Paraph of Bone & Other Kinds of Blue
the nine sheets are nine battlefields. it will be silly as war and bloody as chess. if you get any poems out of it, any lines at all, pin them to your breast. if you get any white sheets, bury them with honours. remember where you won, remember where you lost. wonder why.
—Glyn Maxwell, On Poetry
Cosima puts down her mug of jasmine tea and kisses her.
It's the first time Delphine realizes how scared she is, with Cosima's hands tangled in her tangled hair, with their earthquaking, Shanxi fingers, those fists. Cosima is stunning—she tastes like vanilla and the opening flower and blood.
It's what Delphine wanted, this drowning. She supposes it shouldn't be this soon, not this blooming without words, without a fight. Cosima's hands are instead the boxing thing; Delphine's tremble beneath her thinned chest because she's not been eating enough.
They should argue first. Delphine wants to beg and plead. Delphine wants to be the one crying, the one stuck in the rubble.
I'm sick, Delphine. Jasmine tea. That shaking, those knuckles. Lips.
Delphine is scared when Cosima gasps: It's too much like not breathing.
They don't fight, ever. Not really. Delphine notices hurt around the ashes at the corners of Cosima's eyes when she's asleep that night on Felix's couch, and then the next night and the next, until Delphine feels the explosive exhaustion of Mount Helena because she needs (needs) to fix this, but Cosima seems to have move past any real care. She is a trusting creature. This is terrifying.
"You've forgiven me so easily," Delphine notes quietly one night in Cosima's bed in Minneapolis. It's been two weeks since Cosima said anything; she seems to have leveled off at about six fits in a twenty-four hour time period, and always blood. She rattles, lungs shifting from leaves to winter branches, brittle, cracking. Blooming a different haunt.
"Hmmmm," is all Cosima mumbles, which notches Delphine's heart near her left collarbone.
Cosima rolls over out of their comfortable joining—Delphine is always the big spoon—and props herself up on an elbow. Cosima is all cheekbones and shadows in the cracks of snowlight from outside. "Delphine."
Delphine traces Cosima's lips. She doesn't want to hear the answer.
She needs to hear the answer.
Cosima says, "If I die I didn't want to waste time not having you." She adds, "Whatever," but it still makes Delphine cry.
There's a twice-over Indian Summer: It hits 11 degrees Celsius one floating day in February; Cosima's fits subside.
Delphine knows it won't last, but she still compiles a huge picnic, cancels her lab time and cancels her TA office hours. She does the same for Cosima while Cosima is on the phone with Alison.
There are truffles, wine, bread, avocados, fruit, cheese. It makes Delphine laugh because it's oh so French.
When Cosima comes back into the kitchen from her (their?) bedroom, Delphine turns with a smile and gestures at all the food, says, "Come with me for a picnic on the most beautiful of days."
Cosima starts to laugh. She nods, walks to Delphine, grabs her hips, kisses her gently—eyes closed, tensed with smile. "Yes, dear."
They find a place in the park later, although they're both bundled up and the ground is soaked from melting snow. It's messy and in Delphine's brain it seems very appropriate: The blooming grass, a respite from the cracked branches everywhere.
In the lab, Delphine tries everything she can think of, spends hours in the library. Once while she's TAing an undergrad microbio lab, she starts to dose off and then lectures the entire time on respiratory illnesses and the current research surrounding them.
She sets an alarm four times a week for 2 am, the anti-meridian blue hours. Cosima always sleeps through it, pillaged chest a sticky gurgle.
Delphine goes to Cosima's desk, wrapped in one of Cosima's pot-drenched, heady perfumed sweaters, works and works and works.
Delphine's wrists start to get sore, more than her eyes, more than her spine. But Cosima is in bed, and Delphine shuts her laptop and climbs back in every night. There is hope in Cosima's body.
Cosima keeps up with her workload pretty well, surprisingly. This scares Delphine but also stubbornly reassures her, because she's not sure if she should be worried or relieved by Cosima's possible last months being spent in a lab and classrooms.
Every Thursday they spend together in bed with lattes and bagels grading their students' papers. They read bad answers aloud, laugh.
Delphine cries one night in March after a particularly creative paragraph mis-explaining the Krebs cycle, and Cosima wraps an arm around her waist, twisting in bed, breath puffing on Delphine's neck. She always tastes like blood now.
It's the break, always this fault—and in this, Delphine has begun to understand, rips, gouges. What if she disappears if Cosima does?
"I know," Cosima whispers. "I know."
