You ask if my fear of heights prevents me from loving. Falling is not inevitable, I reply. Fear is more necessary. It is an old conversation, strewn with hubris. Love slays. It comes unexpectedly. It happens when we are not watching. Yet we choose to cross streets, ignoring traffic signs, and I am attuned to the power of stop and go, attentive to the split second between green and amber, even when amber is yellow. Or even as amber yellows. There is a parable of time here. A myth of loving encased insects.
Most of the time I am indifferent.
Every so often my breath catches, looking from a dizzying, inevitable height. Even bridges have to be crossed. Though one need not bridge past and present, here and there, now and then. We avoid living on fragile suspensions. And the homeless congregate under bridges. Those who peer over risk falling. Depths call.
But haven’t there been moments of abandon, you ask, when falling was possible. You have a theory of calluses. Insufficient. Africans grow keloids, thick layers of scar tissue. They do not fade with Vitamin E treatments. They remain suspended, visible, badges of difference. Maybe there was once hurt. Keloids take on their own lives, independent of their origins. Keloid love. One can love a scar. One lives with a keloid.
Keloids require surgical intervention.
You offer healing love, aloe to mild sunburn. Sticky and cooling. As if your persistent massages will re-infuse trust and risk-taking. I like it when you touch me. A lot. Too much. Not that much.
On boyfriend number two, I discovered love had nothing to do with sex. And his fevered protestations could not quell night-enhanced hungers. I sought librarians with strong calves and equestrian prowess. The one with red hair hungered for my hunger, another trophy for his black-lined case. If only the other one with red hair had not just given me a fear of heights, and tall artists with blue eyes.
The story is that banal.
You search for keloid treatments, as you have promised to learn Kiswahili and Gikuyu and how to dance like the Luyha men whose bodies I crave. As though effort will tempt me to delicate suspensions. And you will make my breath catch.
You promise to catch me. If I fall.
When I was six, I fell into a shallow fishpond chasing after orange-flecked dreams, the ephemeral promises of quick-moving dreamers. Algae stains. Even now I stay away from ponds and goldfish, reach for safer dreams. The smell of bread, rain, poppers on a busy street.
After tonight I will need poppers to get off with you, to you. To recover that first rush of penetration, that first giving. That first, spontaneous orgasm. After tonight I will need chemical help to remain attracted, interested, to fall, but never from a delicate suspension. At most from a foot-high stair. Into your arms.
You ask for a promise.
I will stay with you.