[edited by: Poope Misaqi]
In the early days of fall, Dr. Soltani was walking/heading to his hotel on a silent side street of Paris, when a wooden door with opaque window panes opened and a tall twiggy girl/young woman got/walked out, but she had no sooner taken two steps than she fell on the ground/had barely taken two steps when she fell on the ground. Dr. Soltani and the few passersby who noticed her/saw this surrounded her. The girl/woman had fainted and her pupils had gone/slid under her half-open eyelids. Dr. Soltani took her wrist in hand and felt her rapid pulse. “I’m a doctor,” he told the middle-aged couple and the two young men who stood and sat down by her side. “Please give her some space and call an ambulance.”
The two young men stepped back. One of them called an ambulance on his cellphone. Ten minutes later, when the crowd had grown larger, the ambulance got there. As they lay the woman on the stretcher, Dr. Soltani grabbed her purse, making sure that nothing had fallen out. Perhaps because he held on to her purse, or because the crowd had in the past few minutes concluded that he was a doctor, he was pushed to the ambulance and had to get in, despite having no intention whatsoever to accompany her.
The hospital was near the hotel. He felt relieved once they admitted her in the emergency room and informed him that her blood pressure was too low and she needed to get a serum. He handed her purse over to the nurse and left. In fifteen minutes he had an appointment with a superintendent of a genetic research center in the hotel lobby.
Having presented his proposal from ten days earlier, he was waiting for the answer whether the budget required for the project would be provided. After the negotiations came to a successful conclusion, he headed back to the hospital. Excited about the approval of the project, he could hardly stay in his room, take a shower, stroll around the hotel’s tree-lined garden, or drink some tea.
When he arrived at the hospital, the nurse told him that the patient was fine and she could go home later in the evening. Dr. Soltani entered the room. The serum injected in her arm was instilling its last drops. She was looking at/ fumbling with/busy fumbling with her cellphone. She raised her head/turned toward him.
“You’re the one who brought me here?” she asked as soon as her eyes fell on Soltani.
“Glad to see you are feeling better,” he said.
The girl/woman put her cellphone aside. “I won’t be able to return your favor, sir.”
“No, you won’t. So let’s not talk about it anymore,” Soltani said laughingly/with laughter.
She bent her head/lowered her head shyly and put a hand to her forehead. Signs of weakness were still all over her face. Suddenly she looked at him sharply/piercingly/intensely.
Dr. put a hand on her cold arm. “I’m Farid. I am a physician but I haven’t practiced medicine for ten years now. I do research.”
Sylvia leaned back. “I’m a model. They’ll sack me from the job if I don’t lose some weight,” she said, sizing Farid up as if to see whether he could be a physician.
“Goodness!” Soltani exclaimed. “Once I heard on the radio that some countries have banned forcing models to lose excessive weight. Unfortunately the demands of the market make it unconcerned about your health.”
“Worse still is that being overweight runs in my family. If I stop dieting for two days, I will terribly put on weight.”
“Well, so instead you decide to faint in the street,” Soltani said cheerfully.
A nurse came in, pulled the needle out of Sylvia’s arm, put a Band-Aid on it, and left. Sylvia rubbed her arm and rolled down her sleeve. “It’s foolish. My hair is falling out, but I can’t quit this job. Every step that I take, hundreds of eager eyes stare at me. It is worth fainting from time to time. I have no complaints.”
Suddenly something flashed through Soltani’s mind. Something that had vaguely began forming in his mind since the moment she had fainted, something not irrelevant to his project.
“I might be able to offer a solution for your problem,” he said.
The nurse came in once again, this time accompanied by the ward doctor. The doctor picked up Sylvia’s file and took a glance. He checked her pulse and with his thumb pulled her lower eyelid down and examined inside her eyes and signed the bottom of the sheet. He then took a prescription pad out of his pocket, scribbled some medications, handed it to the nurse, and went away. “You are released,” said the nurse, giving the prescription to Soltani, adding, “These are just vitamin supplements. The pharmacy is on the ground floor.”
Soltani thanked her, folded the sheet in half, and put it in his coat pocket. The nurse left. “Well, are you ready?” Soltani asked Sylvia.
Sylvia nodded yes. She let her legs dangle from the bed, and put on her shoes. Soltani took her purse. Together they left the room.
Three-quarter of an hour later, the cab arrived in front of Sylvia’s apartment complex. They got out. She took her purse from Soltani and fished out her keys. She slid it into the lock, the door opened, and they entered the lobby. Immediately a loud dog bark coming from behind one of the doors began echoing throughout the lobby. “When I was renting the apartment, the owner asked me if I were afraid of dogs. I said I didn’t really. But then I found out it was one of those disgusting English dogs that I cannot bear to see. The dog sniffs my hatred of it and it starts barking whenever I come and go,” said Sylvia.
“Even late at night?” asked Soltani.
He laughed slightly. “So all of the neighbors are keeping tabs on you. But maybe the dog doesn’t hate you. You should find out whether it wags its tail when it’s barking or not. If it wags it, it means it’s a friendly bark.”
“Anyway, I don’t go out often. It’s usually only on the I have a show or a photo shoot.”
They got to the elevator. Sylvia pressed the button.
“Well,I’ll take my leave now,” said Soltani.
Astonished, Sylvia turned and looked into his eyes. “You haven’t made your offer yet.”
“Oh!” he remembered. “It’s not a reasonable idea. It just flashed through my mind for a moment.”
The elevator’s double doors opened. Sylvia went in. “I can’t keep standing, otherwise I would insist you tell me all about it right here. So please, ride in the elevator with me and make your offer.”
Soltani entered the elevator. “You must eat something. The serum won’t be enough.”
Sylvia rolled her eyes. “Oh my! Don’t even mention eating or I’ll lose my job.”
The elevator doors closed. Sylvia failed to continue standing. She leaned on the wall and slipped on the floor, her head bending down. Worried for her, Soltani squatted down by her side. “Apparently your blood is too thin and it can just deliver enough oxygen to your body.”
They reached the fifth floor. When the doors opened Sylvia took his hand and stood up with some difficulty. Her frown indicated that she was having a blurred vision. She pointed to her apartment door and gave Soltani her keychain. He tried three different keys and finally succeeded to open the door. Sylvia held on to the doorframe, and stooping, took a few steps to the sofa and collapsed. Soltani closed the door and walked in. The first thing that drew his attention was the number of full-length mirrors set all around the house. All their moves got multiplied by the mirrors. He put her purse down by the sofa and hundreds of Soltanis moved with him as he walked to the kitchen. He took his eye off the mirrors, otherwise he should have paused and observed every instant of the walk. He found a glass, emptied half of the sugar bowl into it, and turned the tap on and filled the glass. He couldn’t find a spoon but found a chopstick and stirred the sugar with it. Soltani dropped the stick in the sink and brought the glass to Sylvia. She took a sip, swallowed, and did this until she had drunk half of the sugar water.
