Volume Two

Breathlessness

by Jessica Bolluyt

       We left the city to see the leaves turning orange and yellow above the water, but the leaves were still green, and the canal was dry and empty beside the river, which ran wide and blue between the banks where middle-aged couples and trios of teenagers walked or rode their bicycles, kicking yellow sand up from the tree-green path, and I must find some word beyond the power of an adjective to name the color of the river, because I still recall how its brilliant water shone like a glass gemstone in the grass and turned, hypnotic, through the country, leading us to a cornfield going gold in the sun, whispering the ancient names of labyrinths and Achaean war heroes. Our footprints impressed firmly on wet earth the shape of our first steps inside the walls of stalk and husk and leaf, and I ran ahead of you, pausing at intersections to assess the paths and choose the turns, and the corn was tall and I was slight and the turns soon grew tighter, closer, sharper as the path spiraled in on itself, and when I realized that we were caught in the inward swirl, you were suddenly upon my heels, your hands resting softly on my shoulders, and we turned back, mirroring the inward spiral with the gradual loosening of the outward-twisting turns. The blue sky arced above the land: the river, and the farm, and the claustrophobic beauty of the path cut into the quadrangular field of yellow corn, and as we tumbled out again into a once-passed intersection, I imagined tiny spiders in their silver shrouds, a million tiny eight-legs sleeping warmly now, but soon bursting from an egg sac on the underside of a corn husk, their wire legs trailing silk and whispering against the paper leaves. When we turned down a passage, a ladder came into view against the sky above the tops of the cornstalks, placed inexplicably in the center of the field, and we heard someone on the other side of the wall, running to or from something inside the maze, the leaves underfoot crackling with urgency and the excitement suddenly fluttering to fear inside my chest, and though you were holding my hand, I took off running through the labyrinth, choosing turns and passages with heartbeat impulse while I realized that something had caught the yarn of my sweater sleeve, and red yarn was unraveling behind me. But I kept running, hoping that you were following the thread, Ariadne chanting a prayer for Theseus, to save him and to be saved by him, as miraculously the walls began to thin and the final passages seemed far too long and at last the field opened in front of me and the sky was still blue and the grass was still green and the river was still moving beyond the trees, and half my sleeve was gone, but you emerged from the yellow cornstalks, your cheeks flushed and your hands tangled in a mess of red yarn, and as you followed it to me, we laughed at how easily I was scared, and your fingertips brushed my collarbone as you kissed me. 

Last Updated: 4/12/12