I came to the city at last. I couldn’t find him the whole day. He wasn’t at home. I had an appointment with another guy. That other guy didn’t smell like mine; I became a leopard to seek my male by his smell. I said to that other guy that he wasn’t mine; I apologised. The other guy went away depressed; that other guy didn’t understand that I was a leopard and he was a dog. I needed my leopard. I didn’t want the dog. But I couldn’t find my leopard. I walked around for a while and came home.
I called him again. He was at home. He invited me to his place. I flew over the trees of the city and reached his house. The moment I entered the house I felt at home. It was my lair. Because it wasn’t a house, it wasn’t in the city, it wasn’t in the village, maybe it was in the forest. There were nice books, some clothes, a lot of different stuff, an empty refrigerator, a screaming TV, my cassettes, and everything was in a mess. There was a lamp, too, with a bright light, and my green colour which wasn’t really green, but it seemed green, and the most important, there was my smell . . . I was at home. I felt at home, at least my home would have had the same appearance if I had had one. But I didn’t have a home. And his house wasn’t mine, and it couldn’t be mine, no way, because he was married. But his wife wasn’t at home, and I could pretend that, that night, his house was ours. And I did.
I sat down on the floor. Then I stood up. Then I started to jump enthusiastically. He remained sitting. But I continued to jump from tree to tree, then sat down and talked non-stop, and he listened. He was calm and quiet because he wasn’t jumping like me. He liked to listen when I was talking, I could see that. He looked at me jumping and probably couldn’t understand the reason why I was jumping. He didn’t want to jump; I did. He brought a bottle of dark beer, which I loved, and we drank. We didn’t want to continue the beer fireworks; neither him, nor me. We were both tired of that kind of fireworks; we’d had too much of them. We continued to talk. He didn’t understand the reason why I was jumping; I didn’t either. But I was jumping and talking. The roar on TV changed to jazz.
We continued to talk. There was no topic to talk about. Rather, there was, and not one; there were many. The topic was everything and nothing. I was inspired; he was calm. He was always calm. I was always restless. He was self-contained. I was incomplete. He was organised. I was absent-minded. We had nothing in common except enigmatic relationships and the way we looked at the world from the same angle and understood it in the same way. I fell in love with him long ago. He didn’t love me. He did, but I wasn’t his leopard. He had his leopard, long ago, and loved her. I knew that. But I wanted him to be mine that night, only that night, and then nothing; just one night. He knew that, although he looked as if he didn’t know and didn’t understand.
It was the smell . . . It was because of the smell. I had once gone into that river barefoot; and the flow of the river was about to sever my feet and my heart and drop them into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving me without heart and without feet. I wouldn’t see him any more then, because I wouldn’t have feet to stand on the bank or money to buy a wheelchair. And the heart is not for sale. Everybody has his own heart and everybody keeps it for him. And I had pledged myself never to get into that river again. But the smell . . . There was only the river then, and he was on the opposite bank; there wasn’t the smell then. Now there was. There was the house, the music, Miles Davis, a siesta, and the checked scarf round his neck. There were his green glasses, his long fair hair resting on his shoulders, the smell of the leather, and the green eyes; and the smell. Everything was because of the smell. There was a smell of paint, too, although he wasn’t an artist. I don’t know what he was. Maybe everything; he was everything for me.
No, I hadn’t come for him. But if he asked me to go, if he told me he didn’t need me there, in our forest, I would return to my forest, which in fact wasn’t even a forest, rather it was a place under a shelter arranged with old and tasteless cans planted with miserable plants whose importance had been exaggerated. I would become a plant again and forget that I was a leopard. I would become a poorly grown indoor plant, a kalanchoe with thin leaves whose only advantage was to help people during the flu epidemic to relieve their respiratory problems. That day I was a leopard. He was also a leopard because he smelled like a leopard, which was the smell of newly cut grass, but when you smell it at a distance, not too close to it. I shouldn’t have come too close because it was hemp grass, lulling you and capturing your alertness. I came too close. I was captured.
It was late when we stopped talking, both of us. At first I started to play with my smell, gently touching my own silk scarf, to smell the Anaïs. It was my mother’s perfume; at least she thought it was hers. In fact, it was mine because it was my smell. My mother didn’t give it to me; she said it was hers. When she was not at home I stole it and sprayed a little on me to smell like I did so he could feel and know how I smelled. The odour of the perfume combined with the smell of my sweat gave the real impression of my smell. He was silent, doing nothing. Perhaps he felt awkward. I found the origin of the smell of the leather. It was his old, very old Marlboro belt. I started to smell it, play with it, buckle and unbuckle it; I don’t know how many times I did it. I hadn’t slept the previous night; from my unreal forest I flew over many, many forests to reach that one. I reached; I even found my lair. I found my male, too, who wasn’t mine. But why wasn’t he mine?
It may happen . . . It’s life . . .
It was too late or too early, I didn’t know. It wasn’t important. I wanted to sleep but was unwilling, because I knew it was the only night which was mine. Afterwards it would be obscurity, uncertainty; but that night I was with him, captured by his smell. No, he wasn’t Apollo. He was beautiful in my eyes. His smell was beautiful, his ideas, his words, his glance, the way he swallowed his saliva; I could see it passing through his Adam’s apple from behind his checked scarf. And his inner side? It was a puzzle. It was locked with a hundred locks. I didn’t possess the key. I could only look through the narrow keyhole, and even that was enough for me to abandon my cosy window bed, my peaceful life of a plant and leave the minor but important functions of a plant to the drugstores that sold Naphtizine and Galazoline and become a leopard again.
