The Western Edge of the Kalahari
I am seconds away from coming. Pull my hair, I gasp, and you do.
Afterwards, we watch this nature documentary about desert plains and forests and it sends you to sleep. I watch a Drongo bird cheat a mob of meerkats out of a grasshopper, the Drongo is only deceitful in the hardest winter months, and a male rhino try to fuck a female rhino bigger than him.
They are, the narrator says, just like us, and I think about how I would rather he had just not said anything.
There are postcards scattered on your bed and on the floor. We were making a collage of all the places you had been. I write a few lines on the back of one, while of a pair of giraffes swing their necks against each other’s dusty flanks.
you think them ill-tempered by day
but the rhino come from all around
to meet under the stars at night
Then I fall asleep, and you must’ve woken up soon after because when I open my eyes again you are looking at me and holding up the postcard. “What’s this?”
“Nothing,” I say.
You look and look, your eyes everglades. I shrug. “It’s just a few words.”
We’re silent for a bit, then you say, “There’s something about postcards.”
And I say, “Like what?”
I lift my head up so you can rest your arm underneath my neck. You smell like me. “Just something about them. Wish you were heres and pictures of cities and beaches getting slipped underneath your door. Like someone’s always thinking about you no matter how far away they are, or whatever beautiful thing they’re looking at.”
I love to hear you talk almost as much as I like turning on a radio in the evening, when everything outside is orange and dusky.
“Where did you get this one?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” you turn it over, skim the back. “An art gallery in Helsinki, I think. I can’t read it.”
Your walls are postcards. All your friends and family and ex-girlfriends are pictures on your wall. There are city lights from Singapore and tall, swampy Louisiana willows, muddy green rivers in Venezuela and a photo of you holding a baby croc. Your mouth is open, excited, happy, like that baby croc is your favourite damn thing in the whole world.
“Will you send me a postcard?” You ask, staring up at the ceiling. “I’ve never been to Cologne. I think I’d like to go to Tokyo next.”
I am looking sideways through the small blonde curls on your chest like I am in a jungle. Tomorrow I will leave for a year to study at a university in Germany. It is a mandatory part of my course in engineering that I study in the country that makes the best planes and trains and cars. It is mandatory that I find out how to build the very planes you fly in, the ones that always take you away.
“Let’s put speakers in the trees,” I say.
I feel my hair move, and I know the corners of your mouth have lifted into a smile. “Okay,” you think for a second, “how would we do that?”
I sit up, let the covers fall away from my chest. “That tiny tree in your back garden. We could feed the wires into the house, leave the door open, have you got an extension? Use one of them, and feed the cable into your living room and just rest a couple of speakers on a branch. Then we could get drunk.”
Your smile is big. “We could.” You pull me back down, let your smile play over my mouth, into my mouth, down my chest.
Behind us, there are bison. There is talk of rolling in the dust to attract a mate. They show off their strength by grounding the earth.
Your hands are in my hair and then your mouth is on my neck and my teeth are on your shoulder, my nails digging in.
I think about how much I am not you. I think about how much I like home, how much I don’t want to leave it, how I’m scared. How I am not a postcard on your wall. How I don’t dream of pins across maps or scrappy tickets from long-distance buses.
There are things that I want to do. Things like climbing atop snowy satellite dishes and old rollercoasters and looking out at the expanse and the haze and thinking are we the only ones out there.
But not yet, not now. Not while we have this.
A wolf howls, cracks the snow underneath his paws. A moose stands in frozen water; where he stands, here, he knows the wolf will not follow. But the moose knows he cannot stand here forever. Underneath them sits one of the largest volcanoes in the world.
After you’ve fallen asleep, I take a postcard down from your wall, one with an old Bostonian ship container on the front, no words on the back, and I write:
you think you are lonely
but you are not a catfish
on the Western edge of the Kalahari
living in the largest underwater lake
known to man
Carlotta Eden is a writer and editor living near London. She co-founded and edits Synaesthesia Magazine. She can be found (or will be found) on WhiskeyPaper, CHEAP POP, Fifty Word Stories, Visual Verse and The Bishop Otter Gallery Anthology. Also on Twitter: @1chae.