She had legs like David and Joseph was drawn to them irremediably.
He took her to a concert at where the listeners boarded paddle boats and tried to stay in place while a quartet afloat on an unanchored dock drifted slightly this way with the rhythm of their bows playing Schubert in G until they reached the shore and someone had to push them out again for the encore. The muscles of her thighs and calves individualized working the peddles against the water’s oddly centripetal current. Her knees especially looked like his. Joseph restrained his hand, longing to touch. She had worn a short dress, as if, knowingly.
He took her for Korean east of Times Square. She ordered octopus. The table hid her lower half. Joseph wondered if Ethiopian wouldn’t have been better.
Did you like the concert?
He took her home and took off her clothes. Her legs gripped him like a vice from above.
Do you want to stay? he asked too late, her zipper already zipped. Another time, she said and slipped out the door. Joseph stayed in bed, wrapped in white sheets and moon coming through the window whose curtains he had neglected to draw.
She didn’t answer the phone. Joseph fingered his patella shaped bruises. He went to the restaurant where she worked lunch, waited for her to exit the kitchen’s swinging doors. She didn’t, though he stayed through four drinks. It’s her day off, said the hostess. Joseph went out in the now evening and oh so clean avenues of a reformed island, wanting to get lost in the dank streets of 1980 where one could make love unabashedly behind an overflowing dumpster. The street lights streamed on.
I need to see you, he said to her answering machine. She doesn’t work her anymore, the hostess told him the second time he went to wait, told him before he even sat down. He sat anyway, believing she was a liar and made a fool of himself.
He saw David once, in Florence at twenty-two. Seventeen feet tall he must have been the equal of the Philistine’s only apparent weapon. Joseph thought, standing in front of him, beneath him, he more than Pygmalion proved there was a soul beneath this stone flesh.
She disappeared. Escaped. Eloped maybe, for all he knew. Could have left the city, though he couldn’t say for certain she’d ever lived here. Joseph wandered for her. Across Midtown, Harlem, and Greenwich. Through Bedstuy, Williamsburg, and Gowanus. Queens even. The Bronx once. Looking for her legs or ones like them and sometimes seeing close approximations umbrellaed by flowing skirts, cased in cut offs. For weeks he kneaded his bruises back to purple until his body, tired of sending blood, refused him.
The season changed, trousers and no chance. Joseph went on through the winter answering the phone expectantly. Maybe this ring. Death in the family. Emergency operation. Waiting for a reason until the snow thawed. Skirts again though laced with boots. Joseph could have recognized her by her knees alone and did. In the Rambles one bright afternoon in April. The hem of her dress caressing them and making him remember his mouth, how well they fit inside. It’s me, he said. She turned, turned again, walked away pulling a young man as she went. I’ve been looking for you, he called, too late, again.
For weeks, for months. Returning to the same path, his skin burned, the summer mosquitoes came to know him. Got tired of his taste. No knees and the number he had had been disconnected. He waited the days into nights when those willing to give themselves against the trees did. Joseph tried to conjure the image of her and David’s legs, always almost succeeding.