v i    k h i    n a o

Furtive Bras


The book arrives so slyly, so furtively. As if the bell around its neck has broken, muffled by the tissue. The noise and emptiness of the hallway. It climbs a flight of stairs with its wings embalmed, swallowing in its darkness.

Words flying, swimming, twirling in the body of their text.

Pages diving into each otherís depth: a book unopened, climbing a flight of stairs.

She is awake. Light flutters through the curtain, hangs on the wall, slivers down its whiteness. Outside, brass, wind, percussion. The marching band marches, drumming on the taut membrane of their sparkling instruments. Stretching. Re-flexing. The mellifluous sound quivering in her ears. She thinks this is soothing.

For seven days, she watches bras and marching bands come and not go. The Fed-ex man says, sign here please. She signs beside the X, closing the door. Closing quietly.

She lies supine on the large king bed thinking about the bras from Canada. They have stripes around their petite cups. Who would have known beneath their elegant exterior a tiger harbors its appetite?

From the corner of her eyes, she watches the woman try them on. The tiger admires himself in the mirror. He multiplies twofold standing in front of the reflective glass. The tiger opens his mouth but does not roar. The woman turns sideways. She has a look, as if her bra—a tongue, dancing, undulating on the body of the mirror. Gazing at herself it makes her heart throb.

Alice has awoken from a fragile dream. The marching band screams her alive. She wakes up believing she is contained. She wakes up believing life owes her everything. The apartment, the bookshelves, the orchid, the sandals, the hanger, the toothbrush, the photo frames, the spatula, nail polish, the stapler, the dish, the sweater, the cd player, the watch, the pen, the ocean, the universe, the galaxy.

The book opens itself upon her touch. It has arrived slyly, furtively. UPS and Fed-ex men do not behave the same in their delivery. She likes the one who leaves a package leaning on the door and quietly walks away. He does not leave a trace of his existence or presence. Books and bras are not delivered—but arrive on their own terms, of their own volition.

The UPS man is the universe. He arrives to her door like a stygian script.

The Fed-ex man is manís reasoning on existence. He needs a signature to validate his arrival.

She watches the woman throw on a shirt of ecru. The tiger roars. No one hears him. The woman walks away from the mirror as she uncurls the gossamer hem of the shirt to cover her belly. The book dangling on the edge of the bed. She reads a line. It says:

She said butter was colored with marigolds.

Her head falls on the fluffy pillow, and she sighs. Having no clue what it means, she sighs again. She watches light dancing on the wall and wonders what time of the day does the moon draw the sun into her bosom. When does she undress his yellow toga and bathe him in her voluminous darkness? She desires that time of the day. The frankness. The nudity of a moment. She desires those too.

On the page, each word is spaced from another word. It holds on the page, all the solitude the world can muster. In her reading, the words climb onto each other. A snake on sand. A man on a woman. Light on a wall.

The climbing of words, and a solitary thought emerges. Reading is an art. It has to be. How then can aesthetics be appreciated?

She crawls out of bed. The cloistered thought tosses itself on the walls of her mind. As she stands up to collect and spread it out to make sense of itĖthe sentence that hangs off the edge of her hippocampus—it shatters into stars. With all the concentration it takes, she reaches out into the darkness of her mindís universe. All of the stars pinned to the sky, not a single one resembles that singular thought.

Is it butter?

Flying marigolds.

Reassembling the words. Alice feels hopeless. And then impotent. She doesnít want to resort to the book as the sole means of reasserting concreteness. That one absconding, eluding, slippery sentence. Butter climbing on marigolds. Or was it marigolds climbing on butter? The sentence makes her die a bit. In her anguish, she re-opens the book. Flipping the pages. Flipping. Scanning. Scanning. Flipping. Scanning.

Where is it?

Shuffling amongst the mass of other words. Butter falling off marigolds.

There it is.

She said butter was colored with marigolds.

The book falls down onto the pillow. Closing its 96 page-eyes and sleeping quite soundly, quite softly, quite tenderly. Something was done to butter in the garden of language. Something egregiously magnificent.


The sound of the marching band drums through the windows and walls of her apartment as she turns the knob. Water begins to fill the tub. Alice peels open the plastic curtain, climbs in, and lifts the nozzle. The coldness of the water flows down her body. She is naked and her toenails have a thick layer the color of dark maroon. She feels more naked with ten maroon nails doused under a thin coat of water.

She thinks dark maroon is the color of a slut. This slut walks out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her chest. This slut considers her options; makes a to-do list.

Water the orchid.

Take the trash out to the large, communal dumpster.

Re-shelve the books.

Bake banana bread for the fundraiser.

Make the bed.

Leave seller feedback on Amazon.

This seller is troublesome. The book arrives without a single scratch on its head. It arrives through the door very slyly, furtively unlike the bras from Canada. Excellent choice of postal service. Excellent seller. Would purchase from this seller again.

