“Is it Chinese New Year?”
There were fireworks exploding down in Chinatown again.
Every week, sometimes nights at a time in a row, more fireworks would go off and he would ask the same question. And she would say “I don’t know” or “maybe”, and once said “probably” and he tackled her to the bed and squashed all the air out. She didn’t resist, but just disappeared into the same vacuum space as the stars exploding in the sky down in Chinatown.
Neither of them ever bothered to find out.
The sounds were delayed from a kilometer away, from where they could just see them through the window as they lay in bed. His room was on the top floor of a three-story house, and the fireworks appeared in the window like someone entering a room in a rage and spluttered there, stuck for words, having encountered strangers.
Sex was better maybe but still comparable: early explosions that went on for too long, someone getting bored until they both just listened to the fireworks instead.
The heat of summer lasted in the room as they feel asleep.
Over and over again he would get up, dripping with sweat, from where she held on in the bed, piggy-backed, stuck with moisture to his sodden shirt. This happened for weeks, every night him up and down to peel off the old sweaty shirt and mop up as best as he could with the ruined one and throw it on a pile of other wet shirts. All of his shirts became sweat-stained; left in the pile too long, nestled in the cold and clamminess of each other.
They lay in silence except when he snored, in and out of sleep like a dingy bobbing over waves made by bigger boats out at sea. The waters would rush in over the sides, bailing both of them out of unconsciousness.
He would wake up shivering violently, angry and tired, making whimpering noises that got sadder as they became more childish. The breeze filtered in the window. He’d get up and change that shirt again, and then lie down, re-shoulder her like a knapsack on the return journey.
It was only a matter of time before it ended, that he, a big puddle at the bottomless well, disappeared. It was in his nature.
The morning she woke to find the whole bed cold sodden with no warm-blooded body, she knew he was done. A couple of the longer, curly black strands of what had been his hair were stuck to the pillow like dried seaweed to rocks.
Calm waters rushed upon her cheeks.