Count them Round the Table, White and Dressed to Kill

May 10, 2009

He sat, languidly slouched in the lone black chair–the other fifteen white chairs spaced ’round the white table supported fifteen diffuse and implacable white figures. I knew there were fifteen, because he counted aloud.

A black bolero hat sat cocked at a downward angle on his head. Its brim shaded his face, obscuring his eyes and most of his features. Please don’t look up, my head insistently whispered: I couldn’t see his eyes and some part of me knew that looking into them would mean gazing into something I never wished to see, a sick blossoming of ugliness or metallic-tasting fear or finality or all of the unthinkable above.

All I could see of his face were his cheekbones and his mouth, pale and chiseled and slender and defined as though they’d been cut from the same marble as the table. His lips pursed absently, and he tapped his platform-booted right foot against the smooth tiled floor with hollow rhythmic thumps. I stood at the opposite end of the table, stock-still and unable–maybe unwilling–to move.

He rose from the chair and began walking to his left, navigating the polished floor with serpentine fluidity. As he walked past the first figure the white form assumed sharp focus. It became vaguely–then gradually, specifically–human, a lithe young woman, long straight blonde hair cascading down her white-robed shoulders. He pulled a black scarf from around his neck and draped the shiny fabric ’round her shoulders and pale throat. She smiled, turning her head to the right: Her aqueous blue eyes closed contentedly as he leaned over and alighted a kiss on her gently-rouged cheek.

The girl smiled, her once wan lips taking on a deep scarlet tinge and contrasting with her pale skin like a fresh open wound. Then she and the horrible irresistible magnetic spectre of a man began talking simultaneously, chanting in muted two-part harmony about the other figures around the table and about me. My fear of him gradually gave way to intense curiosity about both of them.

I tipped my bolero hat in their direction, leaned over the white-robed young woman in front of me, and kissed the swanlike throat upon which her pale face resided.

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