Steven Stewart

J. and T.


1. J. and T. take off their shoes by the fountain.  They’re getting set to enter the pool.  It’s 11:00 p.m., Florida summer, and J. is speculating about why T. became upset when he argued that no two people could ever truly understand one another.  T. isn’t even there with him; she’s remembering Spain, her year spent there, why she’d like to return but

2. knows she never will.  The specter of Spain still stalks her.  She’s looking for dead frogs floating in the pool—since she’s never experienced lust, she feels nothing in such moments.  In her own mind she’s still a child growing dim at her bedside—turning to ether with each word she prays.  J. can see four frogs near the pool.  There’s also one

3. inside it, which he’ll pick out before T. will get in.  This is the dance they do.  Too thin to dance, T. nevertheless wants to dance, exquisite, to the music of Babylon.  Too precise to be human, she is nevertheless human.  But not to J.  “If to breathe is to live, then to live is to work.”  She won’t agree.  Why are they out in this thick, stale, insect-

4. infested night air?  T. walks by herself through the water, moving her arms in rhythm.  J. wants to tell her that her mouth reminds him of an angel.  His mouth is becoming weary.  He knows he left his best memories inside his grandfather’s pickup truck.  Something in his soul is clotting.  T.’s trying to cut through the water, become the water,

5. and she’s consciously trying to ignore J., though she really believes she loves him.  “In the hindsight of a lover, yours is always an untouchable beauty.”  In J.’s mind, T. is a gypsy playing a guitar.  J. is that guitar.  She’s playing him with quick, spidery fingers.  She plays hard and fast—he feels like a knife in a soldier’s hand.  The soldier is cutting

6. downward into a wet blanket.  Frogs and crickets permeate the hot, wet blanket of night air.  It’s been a long time since it rained.  There’s only five days left until the start of hurricane season.  When it rains T. wants to remember something, but can only remember having known it once.  J. is doing handstands near the deep end, looking for

7. something on the bottom of the pool.  T. stares at a frog in the shrubs.  She knows that no happiness is artificial, and that every footprint is unique.  She doesn’t hear him when he asks her, “Remember when you were pure desperation?”  He wants to kiss her but her face is without substance.  “It was you and me fighting death.”  He has hands to touch but

8. cannot touch. The artificial light of the pool is unkind.   “I haven’t loved you for a hundred years.”  No stars are visible.  The air is thicker than their love.  But, as T. realizes, perhaps it’s more bearable.  J. is starting to feel angry, though he’s nowhere near articulating to himself why.  For T. the pool is full of little girls.  Little girls in an

9. afternoon light—she forgets that it’s nighttime.  “Childhood is a beautiful thing—why do they cut it so short?”  They’re splashing, jumping in, dunking one another.  Early afternoon, and she’s the mother of one of these girls.  She wants to speak as a child, but doesn’t believe it will get her into heaven.  J. tries to pull her back: “Why won’t you

10. admit that words signify?”  As if he or anyone else knew the words.  Surveying them, T. can’t decide which girl is hers.  “Do you really think you could see God’s face in the water?”   Facing away from one another, each wants to choose the harder path.  J. is growing impatient.  He wants to reach for her, but he’s tired of reaching, tired of Florida,

11. of air that’s thick, tired of speculating, of staying quiet, of frogs, fountains, and footprints.  T. is simply praying: “Please God, let me compensate less every day.  Let me touch when I touch, kiss when I kiss, know with symmetry your untouched hands and untouchable toes.”  It will all be over soon.