The button for the large sunbathing area on the roof is worn, half of the S is gone. I press three buttons lower. The number is red to indicate that the floor is darkened. The lift asks me to confirm my age. I press ‘21 or older’ and wipe my finger on my trousers.
Where the lift stops, the moon is shining. The moon is actually the sun, but the sheeting over the outer mesh has turned its light the colour of milk. A sweet, heavy wind is blowing, clockwise with the lift shaft at its centre. It takes my eyes some time to get used to the twilight; one by one, dozens of cantaloupe plants appear, with leaves bigger than my head. They are growing over nets that are attached to the ceiling, their roots in sunken planters in the floor with broad strips of grass in between. Fruits hang lazily from the nets, gently swaying in the wind. The plants have been grown to create a wide tunnel with walls of vegetation. I walk away from the lift and into the tunnel.
Caves have been made in the sides of the tunnel, and there is rustling coming from most of them. I walk past their entrances, waiting at every cave where I think I cannot hear anything. Eventually, I crawl into a hole that I am sure no one is inside. The cave is a green igloo, a narrow entrance that emerges into a cosy, round, dark space. The grass feels strange, as if it is becoming softer because of the semi-darkness. I reach above my head and pick a melon from the ceiling. A wet snap of the stem breaking in two. I take my penknife from my jeans pocket, open it up and then cut the melon across the middle. I remove my clothes and lie down. I place the two halves of the melon on my body.
What kind of sound should you make to let someone else know there’s just one person lying here waiting, not two or more people who are together? My naked belly against the cool grass and goose bumps on my lower back. It lasts an hour, it lasts a year. I breathe through my mouth and move my knees over the floor to make my presence known. I cough. I am afraid someone I know will come in, someone who will laugh at me, someone who will tell other people. Something is stuck in my throat, as if I just swallowed a big piece of bread in one go.
Rustling. Someone is crawling into the cave. I know the deal; I close my eyes tightly. With my face flat on the grass, I attempt to relax my body.
By listening, I try to determine where he or she is in the igloo, but the grass and plants make everything too muffled.
I don’t even know if he or she is standing or is leaning over me on all fours. Then one of the melon halves is suddenly picked up. I am startled, but I do not move. I hear the person digging his or her fingers into the flesh of the fruit, pulling off a chunk, squeezing it so that juice comes running out. Rustling of clothes. Then a brief silence. Suddenly a cold, wet finger is placed on my lower back to the left of my spine.
The finger stays cold, the finger moves, the finger draws the same pattern a few times. I know the deal. Slowly I get used to the handwriting, the size of the letters. I, writes the finger. I keep my eyes firmly closed. ‘I,’ I say hoarsely, quietly to the grass.
The finger moves. Am, writes the finger. ‘Am,’ I say quietly to the grass.
The finger moves. A, writes the finger. ‘A,’ I say to the grass.
The finger moves. Lass, writes the finger. I don’t understand. ‘Lass?’ I ask the grass.
The finger moves. At first I don’t know what the finger is writing. I remain still. The finger writes it again. Then I understand, pull my mouth into a grin and feel a blade of grass flick against my teeth. ‘O,’ I say quietly to the grass. ‘Lasso.’
It’s hard to hit on someone with just a finger and some melon juice. But ‘lasso’ is a soft word. It becomes a loop of orange melon flesh and sugar, with me at the centre of that lasso as I press naked against the grass floor, relaxing, raising my knees and spreading
And as I say ‘lasso,’ the finger does not let go. It closes the o and moves on to glide slowly down along my backbone.
The o of lasso is an inhalation. Lasso finger slides between my buttocks, strokes my anus, places its tip against it. It’s too intense, I clench my sphincter, almost pulling the finger inside. The hand that is a lasso squeezes juice from the melon onto my buttocks. The cold drops startle me. I groan. The lasso pushes a little further. Now I squeeze my eyes firmly shut. More juice. Lasso even deeper. Stroking. Moving. More juice. Sugar juice and tightening. Far too quickly, I let go.
When I have stopped shaking, the finger draws a line up along my backbone to my neck and gives the muscle there a quick squeeze between thumb and forefinger. I can tell from the rustling that he or she is crawling through the cave entrance. The patterns of juice dry on my back, becoming a sticky layer of sugar.
I lie there, but not for too long. I count to one hundred, then get up and put on my clothes. The two melon halves are lying on the ground, one still intact, the other a bowl full of juice and pulp. I pick up the used half. With my lips, I feel the tracks carved by the fingers in the fruit. I take a sip of the juice, but I do not swallow.
I walk along the moonlit melon tunnel back to the lift. Not furtively, but walking tall, hurrying, almost happy. My mouth is closed. I take the lift up.
It is hot in the sunbathing area. Girls in bikinis are lying flat on their backs in the sunshine, boys are sitting cross-legged, playing chess and drinking beer. The sun is directly above the park tower. I look out of place in my jeans and my dark-blue jacket. I stop in the busiest section. No one looks at me. I open my eyes as wide as I can, gaze into the sun and swallow.