Whistling in Caves
Richey Piiparinen

They say the mind is the largest sexual organ. Well, one thing was for certain, when Tiny had sex, he often did it with his head. Of course, he was a terrible lover when he did this—being less gentle, more mechanic, always penetrating as if he was spelunking for a rough cut of diamonds. But every so often, he’d lead with his flesh forward. He’d love her again. And it had just been one of those times . . .

It was evening. Laney and Tiny were in bed, naked. As they stared at the ceiling, human juice dried on their skin, making a crust of sacrificed genes.

Behind them and through the window, the air outside was cool and wet. There was a fog, and the trees grew to look like veins inside the bodies of ghosts. In fact nothing out there was soft or blue. And it served as an indication that summer had left, being replaced with reminders of what lies ahead.

Perhaps more than anything, the dead leaves serve as precursors, their descent reinforcing the reality that the brown bones arrive after the hot green months. And what’s perhaps most unnerving—is that the trees stick unflinching out of a hard cold ground, making the truth way too real for it to ever be pretended about. We try of course. But then we miss the beauty of necessity. After all, what is so special about harvest if it comes out unceremoniously, ceaselessly, arriving in the mouth like the taste of our spit?

In bed, warm, the two lovers loved each other for the moment. It was odd. Not the love per se, just the timing of it, as their lovemaking had settled into a weekend endeavor. (They’d been increasingly creating time to fuck like couples planning a Saturday matinee.) But here they were, a Tuesday evening, stripped down and staring in each other’s faces, enjoying for the moment the freedom to be nearer.

“That was good,” Laney said. She then exhaled, smiled, before peeling off a moist strand of hair that had migrated across her face.

“Yeah, we need to do this more often,” Tiny said.

“I know. It means so much.”

(They always said that kind of thing after a bout of good sex. Regardless, it never stopped the routine from growing in the other direction.)

Puzzled, Laney continued, “Why don’t we?”

“Why don’t we what?”

“Make love more often. It seems to preserve us . . .”

Tiny turned to his stomach. He looked half-heartedly at the trees hanging curves in the fog: “Maybe there’s a part of us that doesn’t want preservation.”

“Maybe,” Laney replied, her voice softening.

Tiny continued: “Besides, you are the one that’s been telling me that you didn’t want to have sex around this time.”

“I don’t.” Her voice was now sharp.

“Well then, between your ovulation time and your period, it leaves us with half the month to do it.”

She frowned. But it was a tiny, hidden frown. No surprise though. Laney always had a tendency to subvert her rushes. She did it with sneezes too, always making that painful mousy sound as if to patch her humanity. Tiny once asked why. She responded that it would be messy otherwise. He told her it was messy nonetheless.

Despite her efforts, Tiny was still able to sense a change in her mood, as she was the type where her mannerisms meant less than the energy she gave off (her hate always came on like the smell of a storm). So, upon sensing this, Tiny went on, hedging a bit: “You know, babe, nothing will ever happen if we can’t be natural with it . . .”

“I know,” she snapped. “But it’s hard to be natural when you know that everything is counting on it.”

“What’s ‘everything’? And for that matter, what’s ‘it’?”

She didn’t respond, instead staring up. A few seconds passed. Tiny then peered over at her, watching as a streetlight hit her face—to expose dampening lashes, and a mouth growing more definitive in its shape.

You could say then, perhaps, that this is when the happiness left—when the mood in the room was reformed. And it was a sick and unnatural change, too quick and jagged, because though their tenderness was only minutes into the past, a sense of eternity had already crept between her tears and those minutes they lost in love. In fact time means nothing to pain. It only makes it worse . . .

Maybe it’s no surprise then that it grew—that mood in the room. It grew from the possibility of its own sudden appearance, creating in time a discordance of which lying thick on the lovers until it became another body on the bed, or a presence between them of not love but anti-love. Not potential but demolition. And so with the smell of each other still on their lips, they became pulled apart anyway, the cascade of small feeling regressing them as war does to country much like wings going back into a shell.