Soltani took her shoes off, piled some cushions, and said, “Put your feet up on them so that the blood reaches your brain.”
Sylvia raised her feet with much difficulty and put them on the cushions. She closed her eyes and held the glass away from herself. Soltani took it and put it on the coffee table. “I feel much better. Thank you,” Sylvia whispered before falling asleep right there.
Soltani got a chance to sit back and take a look at the furniture in silence. The house was sparse and the furniture was simple without any ornaments, if their multiplications in the mirrors were not considered ornaments of a kind. It seemed as if someone had recently moved to the house and had not have time to decorate it properly. He turned around and looked behind him towards the windows. On the wall in between, he saw a picture of Sylvia, sitting half-naked on a barrel, a leg raised up to her chest, among the ruins of a building with blistered walls. He heard her voice. “Tell me what your offer was, Doctor. I’m listening.”
Soltani turned toward Sylvia. Her eyes were still closed. “Call me Fareed. First tell me how you became a model.”
Her lips started moving. “One day I was sunbathing on the beach when I heard a voice that said, “I swear to Venus you are a star.” I opened my eyes and saw a forty-year-old man standing behind me, a cigarette hanging from his lips. He looked like the private detectives in film noirs. He told me he was driving to his friend’s villa in the street along the beach when he had seen me walking out of the hotel. He had parked his car and followed me. He said he was a magnet and the beautiful girls who were fashion industry material were metal pieces he would find no matter where. He gave me his card and left. Two weeks later I called him. That is how it all began,” she sighed. “Now your turn.”
Soltani’s locked his hands over his knee. “Why do you have so many mirrors here?”
She smiled. “For a silly reason: They remind me of my responsibility toward my body and boost my self-esteem.”
“Self-esteem?” Soltani frowned.
“It is a personal thing. Don’t make fun of me. Once, while taking a nap, I suddenly felt that if the mirrors weren’t there and if I didn’t walk in front of them naked, even the patterns of the carpet would flee and be gone. Now tell me.”
Soltani wondered about the connection between the mirrors and the patterns of the carpets. What a lunacy. He bit his lip. “How can I put it, Have you ever heard of the word “twerk?”
Sylvia opened her eyes, turned and looked at him with surprise for a moment before closing her eyes again. “The dancers who shake their hips?”
Sylvia laughed. A rising crescendo that turned into a horselaugh, then it grew faint, and finally turned into a calm maternal voice. “You poor little thing. You say you are a researcher and this is the kind of thing you pay attention to?”
Soltani said nothing. He wondered why his attention to a specific word had turned him into a “poor little thing.” His silence lasted for couple of seconds and it seemed to startle Sylvia. She anxiously opened her eyes. “So?”
Soltani took his hands off his knee and bended forward. Talking about the word demanded some seriousness. “The Oxford Dictionary added the word to its lexicon in 2013. The word had actually been in use for some twenty years and they believed it was time to take it seriously. That was three years ago. Twerk is actually a dance form that following the official recognition of the word began to continuously spread. Want to hear the rest?”
The question vexed Sylvia. She tried to move her legs off the cushions and put them down, but she couldn’t and had to lean back instead.
“What should I do to show my enthusiasm for your words?” she asked in a drunken tone.
Soltani raised both his hands and exclaimed, “No, nothing, you don’t need to do anything. I’ve burried my head so deep in specialized issues that I always worry about boring poeple with my words. I am also concerned for your well-being. I should go out and get something to eat. You must recover your strength.”
Sylvia shook her head. “No, please don’t. I’m used to hunger. This is not my first fainting. The sweet drink will do.”
“But you still look pale,” Soltani retorted.
Sylvia turned toward one of the mirrors and, touching her cheek gently, took a look at herself. “Even better! Otherwise I would have to use lead foundation cream to make myself look as dead as the Victorian English women. Good for their lovers. But go ahead. Don’t change the subject.”
Soltani looked down and thought for a moment. He looked as if a misery of the past occurred to him. “Are you familiar with belly dancing?” he asked.
“Like the Egyptian dancers?” asked Sylvia.
Soltani applauded her then went on, “For many years now I have been observing the changes in the dance scene. I wonder why the focus has moved from the navel to the hips. To my biological mind this is quite meaningful.”
Sylvia burst out laughing in a way that didn’t match her weakness. It seemed as if it had emitted from another body. Blood ran to her face. “What a fool I am. I had a totally different idea about about your research career.” she almost shouted.
He frowned. Not offended with her laugh but preoccupied with his ideas. “Something has occurred during this process of change. Something genetic perhaps. My offer to you concerns this very thing.”
Sylvia took a breath and propped herself up on one elbow. “What?” she asked solemnly.
“The end of the human kind,” he responded. Then he got up and turned on his heels toward the window. Sylvia waited in ambush for his words like a cat with bristled fur. That pale girl of a moment ago now had a burning curiosity. She didn’t move a muscle not to interrupt him for even a moment. Soltani walked to the window and pulled the curtain back and looked down at the street, at the people in the street, in deep contemplation. He turned to her and said, “I am putting this to you as an offer. I wish I were in a position to be able to order it,” he sighed. “I could give you a tail implant/transplant. A living source of fat and sugar. It will prevent you from fainting again like today.”
A look of horrified disbelief came across Sylvia’s face. She could not believe what she had just heard in her state of utter feebleness. Scrunching her eyebrows, she cried out, “A tail? An animal tail?”
Soltani took two steps forward. “Yes. Any type of tail that your heart desires,” he said.
Dizzy with rage, Sylvia pulled the cushion from beneath her knees, and threw it aggressively toward him. “Get out, Get out,” she shouted.
Soltani froze in his spot for a few moments before he realized he ought to leave. He walked to the door silently and courteously and left the apartment.
It’s hard to know what Sylvia went through during the following month. The traditional refuge the people are used to fleeing to, is literature which provides the reader with the same pains and fears she is living through or like, not to think that only she has been surrounded by such darkness. But what book had ever talked of a tail proposed to a human? And what is closer to the literature than psychoanalysis? No, Sylvia wasn’t interested in psychoanalysts’ point of view. Any object resembles the penis makes them excited and they start creating whimsical tales for both its existence and non-existence. So she had to suppress her anger all by herself. It was better to let the time heal the wounds. She didn’t want to share it even with her close friend Karen. Karen always worryies about her like a mother. If she told Karen about Soltani and his proposal, she would think that Sylvia had met a pervert who was solely interested in BDSM. And again, has anyone ever been last human being, having written down his or her sorrows and fears about that darkness that begins by and after him or her? Alas, no way! Nobody has been the last one in this recorded history.