Then I said I wanted to go to bed. He was scared, I understood that. He wanted to lie down on the floor, and I convinced him that I was a plant. A plant and a leopard never sleep together. Leopards didn’t even use kalanchoe when they had flu; they didn’t know what it was. He also didn’t know that I was a leopard. He lay down with his back towards me. I lay down facing his back. I felt his smell more strongly. I was overwhelmed. I thought maybe he smelled me, too, and understood that I was a leopard, too. I touched his hand. He didn’t resist. I touched his long, pleasant, thick hair, feeling every hair separately. I got goose bumps. I was a female leopard. He was a male. But he said, “Don’t be offended. You’re a plant. I’m a leopard. God created us like this; we can’t sleep together. I have my own leopard, I love her.”
Perhaps in another life when we two were born leopards or partridges or mosquitoes we would sleep together, but not now. Let’s sleep now. OK, but how? I knew I was a leopard. My leopard’s self-esteem was offended; the leopard was despised and neglected; the leopard was treated as a plant; the leopard was even denied a single night’s love. I cried, but in silence. I shrugged, and he understood I was crying. He asked if I was crying. I said, no. It didn’t matter, I said. The cry of a plant shouldn’t bother a leopard. Perhaps he felt I was a leopard. Maybe he smelled it; or my cry was a cry of a leopard. I didn’t know. But he started to touch me like a leopard would touch another leopard. He patted my hips, my belly and my breasts. I turned to reach his lips. He wouldn’t give them; he said a leopard wouldn’t kiss a plant. Perhaps the kiss of the plant was poisonous and could be fatal for the leopard. Then he stopped, remembered his leopard and said he couldn’t. He said he was passionate about me but he couldn’t betray his wife. “I love her very much, I don’t want to hurt her,” he said.
I understood everything but I didn’t consider it a betrayal. I said I could turn to a plant again if I didn’t sleep with a leopard that night – the magic would diminish and vanish. He said, “You mustn’t. If you are a leopard, you should live like a leopard. Don’t turn to a plant again. Find another leopard for you. I’m not yours.” But he was mine; he just didn’t know it. He wasn’t guilty; I was guilty to beg him. My body was burning; his was also burning because I could feel the rigid proof on my back, strong for his age, which would penetrate and hit and cause the most pleasant pain in the world. I was afraid that I could lose him because I understood that at that moment the act of sex was not important; it was enough just to hug him. I told him. He hugged me. I turned with my back towards him again. Then he got up and made himself busy with something else, just not lying down near the plant who had turned to a leopard. To keep away from sin.
It was morning. The unpleasant, bright sun, the betrayer, put an end to my hopes. I was desperate; I stopped struggling for my share of leopard love. I tried to fall asleep. I was half-asleep, at least I was dreaming something when I felt the coolness of his hands on my hips, then on my breasts; at first he touched me gently, timidly, then much more actively. I regained my hope. I kept silent, pretending I was asleep. He pretended he didn’t know that I was already awake, that my body was moving passionately under his tender hands, that my back was breaking under the pressure of his rigid proof in the hope of becoming willing for him. He wanted me. I wanted him. I was waiting for the logical continuation, which would save me from the danger of returning to the life of a plant; make me a leopard forever, as I had to be if I hadn’t adjusted to the life of a plant.
Alas, he got up suddenly. He looked at me. I could feel his glance on my back, even stronger than his touch, burning my naked hips and my back. He left and took a bath. Then he woke me up. I looked at the sun, the betrayer, and filled with hatred at its bright light. I hated the coming day, the afternoon, the plants, and the city that would captivate him in the vortex of its fierce commotion and perhaps return me to my window bed. But I was a leopard, I understood it. I didn’t want to be a plant any more, not even a herb. He said something, I didn’t catch; no, I did, rather I didn’t comprehend it. “Pull yourself together,” he said, “think and try to remember why you’ve come to the city. It wasn’t for me, was it? Am I the only leopard? I’m not. Look around.” I agreed with everything he said. Because he was right and he felt that my leopard enthusiasm had diminished and I was in danger of becoming a plant again. But he wanted me to remain a leopard.
He loved me although I wasn’t his leopard. I said I wanted to know the real reason why he had rejected the single night’s love; whether it was through fear of the poisonous kisses and passionate touch of the one who, for many years, had lived like a plant and become poisonous, or if he was a loyal husband. He said he was a loyal husband. I paused. I said I wouldn’t want him like my male. “Just be my friend,” I said. He agreed. “Let’s forget this night.” I agreed. I hugged him for the last time, and we went out where the hustle and bustle of the city had already started. We parted. Each of us went our own way. He took his way of a leopard; and I took my way of a half-leopard, half-plant who wanted to become a leopard. But would I? I didn’t know. He gave his smell to me, to take it home, on the shirt he had given me at night. He gave it to me as a present so that I didn’t forget that I was a leopard. When I wear it now I remember that I am a leopard, not a plant. I’m trying to become a leopard. I’m happy. I smell like a leopard. I have the heart of a leopard. Only I don’t have a leopard who would extract the charms of a plant from my body.
It’s life . . . It may happen . . .