Nick Delta is a writer, translator, attorney, and
photographer. Nick's writing has appeared in the
Santa Clara Review, Gravel, and more, and his
photography in VICE, COOPH, and more. He also has
a gallery for his photography in Stockholm. Nick has
worked extensively on human rights for marginalized
groups. He is based in Paris where he has a love-hate
relationship with love and hate.
My Desk Was A Piece of Wood
My desk was a piece of wood on two stands and
in fact the apartment was all wood and would and
at the end of each night Maria from Peru
would bring home old food and hard bread and stolen
cheese from the épicerie and I would
hold her when she cried. As I had to hold my
own hand, sometimes.
And although we were four
of us then in two rooms—Maria would
sleep on the couch—we were not really poor, just temporarily
so or pretending to be so or frugal and anti-capitalist and emboldened by free
food and that is how it always seemed to be: these overlapping things,
happy and sad stacked upon each other
like a sunset with so many hues and
if someone asked you what color it was you
would say you didn't know, all of them? Just
a guess. Something in the middle.
But these thoughts are not particularly comforting so I
would smile at her and offer a shoulder and cheese and in
those moments she was my child, I presume. I do not
know all of my children's names.
They Say The City Was Destroyed
They say the city was destroyed by a massive volcano thousands of years before the virgin birth but in some ways that former city can never die. You can see it in the mundane gifts wrought from the planet itself by those same ancient gods—the salt water in the air that burns your skin on windy days (wind so strong it is physically present and must be accounted for in all actions—tables tied down on terraces, chairs bolted to the concrete, hats kissed good-bye), the silver rings that wash up on the beach (which stand out like stars in the night sky in their brilliance contrasted against the dark volcanic rock sand) as if the breath and treasures, respectively, of Aeolus and Poseidon still lurking just out of sight. The sudden floral blooms and smell of rain and flash floods called forth from nothing like the quick wits of the nymphs who (still?) care for this land.
Around me men bend at the waist in the graveled olive groves, coaxing life from the stone. Doves race with, and dart between, trucks—carried along in the slipstreams. Electricity crackles on the tops of telephone poles. Dogs sleep in the shade of anything that may cast it. Cars left doors-open abandoned in bushes.
Here were the sands her feet had trod upon. Here was where we'd tie our curly hair up upon our heads so we could look into each others' eyes while we laid together. Here was where she said she loved to take it slow, the same way she disliked using her vibrator (sometimes) because it made her come too fast. Here is where we used to stay in a second floor room with a view of the aboveground train to the airport, where we'd let the tourists watch us fuck as their train screamed past. Here is where I found that I could fall in love with anyone I set my eyes upon.
She said she liked it and life was good but she couldn't stay forever (here) where salt water comes from the taps and you use it to brew your morning coffee and hand-wash your clothes, because she wanted to die (someday) and they say there is so much salt water in the air on this island that no one can ever get ill or age or die because humans are made of, and subsist on, fresh water and no bacteria that harms a fresh water creature can survive in salt water or a salt environment. Like how they used to put pneumonia patients deep underground in salt mines and down there, before antibiotics existed, some of the patients lived hundreds of years but they didn't keep records beyond the scrawled hand-written notes on their charts that the patient was being passed on to the care of a new doctor because the prior had died of old age. Again. And again.
They say if you use the rings on the beach to propose to someone it will always end in tragedy. But all happy stories are tragedies on a long enough scale. And all tragedies have happy stories within.
There Is No Light
There is no light pollution here and on some nights Mars is so bright that it casts red light upon the hilltops on the horizon, scarlet hues like blood as vivid as neon signs and you wonder if Mars is calling you there. Whether that land is blessed or cursed.
Every night on the island come sunsets so glorious that the locals who have spent decades being drawn to watch are all now blind for having burned their retinas on the daily u.v. light. Young boys spend their afternoons trying to spot topless women sunbathing. Whole families sleeping on their front porches at night for the ever-increasing heat.
When I first arrived I made the mistake of feeding the feral cats and fish and crows and now they follow me everywhere as if mistaking me for some generous god of the forest. There was beauty here once, if there isn't still. Great civilizations whose handcrafted clay pots now mix with the gravel of the roads beneath our feet. Once luxurious mansions now sit empty and boarded up. Pigeons peck away at the wood over the windows and nest inside.
The island is small, yes, but the roads are shit and there sits a mountain between me and the dark-eyed French woman who screams "épouse-moi!" when I come inside her. She has a tattoo of a flying bird, "Everybody Leaves" written below.
Whole weeks went by in which we didn't do anything at all. Those were the days I looked for prophesies. Those were the days I prayed. Those were the days I knew the color of my own blood. "Sacrifices" is the word we use for murders that benefit us.
In the distance I see the shapes of two women tossing aside their clothing and going skinny dipping. The standard greeting here is "how long are you staying?" but I learn to say "how is it going, today?" to my neighbor in her language. A three-legged dog trots up, its collar jingling. A girl rides a bike in slow circles on the roof across the street. "Another day in paradise" she replies in English.
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