By Madhvi Ramani
Berlin is a city built on swamp land. In summer, the lakes ripple dark green, leaves turn in the sunlight, weeds spread like thrush. Sometimes, the smell of sewers wafts through the streets. Even behind sunglasses, I catch the glisten of sweat on skin, and my body stirs.
I haven’t had sex for months. Not since the last relationship singed my insides. My body retreats, deferring to the wisdom of my mind. Never again. Touching another human will hurt, eventually.
Still, as the days stretch and the heat intensifies, so does my longing. My fingertips tingle, reaching for contact. Maybe all I need to cool myself down is a drink with a man. I decide to go on a date.
We sip chardonnay at a table on the buzzing night-time sidewalk. The sun umbrellas, put up during the day, shield us from the street lamps. We can just about make each other out in the city skyglow. His curly locks and straight nose remind me of Cupid. That sculpture by Canova; Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss. Water beads slither down the green bottle. Our tongues loosen. We are both on the rebound. Yet another fool scratched by his own arrow.
The union between Cupid and Psyche started in darkness. He visited her at night, opening her up to sexual pleasure without revealing his identity.
In the haze, our lips meet. We lap each other up. My fingers curl around his curls, and tug. He traces lines up and down my arm, bites my shoulder, makes my intestines twist. He is like the statue of Cupid, sucking the sleep from Psyche’s body after her visit to the underworld.
“I like everything about you,” he says.
That won’t last.
For now, all I need is a lover. Just sex, no expectations. No space for tenderness. These are green thoughts.
How do we open ourselves to love, and not get hurt?
Green are my lover’s eyes. They harden with desire, become gems glinting in the dim bedroom light. My psyche surrenders to eros. Our bodies pool with sweat. The sheets get damp. Whispers of lust whistle like wind through reeds. The room smells of moss.
We mix absinth with ice water. A luminous green concoction that numbs our minds. We eat sushi in bed while watching comedy.
“It’s hard to start again, after marriage. To look at someone and think, hey, maybe something nice will happen,” says Louis CK, “Because I know too much.”
We sip our drinks, and laugh. We are drifting past the cool surface, into deeper waters where tangled undergrowth brushes our skin.
I line my eyes with green kohl and wonder at the mini-gulps that make his Adam’s apple shift. His middle toes are crooked twigs. His laughter begins in his throat, then bubbles through his teeth and over his wide red lips.
Who is this man? How will he let me down? How do we open up without getting hurt?
When Psyche first saw Cupid, she was surprised by his beauty. After all, an oracle had predicted she would marry a dragon-like creature. One who harassed the world with fire and iron, and was feared by Jupiter himself.
In East Berlin, an old cemetery has been repurposed into a park. Hammocks and climbing frames occupy spaces between trees and graves. We take shelter in its shade.
As Psyche gazed upon sleeping Cupid, a drop of oil from her lamp fell upon his body and he fled. To get him back Psyche had to visit the underworld, which led to her falling into a deep sleep. Sexual love exposed her to death. Those two things go together.
Le petit mort is the French term for orgasm. A small death. Do we lose something every time we have sex?
We lie on a hammock in the cemetery-park, staring up at the canopy of trees. Back and forth we rock. It’s refreshing, to see things from this angle. Like seeing everything anew. At the top, some of the leaves are already turning golden. Fall is coming, but for now, we swing, suspended.