‘[…] that my want for another body arrived, first, with the knowledge that it could not be.’
– T Fleischmann
The city is open like a wound. A sea of trees and high rises, apartments stacked on top of each other like building blocks. In the middle, surrounded by poplar trees and tall skeletons of scaffolding covered in moss and ivy – a perfect black circle, hundreds of feet in circumference. Like a hole. It’s only when you’re just a few steps away that you can make out a surface of closely spaced matt black tiles.
There are more of these circles in the vicinity. They are launch platforms from back when. They bear the memory of fire. Scorched earth where nothing grew for decades, until slowly the chemical fumes and leaked fuel began to leach away and the first grasses and shrubs encroached upon the circle. You have no idea who decided to immortalise the wound in your city by covering it with matt black tiles, measured down to the millimetre. More matt than you’ve ever seen in your life.
And you don’t know why you freeze in your tracks whenever you see it. Whether it’s the tremendous precision of all the hands that cut the tiles down to size, laid them so precisely side by side. Or whether the black reminds you of a time before or after this. Nor do you know what it is that keeps drawing you back here, that has you walking along the matt black circle and freezing in your tracks time after time.
Once a year everyone gathers around the circle. Hundreds of people, each with a candle in their hand, all form a ring around the hole after sundown. The black circle absorbs the flickering candlelight like a dark lake. Until one of us, as if responding to an inaudible cue, suddenly gets up and steps into the hole. Walks to the centre, lies down on their back on the black tiles and looks up. That’s when the party begins.
The three of you move slowly around the network of people. It has to do with grief: moving slowly, even more slowly, unable to be anywhere but here, in this space, in this movement.
Dancing, vibrating bodies. Built-up energy that doesn’t need to be harnessed in any way. Siboi has unbuttoned his shirt. White lines run across his chest like writing. equality leans over, traces the lines with her tongue. You join in: the two of you follow the lines until you reach their nipples.
You withdraw, find a nook in a wall and lie down with your eyes closed, but you still feel the glittering and the flashes of fires reflected in mirrors moving over your face and body. You listen to all the layers. The drums, the keening melodies, the stomping of feet on the floor, laughter, and the deep quiet that encircles the party, the quiet of night.
Siboi is lying on top of you. Her eyes don’t leave yours. You’ve arched your hips toward her. He presses into you. The dildos are back at his place; he’s not wearing anything but he’s grinding his crotch into your groin. You’re both still dressed. She’s got her fingers shoved into your mouth. She feels you licking her. They moan. Her weight pressing down on you. They lay their neck across your face. You taste her sweat. He shuts his eyes and comes.
‘If god exists – if there is something divine behind or beneath this world – she’s trans,’ equality says. The light of the campfire is reflected in her small, blazing eyes. ‘What is more divine than transforming the world by transforming yourself? There’s a hole in the world – in everyone’s world. An incompleteness that has us longing for something complete that cannot exist. That longing – that’s what love is, that’s what desire is. Trans people live the closest to that hole. We make our home at the edge of it.’ Her words touch upon the contours of something you already knew. They are too small to encompass that something – she falters, language is too angular or too pretentious, but equality doesn’t seem to care. She keeps talking, keeps approximating. You’re too tired to respond. You close your eyes, and it’s as if you’re giving some of your silence to her words as she addresses the group, as if you’re letting yourself flow along, making the current stronger in doing so.
Through the gaps in the foliage you see the old, mossy scaffolding protruding above everything in the distance.
The three of you walk away from the bustle to the edge of the circle.
You sit on the edge of the circle, you in the middle, Siboi to your right with their arm around your waist, your head on equality’s shoulder as you gently jerk her off. It’s almost morning. You watch the last stars, only just visible in a bluing sky.
‘Can you believe there was a time when we wanted to leave this place,’ she asks.
Soon your lips will glide over her soft clit.
When the day begins, you will walk back to your room by yourself. The cool morning air surrounds your skin. You won’t be thinking about the new day; you’ll still be mulling over the night you’re leaving behind. You’ll be tired. The sweet taste of your partners is still floating around inside you. You will walk up the stairs to your floor. And the day will already have begun.
There’s no one at the black circle. The sun creeps over the edges of the trees and buildings. One by one the black tiles start reflecting the light, until the whole circle is lit up, like a glowing red lake. In the merciless gentleness of daybreak.