Of Sticks and Leaves and Vines and Dragonfly Wings


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Of Sticks and Leaves and Vines and Dragonfly Wings

 The foundations were laid that steamy summer night with a coy sideways glance, a flirt, a bashful smile. A flick of the eyes that managed to project more passion than a fistful of letters sealed with lipstick. Looks that bypassed the brain and hit home … somewhere. There were no words exchanged that night, nor for many nights to come. The din of the city streets at the end of the lane put paid to verbal declarations of affection. Plus, the words needed didn't exist. Not in their language. Not in your language. Not in any language. Outside of language maybe. But not tonight. Later. Later it would be needed and their declarations would need something new. But not yet. Better to wait. Touch was impossible that night. No holding hands, no awkwardly contrived bumping into each other, no caressing. The chasm between them kept them chaste. The eight storey gulf between their respective balconies, the four or so metres of nothingness that separated them, that made any physical intimacy impossible that night. And for many nights to come. An abyss makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps. But not tonight. Just looks tonight, that was enough to lay the foundations, place the corner stone. When they both went inside that sultry night, an icy pole stick was left wedged in the railing on both sides, reaching out. And so it began.

Over the nights to come, more flotsam and jetsam were added to the foundations. As the oppressive heat of summer transitioned into the cool of autumn, the building materials changed alongside it. The licked clean sticks of ice creams and icy poles became less frequent, lollipop sticks slowly became the preferred strut of choice. Night after night, after drawn out glances and sly smiles, the delicate latticework stretched out to casually begin closing the gap. Into the weave went other things to reinforce the structure. A bus ticket, shells from the beach, a length of ribbon from a gift box from an neglected suitor, a twist of vine, a braid of hair. And so it went on. 

Autumn shifted to winter and driven by a change in diet and maybe an increase in desire, short lollipop sticks became longer chop sticks. Bundled up against the cold, a stark contrast to the exposed skin that first summer night, they still ventured out to peek at each across the way, to add more to the construction, to slowly close the gap. Snow settled, swelled the wood, tightened the joins. Icicles formed a glittering array of bared teeth on the underside. It sparkled and shone in what sunlight there was and split the moonlight into shards at night. And so it continued. 

Winter rolled into spring and the pace of construction continued unabated. Jackets and scarfs and woollen were left inside and bits of flesh began to show again. The solstice rolled around and the light began pushing out the dark. Sweet, sticky fairy floss from the local fêtes and fairs began to feature; large enough to peer seductively around, their sticks being ideal building material. Birds got into the act, weaving in nests of exquisite construction, multi-storied with gable roofs, spires and theatre room. Drifting spiders got tangled up and began to spin gossamer webs of the finest silken threads, reinforcing the lattice work. Strings of thread and strands fairy lights were woven through, creating a nearly complete span of starlight and galaxies across the void. The glances and peeks and flirts became less coy, gathered meaningfulness. And so it persisted. 

Spring merged into summer and the gap continued to narrow. Tinsel was interleaved, baubles were hung. Branches of Christmas trees were knitted in, followed by the streamers of New Years Party poppers. Neither of them went out to celebrate that night. They stood, on their balconies, gazing at each other with an intensity that burnt across the space, a beam of lasciviousness visible to moths and scorpions. The temperature rose, the space shrunk to a near nothingness a fingertip across. Still they did not touch, did not speak. It superfluous, not needed, redundant. They weren't telepathic, and yet maybe they were. They knew what they each wanted and they knew how. They were closer than they'd ever been while holding the same distance. And so the universe spun on.

Three hundred and sixty-five and a quarter days  after those first gazes and flirts began, 940 million kilometres later, their buildings finally got into the act and closed that final gap. With an imperceptible shudder, a slight flex, they leaned in ever so slightly and brought the two halves together. No one felt it, just those two. They felt the world lean in like a rush, felt the arc close with a knitting of the edges. The path was complete. The way was there. Not caring if it held, just trusting, they both climbed onto the bridge and looking at only each other slowly made their way to the centre. There was no hurry, there never had been, they took their time. They stood, not quite touching, just apart. Close enough that a slip of paper wouldn't make it through without leaving cuts, a molecules breadth apart. They stood there, not lost in each others gaze, but found. There in the heat of a hot summer night, just as they did a year ago. They stood on the arch they'd built of sticks and leaves and vines and dragonfly wings and held off touching for just that little bit more. After all, the abyss made the hearts grow fonder. The world breathed in, held its breath, waited.

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