In Illo Tempore
She was a woman and had two men. She kept them close to each other; two-legs-of-a-person-close, one at her right, and the other at her left thigh. One of them liked the porcelain penny bank in the form of a thinking woman with her hand under her chin on the center table at her house, and the other liked the carvings of the highboy with her childhood albums in it. They had this balance where one loved pistachios, so the other limited himself to peanuts. If considered without their differences, they would both leave a salty taste on her tongue. After both, she was usually left with sour sweat, back pain and squeaking doors. She loved them, to the point where the bite on her left shoulder and the teeth mark on her thigh intersected.
She was without a child. She was fourteen when she laid straight on a cold, metal table, weak as a chicken laying its eggs getting trampled. Below her navel, her organs were spread open with as cold metal handles and her tubes were ligated. Back then she didn't mind, but only terrorized everyone in the house because of the flesh-cut pain that kept her from sitting freely on the toilet. Although she experienced brief mood swings when she held her friends' babies and some hormonal kicks when she hit thirty, she never really sighed about having her own little human. Her reckless singularity, over self-indulgence, and the luxury of irresponsible breakdowns, seemed safer than a young son to walk around in his arms one day.
She had a fit figure, wide shoulders and rectangle-like buttocks under her straight back. When she took a step, you could almost see her roots hug the ground. When she entered a room, with all of her weight, her body would fill every crack. While she worked to sell paintings, at some point people would stop looking at the item they intended to buy and start examining and scanning her with curiosity. What attracted these looks was the contrast of her shiny violet eyes under thick, dark eyelashes at the two sides of her bumpy, eagle-like nose. Lips so thick that you couldn't come across except maybe in Africa, hiding under the protection of a majestic blond unibrow. She always wore her white shirt that clenched her bosom, and her loose black pants that made her legs look even longer, camouflaging amongst the paintings that she presented to buyers making use of her big hands and long arms.
Both of her men were wretched souls, captured by the claws of art. They had studios, rustic workstations and walls full of books. They displayed older volumes of rare and foreign books at shelves most visible from eye level. They adored how their hardwood floors crackled, drank coffee from delicate porcelain cups and addressed to their friends as Mon cher. They were depressed in specific times of the year – fortunately the depressive periods of the two had never coincided. At those times, they would refuse see anyone and rot in their houses. Being aware of the work coming her way to pile up in the hall, or in her file, as a result of that period, the woman wouldn’t say a thing and just wait patiently with her other man. Hesitation held a huge part in her men’s lives. They wanted to publish all past correspondence with their friends who were poets, writers, painters, dancers into a book and take a proud look at the history they put out there, see the end of their unfinished businesses in the stinging nudity of disclosure. They would always talk about this, then give up, and hand the letters over to her, without realizing their parallel behavior.
She was insatiable. She tried to satisfy her hunger with things and beings either alive or capable of giving life when looked, touched, or heard and it had nothing to do with ambition. She could pull all the tricks in her book in order not to sell the paintings she loved. She ate a lot. She drank a lot. She drove fast and purchased every single color of a foulard. She owned apartments in different areas of the city, with the fear of ending up homeless one day, living on the streets smelling like piss. When she danced, she was either in the middle of the dance floor, or at the top of the longest table. In times when she got quiet, she lied a lot, as if her tongue was moving on its own. She was a woman with two men. When she attached one to the other, she could see her tubes tied under her belly.
In illo tempore, lived a blacksmith with five sons and a daughter. He was the most renowned after the town’s shaman. Because blacksmiths and shamans were children of the same roof. Blacksmith was enormous, he had more flare than the shaman. He had this huge belly, as if it was him who gave birth to his children. His shoulders leaned across the two ends of the country. The power he possessed could melt iron without fire. A glance to his face almost mesmerized the looker with its beauty, but his distorted nose was made to confuse. Next to his household, in his mill, he forged utensils, horseshoes, swords, and maces for villagers. He could see anything that the future held in the flames if he wanted to. Horsemen, neighbors, winters and raids ahead.... Yet he wouldn’t look into the fire, as he abstained from abandoning his soul in there with the evil god, K’daai Maksin. So he was committed to resist. People told him that foreseeing only the wars would suffice. You’d own a fortune taller than your height. Blacksmith would respond to them; he’d rather carve his eyes out. Then back on his work, loud. Shaking roofs, scaring off birds, frightening foxes. He would check the force of his fire with the tip of his tongue.
Blacksmith started sleeping less and less, the peace he once had stayed in the past. Fire called him in, by force. He did not go. Instead he sacrificed his pitch black bull to K’daai Maksin, hoping he’d be left alone. That night, every single tool of the blacksmith got covered with the animal’s blood. Seven people came up from the village, lit a huge fire at the town square and threw the bull’s head into the flames. The shaman arrived. Amidst the small crowd, the blacksmith sang and moaned. Seven men pulled the burnt head out of the fire, placed it on the anvil and hit it with hammers. The shaman, first rose from the ground, then submerged himself in the soil up to his knees. He went down to see K’daai Maksin underground and demanded healing for to the only blacksmith in the village. Evil god refused, declaring death to the ones who didn’t face him in the fire. Shaman begged, and as he begged he broke into pieces, swallowed his bones. He knelt before K’daai Maksin and repeated his wish.
