Beyond Words // the Language of Otherness

Guest post by Juliette Rapp. Juliette is an American post-grad gone rogue who moved to Rome last year in search of “something to write about.” She hopes to one day move to a small village in a seaside cliff, become a recluse, and write taunting letters to her student loan providers. In her free verse, she writes about navigating the lexical gap between bilingual lovers, at once made Other by their cultures and the emotional residue they bring to each other.

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photogaphy by John Towner

We have just finished making love. I am lying in your bed,

vaguely aware of the differences in our consciousness.

In the stillness, I blink away the seductive sirens of sleep.

We made love for over an hour,

Or maybe it was closer to like.

Good-enough, for this moment.

Almost me and you.


You wanted to fuck me in the ass.

There was a moment of trying.

You were so romantic

With your half-hearted

Intimacy.

 

You leave the bed.

Go for a glass of water.

Check on your drunk roommate.

Fiddle with items in your bathroom.

In the silence, a buzz.

 

“BZZZZZZZZ”

 

A mistake. Someone rang the wrong apartment.

But I know it’s not a mistake.

Silence again.

 

“BZZZZZZZZ”

 

This one has a sting on it.

The sound of unfulfilled promises.

It hangs in the air like a heavy question mark.

 

“BZZZZZZZZ”

 

I hear the jingle of house keys. I hear a shuffle to the doorway.

I hear the tall, heavy door creak open, and I hear you go outside.

I look at the time.

A quarter till two.

It’s her and she’s drunk,

and she misses you.

 

I bet you’re in a panic, and I bet you’re being sweet.

Moments ago you were inside of me,

And now she’s in your arms, and I’m in your bed.

I’m not jealous, just sad. And I’m not sad for me, I’m sad for her.

 

I begin to dress.  I move into your living room.

I want to hear her voice.

Fragments of conversation waft through the stairwell.

It’s in Italian, and I can’t understand a thing.

But words are only half of how we speak.

Her tone, her voice, her cadence—they make me feel ashamed.

 

She is not your girlfriend now, but something is unfinished.

I don’t know the details. We don’t talk about these things.

I am not the other woman, but I might as well be.

 

Now there is silence. Maybe you are kissing her.

Maybe she’s asking to stay here tonight.

Maybe I could just climb out the window.

 

I hear the door to your building slam shut. It always falls so heavy.

Your footsteps on the staircase. Thin, metal teeth sliding into the lock—

Protecting yourself with penetration.
You have returned, and I can barely look at you.

 

“I’m sorry for that,” you say, and you mean it.

“You’re not here,” you caution.

 

And I’m not.

 

I tell you I understand her, and the situation is difficult.

You tell me you break up sometimes, but always get back together.

“Should I go?” I offer, and it’s probably the right thing,

but suddenly I don’t want to be alone.

“She’s probably waiting. Just stay.”

And I do.

I consent because,

part of me wants to be the secret.

 

We sit in silence while I stroke your hair.

Your neck. Your shoulders.

Your comfort.

You decide to call her. To see if she’s outside.

“To avoid a tragedy”

 

You are now speaking on the phone in Italian.

A tender voice, a sweet one. You laugh a bit,

and I realize I can’t take it. I can’t listen.

I don’t know what you’re saying, but I know what you’re saying.

You don’t talk to me this way.

I retreat to your bed, begging for sleep.

Begging to begin again tomorrow.

 

I wake up, and we are woven together like the fibers of a safety net.

I wake up again, and we are tangled like a soft pretzel on a cold day.

I wake up, and you are rubbing me. Touching me. Nudging me with your intention.

 

I wake up, and we are fucking,

fumbling.

Forgetting.

You don’t try to put it in my ass.

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