In the next room the Lovers, Lara and Paul, both slightly built and blonde-headed, spread the pages of The Love-talkers, which had detached themselves from the book’s binding as soon as they’d gotten it home and opened it widely on their table. They spread the pages of the book all around them on their carpet which was red and pink and green, decorated with giant peonies. The pink walls and the peony carpet, and the evening light with its very last traces of pink sunglow falling in through the room’s one large window made the pages look like delicate peach-pink flower petals strewn around them, or like the slightly iridescent, salmon-pink scales from a dragon’s tail, or mermaid’s tail.
The Lovers were mesmerized.
Hours passed while they sat there, picking up one page and then another—looking at them together and imagining themselves to be the couple in the book, the Love-talkers. They were so happy this way. They had forgotten everything but each other, the book, the pages around them showing a man and a woman utterly and beautifully tangled in each other’s bodies. They had forgotten the difficulties of love. Later, they would look back on this evening and believe of it that it had been an illusion. Or a spell. They would occasionally feel they’d been betrayed by their own happiness here. They would feel foolish. Also, they would both sometimes believe that in these moments only had they truly been alive. That they had known paradise. That they had seen, behind the veil, the kind of ecstasy waiting for all of us in paradise.
How quickly love turns to hate. Then it turns back again.
How quickly one dream dissolves into the broken images of a nightmare.
But now, in their rented room with pink walls and peony carpet, with its odd, dark furniture—heavy, in the colonial style, but smaller—made specifically for the small rooms of apartments just like this one in the suburbs of the largest city in the world, the Lovers picked up one of the pages of the book whose pages were spread around them like lilypads on the shimmering surface of their rug. On this page, the Love-talkers themselves seemed to be surrounded by the pages of a book, or pale swatches of silk, and wind appeared to be slipping in softly through the window behind them, and lifting these pieces of cloth, or paper, in a gentle swirl around their bodies. As the Lovers studied the picture, the swirl seemed to rise, to hide the Love-talkers more and more from their view.
“What are they doing? Can you tell?” asked Lara.
“Do they have any clothes on?” asked Paul.
And then the wind would appear to subside, and the swirling leaves to drop, for a brief moment, and the Love-talkers could be seen, like this: standing upright, mouth to mouth, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, and wrapped, partly, in a damask sheet, pale lovely green that swept from one pair of shoulders (his right, her left) down to one pair of joined hips, and fell in folds which could have been marble they were so still and certain of themselves to the floor.
“Exquisite,” said Lara.
“Who are these people?” said Paul.
“They’re the Love-talkers,” she said, kissing him.
“But who are they? And what are they talking about?”
“Who are we? And what are we talking about?” she said, gently teasing him.
Years later, she would remember this conversation and think that it was emblematic of something—of their differences—of his male-ness and her femaleness—of her humor and his inability to laugh. He would remember this moment too, and would always wonder whether or not he could have, or should have, answered her questions. Whether, if he had chosen to, he could have offered an identity or definition for their love that might have made them immortal.