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Amber Paulen

Valerie and Arianna Talk

I’ve been having trouble lately, getting going and going for real. It’s bound to happen. It’s normal to get confused. It’s a good thing to throw away a stack of well-written paper because they don’t make sense and hence are not well written. It’s OK. And so, after deciding another trip to the trash bin was in order, I wrote a practice conversation for some focus where I think I’m failing.

Arianna oils herself up. Valerie gets comfortable; she hovers for a moment on her knees, on the towel, on the stone slab which is the balcony, pushing out of her mind the walls which compose the inner-block and all their gaping windows. Valerie looks to Arianna whose breasts now glisten like the hood of a silver car on a bright day, they refract the sun’s light from the nipples, shooting light off as if light were a well-sharpened spear. Valerie quickly strips down her pants to her underwear, she quickly takes off her shirt and throws herself, belly down on the towel, pushing out those gaping windows.

Since a glassful of water sizzled the computing agents of Arianna’s laptop, she has been what Valerie likes to call, social. She talks and hangs-out and most importantly, she’s friendly. It’s as if all her ‘friends’ were in Facebook, in blogs and emails and without them she has had to turn to who is around her: Valerie, a real person.

“We really should go out tonight,” says Arianna from her now prone position.

“OK,” responds Valerie just out for the ride.

“I haven’t been to Cleo’s bar in so long. That’s where I met Andrew, you know. Maybe I, we, would have just as much luck tonight, you never know who could show up or what Cleo could arrange. I’m just in the mood for a dark Italian man, one who doesn’t live with his mom, he could have a girlfriend or be married, that would be fine. Not too well dressed, not dressed better than me, with just enough style so that he looks good and knows he looks good.”

“That can’t be all that difficult,” laughs Valerie. “Italian men are everywhere just waiting for a pretty straniera to fall into their laps.”

“The problem is is that I’ve been in Rome too long. They seem to know that I know my way around. They especially love naive American girls, ones that get so drunk they don’t even know where they live, the ones who’ll go home with anyone no matter how they look. Living in Rome for two years has given me standards: No Italians that live with their moms, no tourists and no guys seen hitting on dumb drunk American girls. That would be like sleeping with naive stupidity itself.”

Valerie has nothing to add. She hasn’t been in Rome for two years, she’s been in Rome for two months. She flips to lie on her back. Valerie’s eyes are sealed shut so as not to notice her own breasts now lumped over flatly, exposed to the sun, to the sky, exposed to the walls of gaping windows. She pretends that her and Arianna are alone up here. This is how Valerie improves, piano, piano, in exhibitionism. What comes like cream pie to Arianna comes like gold digging for Valerie.

“When I first moved here,” continues Arianna, talking up, the words come down; the two young women are lying head to head. “I wasn’t this way at all! I was voracious. I slept with anyone. I’m so happy I’ve finally learned.”

“Don’t you think that’s why we indulge in so much excess sometimes? That’s how I know my limits, what I can and can not do.”

“I guess,” responds Arianna unconvinced. “But that doesn’t erase my stupid actions, they’re so obvious when I look back.”

“So much looks stupid with one’s head turned to the past. I’m not finished fucking up yet, that would mean I would be finished with everything, that I would be at the end. No more fun and nothing left to learn. . . Why did you come to Rome anyway?”

“I don’t know,” Arianna sits up and laughs. The sweat is pouring down her forehead, there is no air blowing past the balcony which juts into the center of the block. “Sometimes I ask myself and I don’t know. I can’t remember having one reason, an, ‘I’m moving to Rome because…’ I knew no one, I knew nothing about it. I must have heard the name somewhere, Rome, you know, it sounds so magical, where things can happen, anything can happen. I just needed to get out of Finland, I needed a change. ‘Rome, it’s warm there,’ that’s what I probably thought, I don’t know…”

Arianna now turns to her belly. It is her ass framed by the two arcs of her black thong now turned to the sky.

There is a difficulty picturing Arianna in Finland. Even in Valerie’s mind, this dark skinned young woman seems out of place in the land of summer’s midnight sun; the way she carries herself, the way she is, all of her reeks of the Mediterranean. Perhaps Arianna can’t imagine herself there either for even her English has been stripped of any hints that it may be a second language. Of an identity change in foreign countries, Valerie is guilty herself.

Into the crook of a sweaty elbow Arianna has fallen, asleep or awake but more likely somewhere in between. That’s OK, Valerie has nothing more to say. The sun streams down hot and Valerie enjoys how the rays are pulled into her skin, pulled into her skin by some invisible force which she believes to connect herself to that great ball of white fire. Sun lying is like sun worship; like the passive sheep brought bloody to the altar. So Valerie lies, still and topless, somewhere between awake and asleep. She digs deep into the sensations of her body, the way the sun lathers her in sweat and sinks into her with its omnipresent force.

Thinking thus, Valerie could care less for open windows; she is bursting with gratitude for the thrill of bare nipples.


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