Dark god roared, sent his fallens over the shaman and said: “Then he shall accept giving me his daughter, her daughter and every single soul to ever cross her womb, and look into the fire. All five of his sons shall be blacksmiths, and be spread to five corners of Yakutsk. The girl shall stay here, sleep by the fire and may she resemble her father, grow apace from his nose. May her womb broil every time her father won’t look into the fire, and her name be erased of her house. In every life she lives may she get bigger, and resemble her father a bit more. May she be of no use to her men, incapable of holding any seed in her. Everything to ever grow in her may be mine. Now and forever.”
Shaman couldn't say a word. He came out to the surface and the flames he emitted from his fingertips out of grief, fed the fire. He drank water with salt and pepper, and lied to the blacksmith. Then he took the tiny girl from her mother’s lap and put her in embers. Blacksmith stood up as if a massive lump exited his throat. A sizzle run through his nose.
The girl was always there in the crowd at the steppes, riding horses, all around mammoths and chasing buffaloes. Scorching hot, she would burn men. Her arms swirled around them; whippers of postal cars, sword grinders behind arenas, cooks who can cook plucked geese in two minutes, behind sleds hey ho hey, tombs in cones and pyramids councils holy stones and manuscripts towers slaves, hunters, rulers, sealers and doctors, writers, compositors, printers, seamen, and those who were born in paintings. Her body widened, breasts sagged, belly inflated, then deflated, inflated and deflated, her fingers danced in blood. She didn’t know what to do with the droplets of eyes, ears, and intestines drizzling out of her perineum. She wished to stay unlovable, and decided to kneel before the lonely lack of love.
In illo tempore, she spread the cheeks of her butt, unaware of wedding all her souls to the fire. She assumed what she did to be good, good for herself. She thought it was love.
She introduced one man to the other, and made them friends. Together, they enjoyed their time spent eating at long tables. They chattered about Venus, museums, curators and complained about politics. She kept sleeping with them, one after the other. Her shadow kept lingering over paintings, her curves kept being the subject matter of drawings. She had been and kept being the muse of one’s acrylic and the other’s charcoal, gratified by pearls, ivory phalluses, and rare books when she sold a painting of either man for an exorbitant sum in auction. Drinking coffee from fine porcelains with her name glazed on, taking long vacations. Laughing, changing, uniting, and separating.
One of the men asked her for a child. She gave him the silent treatment, stopped having sex with him for a while and frequented the other.
One night at the dinner table, they talked about embryos. About the births of school-aged children that both men had from other women. Inflating bellies, concerns and the anticipation for a newborn. Woman sat still. Did not eat, did not drink. She talked and talked as if she’d been giving birth for ages. Men assumed she had plenty of children, and together wanted to touch her saggy breasts. She unbuttoned her shirt and portioned her breasts to the men. She held their heads and pushed them towards each other. The moment when their noses made contact a spark jumped onto the table and set it on fire. She rushed to pour the water in the pitcher on the table. There, she wanted to paint a painting like the ones she always looked at and admired. They brought her a canvas, some paint, and benzene, and stared at her standing up by the easel.
Woman drew legs, spread to two sides, looking directly at them. She carved out an area between the legs and filled in pinkish layers. She painted black in the eyes of the creature sliding its head out from the layers. Dipped her brush into red, and made flames eating up the legs, then made them bigger and twisted, turned their tips into gigantic cocks. She put a large torso behind the flames. On its face, she drew an organ with distorted lines, like her own nose, and left the rest blank. Took a couple steps back and contemplated her work. The men stood behind her and held her as her body quaked.
“My tubes are tied,” she said and her weight collapsed on the two men.
They laid her on the ground. Undressed her and cooled her burning flesh with ice. Put a vinegar infused cloth on her forehead and waited. She looked like coming to herself for a moment, sat up, and stared at the men with glittering eyes. She thought that she could survive if she just swallowed them whole, that it would untie her knot and open her canals, that the dual push would twist a valve…. She spread her legs just like in the painting and pulled the two close. When she arched her neck backwards and looked at the painting behind her, she saw the flames approaching. She reached out with her hands over her head and took the hammer and skew back from her father. She snatched the two heads away from their bodies and laid them on the skew back. For two nights long she beat the men’s heads with her hammer. When bones and cartilages took the form of iron, she threw them into the fire, warmed them up nicely, and aligned them under her navel. She assumed what she did to be good, good for herself. She thought it was love.