Out of the shower, she notices the woman with roaring bras sits on the bedroom windowsill smoking a cigarette. Looking pensive and meditative. One exhalation. Two exhalations. Ephemeral rings ascend the crepuscular stairs. The woman is spending her afternoon puncturing holes on the thin sheet of atmosphere. The woman thinks the sky canít breathe without the holes for ventilation, or perhaps she thinks the rings are perfect conduits for stranded ghosts to re-enter the other worlds. She is the ancillary servant of Charon. He carries coins across the Styx and Acheron. She is the sympathizer to those whom Charon does not bestow coins. She blows rings out of her scarlet lips for those left behind.

She watches the woman on the windowsill as she straightens the cover over the colossal bed.

Marigolds fall out of the eyes of the book. Like rain. Like tears.

The book opens on the palm of her hand. She thinks of the desiccated orchid drugged in dark soil. The book opens and opens on the palm of her hand. She wonders if she can water the plant from her mindís eyes. Will the orchid notice the difference?

She grabs the pitcher, pours the liquid into the pot. This is only a vision from her mind. Yet, itís quite a task for her imagination. She realizes that there is a great deal of cleansing in the corporeal act of performing a task. A lightness. Quite porous. Quite easily fitted into the scheme of her menial chores. Conceptually, an onerous heaviness that sags her spirit down. In the future, she will water the plant, and think very little of it in the process.

The woman at the window exhales the last drag of her cigarette. She flicks the butt out of the window. Alice contemplates, Why do women buy beautiful bras, tiger-striped, and not a soul could hear them roar, or sing in colors like butter dyed with marigolds?

No one could view them, really. Their sexy, lacy allure. Not the mailman, not her non-existent lover, not the landlord, not the neighbors.

Must sexiness stay indoors?

Beneath a thin veil of fabric?

When the bed is made, she crouches in a corner. A towel still wraps itself around her bodice. She notices light emanates through the closed blind of the window in the hallway. The small white fingers of the little sun peeking through. A few drops of light bubble on the wooden floor. Five ivory buttons created by the imperfection of the blindís design. Five buttons dancing naked in the darkness of the hallway. From the ceilingís view, the hallway looks like a sleeveless shirt.

Alice crawls on the hard floor and lies on her back. She closes her eyes. The coolness of it. In phrasing a moment. In phrasing a moment, she listens to the drumming of her heartbeat. She gains consciousness. She loses consciousness. Her head becomes light. Nothing. Then it becomes heavy. Everything. She begins to have a lucid dream. A woman in black mini-skirt, shirtless, wearing a black bra talks to her. Could you lend me a button? She asks. Alice, feeling rather muted, shakes her head. Please, she begs, I have an interview. The woman grabs her nipple, mistaking it for a button. She grips the black blouse on the bed and presses it to Aliceís chest. She pins her to the wall. She struggles a bit, before popping Aliceís nipple through one of her blouseís slits. Alice looks down. Her mind makes a silent scream. The color doesnít match, she tells her. And Alice slaps her hand. Please, she begs. I have an interview.

Alice flickers her eyes open. Her eyes drink in the roomís hazy composition. A blur. She peels off the tucked corner of the towel. The first flap falls softly on the floor and then the second flap. Slowly she walks her right hand over her nipples to make sure they are still there. Her fingertips tinge the nipples like Braille, reading her breasts—a haiku script. They confidently confirm her state of consciousness. Though she is completely naked, lying on the wooden floor.

Taking her time savoring the last tang of the nicotine, the woman at the windowsill has ceased staring out at the happenings beyond the window and has shifted her attention to the woman on the floor.

Her eyes travel first on Aliceís nipples, down the black triangle, and the article that heightens her attention the most—the ten painted toenails. The ten maroon dots, like buttons, dance on her alabaster toes. Vestal. Rare. Seductive toes. She becomes aroused. She cannot determine the source of her desire. Is it the nicotine? Or the painted toenails?

Alice, she says softly, you look like a fallen angel. Where are your bras?

They are underneath the wooden floor. Absconding. They are beneath my toenails. Absconding. Do you hear them roar? These furtive bras.

She presses her ear on the wooden floor and listens to the sound of trees, timber, the corridor of desire. The ear of the wood listens back. The skin of the labia. Its intricate, woody lips. Palpitating on her ear. The woman watches her. Alice gets up, leaving the crumbled towel where it is, and climbs onto the made bed. She opens the book and reads a line from it.

Stroke my loins.

She closes the book. Lets it fall onto the pillow. This afternoon Alice is planning on painting the womanís toenails.

One stroke at a time.

One stroke at a time.



VI KHI NAO lives in Iowa City. Fugue State Press recently released her novella, The Vanishing Point of Desire. She appears in the 2011 edition of NOON.

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