there’s a picture of us that doesn’t exist, at least not in any tangible form. you had put your camera away for a spell. so i took it upon myself, worked hard to imprint our image onto my memory, i studied us. you, between my legs, as we rode our little red motorbike down the winding island road, the one the filipinos call the national highway, my tiny wrap skirt flapping in the wind, me, shameless, flashing the locals.
in the photo my right arm is draped across your chest, fingers resting on your solar plexus. i don’t normally touch you here. hardly ever appear to possess you. and yet it makes sense to us under this sun, on this island, where we look just like any other tourist couple, even though we’re not. at night, between tastes of the cheap dark rum i drank as a teenager, we are gleeful at this sleight of hand. how we’ve pulled it off yet again. marveling at how everyone is wrong about us, how they always are. does it ever get old? this ruse.
once, when we were younger, we told some parisians that i was your cousin so we could have an easier time getting laid. we were convinced it was simpler this way. “friend” aroused suspicion. “friend” was not enough. years later, when we returned for the wedding of your childhood best friend, you told them all i was your roommate. accurate enough. “ma coloc,” you said. ah, they said, puzzled, pitying. we laughed the whole drive home.
as we make our way to the beach at the tip of the island, we consider stopping to ask someone to take our photo but don’t. i’m not bothered. you don’t know it yet but i’m suddenly confident i can capture us — up for the challenge. for i’ve been writing about my lovers for years; never dared write about you. and so i compose this poem at your back, the coconut trees over head, my helmet’s visor slid down over my eyes, at times i rest my lips on the back of your neck, the way i know you like.
can you only write about a lover this way?
on our ride back from the beach, where i nap, like always, and wake to you practicing backflips in the water, asking me to take a slow-mo video of you — you want to see your form, on this ride back we come upon ourselves, see a glimpse of our reflection in a tinted shop window and we are smitten by our image, the suggestion of it, only the bright blue of my skirt, only the line of my forearm across your chest, the shape of you taking me home.
later, you say you regret not getting a photo of us. but don’t i have it here?