Drowning Deeds
Racheline Maltese

Hayward Fault Line Winner

Athens is, in many senses, the end of the civilized world, at least, to us Westerners. It's not an easy thing to understand, until you're here, and find the world reduced to a starkness of blues and whites as blinding as they are cruelly and casually beautiful. It's terribly alien and bodes constantly of the unseen, of more to drown in than just the sea.

I'd been begging, after a fashion and in secret, since before we even arrived here, and now that I come to think of it, probably before we embarked on the adventure. That, however, may be too strong a word for a typical occupation foisted on bored and wealthy youth.

It never occurred to me to consider myself delicate, until I met David, and became conscious of my every movement as an item to be judged, as a gesture containing the possibility of both restraint and invitation. Thus far, the game has challenged me more than I prefer; I don't know what he wants, assuming he wants anything at all. My mind insists he must. Otherwise, I'm more the fool than has already been made clear, and he is playful, in ways both wrong and deadly.

We spent Thursday in the inevitable trancelike condition that usurps the mind and flesh of even the most seasoned traveler after the actual act of travel. I was miserable and David insisted alcohol was the path through. Drinking, I should note is something of a sport for David; I prefer tennis. But drink we did, carafes of cheap, wretched wine.

"Clearly," David had said, swirling the vinegar and bits of cork floating in his glass, "they export anything that's remotely potable."

I laughed softly, all his beauty making me less boisterous. My eyes traveled distractedly from hands to eyes to mouth, glances nearly normal from a drunk, exhausted and desperate man. And he smiled at me then, although I could not tell you if it was knowing, if it mocked or partook of my imaginings or if it was turned entirely inward, to some subject unknown.

We became inappropriately inebriated. There is, after all, no other purpose in poor grape, and by evening's end our hands brushed repeatedly, reaching for the dregs of indulgence.

I fell asleep, in the chair, and woke to brutal sunlight, David watching me surreptitiously from his bed, through slitted and predatory eyes. It is a dangerous gesture when a man smiles and wets his lips. It becomes so easy to think he could do nothing but desire you, when in truth, he might merely be thirsty, or filled with a greed that takes no interest in the flesh beyond means to an end.

First published: August 2002
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