We Are the Storm
When I swallowed you for the first time you tasted familiar, like the earth I had spread on your back, your nicotine breath, the cloudy waters of our river, the tangy leather of your parents’ sofa.
Do you know — I blurted over the racket in the cafeteria — that every second we live we are hurtling towards our inevitable death? You smiled at my statement a bit of lettuce stuck between your teeth. The air pressure shifted around us, and the world paused for an instant, holding its breath for what we would do next.
We made it as far as your car. Crammed on the backseat, wildfires spread beneath our skin, the heat steaming up the windows as we created our own tropical ecosystem. We listened to the rumble of our heartbeats leading us to the edge, and the vines of my hair coiled around your fingers as we jumped, falling within ourselves and each other. Eye open, I kissed the brambles of hair covering the triangle between the ridge of your hips, tasted the smokiness of your skin. I learned the lines of your body before those of your name.
The leather from your parents’ sofa stuck to the back of my thighs as their words rained down on us. You’re far too young to live together, your father said. This is madness. I won’t allow it, my mother added, matching your father’s indignation.
Their objections kept coming, an avalanche to bury us so we would freeze and never move out. We remained silent; your fingers laced tight with mine, arms rubbing. Still they pelted us with their ‘wouldn’t’, couldn’t’, ‘shouldn’t’, the onslaught of negative apostrophes whipping us, trying to pull us apart.
We didn’t blame them. They couldn’t understand. They would never be us. They had never ridden a storm.
Jumping on board, the canal boat swayed under my feet, welcoming me. It had become our home, the place where we ate fried eggs and porridge in bed and had sex on the kitchen table until it broke, and then we had sex everywhere else.
You welcomed me with a nicotine-stained kiss as a wave rocked the floor. Thrown off balance, you caught me before following me to the ground; we were in this together. One minute wove into five, into fifteen as I disappeared and reappeared under you like the shore beneath the waves of the ocean, and you tasted like oyster, grit and inevitability; I held onto you not to be swept away by the rush.
We moved on the bank of the canal, two rock formations against the dead of night. The crust of the earth rubbed on my back and buttocks; your nicotine breath tangled in my hair. Friction of two tectonic plates, we created our own earthquakes — we split the earth; its aroma surrounded us, heavy and metallic, climbed into me in big gulps of air, and with my next breath my fingers burrowed into the soil, dragging out big clumps which I smeared on your back as you arched your spine towards the sky.
Afterwards I stared at the darkness between stars, licking your salt from my lips. Sometimes, I want to live inside you, you said. Nestle in your warmth, just right there, you added your hand resting on my abdomen. That was alright with me.
You knelt on the floor, head shoved into the toilet, spilling liquid innards into the porcelain bowl; the stench of you filled the air, and I breathed in deep, gagged with you but I was empty; my body wrapped around yours — a useless shield, all that love I nurtured useless too. Only five weeks ago, the pale glow of the screen had illuminated the ghost of you caught on film; the negative shapes of your bones and flesh showed your topography— the canyons and valleys, the rivers and the cliffs, but it had also shown us you had been carrying the end of the world inside you, where it spread and metastasized, scorching the land of your body.
The words ‘stage four’, ‘palliative care’ coiled around my throat; I struggled to swallow let alone breathe. We sat my fingers laced with yours. Even when you stood up to shake the doctor’s hand, I was unable to let go. After you fell asleep that night I jumped into the canal. Beneath the safety of the surface I let it all out, bubbles of scream and anger billowing upwards until I choked on the muddy water.
Smuggled you out of your parents’ house under my coat, and I ran until the oxygen burned in my lungs, until my muscles spasmed, until my arms ached under your weight. You didn’t belong to them anymore and you were not meant to live on the mantel of a fake fireplace, trapped inside glazed porcelain.
Five weeks of sprinkling you on my porridge every morning, until you were safely tucked inside me, your warmth radiating in that spot below my navel. You tasted familiar, like the earth I spread on your back, like the cloudy waters of our river, like the tangy leather of your parents’ sofa. But the cradle I had become would not be your resting place. We were in flux, whirling around like a hurricane, walls and convention unable to contain us, I was ready to unleash us onto the world.
Laure Van Rensburg is a French writer living in the UK. Her short stories have appeared in Across the Margin, Spelk Fiction, Barren Magazine, Storgy Reflex Fiction, and other places. She has been longlisted for the Bath Short Story Award, the 2018 Ink Tears Competition and shortlisted for TSS Publishing Quarterly Flash Competitions. She is an accomplished librocubicularist