Although the sun burned bright white against the distant shimmering of heat, there could yet be distinguished a sense of purpose guiding the single figure walking slowly amongst the scrub.
The girl could remember coming this way once before; there was a memory ever-present, gilded with regret—the hollow feeling of what could have been. Hers was a harsh land, stretched like cracked skin from end to end, pockmarked with some dead botanist’s observations.
But her insides burnt when she thought of him. Of his certain steps flattening the dead grass. He was a riparian incision through brown growth as good as dust.
So she walked longer, under the midday sky, with its clouds like raked-through cream. She knew he was somewhere here, amongst the iron and the ironbark. Waiting to be seen in a half-caught glimpse, like sunlight through the moving leaves. Iñez, she heard him call. Iñez. Pure. Her name was like a drug; she had not heard it for so long.
In the afternoon, inside, she sated her saccharine habits, feasting on good thick chocolate because it clumped away at the dead dust of her throat. Black coffee to follow, burning and sealing like tar. Was she sure she had seen him, or heard his voice? His was a name she knew, spoken in dreams where she danced—wraith-like—to the tunes of his tongue.
He was a black mark on the town. His feet were well cleansed by the locals’ spiteful aim.
In the evening she heard someone on the porch; boots on blue gum in the twilight stillness. Three hits of a fist, intonations of intractable force. It had to be him. She opened the door, and swept the gritty ground with a hard heel. He seemed to stare through her, but she saw, in his eyes, a reflection of her own fascination.
He did not move from the doorway. He was a shipwreck on the stifling shore of outside heat.
She moved towards him, and began to stroke his hair, his arms, his tight folds of skin. His places of imperfect air. She closed her eyes; let him kiss her, let his pulse beat through her like a fingerprint. His slow deliberate steps of life.
Later, and later still, she would know his taste, how his abdomen pulled back when she touched it; soft then hard like flexed metal. He would be inside her and tell her long melodic stories that opened like flowers, each corolla a semblance of history.
She would dance in his dream times. His whispers like welcome weather.
When she woke, she felt strangely at home. Mulga. Gidgee. Weonaworri. The trees and the spears of thunder. A partial face. A straining muscle. Land. Sea. Sky. Moon.
He slept, like something nocturnal given up to winter’s call. It was still night, but so luminous in lieu of morning. A belt of stars brightened the sky like scattered sand. She turned her body towards him, rumpling their bed of spinifex, and slipped under his arm with a breathless and welcome warmth.
The cold night lifted from their embrace like dew, and the first light filled the air with promise. The sun raised them from the earth. Lifted them from the dirt, past the house, past the town, past the country, past the world. Their throats tightened as the oxygen thinned. They were on their way.