They get drunk and high one Friday night. Delphine splurges on the best chardonnay she can find as well as allowing Cosima to smoke—it's not good for her lungs, but Cosima's fits are getting worse and there's something about the possibility of a shattering that makes Delphine generous.
Cosima bursts out into slow, deep laughter at one point, flopping over onto Delphine's lap, clumsily sticking a thin arm up to pat Delphine's cheek.
"I have a type, you know."
Delphine arches an eyebrow.
Cosima nods so seriously. "My first girlfriend—because I dated girls first time for real at Berkeley—I saw her in Wheeler my third day there. She just had the biggest eyes and I walked up to her—she was Russian, you know, with this little word-thing—"
Delphine bites her lip with a smile. "Accent?"
"Yes. And she was studying physics. But. Yeah apparently. I have this thing for foreign scientists with tangled hair and big eyes."
"My hair is not tangled," Delphine says.
Cosima tilts her head, rolls her eyes.
Delphine plucks gently at one of Cosima's dreads. "Your hair is more tangled."
Cosima struggles to stay serious, but Delphine feels her start to laugh. She closes her eyes and tries to forget everything but the motion in the smoke.
Delphine tries to ignore things. She's a scientist, so she's an excellent observer, so it's not the easiest thing.
But then Cosima climbs out of bed and there is so much blood, so little air.
Things begin to dissolve violently.
Cosima very reluctantly wears oxygen sometimes as the summer begins. The weather confuses Delphine because why isn't Cosima blooming too?
But then she remembers that blooming is from the inside out, and Cosima is unsteady but her blood soaks through cloths steadily, almost in the shapes of roses, thorns pricking everywhere at Delphine's flesh.
Cosima is supposed to meet her for dinner one night after Delphine finishes up in the lab—everything is so close, these precipices, and again Delphine thinks of écroulement—and Cosima doesn't show up.
Delphine rushes home (home), and has a difficult time getting the keys in the doorknob—her hands are shaking. There's so much she hasn't said to Cosima, so much they haven't gotten to do. She's so close to finding something to help, so close to more time, time, always a prolonging.
When she goes into the apartment, it's so quiet. Cosima's oxygen tank puffs a burst of air every few seconds, and Delphine hurries towards the sound.
Her heart skips—palpitations, literally, missing beats—when Cosima's still, small form is curled on top of the duvet. She's wearing cotton boyshorts and Delphine's favorite worn, soft Berkeley sweatshirt, her glasses askew, stain of blood on the pillow.
Delphine holds her breath until Cosima doesn't, a small hack, a rise-fall-slip.
Delphine sits on the edge of the bed and drops her head into her hands. She breaks first; Cosima wakes up clumsily. Delphine feels her shift on the bed.
"Hey," Cosima says.
Delphine turns as best she can and just kisses her.
"I must've fallen asleep," Cosima says softly.
"It's okay. I was just—"
"—I love you." There's no trace of anything but breath here, resolution.
Delphine says it back. It's the scariest thing yet.
Delphine should force Cosima back to San Francisco, or to Toronto. A trip to Paris seems superfluous, indulgent—but Delphine understands that Cosima doesn't want to say goodbye to her parents, her sisters. There is, Delphine supposes, still a chance; her research has yielded a possible slowing, something to pause the digression of Cosima's lungs until Delphine can research more.
But it might not work, and they are, after all, scientists, so they know. And Delphine grants that if she fails, if she is not good enough, she wants to give Cosima anything she wants.
They stay on the Left Bank in one of Delphine's old friend's places while they're on holiday. It's full of books about cinema and philosophy, dusty records and an ancient phonograph.
Cosima isn't able to do much, and Delphine doesn't want to admit how sick she's gotten. But they take short walks through museums, around parks, to cafes, hand-in-hand. There are lots of macaroons; Delphine reads Baudelaire in French after Cosima falls asleep.
Delphine writes down a small list of things she'll do if her research isn't good enough (faults), mostly because they seem like grievances: learn Russian, get a tattoo, visit Berkeley, cut her hair.
France is heavy like Delphine remembers, but it smells different—it's infused with Cosima: the rebirth of her skin, her blood. Delphine wears Cosima's old Berkeley sweatshirt; Cosima falls asleep on her chest while they're on the couch, all rattle and flood.
The mist magic blue of weight is everywhere, the winter of lungs, but when Delphine thinks of Cosima it will always be warm red: Blood, Minneapolis apartment (home, home). "Ne me quitte pas," she pleads, wonders.
Delphine closes her eyes. There's a thump, then another, stop blood stop, all jolting and non-bone. July breaks quiet like war, hot and sick and sweet with rain.