And then on a snowy day something strange happened. Sylvia was coming back from a show at a Hungarian circus. Something had made her sad. The monkeys that were shrieking and jumping to the rhythm of the music over the painted bare buttocks of a man. The audience that fell off their chairs laughing at the monkeys. She had taken her eyes off the ridiculous dance of the monkeys and turned to watch a sea of deformed faces. She felt as if she was lying in a dark grave listening to a gallows humour. Once she leaved the circus, she said goodbye to Karen and her boyfriend. She didn’t take a taxi. She wrapped her face in her scarf, thrust her hands into her pockets, and began to walk. In the middle of a side street as she was passing a café, she came to a stop: Soltani was sitting down at a table, a cup of coffee in one hand and the other hand resting between the pages of a thick book. He was neither taking a sip from the cup nor turning a page. It was as if he was framed by the window for Sylvia to be able to calmly observe him. He was thinner than a month ago and his hair was longer, whiter, and dissheveled. The rough texture of the turtleneck he wore under his camel coat made him look even more vulnerable. Soltani moved and looked up from the book toward the shadow that stood outside in the snow watching him. He narrowed his eyes but he would never be able to recognize her with the scarf she had covered herself with. He averted his gaze, took a sip of his coffee, and tried to focus again on the book.
Sylvia entered the café and walked forth and stood across from him. Soltani raised his head, put his hand on the table, and got to his feet. He recognized the newcomer and decided not to say anything and let the woman standing in front of him begin to speak. That would be his only chance for being forgiven. Sylvia raised her hand and pulled down the scarf from her lips. “Tonight I figured you had intended to deprive me of love. With that abominable thing you wanted to do, you waned to turn me into a star-crossed woman, causing anyone who would look at me to start to mock me instead of feeling love for me.”
Soltani drew his eyebrows together and stared at Sylvia’s lips, waiting to hear the rest.
Sylvia swallowed her saliva. Not heeding the café owner/barista who had come out from behind the counter watching their odd interaction in wonder, she said, “I have much thought about this. I prefer to be sad and miserable and have the chance for my lover-to-be and I become a single heart palpitating in two chests rather than being made fun of.”
Then Sylvia turned around and walked toward the door. Soltani grabbed the back of his chair, pushed it away, and followed her. She pulled the door open and went out. As she turned to kick the door shut with her heel, she faced Soltani who was keeping the door open. “Is there anything more crucial for being loved than keeping mysterious forever as a hermetically ever sealed amphora? I’m sure as hell you’ve been to masquerade balls and seen that they don’t wear masks to stay anonymous just for behaving in a disapproved satanic way without shame. Rather, the mask makes the face dark and wrapped in mystery. Concerning that I never offended you with my offer, even if you became an animal you would be surely a strengthened beloved. Because you couldn’t be discovered.”
Sylvia bit her lip. It was obvious from her unsatisfied face that her concern was neither mystery nor the discovery of any mystery. “You don’t follow me. Sadness needs a past. A history of loss. I don’t want to jump into the future. The past is always irresistible to me. My uncle has raised me as a reclusive girl. So there is no lover in my past I hope he strive to love me once again after you made a mockery of me.” She pushed the door in his face. The doctor took a step back and let the door shut. He realized now how once a word was uttered it wouldn’t belong to its speaker any longer. That day in that apartment of mirrors, he had stumbled into a the illusion of a fairyland and had put forth his wishful proposal, heedless of the possible consequences.
Sylvia stepped into the snow. The farther she went from the café, the more glorious her own words sounded to her. As if music. Her heart was filled with satisfaction. Passing by the church, she remembered her confessions to Father Jack Mata. Her need for them kept growing since she had become a model, especially after the shows. She didn’t anymore tell Father Mata, “I wanted to come visit you.” Rather she said, “I was desperate to come visit you.” And she usually immediately heard the priest’s scornful laughter from the behind the screen, followed by “fashioned a rib into a fashion plate!” It was as if with every step she took on the runway, putting one leg in front and across the other, wishing to display the glamour of the dresses and arouse the audience, her desire would grow for penance at the church. What else was needed for the clothing to shine other than meeting the criteria of a devilish aesthetics of chaos? She needed to behave provocatively to appear as a femme fatal. She couldn’t stop going to confession as long as she had a career in modeling. Father Mata was good to his female penitents; maybe because of his twenty years of experience, maybe because of some inherent genius, he knew how to attend to their romantic failures. He had designed a deliberately foolish poster, foolish from the perspective of modern people,, and put it up on the church board. The first time Sylvia saw the poster, there was a downpour and it had been partly soaked. The ink of the letters and the paint of the red heart had begun to smudge. Nothing could prevent the poster from its dissolution. Not printed by a machine, its ink and paint were not endurable. It hardly read, “Heart-broken? Come inside. Visit us.” Sylvia had laughed at the stupidity of the person who had played the nasty trick to attract audiences to his church and thought to herself, “You won’t make believers out of us as such, Father! This is Paris.”
Paris or not Paris, one day one incident or another might get you walking to a church, towards the arms of this hypocrite of a Bible basher, even if you have been a long-time heretic. You just want to meet a man who is enough acquainted with the concept of being lovesick to make such a poster for it. So, late one night, utterly devastated by the words of a man who had called her “a cum-chugger whore” and demanded that she leave him alone, a drunken Sylvia remembered the soaked poster with its weeping words and heart. She made her way to the church and rung the bell/knocked on the door. Even though the priest was sleepy, Sylvia had a counselling session and gave an account of her recurring dream. In it, she could not walk. Instead, she was only able to leap like sparrows. She had gone back after that and the session turned into regular confessions in which she talked about her fashion world endeavors.
His voice muffled through the latticed opening of the confessional, the priest had asked, “Are you too sensitive about your legs being touched?”
“Yes,” Sylvia had answered. A few times her boyfriend’s hand had slid down to her thigh and she had seized it to stop it moving any further.
Father Mata had cast a glance at her legs through the lattice and nodded.
“That’s it, Father? Any advice, recommendation, or explanation?” Sylvia had asked and Father Mata had given an odd one, “You look waifish now. You must become a buxom maiden, my poor girl! You should plump your legs up so that they can be a refuge for men. Your skirt can help you only so much, but what about when you take it off? Oh the men! The poor men! They want to hide in you from the worldly evil forces. You should make your legs powerful and safe for them. Then when the dust settles, you give birth to them out of your thighs. The same way you wipe the wipe off your stuffed nose and clean up the snot/mucus. Only in this way your love affairs will improve. Go to the gym and take daily supplements.”
