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“à voile et à vapeu” – “To work by sail or by steam,” French slang for bisexual
You, whoever you are, and above all that you are, are motion and heat and air and water. I breathe you – I try to breathe.
I turn to vapour.
We sail. We steam ahead, gliding on these sheets, skin slippery, muscles tightening and pushing with propulsive strokes. We lie back, gasping, as the engines cool into afterglow.
Hello there, to lovers past and future. To each of you and all of you. To you who are both, and to you who are neither, who have other ways of traversing this sea which encompasses so many voyages, so many destinations.
You are the reverberating hull, richly, fully steady in the waves. And I the sea that would swallow it, the storm that tosses, the rock that offers peril or shelter.
You are strung with cables humming in high winds, singing like the veins. You are laid with circuits of nerves in electric wires, sophisticated and swift. You make a sail with your broad back, a canvas of your bending, billowing body.
Hello to the steam of your breath. Thank you, when you guide me home with your hair like smoke. Welcome, when you find your way as I stoke the furnace within you.
Vapour dissipates into the atmosphere, not before it curls our hair and glistens on our skin. Hot enough to scald.
A heaviness in my lungs makes my heart beat rapidly, hammering, like the pistons in an engine. Something in me rotates, a propeller faster and faster. A smooth, sharp prow slices the waves. Sheets of it water across the deck in a smooth gleam.
Hello to you and your currents, you with whirlpools of hair swirling on your arms, your legs, leading down from your navel to the cradle of your hips, to the cyclone.
I am waves; my hips move in them with no more volition than the tide. But you are more than a strip of sheltering sand, absorbing what’s left of me after the crest. You swell above me as if full of the sky. Filled with me, filling, and yet there are gasps and panting from both of us as if never filled enough, still straining after something. Gusts of breath and sharp, sharp blows of something else, something more…
We surge against the current, push on through the storm. You stand in the rain, loose clothing in turns swelling around you and pushed flat against your body with the wind. Weather reveals and revels in every shape of you. And just as easily, I think, could such fabric be ripped off.
Cables gone salty with ocean breeze, with sweat, hold sails taut against the bodies of air that push into them. Seemingly so thin, so strained, but holding. Knots grow tighter as they dry. Perhaps it’s dangerous. Perhaps we shouldn’t let them ever get dry. Let’s not.
Hello to you, past and future, familiar and unfamiliar, never identical, never alien.
To you who are…
You are this, or that, in a language I barely know, in a language I cannot speak; there’s no language I can quite speak at this moment.
Am I a sail? Am I steam? Am I hull or zephyr? Am I anything so vast, so real? Am I water? Am I rope?
What am I above you, and at your side, and beneath you – watching your broad back, your strong shoulders, your breast full like clouds bearing storm, your straight and curving parts, the uplifting weight carried by your bones?
T.C. Mill is a writer and editor (one answer to the question, "What do you even do with a philosophy degree?") based in the Midwestern United States. Floating somewhere on the bisexual spectrum, and still hungover with that philosophy degree, she uses writing about sex to explore themes like grief, love, identity, religion, and shamelessness, and other topics common wisdom says "smut" isn't deep enough for. Her fiction has previously appeared in journals such as Cliterature and anthologies from Circlet and Cleis Press. She co-edits the New Smut Project micropress, which releases collections of literary erotic short fiction.