Naturally, this failure, it only made Laney cry longer, harder—it soon rising into a slight moan. She quickly, then, covered her face with her hands as if to muffle the sound of crying. But it was no use. So the moan grew into a mumble. The mumble into a voice shoving into her palms: “I am not asking for too much. I only want to feel what it is like. I am not asking for too much. I only want . . .”

Tiny was still, looking at the night outside the window while sensing the sound of something in his body that he was never really able to hear.

Meanwhile, Laney continued, her tears now falling freely to land on her neck before settling into the space near her collar bone. There, they collected before absorbing back into her. Suddenly, the wind picked up, heaving a whistle that caused the old wood shutters to bang painlessly against the face of the house. The sound mocked the lovers—being inanimate has its gifts.

As Tiny lay there, helpless in the noises, he knew what this was all about—her tears and her rightful sadness. They had been trying to have a kid for two years. They both got tests and the doctors couldn’t find anything. You could say they were perfect in their inability to produce definiteness.

Perhaps because she was the woman, she took the infertility harder than Tiny. No doubt, it was a loss to him too. But he wasn’t sure if he minded so much. You see, he had a hard time understanding that something can be taken without ever being there in the first place. He was instead preoccupied with the fact that things are there and then they leave.

Though he knew she was hurting, Tiny refrained from reaching out. They just fucked, laid stripped, and smiled, and he didn’t feel it necessary to adapt so quickly so much. Instead, he began touching the side of his neck while his eyes began scanning the bedroom around him. But he wasn’t really looking for much. Instead glancing with a certain envy at a room adorned so fat in its reality: the hard plaster walls, the wood floors, the black picture frames, the synthetic bedside lamp with its wide red base . . . these things are dumb and thick and last forever. At least, that is, if no one takes a hammer to them. We have bones, sure, teeth, no doubt, but we also have too much else.

After long, Laney recognized her tears elicited nothing, no help, and it was often the recognition of her own lonely that really got her goat. So she sat up, turned a sad face more firm, shouting: “Why can’t you fucking reach out to me? See, you trigger me. I need some comfort and you reject me. It’s no wonder we can’t have a kid. You fuck up my body by making me feel like shit . . .”

“Laney, please . . .”

“No,” she interrupted with pupils wide and sharp, “you are so cruel sometimes. I am crying and you sit there like a rock. Detached like a fucking rock . . .”

“What the fuck do you want me to do? One moment we’re laughing and kissing, the next—you’re on the attack. These sudden changes in you—at least I am one thing for one period of time . . .”

“Yeah, you’re a rock, a deadened, self-obsessed rock, and then the other half . . .”

“Enough!” Tiny screamed. He couldn’t take it any longer, the fucking name calling, that biting fucking tongue. Laney could just be so anti what she thought of herself. And he rarely missed an opportunity to try and break the wool: “Well, what the fuck are you, Laney? What are you, huh, all loving? Bullshit. You got your own secret wishes, you know. And they begin and end with that pissy belief in you that you are the poor one, the orphan, who only accepts pain but never dishes it out!”

Tiny stopped. He was now hurting and lonely. He then got up. The room twirled in the darkness and the wind rattled the side of the house. Laney was curled, hunched sitting up. Her head was down and she looked like a broken flower. She made little noises, crying noises. They weren’t loud or angry, but sounded more like the squeaking of a loose spinning wheel. Things seemed so perfect just moments ago. And then came the fate made possible by the sound in the body of whistling in caves.

This story is an excerpt from a working novel called The Sounds of Things Splitting. The book is about two men with one life. I have a favorite quote that sometimes pops in head when I’m writing. It’s by Carl Jung: “Whatever is not conscious will be experienced as fate.” This is never truer than with the experience of pain. Life is full of losses and with each one, holes form. If they are integrated they just are—they don’t have to grow. But if denied, they will find expression. And it’s often near our love that they will manifest the most.

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