“Oh! Do you mean that it is either modeling or relationships?” Sylvia had cried. “What about my dreams? Will I stop leaping if I begin working out?”
“Swings and roundabouts/ No sweat no sweet/No gain without pain! The gym will give you both your dream legs and also fatten them up for your lovers,” Father Mata had replied sarcastically.
“Come on, Father!” She had thought. She who had proliferated/multiplied her legs in the mirrors had not yet found them? What was this wild claim the confident/arrogant priest making? She had rather continue jumping in her dreams. Perhaps it was a prophecy foretelling the coming of a new career for her as a dancer.
Despite her determination not to go see Father Mata anymore, every time she finished a show, feeling like a foreigner who could not find around anyone who would understand her language, she ran to the church and knelt at the confessional to pour out all the words that have piled inside her while she had walked the runway. The magic/curse of the weeping poster! Surely the show triggered a wave of distress that urged her to go confess to Father Mata. He cleverly pointed to that distress. “You models capture the hearts of women with your shows. You instill in them an irresistible urge to go buy what they don’t need. The curse of oniomania. Once they squander huge sums of money, they instantly become contrite. How do I know this? Because they keep coming to me to be absolved from the guilt of wasting their money. Their husbands’ money.”
Were those women too addicted to the enchantment of the confessional?
The spell of the confessional had broken with the awful proposition of the tail. She were hardly able to swallow the lump in her throat when she had heard Soltani speak it, but now she had to thank him for releasing her from the church.
One day she was walking the runway at a star-studded Versace show in a black thigh-split wedding dress that had impressive number of beading gave off a spiderweb effect and fitted her like a glove. As she strutted down the catwalk and a gripping train swept behind her, she caught sight of a man seated in the left-hand corner of the hall with a handkerchief on his mouth. She knew/had no doubt it was Soltani.
Once the show ended, she struggled out of the wedding dress hurriedly but not wanting to lose time, she didn’t wear her own clothes and simply put on a woolen double-breasted above-the-knee winter coat and ran out. Through the mist she could just make the vague figure of the man walking down the sidewalk. She crossed the streetand reached him.
“No need to hide yourself behind the handkerchief. I recognized you,” Sylvia told Soltani, her cheeks flushed and breathing hard.
Soltani stared at her, his eyebrows raised. Sylvia reached for the hankerchief and removed it from his mouth and saw that he was smiling.
“Why don’t you leave me alone?” she said aggressively.
“Please don’t get upset. I wasn’t there to bother/pester you. I just wanted to attend a wedding dress show on a winter day. You know. Winter is the season of death, the season of old men. I just wanted to remind myself of life.”
She frowned at him, trying to find a trace of sarcasm in his words but finding none. She had no idea what the doctor had just said. Who else could pick up on the points he used to make? She felt a stab of pain in a vein in her forehead. She averted her eyes from Soltani’s face.
“In my hurry I did not wear anything. I need to find a café,” she said trembling with cold and began to walk, gesturing for him to follow.
Soltani grabbed her by the arm. “You better hurry back to the hall and put your clothes on. I can wait.”
Sylvia blurted out an adamant “no” and kept on walking. Soltani followed her like a child walking three steps behind his mother. The street was fuzzy with freezing fogs and snow. The shops seemed like rectangular lights protruding from the dark walls. One could not say what they were selling. She failed to find a café. They reached a restaurant. She wiped her feet on the doormat and entered. Soltani too. As he walked in, he felt a gust of warm air over his cheeks. He was a voracious observer of the senses, having spent his whole life on studying the different parts of the human body. A table was available in a corner by the window. Ignoring the host’s welcome bow, Sylvia scurried to the table, her glowing bare legs devoured by the eyes around. She sat down, rubbed her palms together, and then put them between her thighs. Soltani shrugged off his overcoat and hang it over the back of the chair next to the window. He pulled out the chair and sat down.
“My body is quivering/I am shivering. I hate wedding dresses. They give me an illusion of happiness.”
Soltani turned to the window. Tiny droplets of moist were rolling down the glass, leaving narrow tails behind. He thought, “Maybe they are tails of Prince Rupert’s Drops that have dripped down from Hyperborea.” He was experienced and patient. He knew she needed to release the flurry of feminine excitement that had filled her and he also knew the feverish excitements usually showed as grumbling and nagging.
The server came over to hand them menus, but Sylvia rejected hers. The server stepped back politely and approached Soltani. He didn’t take one either but ordered “a bowl of soup of the day and a dish of fried broccoli please.”
The server tucked the menus under his arm, jotted down Soltani’s order, and left.
“You are still on the die-out diet?” asked Soltani.
Sylvia put her hand on her temple. “Don’t play the family doctor’s role please. You know I have to follow the diet. Why haven’t you ever said anything about your life?”
“You never asked.”
Sylvia propped her chin on her hands. “Now I am asking. I want to know.”
“Know what?” he asked.
“I want to know how that hideous idea came to your mind. What aspect of your life inspired it?”
A wry smile crept over his face but he wiped it off. “Are you trying to examine my complexes?”
“No. I would prefer it not to be the result of a complex. But don’t tell me it doesn’t have anything to do with your life. So much did I imagine myself making some sensational gestures with my human body and I committed them to my memory for a great day, the day of encounter with my lover. If I bore having that thing, even my face would change. All these new behaviors disgusts me. Wagging of the dog. Oh, No!”
Soltani stared at her sharply/intensely. To shield herself from his eyes, Sylvia held her hands in front of her face and turned away. “Take that Rasputinian gaze off me please.”
He lowered his eyes and pondered. After a while he swiveled left and slipped his hand into his overcoat’s inner pocket and took a matchbox out. He put the matchbox on the table between the two of them. “What is in this box doesn’t relate to my life. It is something that exists in the today’s human body.”
Sylvia slightly recoiled. “Tell me right away what is in it.”
“Coccyx. The final vertebra of the human spine.”
Sylivia extended her hands and touched the matchbox cautiously. Then she slid it open and held it up suspiciously. Inside, she saw a three-piece V-shaped bone. “So what?”
“This is a legacy from our primitive ancestors’ tail.”
She closed the matchbox and threw it toward Soltani. He took it and put it back into his pocket. The server came with a tray balanced on his fingertips. He set the bowl of soup and the plate of vegetables in front of him and asked if they wanted anything else. After their “no, thanks,” he left.
