Sport 16: Autumn 1996
Fleur Wickes — Lukas and Anna
The stereo underneath the window is playing jazz. Anna is dancing alone, eyes closed, facing the wall. Her hips are moving with the music. The song ends, her eyes open and focus. The wallpaper is a big bright pattern. She turns, sees the lamp with the orange scarf draped over it, sees the blue and grey carpet on the floor. A man’s hand touches her arm. She sees dirt beneath his nails, sees a brown belt, a plain buckle, green cords. It’s Lukas. She looks up, smiles.
‘Want to dance, Anna?’
‘Why not? You were dancing just now.’
‘Because I hate all that jigging that’s supposed to pass for dancing together. Dancing without contact—what’s the point? I like to waltz.’
‘I’ll waltz then. Show me how.’
Anna leads Lukas around the room, guides him with her knees. He is awkward in the dance, but his hips are wide, and she likes that. She closes her eyes again to feel his body better. Her hand is laid on Lukas’s forearm. His hair is rough against her palm. Every time they turn his arm moves back, making his hair slide against her skin. She opens her eyes to make sure of their direction, finds him watching her. The music stops.
‘I’ve never seen someone do that. Dance with their eyes closed like that.’
‘My grandmother did. She danced naked in her bedroom in the mornings. I lived with her, I was allowed to sit on her bed while she dressed. She used to be a dancer and she had a mirror right across one wall of her room, with a barre. It was weird. Instead of a studio reflected in the mirror, there was her massive four-poster bed. She’d take off her nightie and stare at her body in the mirror. Then she’d put a record on, still naked, and close her eyes, and dance. That’s how I learnt—watching her.’page 186
There is a fire in the lounge. Lukas finds a space for them beside it, on the floor. The music’s coming through the wall loud.
‘I like your velvet,’ he says of her dress, leaning into her so she can hear him. ‘Nice red.’
‘It was Erica’s—my grandmother’s. Erica was into clothes in a big way. She’d screech up to the school gate with her hand on the horn and some wild outfit on. She always wore false eyelashes, and green eyeshadow put on real thick. Jesus, the kids used to laugh.’
‘Where’s she now?’
‘I’m sorry. I …’
‘It’s okay. It was years ago. Anyway, she was glad to be dead.’ Anna raises her drink to his. ‘Here’s to strangers at parties.’
‘We’re not strangers, though.’
‘I don’t know anything about you except that you’re Caroline’s flatmate and that you go to the same parties as me. That’s strangers.’
‘Well then, I’ll fill you in. I’m a photographer, I’m thirty-four … Hey, listen … they’re playing “Johnny”. That’s my mother’s favourite song. She’s got a thing for Marlene Deitrich. She sits in the kitchen while Dad watches rugby and plays her records over and over. She sings along with Marlene in this high-pitched wobbly voice and closes her eyes and moves her hands like this, like a conductor …’
‘One potato …’ Anna catches his hand.
‘Two potato …’ Lukas puts his other hand over hers.
Their hands go higher and higher. Anna can’t reach any further. Their hands come tumbling down.
‘They’re beautiful, your hands,’ she says. ‘I can feel them shaking.’
Anna looks at his face closely for the first time. The light of the fire makes shadows on his skin. His skin is pockmarked, like it has been pricked by big pins. She raises a hand to it. It’s rough. Red. She runs her finger down his cheek, into his beard, runs the same finger upward, across his eyebrow, to feel the difference in the hair.page 187
‘You’ve got a vein in your forehead. I’ve got a vein too. See?’
Anna tips her head back so the skin of her throat gets tight. A vein appears. Lukas runs his finger across the ridge of it.
‘Twins,’ he says.
She laughs. He grins back.
Anna scratches her nail along the seam of his inside thigh.
‘It’s so tough, corduroy. I like that sound, crtch crtch. You only get that sound on cord. Linen is a softer sound, there’s less resistance. And with cotton, you hear the sound more through your skin than with your ears. Satin, its just squeaky. Crtch, crtch, crtch. I like it.’
She watches him, watches the blush on his cheeks, watches his hand curve tight around his knee.
‘When I was at high school Erica would get me out of school early on Fridays and take me to the pub. She’d sit us at an out-of-the-way table and buy me a Coke and teach me what she knew about men while she drank her stout. She reckoned my mother would never tell me—and she was right. I thought it was a great joke. She told me the first thing I had to do when I met a man was look at his crotch.’
‘No. It was brilliant. A man would walk past and I’d have to give him a number one to ten according to what size I thought he was—ten was a stallion. Then Erica would tell me how close I’d got to the mark. If she reckoned I was close, she’d buy me another Coke, let me stay at the pub longer. If a man rated past eight she’d get up and buy him a beer.’
‘Christ, I wish I’d met your grandmother. Though maybe I wouldn’t have rated high enough …’ He laughs.
‘Lukas, let me tell you. Your rating is fine.’
