I hold`the purple blossom to her nose. She smells it, the high nostalgic aroma of the chrysanthemum and her eyes go wide with comprehension. It is why I admire her. It is why I adore her. She reads my mind, or something in me that speaks. Her intuition is impeccable. Maybe its because of the very knowing that love dies.
I place my hand over my heart, sitting where she can see, just so that my intentions are clear. I don't have to speak. I think to put it into words would just insult her exquisite intelligence.
She tugs at her ropes. They cling tighter, like the grip of a great snake, as they are meant to do. The shrimp knot that pins her forward, makes her back bow, grips without cutting off the blood in her wrists. That is the art speaking. I leave the chrysanthemum on the tatami mat in front of her face, where she can see it, could even take it in her lips if she were to make such an extravagant, sacrificial gesture. But she does not.
The high bamboo pole reaches to the ceiling where it is firmly anchored. I hoist her up gently. First her lush and naked thighs leave the floor. One leg is bent in an L shape with the foot touching her hip and the other bent behind her back as though she were a Buddhist dakini goddess running in place.Her fingers are, each, clasped in individual knots like a kind of glove so that every finger is its own special prisoner. That is loving detail.
I pull the rope and the strain sets my heart to racing and I feel the first warning pinch in my chest. It doesn't matter anyway. I came here to die. I pull, my body snarls a warning deep inside, I pull and she goes head down as her bow bound torso leaves the floor, and only her cheek touches the tatami mat under her. I have to stop here, and behold the beauty of her breasts that lay upended against her chest, the erect pink nipples that have not yet known a babe's suck tap tentatively at her collar bones. I must stop. I must stop and take a moment to brush my lips against them. Her eyes close languidly even as the rush of blood pinks her cheeks and slightly reddens her forehead. Her eyes open and wordlessly roll to the flower and back to me.
She opens her mouth. Puts out her tongue.
Oh darling. Darling girl. You can't mean that.
I sit on the tatami mat and lay on my belly my face an inch from hers. "I would die for you," she says.
"Its nice of you to say so," I tell her. But I deny her the glory of eating the toxic flower. I regret the sound of my voice instantly. The silence is sacred. I place my awareness on my breathing, silence the mental chatter of my thoughts. I place myself in the moment, in the room, we two, nude, not naked, nude which is different and deliberate looking across the abyss between us. That abyss that we have crossed and recrossed and now feel ourselves most failing. Our eyes meet across that tiny gulf.
I rise, my knees hurting, my head turning light. For a moment the room is gray and I have to step my feet apart and pause, wondering if this moment will come to me anyway without the flower.
This room is paved with tatami mats. The wooden walls are not sound proofed but we are so far in the solitary recesses of my estate, this pleasure cabin where we've performed our rituals many times, this place would hear no sounds of a starving or dehydrated woman crying for help should the one man who knows she is trussed and dangling for days and nights from the ceiling, lie dead on the floor from heart failure. And this is imminent. I will not leave this room with my spirit.
Such trust. Can there be such a person?
Her head has cleared the floor. She dangles, the weight of her body tightening the cords that have twisted and bound her impossibly. Her hair dangles down and and brushes against the rice straw of the mats. She turns and turns, revolving slowly and peacefully. I place my awareness on the breath and sit quietly on the mat watching her turn. I take the flower in my fingers and smell its bright and defiant aroma. I turn the tight sunburst blossom, which centuries ago graced the war banners of my clan.
For a blue heart, as they say, the chrysanthemum is enough to kill. To stop the heart, it needs only be eaten; to strand the helpless until all thought of art and beauty is banished for survival. Hanging alone in a room with a dead man. I hold the flower out to her again. Her mouth opens. She puts out her tongue. She turns and turns with her tongue out.
There is only the sound of the breath going in and out of my nostrils. Outside a bird has begun to sing or complain. The sting in my chest invites me.
Is she bluffing? Would she risk fever or worse to deny me my death? Or is it only her way of ensuring she lives?
The bird goes on singing. Her head turns. Her face gets redder.
There is in me, that blossoming of which I had been hoping and feared was dead in me. Compassion. I feel pain to see her discomfort, even for art. I let my thoughts dwell on this pain. I wasn't sure I could feel the suffering of another and now I'm relieved to feel my connection to my humanity lives which I had thought had faded. Or maybe she has revived it.
"You are the goddess of compassion," I say to the back of her revolving neck.
I eat the flower, swallowing its medicinal sourness. How long will it take?
I crawl to her, my phallus erect. I turn, stand up and spin her body around to face me. Her thighs are held apart by the cords and her sex is displayed to me. I place my face between her open thighs and inhale the aroma of her. Like green tea. I place my tongue flat against those lips that may yet give birth some day if I am, fast enough to stop this thing.
Her eyes are closed in pleasure below. Would I have such courage? Such self mastery?
I lick the flat of my tongue against those wet and delicate surfaces, lick the inside of her thighs where they join her sex. I felt the crawling, tingling from my belly of distress approaching.
I have to move quickly to the bamboo pole and let her down gently but quickly to the mat. My heart is beating now in my chest and my face is hot. She moves, lower and lower, and now settling on the mat as I feel waves of panic. The body fighting to live oblivious to all else.
No. I am not an animal. Living is not enough. Not in the face of art.
She lays along the floor limply, her eyes regarding the discarded stem of the flower that is killing me quickly. The cords that bind her hands are tight. I snatch at them with my teeth, feeling a new wave of panic, not for me, but for her. The room is getting hard to see, and colors are fading to gray.
"Here.. Here .. " The sound of my own voice choking. I can't hope to untie these cords. These knots would take hours to do and undo, like climbing up and down a mountain face of strings.
There is a flower vase filled with chrysanthemums. I crawl to it, lift it, smash it on the floor. It flies to pieces and I pick up the shards.
This one will do. I cut the cords and her hands are free.
The tatami mat on my face. Lips on my cheek. There. Goodbye dear.