until my hot scarlet blood rushed to my loins. A butterfly within me beat its wings. By God, I wanted you to rip me open. We waited until that club shut and walked, hand in quivering hand, to another one. We were filled with vodka and with lust. I was too scared to touch you, you too scared to touch me, as if we might break each other. We were the two same poles of a magnet, separated by a force over which we had no control. We caught each other’s eyes, we had similarly- coloured eyes: a blend of all the other colours. In a sudden wave of courage, the urge to be truthful bubbled over and I told you that you were beautiful. You lit up. You said it back. We held each other’s waists. Your hands climb my back. We fell into each other, a collision to remember. Suddenly, all the music fell away and all the people too, the flashing lights, the voices, the laughing, the cheering, the clinking of glasses, the heaving bodies on the dancefloor and squeezed against the bar all fell away to nothing like a flimsy set, all dissolved, it was just me and you. Our small, feminine bodies took up all the space left in the world, we dominated it just for that moment.

Back in the garden, you drew closer, eyes open. I wanted to hold you forever, I remember that feeling. We remember feelings impeccably. I wanted to tell you how dearly I loved you. I wish I had. I look up. Blue clouds smothered the sky, so deep to be almost indigo. In the distance, the marvellous somewhere, rich golden beams of Sun burst through the cracks. By God, it looked like heaven itself! I brought my eyes back to yours and you ran your fingers through my dark hair. I longed for you to touch me more.

I remembered all those lost nights. Those nervous nights in the early days, Italian dinners, cocktails, revealing ourselves bit by bit. That first passionate night, the throbbing, the pleasure, the tears. I remembered the serious talks, the arguments, the cafes drenched in dying sunlight. That feeling I always felt when I looked into those eyes.

I looked in those eyes again. There was something I wanted from you that I could not articulate, a new level of intimacy as yet undiscovered. Then, in an instant, something changed in those eyes. I filled with a very real sense of fear. I closed my eyes and saw nothing but fire and brimstone, and when I opened my eyes, I was in hell but, all too often, hell looks an awful lot like heaven.

She stood up, walked over to the ivy- matted hut where garden equipment was kept. I sat up, eager to see what she was about to do; my dress spread out over my thighs. She went in and picked up something. It was metallic and angular, a gun. She strolled over to the flower bed, refusing to look me in the eye. I could not speak but started to cry. I wanted to plead with her, hold her. She pointed the gun at the flowers whose petals were white and pure as milk and whose centre was honey yellow and pulled the trigger. She blasted them to smithereens. I felt it right inside of me, where the living bit is. I can feel it now. The act of remembrance is the act of allowing oneself to be haunted eternally, mourning for all the lost parts of you. But, if I choose, I can live eternally in that garden, amongst the butterflies and roses, with her hand on my waist, and the gun locked away.