by Pedro Ponce

This was during better times. She called with her itinerary, reciting airline and gate numbers, her voice edged with hunger. I vacuumed, scrubbed, and laundered, shopped for two at the grocery store.

I waited at the gate, bouquet in hand. Next to me, a man was listening to the radio. The volume on his headphones was so loud, I could hear Liz Phair comparing a lover to the explosion of a dying star.

She surprised me from behind and pressed her lips to my ear. We collected her bags and left the terminal. I splurged for a cab. While the driver cursed between lane changes, I could feel the rush of the chassis through her clenched thighs.

We were barely through the door when she led me to the bedroom. We fell together, a tangle of hair and tongues. The front of her jeans gave way to my fingers. She lifted her hips and slid them down. An unfamiliar mark appeared just above her hip bone.

What is that? I asked.

She smiled and gathered the hem of her sweater up with both hands. It’s Chinese, she said. Do you like it?

I leaned closer. It was a symbol I recognized from bumper stickers and New Age bookstores. Two tailless fish—one black, one white—curled next to each other to form a circle.

I thought you hated needles.

I hate getting shots, she said. I’ve always wanted a tattoo.

She was drawn to its simplicity, centuries of wisdom inscribed on her skin. Two sides in opposition yet necessary to make a whole, discrete yet inseparable.

It made me think of you, she said. Besides, I didn’t like any of the other designs. Can you imagine me with a sunflower on my ass?

What about my name? I said.

She wrestled me to the mattress, laughing. Silly, she said.

Later, I couldn’t sleep. I got out of bed and sat by the window, watching her. Her legs kicked free of the sheets. With every breath, the shapes inked on her skin rose and fell, two halves and the indelible border between.