One day Selma reminded me that she still had plans for us. I still thought he looked like he needed a good feed but she said she could prove that he was back to himself. In a locked cabinet, hidden among the clutter at the back of her private studio, she had sketches and paintings going back over thirty years and more. Some appeared to be studies, hurriedly done in an intense period; others were more thoughtful – all had clearly been done years apart. They all included variations on the same haunting figure. Though his face might not have been visible in every one it was impossible not to recognise the person I’d been waking up with.
She had no answer to my questions why or how. She could only tell me what she knew. Dave had been her friend for a long time, he had even been her lover from time to time … and he had never seemed to age.
Selma saw things as they were and, on me, she pointed out the gradual reduction of scar tissue as he shared the ecstasy of himself with me. I had always healed fast, too fast compared to others, but my skin always retained the faint trace pain. Now, like some inexorable glacier his love smoothed away the evidence of my past, the most recent hurts the first to be erased. I had seen the effect on Failbhe, on Moshen, on maybe a handful of others in my journey to my new lover’s bed. I had never seen it happen to me before.
So. The Gemini. She asked, we posed. I still have some of the initial studies in storage, one day I might show them … but probably only to a very select audience. Whatever you might have heard about the development of the piece it is probably not as much fun as we had in the making of it. Eventually we admitted it might be better if we all settled down and let her complete her task. Looking at it now it is still a lovely piece of work and, yes, probably better for showing some restraint towards the subject.
“Excuse me … you posed for the Hawass Gemini? … That must have been last century. She’s been dead for decades. Are you having me on? You said you’d be honest. I’ve put up with you not mentioning any dates but come on … you and Dave posed for the Gemini and you were thirty five?”
“No, sorry. You’re right to interrupt. That wasn’t accurate. There was a delay; we were just having too much fun. All just having too much fun. Truly, that woman would have got so much more finished if she had been just less sociable. By the time it was finished I must have been thirty eight, maybe thirty nine.”
“You’re gaping. It doesn’t suit you.”
“That’s better. I’m not lying, I’m not intending to mislead. Mistakes are not deliberate, just the passage of time. A hell of a lot of time. Like I said when you asked me about this, I’m giving you pretty much everything. I trust you to make it anodyne and safe later.”
We posed for the Gemini. By the time it was done I must have been coming to the end of my first masters degree. Dave was doing some lecturing, nothing serious, just ticking over – said he didn’t want to be tied down by work. Even back then he didn’t seem concerned about money or too bothered by material things. It took me a while to realise it was because he was actually very wealthy. His stay in Alexandria-next-to-Egypt was always meant to be a temporary one he said, just to get his head straight after finding out he had become an ‘ex’ the day his lady friend in North America had refused to see him. Instead of leaving, he just said he was content to have a bit of fun; he would stay as long as he was enjoying himself.
We were not always gentle with each other as we explored the possibilities of our bodies. He could be so tender but I … I showed him he could be whatever he wanted with me. I didn’t want to lose all of my past; some of it had been good, all of it had made me. After Selma was done with us we worked on my bridal tattoo, re-cutting the outlines, learning how to control the healing reflex to maintain the scars I wanted.
We married. With a heart bursting with love I proposed, down on one knee if you can believe it. I think I was very, very, drunk at the time. We were at a party. It was probably just one of those mad spur of the moment things when I asked and he was surprised enough to say yes. Hand on heart, neither of us has regretted it. People who don’t know us don’t know.
Time passed in something of a happy fog. We went to parties and events and the opening of envelopes if people invited us. The fashionable, sexy, face of stuffy old academia on the periphery of the art set through our association with Selma. Alexandria-next-to-Egypt became, in turn, Alexandria-under-the-Waves and we all moved to Luxor after losing our home to the rising waters. Both of us joined the faculty at Temple and I was pleased to introduce myself as Dr Plaisir for the first time.
If our work meant we spent time apart we spent time apart. No big deal for us, we were just happy when we were together. Every now and then we took different lovers, sometimes we shared. I knew that Dave had women as well as men. No one ever came between us. To be honest, no one came even close to the experience I had with him, no matter how long we were together. I knew that he felt the same about me. He still does. When the time comes, I hope the girl understands. She’s nice. I wouldn’t like her to get hurt.
One long quiet summer we spent some months toying with the affections of an accountant. The affair was notable because we finally found out how much money he had and what we could do with it. Cue the Jensson Foundation, first director a rather creative and open minded bean counter. Now, there was a man who landed on his feet – or, maybe I should say, fell to his knees – and ended up set for life.
“That’s it. I had my partner, I had a life and I was happy. I had found my Field of Reeds. What more could there be?”
“But it’s not everything.”
“The important things were what made me, not what happened after.”
“Tell me about Myk, how did he come into your world?”
“Why don’t you ask him yourself? I know you see enough of him … ah, course, you don’t get round to much meaningful conversation with him do you? Oh, don’t worry, and don’t ever, ever, regret it. I know you’re being good to each other.”