“Everyone who, like you, studies/deals with the human body knows about this vertebra. Why doesn’t such an evil idea cross their minds? If your wife finds out about your plan she won’t bear living with you for a moment.”
“You guessed right in a sense. I’m divorced.”
Sylivia tried to suppress a mischievous smile. “Is that why you came to the show tonight?”
Instead of getting flustered with her question, Soltani dipped his spoon into the soup and began eating. “It’s really delicious!” he raised an eyebrow in satisfaction.
Sylvia’s question remained unanswered. She waited a bit and then retorted, “Don’t sidestep my question, sir.”
Soltani lifted his eyes from his bowl and said, “Well, it’s rather weird.”
“What is weird?”
“That you’ve heard my offer and still you keep on judging me on some absurd familial affairs?”
Sylvia relaxed and sat back in her chair. It was as if she somehow felt relieved. She felt she could see a void behind this strange man. No one could bother them if they…
“You scare me. Or I should say you terrify me,” whispered Sylvia thoughtfully.
Soltani wiped his mouth and moustache with a tissue and nodded with empathy.
“You may wonder why I ran after you if I feel terrified. But that too is a result of my fear.”
Soltani watched the fading light outside and mockingly asked, “It has been sixty three days since my proposal. Have you been terrified all along?”
Sylvia got distressed. Keeping count of the days is her womanly job. Why had the doctor usurped it?/Who was he to take it away from her? “What a calculating mind! You have kept count,” she said trying to hold her anger back.
“Because it was a great/important day for me. It was the first time I dared propose it to anyone.”
Sylvia rose halfway up. “See? You feel fear too. So stop being scornful of me,” she said then sat back down.
Soltani murmured an “I didn’t” and lowered his head boyishly into the soup bowl. Sylvia’s ears pricked to listen to the slurping of the doctor. Suddenly she recalled one of the sentences Father Mata had told her in his muffled voice: “The man who loves you wants to escape the world and find refuge in you. So he starts to weave a world from you and around you. He must find things so that he can arrange them around you, as if the halo of the moon in a muggy night. So for example, if he excuses himself in the middle of a chat with you to go take his mother and sister to a ball behind the venue of which he sees a barley farm/beer company/brewery, he should tell you about this upon his return and insist that from then on there will be a magic association between you and beer.” What stronger halo than a serpentine tail curling around her calves? She would no longer need to go to the gym and build her legs up for the men to shelter in. The turns and twists of the tail would give men a voluminous-skirt-like space. They would love to put their heads between her tail and legs and close their eyes. Excited with the idea, she cried out, “Tomorrow I have a show. I would like you to come.”
Dr Soltani stopped eating and thought about it for a second. “What time is it?”
“Same time same place. But don’t hide in the back like a detective.”
“It will be my pleasure to come.”
Sylvia went home and ate dinner. In the middle of the meal she remembered ten years ago when she was a child unable to understand fashion and mocking whomever followed fashion trends. She suddenly recalled the “whale tail” one among the girls: They wore hipsters/low-rise pants so that when they sat or bent over, their thongs would show, resembling a whale’s tail. Whatever the trend of whale tail was, it confirmed Soltani’s insight. It revealed that the desire for a tail, had been hiding as a zygote in the depths of the human body, pulsating/growing for a long time, and now it was emerging as this great impetus for twerking, trying to impatiently stick/bud out by the shaking of the buttocks.
Sylvia took her pack of cigarettes and lighter out of her purse and sat in front of one of the mirrors. She began to/tried to imagine herself with a tail. How would she express her emotions and thoughts then? It was a crazy idea. She had to think of her memories, both emotional and mental, and also recall the behaviors of animals with tails. She struggled to evoke a list of some of the complicated feelings she had gone through in the past. For a woman whose job was simply walking and posing in front of the camera, this mental effort was a fierce battle. The first feeling that came to her was an amalgam of distrust accompanied by peace, because she remembered how everything was of dust and everything shall once again turn to dust. It might have loosened grip of her desires in the past. But how would her tail cope with the concept? Would she have to spin it around twice and then unroll it, like when she twirled a ribbon around her finger aimlessly? What about when she would lie on the beach and a fly landed on her waist? Would she swat it with her tail? The springing of what idea or feeling would make her pass her tail from under her arm and bring it to her teeth to bite it? Which sensation would cause her to raise her tail up? Would it be when she became disoriented or had an unsatisfied craving? Or maybe the tail would move according to her eyeballs/the tail’s movements would follow those of her eyeballs. No! Never! It would be more sweet/nicer/more pleasant if the tail swung in the opposite direction of the eyeballs. If she wanted to flirt, something she’d kept for a day to come, would she have to bend her swan-like neck giving her lover a sideway glance and simultaneously curve her tail the opposite way? Would the tail wave differently when she went downstairs than when she went upstairs? If somebody, especially those who were rather brilliant and geniuses, say even God himself, bore her to death, would she raise her tail and whip the tabletop in a cafe? If she met someone for whom she had been waiting/aching for a long time, would she, besides embracing him or her, curl her tail round his or her waist? What about panties? Would the ordinary panties in the market fit her or should she have them tailor-made? And what about when she was full of lust and desired someone? Would she feel more or less excitement with the tail?
She took out another cigarette and lit it up while staring at herself in the mirror. The best smoking figure seemed to be one in which the wisp of the smoke and the wave of the tail would be in accordance. Once the idea sprang to her mind, she leaned back, moved the cigarette with to left hand, and slid her right one into her panties. She closed her eyes and caressed her flower, imagining how her tail would wave, arch, and swing until she would come. Her breath gained pace. She wished she could grasp the imaginary tail and rub it over herself/over her vagina.
The next evening, at twilight, Soltani bought a ticket without paying attention to the posters around, otherwise he wouldn’t be shocked several minutes later when he entered the building and elbowed his way through the crowd and found a seat in the front row. As the music faded, the overhead lights were dimmed, as if sucked into the ceiling holes. You could hear people’s breaths clearly. A chain of halogen lamps cast white spotlights over the runway. A jazz music came on, as if to drive the models wild; as if underneath their cadaverous flesh, they lacked any sparkle and it was only the music that could manipulate their bodies on to the runway./get their bodies moving/performing. The moment the first model stepped on the stage, Soltani realized that it was a bikini show. Unlike the rest of attendants who might have been transposed to a Hawaiian beach with clear waters, imagining the models strolling on tiptoe on the sandy shores, strolling as if they wore high heels to grace their calves and slow down their steps, he began descending/flying fast into the depths of the prehistoric era/of history, when the earth was a planet of water and the ancestoral humans were just marine creatures. How did these bikinis relate to that marine era?
