The Sun Speaker
She saw him standing in front of it at one o’clock, when the reception had barely started.
At three-thirty he was still there in the same place, before the same huge canvas splattered with reds and oranges. It took up the entire wall.
He had a watery drink in his right hand. His eyes never seemed to leave the painting. She approached on his left.
“Like it?” she said almost jauntily. She was in her forties, but looked younger. Her dark blonde hair was all up and barretted, for a look of arranged casualness. The same was true for her brown woven skirt and vest. The skirt was just short enough — almost modest standing, not quite scandalous sitting. The vest enjoyed the same relationship with her breasts, stretching for a glass, standing in conversation. The weave was earthy but not rough, her cream shirt loose at the turtleneck, smooth and ribbed below. It was not her first show.
“Like it?” she had asked.
Soundlessly, his left hand moved across the inches between them and held her right, his fingers between hers, gently.
The gasp of impropriety travelling from her lips, down her neck and shoulders toward her arm was totally overwhelmed, saturated like sand by a wave of feeling, of threatlessness, of soft passion rolling from his fingers through hers, over her wrist, and up her arm, toward her entire being . . .
It was the translation of insight from idea to touch. She’d felt it before, through the bristles, the dark, curved handle of a brush, but never from another human being.
“It’s mine,” she said lowly, neither of them turning from the painting.
“Shemesh,” he whispered, “Shemesh Devoret.”
The words exploded in her mind, but not violently, not at all. She recalled those candies she’d liked as a girl – sweet on the outside, explosively tart to the teeth. Though this detonation was visual. All oranges and reds and yellows going off in her head.
“What?” she said.
But he’d let go of her hand, put the drink down on a round table, and moved off among the other guests.
She stood there for a moment gazing at her own painting. Now its spiraling luminosity seemed a spot of light left over on the cornea after a bulb has flashed.
“Admiring your own handiwork?” a friendly voice piped in, a hand on her shoulder. She patted the hand politely, but moved away, looking for him. She found him in a tiny alcove where many had lain their coats, standing in front of a small, slanted window, typical of these old Victorian houses turned to galleries. Part of his face was blocked from her vision by his right arm, stretched to the slant of the wall, supporting him. He seemed to be out of breath.
She crossed behind him.
“I needed to get some lesser light,” he said, staring out the window to the parking lot.
“What did you call me?” she asked in a whisper.
“Shemesh Doveret,” he answered. “It’s your name.”
“My name?” she said, afraid. Not of him, of Deborah Anderson, nee Ackerman, whom she could feel receding in the distance.
“Shemesh Doveret . . .” she repeated to herself.
“It means ‘Sun Speaker,’ one who speaks the sun,” he said, still turned from her. “I knew you by the painting. Finally. Knew I’d found you.”
The outside world, the milling of the guests, the sound of glasses clinking, the memory of where she had to be that night, the next day — all this started to slap at her cheeks as at a fainter. Who was this guy? They had paid for security for this thing, hadn’t they? She began to look around.
He turned toward her. The narrow light of the window shone behind him. Almost motionless, he took both her hands in his, saturating again all fears.
“Don’t you remember? It was before we came here. Before we were born. We were together in the heart of God, with all the others. Waiting.
“Then we touched each other. Remember? We loved each other with total love in the heart of God. Eternity upon eternity. What did we care? Maybe we would never be sent here?”
She didn’t know it, but her feet moved some inches closer to him.
“Then it came. I would go first. Oh, we grieved and clung to each other. Don’t you remember? ‘How shall we find each other?’ you asked me. ‘Will we forget all this forever?’ You learned what it would be to weep then.”
Her eyes did not focus, but let themselves be bathed in the light that formed him.
“But I said to you, ‘Shemesh Doveret, wait. We will find each other. I promise.’ ‘But how? How?’ you pleaded, and already I was shimmering away from you, already on my way here.
‘No method,’ I answered. ‘No means. Only be you, and I shall find you, Shemesh Doveret.’ ”
The alcove, the universe was very still.
“When I saw the painting, I knew. When I touched you, I knew.”
“How?” she trembled in breath.
Silently he put both his arms around her. Deeply she breathed.
“Because I knew that when I found you, I’d feel heaven. And I’d remember heaven. Not in ideas. In touch, in colors . . .
“What is your name?” she whispered in his ear, already pressed to her lips.
He spoke it. Without hesitation, like night, she wrapped herself around him.
Wayne-Daniel Berard, PhD, teaches Humanities at Nichols College, Dudley, MA. He publishes broadly in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His novella, Everything We Want, was published in 2018 by Bloodstone Press. A poetry collection, The Realm of Blessing, will be published in 2020 by Unsolicited Press.