Iris Doesn't Dance
by Peter Wild
he is the first to arrive, blushing and cowed, a question mark in a duffel coat, a box wrapped in brown paper and string held uncomfortably in his short arms. he sits on a rainwet bench facing a shutoff fountain and squints into the day, scrutinising the profile of the city that springs up around and about like something only recently dreamt. long fingers rest upon the top of the box and drum a random sequence of pitterpat.
but the sound is dissatisfying in some way so he stops, and stands, the box left upon the hard blue wooden slats while the boy stands and hops from his right foot to his left foot and back again. and again, there is something, some nag, which draws him. the box and the bench, and the rain, as was. so. he removes his coat, swivelling like an angry crane to fold it once and the twice into a cushion, which he gingerly places upon the bench, a throne for the box.
and so now, the boy is free to take a step forward and a step back, free to examine his wrist - the place where his watch would be if it wasn't left upon the draining board - and free to stare off into the sky and into the distance and into some blankness which emerges from inside. he takes a step forward and he takes a step back. he rocks between this space and that. he arches up on the balls of his feet, and relaxes hard on his heel. he breathes, and watches the white ghost of his breath drift into the morning or the night.
an absence of unrecorded time later - hot with lack and pang - the girl swaggers out of the coony gloom, delicate, gamine. the boy defers, deferring, to the flint of her eyes and the brilliant bright buckle of her smile. her hands emerge from deep within parka pockets and she wipes the floor with him, from ten paces away, without doing anything. they each nod, nodding in kind, the boy deep and humble and the girl sweetly brisque, a cheeky twist of bone.
and so they meet, the two of them, beneath a sky yellow with indecision. he motions to the rainwet bench - the bench, it's rainwet - but the girl don't mind none, she's that kind of girl, can handle a wet arse. so sits. and because she sits, he sits. and because she doesn't mind, neither does he. and so they amble one about the other. or rather, he ambles like a skittish bird and she, she observes and she intrudes and she withdraws, and she is amused by him and, yes, faintly moved, and possibly enchanted.
but still, he hops and jolts like somebody indicted, offering the box lightly, as if it means nothing, not a jot, and this is how she takes it, or appears to take it, or so he will convince himself, afterwards, on the crucified journey home, and she splits the brown paper with a dirty nail and peers within, at the photographs and the stories and the tapes and the stories and - all that she is offered, and she smiles and nods and thanks him, and says cheers, cheers for that.
and in return, she gestures, for him to wait, just a second, she has something for him, somewhere, was it in this pocket or in that? was it here or there? she didn't leave it at home surely, she was sure she picked it up off of the dresser, this morning, sleep-rattled, yes, but she was sure - her slim short fingers unzip an ugly pocket on the upper arm of her jacket and she lights up like some crazy firework show
(and, see, the expression on the boy's face, in the wake of the splintering shower of her sweetness, such love, there and there, and who can say whether the excitement is for the gift or for the expression he can see shining on the girl's face, the girl with the face he is so nuts about, and he knots his fingers together and loose and he shifts in his seat, wanting and not wanting the moment ever to end)
pinched between her fingers, a piece of paper folded twice, the kind of paper a pharmacist measures powder into and folds. she holds it there, inches from his face, a bird feeding a chick a worm, and he says what? and she says ah-ah-ah, and by ah-ah-ah she means what's your hurry? teasing out the moment, smiling and staring into his eyes while the boy looks at the brightness of her and then away, and into the brightness and then away, the solar eclipse she is
she does not speak, she does not fill the silence with words (and the boy will struggle every which way to understand what the silence means, at least at first, but then later he will become accustomed to her, and her way, of smiling, still and happy), she watches him struggle, enjoying his (yes) pain, for whatever it's worth, seeing something in his conflict she wants, sensing a gap filling in her, a fissure she wasn't previously aware of, a rupture cleansed and rendered
it comes and it's there and it goes, and she is quick to dismiss the paper with a wee flick of her index finger and her thumb, and the paper lifts like a brokeback bird and he scrabbles and slips and the paper splashes into his palm and out and he has it and then he doesn't and then he has, and she is not even smiling, she is rooting back through the box he gave her, no longer interested in whatever it was she took the trouble to bring
but the boy, the boy is all hands and eyes, all he wants and wanted concentrated in a scrap of paper cupped in the palm of his hand (he senses, if she looked and caught this expression, his raw hunger for her, she would hate him, and rightly so, this vagrant hunger for her, which eats away at him when he can't see her, but she doesn't look, and he), he picks at the paper, a blind and ageing watchmaker picking at the clasp of a pocket watch, and there are words
IRIS DOESN'T DANCE
written square at the paper's centre in blue ink, the crisscross of the fold intersecting upon the letters O and E of doesn't, the words themselves capped and graceful, stout and yeoman-like, there to perform one function only, to inform the reader about the proclivities of Iris
and he doesn't know if the girl is Iris, doesn't know if she wrote the words on the piece of paper, doesn't know why she would offer him this scrap and not another, cannot fathom if the warmth he feels beneath his fingertips is from a warmth she has left behind or he has generated
only knows that she judged this important for him to see, and he knows as he thinks this that quite possibly he is wrong, thinks that maybe just maybe it struck her one way, a way he can't quite fathom yet, doesn't know what to make of what she has offered him but loves it and wants it and will treasure it because
he figures that maybe there'll be a day when this particular piece of the jigsaw puzzle will fit alongside another piece of the jigsaw puzzle she is, and maybe a hundred years will go by and a third jigsaw piece will slot in alongside the first two, and he knows it may take such a period of time, and he doesn't care
the boy wishes he had hidden the paper a moment sooner so it hadn't caught the first drop of water, wishes he'd glimpsed her rise to her feet, wishes all of the previous moments had yet to occur so he could have them all over again)
her hand rests for the briefest of instants on his shoulder, before she scoops the box up (and look, the ease with which she hoists it aloft, he thinks, the struggle he had and the ease, for her, the way the box of things now looks at home, with her) and turns, making her way clear of the rain
the boy watches her go, his fingers investigating the folds of the paper anew in the darkened recesses of his pocket, his mind already racing past the minutes and hours until he sees her again, his various selves splitting off, hiving, in his imagination to conduct the post mortem and prepare for the next time and the next
a part of him already home and placing the paper among his treasures, and another part hungry and yawing like a gulf already, hating all of the time endured without her, and still a third part, wondering, thinking, what he can offer next, and how she will receive it, and whether maybe just maybe something something something
(because although the boy spends the better part of his time wanting, he does not quite know what it is in fact that he wants, beyond her, beyond the idea and the thought of her, beyond the three letters of the word that spell HER, he just knows that she addresses some need in him and the need only grows each time they meet)
he moves in time and is lost among and between the distant weave of other people passing by, and the place he was, the place they were, the place she was, is quickly a place like any other, as nondescript and anomalous as any other bench beside any other fountain in any other city.