Moments of Fluidity by Corinna Underwood
There are always leaks. Sometimes in the early morning, Anise seeps from every pore before Dean buries himself in the shadows of his studio. These times she strips quickly and locks herself in the bathroom so he won't notice. She lies in the warm tub, very still watching until the water level stops rising. It usually doesn't take long to cease; she thinks it might have something to do with osmotic pressure. By now she's usually able to tell when she is about to precipitate.
Anise's seeping is no ordinary perspiration. She does not carry the stale scent of secreted toxins or the saltiness of her body's auto cooling system. She decides it has the sweet licorice tang of chilled Sambuca. She cannot remember when she had been without its strange pellucid glow that reminds her of soft eggshells. All she knows is that it begins with a gentle pressure against her skin like an inkling of a thought; a seepage of inspiration, until it flows steadily and assembles into thoughts, images. A new rhythm. Her water meter.
There are still times when it comes upon her suddenly, though these are rare. Sometimes it's the rain that inspires her to spill, these times the seepage is localized. Perhaps the palm of her left hand, the back of her neck, her calves or underlip. Anise doesn't mind her fluid body; its tides soothe her. Even though her clothes sometimes become soaked before she can peel them from her oozing skin, still she manages to hide it from Dean, whose eyes are mostly filled with the dark shadows that obscure the vibrancy of the palate he has lost sight of.
Many times she has thought of simply telling Dean about it, of letting him see. She aches to end the secrecy, but she always checks herself and decides to wait for another moment, another flow, or when he is painting again in color. But then she becomes afraid he will find it repulsive, that he will not understand and will continue to paint only the blackness of things. She is afraid of where that darkness comes from and why he can no longer see beyond it. She doesn't know how to ask.
Once she had drifted around the subject with Lois. Desperately wanting to ask if her sister had ever experienced such liquid profusions. Lois had laughed at such madness and advised her to keep writing poetry, as it was probably therapeutic. Yet for Anise it is not therapy. Her writing does not ease her tortured body as resolutely as her weeping skin does, instead it wrenches her almost to breaking point as she chips words out so painstakingly, to reveal smooth sounds. She knows the two are connected, but not which came first. Sometimes she sculpts Dean into a poem and leaves it in his studio, where it remains until it is too smothered in paint splashes to be legible anyway.
Lois has given up telling her sister to leave Dean. Anise sighs, because Lois is unable to see the brilliance that arcs at the edges of his bleak art, but then she hasn't lived in Dean's palette for six years as Anise had. Sometimes Anise feels she hasn't really either, and sometimes that is a good thing. But six is such a smooth, rounded number, so close to sex and fix. These silent words she and Dean have between them, in shades of gray and shifting purple-black. Sometimes Anise spills out her sadness for the want of color in Dean's life and when the ink runs off the page she is silent and waits for a change to come, not knowing if it ever will. She thinks there is something beautifully ambiguous about the atonality of the written word, and something exquisitely painful about the silence of darkness.
As Anise dabs her damp cheeks with a cold towel and prepares to send out some more poems to her publisher, she hesitates for a moment, takes them from the envelope and wonders, wonders if she should send them. Dean would shrug and ask why not. They are after all, all orphans, fostered temporarily before moving on to other temporary dwellings. She knows she should not hold herself responsible for their outcomes.
Dean had long since given up using colors. Then came the silence as he gave in to the multiple nuances of shadows. Within his world of chiaroscuro she wondered if she too has become dull. That had been when Anise started to write, at first it was to tell him her feelings, or ask him his. Gradually it became her own form of art, a stark contrast to his bruised canvas- her blue words biting into the page. Now they struggle to find words for each other, though Anise never questions his darkness and he never questions her bathroom hours. It is as though there is no need for questions between the bone etchings of her poetry and his visceral dissection of canvas; each has, after all, their own way of turning the inside outwards.
So she sends the poems anyway and takes her pen and notebook to the studio and sits as she does sometimes, on the high stool at the edge of the naked lamplight and watches Dean paint. Staring until her eyes are sore for a trace of orange or a tint of green. She scatters words over her notepad as she watches. Dean has either not noticed she is there or does not care. While thinking this over, the pen almost slips silently from Anise's hand as it starts to seep and drip down into her sleeve.
For a moment she enjoys the warm dripping, then suddenly remembers the studio, Dean and the distance to the safety of the bathroom. She makes up her mind. Six is a nice round number that can curve them together into swimming fish. She waits, sits there on the high stool once reserved for models. He cannot see her yet; he is standing behind a large canvas. A glimpse at his foaming palette tells her he is painting another black ocean. She breathes deeply and releases the tension from every cell of her body, no longer restraining her flows. Before long her clothes are darkened and rivulets of water pool on the floor at her feet, emitting a pale eggshell blue light. Dean's brush is silent yet Anise hears the ocean roar between them. He steps outside of his canvas. The water is flowing now, almost to where he stands. Anise's cheeks are flushed and her sandy hair darkened against her skin. She glistens with pellucid light. Dean's eyes widen to take her all in. He is entranced, and then suddenly he splashes towards her. He dips a delicate brush into the cup of her palm and studies it. Then he sets up a blank canvas and begins a new painting. Between the palette and the canvas he dips his brush into the crook of her arm, the nape of her neck and mixes her tides into his oceanic waves. Now she can see the tints of green and orange splashing through them. He swims about the canvas heaving spray across its skin. She watches him, laughing, not noticing her notebook, still on her lap, where her fingers seep through the pages and words bob and dance in the surf.
When eventually she looks away from Dean's colors, she sees he is smiling at her. She glances at her notebook where her words have shifted and the tide has cast up a new poem.
Corinna Underwood began writing in England and Wales and now writes in the USA. She has been a published author for more than ten years. Her short fiction and poetry has been published in magazines including PIF, Thunder Sandwich, Dreamspace, Lexicon, Conspire, Art Imitating Life and Suspense Magazine.
She is the author of Haunted History of Atlanta and North Georgia and Murder and Mystery in Atlanta and the forthcoming Supernatural St. Augustine.