I reeled, shocked as the pain coursed through my body. My fingers moved by their own accord, disconnected from my shell-shocked brain, stroking my face as if the mere motion would somehow appease the pain.
She stood there, rooted and breathing heavily, a panicked look on her face as she stared first at her trembling hand then at my face. Our eyes connected and there was a moment of clarity when we were both on the same page; our minds married in a chaotic otherworld of shock and regret. As I watched, her eyes darkened and her lips curled back into a snarl, transforming her innocent face into a demonic caricature of the woman I thought I loved.
“That’s what you get!” She whisper-screamed at me, conscious of the public as always. “See what you made me do?”
Slowly recovering from the shock of the blow, I was rocked back by more pain than I thought possible as her words echoed in my ears. I stood slack jawed and stared at her small figure, chest heaving and nostrils flaring as her eyes shot poisoned daggers at me. I knew I should be angry and a small part of me was starting to boil over. But all I felt at that moment was confusion.
I shook my head to clear it as I started seeing double. One blink and there she was in all her hideous rage. Another blink and she is smiling up at me and laughing; her dark eyes dancing in the sunlight. I shook my head harder, trying to dislodge the image from my head and conjure up some witty reply to her vitriol.
“You’re a filthy liar!” she hissed at me, this time carefully keeping her distance, more rocked by the slap than she let on.
My mouth struggled open to reply and to call her out, to mention that I had seen her and she was no lily saint. But even as the words chocked their way up my throat, a memory forced itself into my head and left me muttering indecipherable nothings. Her mouth was moving, but I couldn’t hear over the pounding roar in my head. I focused on her lips as they opened and closed, spewing soundless words which slammed against my ears like bamboo battering rams against stalwart safe holds.
Her lips were pursed as she silently stared at me. I waited for a moment and laughing, dabbed some of the ice cream from my cone onto her nose. She screeched and rubbed her nose giggling and tried to shove her cone into my face. I shifted forward and embraced the shocking coldness while wrapping my arms around her.
We sat there on the park bench, illuminated by the bright midday sun and covered in the sweet coolness of ice cream, wrapped up in each other and the newness of our love. She lay sprawled on top of me, her face covering my neck with sticky sweetness, but in that moment, I didn’t care. I looked down, and our eyes met, a moment of warmth and understanding, as we spoke without opening our mouths-the moment broken by melted ice cream dripping from my face onto hers.
I laughed and pulled her face closer to mine and kissed her, smearing her face with ice cream. She stuck her tongue out, licking my ice cream coated lips and laughed. She flung her legs up and put all her weight on mine.
“What do you think the universe tastes like,” she asked her voice thoughtful and faraway.
I thought for a moment. Laughed, shrugging my shoulders.
“Probably like star dust or something? Or like dreams and magical things?” I jokingly replied.
She sat quietly for moment as if seriously considering my response. She shook her head after a moment, her dark hair glistening.
“No, that doesn’t seem right.”
We were silent for a moment, content to lay there on the bench and simply breathe in unison. I was started to drift when she grabbed my face suddenly and kissed me. We finally broke the kiss, both breathing heavily as she sighed, content.
“I thought so. The universe tastes like us.”
I laughed, and nodding my head in agreement.
“Well, it’s delicious.”
I snapped back to the present, the memory of the park so fresh in my mind I could almost feel the warmth of the sun. Her voice rose as she screamed, no longer caring that the people in the nearby bus station were clearly watching.
“You just gonna ignore me now?” Angry tears rolled down her face as she continued. “What! I’m not even good enough for you to listen to for even 5 seconds now huh?”
I walked closer to her and reached my hand out slowly. She shrunk back as she took in my hulking shape and realized that I could probably snap her in half if I wanted to. That moment of fear when our eyes met caused pain to lance through my body. I shrugged it off and slowly advanced my hand and wiped away a tear with a finger and brought it to my lips. I stuck my tongue out and tasted the mild sea salt of her tears as she watched me in befuddled silence.
I cleared my throat and tried to speak, but for a moment, nothing came out. I tried again and finally succeeded, my voice coming out deep and husky with emotion.
“Do you remember when you asked me what the universe tastes like?” I asked her.
“Of course I do, but what does that have to with-” she began, but hushed when her eyes met mine.
“Well,” I laughed. “Didn’t really think about it at first. I did later though. I’ve figured out what the universe would taste like.”
My voice grew softer as I recited the first poem I had ever written in my life out loud for the first time in my life. The air was so heavy I almost couldn’t get the words out.
The Universe would taste like stew, thick and heavy
Filled with impossibilities and possibilities and probabilities
Floating in darkly delicious soup
made mostly from the unknown, life’s mysteries
the meat, heavy chunks of death and life
succulent, tenderized by pain and strife
ground fruit of the tree of lust for spice
the universe would taste like déjà vu
a moment spent in the sun, hoping for the moon
a memory splashed on impermanent stone
an emotion sliced on the surface of a broken board
The universe would be sweet,
achingly sweet, like love’s first kiss
bittersweet like frozen ice cream memories
spicy and burning bright
Like passionate stars consummating the darkness
The universe would be salty
Bitter tears and broken hearts spilling pain
Enriching the lows and making the highs higher
The universe would taste like mystery
I slowly drifted to a stop. My heart was beating frantically in my chest as I screamed at myself for being stupid. How could I recite something like that out loud? I slowly raised my head and found her eyes. Tears streamed down her face and as she cried, I saw the girl I had fallen in love with. Taking a deep breath and straightening my shoulders I stepped forward and tentatively embraced her. As her familiar weight collapsed against me, I leaned down and whispered the last line.
“The universe tastes delicious.”