It was probably a love of lines that drew her to him. The way his body connected, wrist to neck, hip through shoulder, encased him slim patterns that were mathematical when he sat and near alien when he moved. His bones were the same stuff; arrows and fine tooth combs for ribs that locked neatly into collarbones, sliding under his skin. There were days she would look at his frame and swear he was a sketch on paper, curved and arabesqued in pencilled streaks.
She looked back to him, sitting at the breakfast table, slowly chipping away the grimy white paint from the cheap thing, mulling over his dark-roasted coffee. His pale hair looked a bit sickly in the dim grey morning, unforgiving for all its softness. It was not quite overcast, and a kind of faint sunlight filtered through to pick up the dandruff on his close-fit black sweater. She wouldn't have called the whole thing dull; maybe somewhere there was an Eliot rhapsodizing fog. She sometimes felt a bit more Woolfian.
His butter knife clanged on the plate scattered with greasy crumbs. He wiped his pink mouth. Picasso. He stood, scraping back the chair, and angulated to the sink to clatter down the dish. He hadn't said anything. His lips were craggy and dry, and it didn't look like he wanted to. The sun was stronger by the window, and it cut him into parallelograms. Pythagoras nose, Copernicus eyes. Swishes of now-brilliant hair. A dash of Davinci. She smiled. First time that morning. Always a little bit crackly and caked when it's the first, but she felt so clever this morning.
But just as she thought of it, he sliced back to the table, eyes downcast, wetting his tongue with the strong coffee, pulling in his razor cheeks sourly as he swallowed. He didn't look right. He didn't speak. He seemed to be only parts, inhuman.
HOLY FUCK itpummeledthrough her.
He didn't love her anymore.
.A pumping pressured in her head, and she wished the dull sun could somehow be turned down even more, that his Pygmalion fingers, now resting on his chin, could stop cutting such stark shapes out of his apple cheeks, that something could quietly dawdle.
He rose once more, quick, slender and tall legs like wrought-iron fences, an art-nouveau spine curve gone horribly wrong. In terror, she broke off a chunk of chocolate and slid it into her mouth. It tasted thick and wrong. She ground her teeth into it. He, meanwhile, had picked up n orange from the hanging basket by the window and begun peeling it with exacting care. He did not speak. He did not look. He was inseam, waist, hip. Acute, obtuse, isosceles. Slowly pulsing heart? He did not speak with those flaking lips.
She did not know what to do. Cry? Cross the linoleum floor and rip him line from line? But it was that formal feeling. It wasn't desensitizing. Something was there and it paralyzed. If she was quaking, it was because she was fast eroding like sand in a gust. Fuck no, not so pretty. It made her skin collapse into her chest cavity, her muscles rot and dystrophy, her lips sink into her lungs. Her brain dropped down into her ribcage and stomach acid leaked into intestines. And it was formal. It left her blank. Inactive. Her insides disintegrated and stewed, bones broken down, ground into powder. She became a husk. The sheath of some cockroach. She sat still in the peeling chair with ugly seventies flowers, her fingers numb on the cool metal legs.
And he peeled the orange. It was too colourful, utterly too saturated in that over-exposed sunlight. The sick-sweet smell plumed out heavily into the room. She wanted to wretch. He separated the sections deftly and walked back again to the table, a half in each hand, and swooped down onto the chair. She watched him, terrified, as he bit into it. The juice ruptured from the casing, burst into his mouth and spilled onto those dry, peeling lips. Oh Jesus, those beautiful lips. Vanessa Bell. They were glossy now, plump with the viscous, aromatic fluid. She wanted to wretch.
"Na-" she started. She couldn't continue. Her throat was as raw as those lips. And her windpipe had crumpled over her collarbone.
Then he looked at her.
His deep lidded eyes grazed over her face, sweeps of black lashes flicking. He languidly focused on her, smiling faintly as he slowly wiped the juice from his mouth with his wrist, a stray hair bedraggling down his left cheek.
His throat made a soft murmur, and the sun glinted his hair for more than a moment, backlit from the sink. He licked his lips with his slick, moist tongue, leaning cautiously forward at the small table to her stationary form, so that the tip of his chilly nose was against hers.
His voice was raspy, but it did come out slowly, rather like the viscous fruit juice. He smiled quietly, and gave his head a little self-satisfied cock. She felt a jerk from her heart.
Then he, ever so painfully slowly, crept his face closer. She could see the stubborn childhood freckles along the left curve of his nose, the shallow pockets of purple sagging under his grey eyes and his one crooked tooth, second from the centre on his bottom jaw that perfectly matched the razor-gap between his two top front ones. His breath smelled like toast and oranges.
"Georgia", he whispered.
His Pygmalion fingers pressed both her cheeks, leaving sticky, delicious trails of charcoal. That's right; the toast was burnt but buttered thickly. A whiff of coffee came with it, black and stark, each sense lingering.
And he just kissed her. His pink lips were still rough despite their stickiness, but he pressed them up against hers confidently, and the chocolate taste still in her mouth mixed with the burnt toast and the black coffee and the pungent fruit, and it was like New York or New Delhi or just like home.
She smiled. It was easier this time.
A/N: Vanessa Bell was a painter, and Virginia Woolf's sister. She's known for earthy tones and somewhat melancholy portrait subjects. She and Woolf were very close.