Suddenly Sylvia appeared in a skimpy string bikini and without any delay spotted her doctor among the audience. She stared at him rather than at the cameras and took sensual steps too wild to resemble those of a cat. She walked like a warned crowned crane between reeds. Her bikini top had fringes that gave her chest a chaotic movement in every step and her bottom’s brow encrusted with jewels glittered brilliantly under the spotlights. With this kind of performance, she would have certainly won the prize for eye-contact performance if she was to be considered for the AVN awards.
Soltani dropped his head waiting for Sylvia to return and pass in front of him. Sylvia flounced to the end and struck a provocative pose for the photographers. Then she twirled her hips and turned around. Walking back, she sashayed with a pendulum swing in her waist to parade the shining crests of her hips on the two sides of her sculpted belly. No doubt she was a descended angel. Passing in front of Soltani, she saw his eyes averted downward. She seethed with anger and almost stumbled. Once she disappeared behind the wall to change into another bikini, Soltani rose from his seat in a rush and, bending as to not block the others’ view, he embarrassingly crept out of the hall. When a blow of cold air hit his face, he could no longer contain his anger. “Idiot/stupid whore/bitch!” he shouted, not even caring about a passerby’s eyebrows pulling together/the scornful looks of a passerby. He crossed the street and, walking along the wall, headed for his apartment. But when he arrived at the yesterevening/yestereve restaurant, he decided to enter, telling himself it was for the sake of the soup that had left such a nice taste in his mouth, but he knew well that it was because of Sylvia. He had taken pity on her. He was to sit there and wait for her so that if she ran anxiously after him she could find him. Until the waiter brought him a bowl of soup, he entwined his fingers reflecting on the forthcoming darkness. With the kind of behavior he had seen from Sylvia, he was reminded of his aversion to people that had started long ago.
Half an hour later, Sylvia was sitting on the opposite side of the restaurant table. But this time she had put her clothes on in no hurry. She looked despondent and more restrained than yesterday.
“Why did you leave? What’s wrong with you?” she asked Soltani.
“Nothing,” Soltani sneered, searching her face for a sign of malignity/malevolence.
Sylvia took a mirror out of her bag and examined herself in it. She clicked the mirror close and insolently said, “Someone who is serious about implementing his horrible idea doesn’t drop his head/look down when I/his subject walk/walks in front of him. I just wanted you to see clearly how your prey is/see your prey clearly and completely, sir.”
“Don’t talk nonsense. You were seducing me like a whore,” Soltani said with contempt.
Sylvia pretended to not have heard his insulting words. She grew silent and waited for him to speak. But the doctor had turned into a complete stranger. With a faraway voice, he said, “The game you have begun is of another time and that’s not the time I belong to.”
“I don’t understand. Can you not philosophize/stop philosophizing?”
Soltani took a deep breath. “You want to parade your desirability? What for?” To get me enchanted with your body? And then I would fancy you and imagine you a thousand times and begin to need/ache for you? So that you could treat me as a coy maiden and finally give yourself to me/allow me to penetrate you? Do you know how much time these games will take of you and me? You won’t be satisfied unless a long time’s passed. What about me? I haven’t forgetten, and will never forget, what I proposed to you. That offer urges me into a different time. You must cruelly break with all the traditions of the contemporary human, and instead begin to feel an overwhelming urge to have a tail. It’s not a case of tossing, heads or tails. Without being desperate for a tail you won’t rush your way out of these games of seduction. You will end up standing still and make me slow down as well. I don’t want to fall victim to the game. Is that clear?”
Lost in her thoughts, Sylvia was as still as a statue. She gave no answer to the server’s question of “Would you like anything?” who then walked away.
Soltani went on, “You know, the day I walked into your apartment, I got the sense that I should not set so much hope on you.”
Sylvia remembered her confessions at the church. For her, hopelessness equaled talking through the latticed window of the confessional. If only nobody talked to her about the lack of hope. It left her totally crippled, unable to think about and make any inquiries into the causes and reasons behind that hopelessness. If a thing was the cause of another thing, it meant she could move/shift from the former to the latter, finding a last flicker of hope in this transference.
Listlessly, she asked “Why?”
After a slight hesitation, as if he was listening to the background music, the sound of a violin carrying over a frozen desert at dawn, Soltani said, “Because of the presence of all the mirrors. Is there anything colder than a mirror? Getting used to walking runways towards the photographers, being dazzled by their flashes, you’ve developed a second nature, one of an image. Since you can’t have a photographer hanging around with you all the day long, you meet the needs of that second nature by the mirrors. You always want to lose heat and be inside the mirrors or images. And what did I, a mere greenhorn,/I naively propose to you? A hot idea. Yesterday when you were feeling cold, where did you put your hands? Between your thighs, where there were no mirrors and no cameras. That was your instinct. Will an extreme cold always be necessary to bring you back to your primary nature? Do you follow me?”
Sylvia nodded in agreement. Suddenly the windows started to shake and a sound of rubbing and buffing rose from the other side. They turned to the window and saw the trees bending over and dead leaves and bits of paper blown away and fluttering up. The darkened street was being swept and passersby’s clothes were flapping. They had been too spaced-out by the topic of their conversation to realize that a hailstorm had broken. Lightening stroke and white marbles began to pour, hitting the windows so hard that eyes started searching for cracks on the glasses. Everything was immediately covered in white. The hail piled up against lampposts and trees. The restaurant door kept swinging open and shut, letting in people with their heads tight against their collars, who brushed the hail from their clothes then stood to the side. The restaurant staff didn’t mind them congregating by the door and welcomed them. Everybody knew the fierce storms didn’t last long.
Sylvia drew herself closer to the window and craned to get an expansive view/to have a better look. The thunder kept cracking. The hail lashed the air, bouncing off and scattering over the pavement. She turned to Soltani with her eyes narrowed. “I’ll do it. On one condition.”
Stroking his beard, Soltani inhaled deeply and asked confidently, “What?”
Sylvia thoughtfully cast another glimpse at the hail. Any chaos she saw through the window was going to sharpen her sexual intelligence. It was as if she was thinking by her belly/ belly button instead of her brain. She approached the doctor and sighed, “On the condition that you plant a horn on your head.”
Soltani thought he hadn’t heard clearly what she had said/was not sure he had heard correctly because of deafening thunder. He’d heard the word “plant” and “horn.” He leaned forward toward Sylvia and repeated in shock, “A horn?!”