Anna slides her hand up, lays it on his zip.
‘You’re blushing. I can’t believe it. Blushing.’
‘It’s been a while,’ he says.
He doesn’t take his eyes from the fire. ‘Fourteen months.’
‘Months? … Jeez. Want to go for a coffee?’page 188
The cafe’s crowded, Lukas and Anna squeeze round a tiny table. They order, he steals her chips while he waits for his BLT. He slurps his coffee. When his sandwich arrives, the grease from the bacon slides past the serviette and onto his wrist. He lifts his wrist to his mouth, licks the grease off.
‘Jesus. You’re a pig! I won’t invite you for breakfast.’
He reaches over to her, puts his fingers in her mouth. She can taste the bacon and lettuce and the tomato sauce.
‘So. What do you do? he says.
‘I hate that question.’ She says it loud, louder than she meant to.
‘I was making conversation, Anna.’
‘Look, let’s just forget this, eh? It’s late, I’m tired. I’ve got work in the morning …’
‘I don’t want to forget it.’ He reaches across the table, takes her wrist, rubs his thumb back and forth across the skin.
‘Your veins are real blue,’ he says. ‘Your pulse is fast.’
‘That’s your pulse you can feel. Through your thumb. My pulse isn’t fast.’ She pulls her hand away.
‘Are you scared?’ He takes hold of her hand again.
‘Of what? You? Doubt it.’
‘What’s the matter then?’
‘The last time I did this … Christ, Lukas … look, it’s been a while for me too. I just like to pretend otherwise. I can’t imagine waking up next to anyone except my dog.’
‘Let’s do something else, then. Let’s go see a movie. There’s a late one on at twelve forty-five.’
‘You’re nice,’ she smiles at him. ‘You’re a photographer, right?’
‘I want you to photograph me. Right now.’
‘I want to see how you see me. It’s important.’page 189
The studio is cold, she strips for him. Anna holds her body straight, pulls the dress over her head. She is wearing nothing else but boots and socks. She leaves them on, she looks down at her breasts. They are sticking out with goosebumps. Lukas approaches her, she feels her breathing change. He holds the lightmeter gently to her stomach, presses a button. A flash goes off.
‘FI6,’ he mutters.
‘What’s that for?’
‘To test the light—just technical.’
‘Oh.’ Anna rubs a hand over her stomach where the lightmeter was. Lukas fiddles with the camera, puts film in the back. He adjusts the light here and there.
‘Nearly ready. Are you cold?’
‘Yeah. But don’t worry. I like it.’
Lukas stands in front of her. She can smell him, his faint sweat. Anna thinks he is going to touch her breasts. She closes her eyes. She feels his mouth instead. He sucks and pulls at her breast. His head comes up, he kisses her neck. Anna put her fingers to his beard.
‘Your whiskers remind me of a jumper I once had. It used to scratch me, I loved it.’
He lifts his head.
‘You are odd Anna,’ he says, ‘so funny.’
He steps back from her.
‘Take you hair out for me?’
She reaches up, tugs.
‘Ow. Bloody rubber bands. They always catch.’
‘Here, let me do it.’
He uses both hands, pulls the band off smoothly.
‘You had practice at this?’
‘Lots of younger sisters.’
She feels his hands slide into her hair, hears him take a loud breath inward. He turns her to him, holds both her arms up in a pyramid. He licks the hair under one arm, blows on it.page 190
‘All wet now. All dark and stuck to your skin. Wet like here is.’
He puts his hand between her legs. She closes her thighs on his hand.
He leaves her, goes to the camera.
‘Close your eyes Anna. Face the wall. Twist your hip right. Your feet—just a bit further apart.’
She does as he asks, can feel herself swaying, hears the camera clicking, can see from beneath her lids the flash going off.
‘All done,’ Anna open her eyes and turns.
Lukas is taking his clothes off, he has a long lead in his hand.
‘Let’s do one together eh? A polaroid. For your grandmother.’
‘Yeah, and we can drive out and stick it on her grave and give my relatives the fright of their lives.’
They laugh, he makes changes to the camera, comes to stand beside her. He turns to her, holds out his arms.
‘Come as close as you can,’ he says.
She walks forward one step then two. His arms wrap round her, pull her tight against him. Her breasts are squashed to his chest. She reaches down, arranges his erection flat to her stomach.
‘Erica would definitely approve. Can we go home soon?’
She puts a hand to his shoulder, as if they are waltzing.
‘Don’t move. Stay like that. Good. Look in the lens.’
Lukas puts his whiskers to her neck again. Anna moves her head slightly back with the contact, closes her eyelids halfway down. He depresses the button on the lead he’s holding, takes the photo.
Lukas smiles, moves to the camera, pulls the polaroid from it.
He puts his clothes on, his back to her. Anna watches his skin, her eyes follow his spine.
He turns. She is standing naked still, the velvet of her skirts at her feet. She lifts her arms above her head.