Getting up from the chair, Sylvia replied, “Yes, a horn on your own demonic head, my lord!” and left the table for the door. With her leaving the table, a sudden vibe of a forest settled over the table. The solitude. The quiet. The woods began to reign. He felt as if he had a nightmare, a nightmare in which saw into the pain his offer had caused Sylvia/the wound his offer had made in Sylvia’s heart. He heard his heartbeat over the storm. He turned to the window and gazed at the reflection of his head in the glass. Wild lightning struck his mirrored figure ousted him from the wooden mood. He came back to the present Paris and wondered why his discussion with Sylvia had taken such a heavy mediaeval tone, especially in a time when all speech had become leavened with a touch of light humor/when merely speech that ?? and had a touch of light humor was acceptable/appropriate. Thus, were the tails and horns this strong?
He rose up and threw two notes on the table and pushed his way to the front of the crowd. He saw Sylvia outside walking away with a hanging head. He opened the door and strode after her. The pellets of ice attacked him mercilessly. Sylvia was walking with a flagellant’s pleasure. Soltani covered his head with his hand and ran to her. When he approached her, he cried breathlessly, “You demand that I get a horn? Ha? A horn needs vitality. But dear Sylvia, I already told you that the body’s throne is no longer the head.”
Sylvia drew her lips out of her collar and said, “So where is the throne? In my ass?”
Ignoring her crude remark, Soltani went on, “Your point would make sense if we were in an era hanging around with dwarves. They have big heads and are attuned to horns. But you know well that they now belong just in the myths.”
Sylvia made a sharp-witted reply, “As far as I remember from cartoons dwarves were skilled blacksmiths and knew how to set horns on their helmets. So it is now the age of pillows. Sit on it to not hurt your ass.” She gave a shout of nervous laughter but immediately shut her mouth for a hail drop had leaped into it. She began to suck it as if candy.
They walked quietly for a while. The sting from a pellet on his hand made Soltani cry of pain. “Damn it!” he exclaimed. “Besides, horns are for animals with small brains. They hurt ours.”
“You’re not going to head-butt your opponent or lock your antlers into his. We will be getting isolated enough even without that,” Sylvia said.
“We?” Did she just include herself in the experience/experiment? Grabbing her arm to slow her down, he said, “That’s not the issue. The horn is kin to the imagination and makes it flare up. It’ll absorb any effect of/It’ll be affected by celestial bodies or atmospheric conditions. I shall weave / I shall create imaginary ideas a hundred times over to release myself from the pressure of those forces. There would be no other way.”
Sylvia turned to him and with eyes blazing with anger, asked him, “What about the tail? Wouldn’t it hurt my butt? Shouldn’t I wag it to kill the pain?”
Soltani bent forward to see her face better, wondering how the wickedness had accumulated inside her, like soot in a chimney. In a tone he tried to make convincing, he said, “Of course not. If you have a tail you can work off the extra energy by shaking it. The tail doesn’t stop moving. It is the most active mobile organ of the body after the heart and the eyeball.”
After the heart and the eye? Two apparatuses for love affairs? Sylvia paused in front of a boutique. “Agreed. I reconsider my demand. Get only one horn. And I will be the one who determines its style. If I have a tail I will never be able to appear in the world without you and your horn. I won’t bear it alone. I don’t want you to be tormented with vivid imaginations caused by the two horns. But I will never forgo the one. I want you to have horned thoughts about me. Imagine me then describe me.”
“Come on, Sylvia. The mirrors! They have emptied you from any meaning. You’re begging me for meaning.”
“Why don’t you come with me and we go somewhere for you to try a horn on?” requested Sylvia.
“To try a horn?” Soltani shouted. A pellet burned into his hand again. He closed his eyes and said, “You are crazier than me!”
Sylvia turned a deaf ear to his protest. “It’s an antique shop. We can find a horn among the stuff there. Come on!” she said, a hand raised above her eyebrows to shelter her eyes. Then she twirled and stepped away merrily as if she was on the runway in front of ogling eyes. Soltani followed her helplessly. They turned into a narrow alley perpendicular to the direction of the wind. There was a soothing sense between the high walls. Sylvia burst suddenly into laughter.
“What are you laughing at?” Soltani asked.
“Nothing! Your horn will absorb/swallow energy and my tail will waste/defecate/spend it. We’ll make an amazing couple.”
In the dark depths of a dead-end, they descended three stairs and stooped to enter the antique shop. A plump old man sat behind a desk and was checking his forearm out with a magnifying glass. “What are you looking for?” Sylvia asked loudly.
The old man looked up at Sylvia and her companion. “Oh, It is you, Sylvia!” the shop owner said excitedly. “Something is biting me but I can’t find it.”
“Nothing is biting you. It’s cause you seldom have a bath. You’ve not cleaned this place up in a thousand years,” said Sylvia.
“Don’t talk about showering. I’m afraid of slipping and breaking my hips,” the old man replied.
“Don’t make excuses you grumpy old man!” she said maternally. “Well, where are your horns, Uncle?”
The old man arched his eyebrows and asked, “My God! What’s on your mind? What do you want to do with horns on this stormy evening? Don’t tell me you’ve fell into the trap of a witch.”
“No, not a witch. It’s him,” Sylvia said laughingly, pointing to the doctor. Soltani lowered his head. “Glad to meet you, sir.”
The old man placed the magnifying glass on the desk then scratched his wrist. He picked a flashlight and extended it to Sylvia. “Down the corridor third room on the right.” His lips parted in a smile. “I sometimes see you on posters. Nice postures of you. You’ve turned into an angel.”
Sylvia gave Soltani a crooked smile and breathed deeply, as if she was saying, “An angel with a tail!” she took the flashlight and said to the doctor, “Well, let’s go and have a look.”
They went into the darkness. The serene whispering voice of the old man escorted them. “What a storm broke today! But I love the petrichor.”
The corridor was indeed a tunnel with walls covered by shelves full of stoneware, glassware, caskets, guns, saddles, candelabras, and lanterns. They entered the room. Sylvia ran the light beam across the walls until she spotted the horns. The light made the horns’ shadows shiver on the wall behind.
“How come I didn’t make you try a tail when I put forth my proposal? This is not fair,” Soltani said regretfully.
“Hold the flashlight please. Let me see which one to choose/we should choose,” Sulvia said.
Soltani took the flashlight and threw the beam on the horns. There were many kinds: antlers of a moose, corkscrew horns of a gazelle, curled horns of a goat, a thick one of a rhinoceros and so on. “The problem is that we need only one not a pair,” Sylvia said. Soltani shrugged in response.
“Found it!” Sylvia cried and carefully pulled a horn out. An antelope’s horn. Neither as long as a gazelle’s nor as curled as a goat’s. It had a spiral structure, was slightly arched, began with a strong stem and went on twisted like a curled column of smoke, ending up with a sharp shiny tip. Sylvia held the horn against the light and blew the dust off it. “Come forward!” she told Soltani.
He lowered the flashlight and brought his head forward. Sylvia held the horn with both her hands and brought it carefully down on his head. “You look amazing,” She said. Her eyes were mirrors in which he could see himself. They opened wide. Soltani jerked his head away. “Stop talking that way!” Sylvia laughed out loud. “You’ll look great! I promise,” she said then stepped to the door, leaned against the frame, and called out, “Hey, Uncle! Is there a mirror somewhere here?”
“At the very end of the corridor, Babe! What do you want a mirror for?” the old man’s voice echoed through the hallway.
Sylvia turned back into the room and grasped Soltani’s hand, mischievously carrying him to the mirror. They passed through a mass of hanging palls and cloaks and tons of iron pieces: spears, swords, shields, helmets, and armours. She stood behind him and delicately placed the horn on his head. “You were just crowned, my lord!” she intoned. Soltani looked at himself in the mirror, horned and dark, and suddenly all the worries he had had went up in smoke.
“Especially made for you. We should thank the deer!” Sylvia said. “You must let your hair and beard grow. Like a hyperborean. The longer your mane, the more wonderful your horn.”
Soltani had nothing to say. It was as if he was drowning in the mirror.
“Now tell me what you are imagining about me,” Sylvia whispered in his ear. Soltani squinted. He felt as if he was gazing through an early-morning mist. A slight smile lit his face up. “A textile factory came to me,” he said.
“And?” Sylvia asked.
“The factory is half-lit by the slanting moonbeams. The fabrics are being woven and coming out of the looms, they then turn vertically and wrap themselves around your naked body, creeping and twisting around you, and then move away,” Soltani described.
“Why?” Sylvia asked.
“To become the most expensive fabric in the world. To become redolent of the poisonous scent of your body. To become a murderous cursed cloth. You stand there, with your arms raised and anchored behind your neck. And like a goddess you are blessing the fabrics,” Soltani explained.
“Oh! The fabrics are my daughters,” Sylvia sighed deeply. “What about the tail? Do I have one?” she asked concernedly.
“I don’t need a horn to see a tail on you. I’ve been seeing it on you since the day you fainted in the street,” Soltani answered truthfully/sincerely.
“And . . . Now that I have no tail to release us from these blessed fabric imaginations, are you suffering?”
“Not now. But probably later on, especially if I want to forget you.”
Sylvia took the horn off his head, held it under her arm, and stepped backward. Then she grasped a black pall. “Shall we arrange our affairs?” she gasped.
“Our dark arts: your horn, my tail,” she said, her chin trembling.
Soltani lowered his head and got down to his knees.
The chamber is to the side of a half-ruined abandoned church on the crest of a hill. Sometimes a pilgrim from Russia or Eastern Europe comes here to pray and offer alms. The chamber has three hagioscopes: One opens unto the main hall of the church where an icon of Merry is surrounded by extinguished candles, the other looks out onto an autumnal valley, and the third onto a corridor. This last one She calls “The Squint of Glory.” She is fed and examined through it. Its wall and floor are made of stone. It’s four months since its door was sealed/last opened. There is an old Bible with torn moldering papers, readily crumbling like a dead butterfly’s wings. There are also some dirty dishes and a jug of water. Some words have been engraved on the wall, perhaps by an anchorite/nun who had long ago chosen to spend much of her time here in prayer and contemplation in seclusion. The words have replaced the mirrors that she once used to see the reflection of her body in. Her body has metamorphosed into memoirs on the rough walls.
He, the shadow, who has a stick in His hand and comes for the daily examination appears out of the smoke-like trees in the distance that can be seen through the squint towards the valley. The window is so narrow that when He draws close She cannot see His upper body anymore. He kindly greets His held captive patient with a hoarse voice. He then sits on the edge of the terrace and scrapes the mud off His boots. She is accustomed to this sound of scraping. After cleaning his boots, the shadow stands up groaning of pain, goes upstairs, and turns into the corridor until He gets to the Squint of Glory. He asks how She is doing. She complains about a pain in Her heart. Some nights She has high blood pressure that scares Her so much that She lies awake waiting for her death. He assures Her that the occasional hypertension is natural for Her. She has to let Her heart adjust to the new conditions.
Then it’s time for the check-ups. She wears nothing to take off. She just has to turn Her back toward the opening and prostrate. The hand of the shadow will come in through and examine her rear by a finger that He has already greased. In the middle of the examination, the moaning patient usually spontaneously poses/gets an impulse to pose an odd question. “Are you dying for me now that I’m independent of you? Hum?”
The shadow dawdles examining her, perhaps in response to Her seductive question. When He is done, He pulls His hand out of the squint and sniffs his finger. There is no smell of an infection/He does not smell any infections. Things are constantly improving. The exam is over. She gets up and approaches the window trying to see His head but She is unsuccessful.
She hears His voice telling Her that She needs to prepare for coming out soon. Their house is almost ready. Yesterday He got suspicious that the architect might have leaked their secret but he realized later that He had mistaken. He asks if She is adapting to the tail. She replies that She does the exercises regularly and that even though She would have liked for it to wound around Her legs like a snake it no longer ties Her feet up.
It is then the shadow’s turn: For rehabilitation by the Girl/Woman’s touch. The shadow lowers his head and runs His ebony horn through The Squint of Glory, explaining how last night He was on the verge of madness and even thought of/considered suicide. The moon was full and He heard wolves howling. He saw, as if fallen into a trance, Her whipping him with Her tail as a form of punishment shouting that His body would look younger if it were covered in bruises, bruises that She called “Whipprints.” Then He woke up and drunk some coffee to avoid drifting into nightmares again. But it didn’t work and He began to see fishing ships drawing huge mollusks out of the oceans to sell them to sex shops. It was the men not the women who were eager for these mollusks. If it weren’t for Her He would have gone crazy with these fantasies.
She touches the horn with trembling hands. She kisses it and licks it. Her back scar starts itching. The tails wags swiftly and sweeps the floor. She continues to caress the horn with Her lips and suck it until He says, “Oh” and takes a deep peaceful breath. She likes the salty charcoal taste of the horn. Whenever She tastes it Her blood pressure goes up, particularly useful on for her cursed period days.
The shadow decides to reveal a truth that He’s noticed recently about their new life. It cannot be compared to normal/regular human life. It will be a history of pain and sorrow. The doctor knows it. Perhaps the next generations of horned and tailed humans will feel happiness. For them the sorrow will be persistent.
The patient ponders for a moment after hearing the word “Sorrow.”
Sorrow! What a miraculous catalyst for love!
She presses her cheek to the horn and closes her eyes and gently wags Her tail.