You take what you want.
All of you, I mean; your hands, your mouth, your eyes. You've been that way ever since I've known you – I saw it when I met you even if I maybe didn't realize. I don't think I can understand greed like this, the way you are greed, the way your fingers map it on paper and on skin, over atlases of our bodies that the humans who claim us draw to prove what they own; you laugh at them when you're drunk and bitter because nothing they ever take in your name, for your expansion or your salvation, is ever truly theirs.
Yours. Only, only yours.
This is so new and yet so typical that it is perfection – old and new, total strangers and inseparable, seasoned lovers; it could be any time, our first, our last, our best, our worst, our most loving and our most hateful, when I cried and you laughed and when I laughed and you cried. It is all of those, all of the circumstances, the conflicts, the celebrations, the warm boring days and cool easy nights; every season, every kind of weather, frost on open fields and rain on cobblestones, sunshine on deserts and snow on slanted church windows, storms on the ocean between us; every surface, the bed that squeaked and the table that shook, the Jeep that wasn't ours and the ship that was – or yours, at least, a royal vessel weighed down by everything you had stolen.
Your touches are timeless; we might be in the dirty upstairs room of a saloon, deep in the hedges at an Edwardian garden party, down in the dugouts or against a Spitfire's armour. You might whisper 'Empire' in my ear or I might whisper 'Superpower' in yours and it won't matter which one is right.
Your kisses are carnage; I am reminded and reminded of what we have done, you with naval strength and I with Armageddon given a brittle shell, both of us with words and ideas, with designs, with ambition, with greed.
I feel of machinery, of invention; I am clockwork wound up too fast, too soon, and I have existed at that pace whilst the key has flashed in your hand always. Time is a slow mistress to you – you have known her a long time and know her well by now in a way that I cannot with such an accelerated mind. Her gown is history – yours, mine, everyone's, weaved as finely as silk and a decoration upon her. She does not need it – she would exist without it and be just as lovely still.
Yet a garment to her and essential to us – nations without history are not nations, merely names, marks on a map. History is our skin, our blood, our life. I feel yours when you brush me, I taste it when you kiss me; I know things that I don't, the battles fought before I was born, the terror of plague, the uncertainty of ascending royalty, the split of churches, the murmur of playwrights, the thrill of privateers, the swing of the axe on a traitor's neck, the clash of civil war, the rush of industry, the expansion of Empire, the horror of gas and barbed wire—
All those are mine too when you make love to me.
In return take whatever you want, Dorset for Dixie, Manchester for Manhattan, London for Los Angeles. I hope that you feel the tremors of mine too when you kiss my neck, when your fingers knead my belly and then sink lower; that you feel the railroad in my ribs and Virginia in my veins, the Hudson in my heart and Lady Liberty in my lungs when I breathe your name, any of your names, Albion, England, Britain, Britannia, United Kingdom. Give me your poems and I'll give you my songs – I'll sing your language back to you as it merges us irreversibly throughout all of history, enemies and allies of the same tongue. Your mouth puts words in mine.
It's like ships in bottles, brilliance in miniature, my every gasp and your every moan like dates or population figures; every time we do it is another page in a history book, crisp and yellowed and musty and stark, each thrust a battlefield and each kiss a proposed alliance, a victory, an expansion. You've told me I make sounds like a girl, a raped maid when no-one can hear her distress or the new queen to an unsatisfied king on their wedding night. You are strong on me and in me like a battleship freed of its bottle, smashed glass like foam; a voyager, a promise of new life over the ocean, our ocean, a steam-powered Mayflower or unsunken Titanic.
My knees press to your sides and my feet tread the curve of your back, the road of your spine, the air beyond you; my palms close around the curves of your shoulders, my fingers on the flatness of bones, of shoulder-blades; my nails press into you, marking you as you mark me, your flesh vellum and your scars gold-leaf, your muscles ink and the bold slope of words, your hands illustration painted with perfection, your mouth a quill with which you share with me everything. You are old but overwhelming, your history written by your victories and your skin tattooed with your story. You are ambitious and electric, worn and strange, tired and eccentric, testy and cynical; greedy, determined and veteran. Ever-changing and yet always the same. No matter where or when we are – whether you take me by candlelight, by gaslight, by the glow of my cellphone – you are beautiful.
When I break against you, a new lake on the map of you, you fold into me; I bury my face in your shoulder and clutch around your back. You ride my shudder out with me, your hands on my thighs, still holding me up even as my strength stains you and I want nothing more than to melt. You are still inside me, still like steel, like the mechanism which drives the innovation of your land, constantly building so that you may crush others – building so that you may crush me even though I am heavier, though I am stronger. I could push you off so easily and yet I don't.
You are truly inside me, then; all of you, every battle, every birth, every betrayal – every last detail of your rich rusty leather-bound history flows in me like any of your dirty rivers, the cold grey seas at your edges, faithfully kissing your ragged shape, your fingertips as you reach out for more. You spend yourself in me, empty yourself, and beg breathlessly for me to take it, keep it, hold on to it, guard it, save it.
"Am I the keeper of your history book, then?" I whisper; you sink onto me without a word, settling into my arms, our forms hopelessly moulded together with no effort, no adjustment. "When shall I begin? 1620? 1775? 1941?"
You still don't speak. I reach up to your left shoulder-blade and feel the sunken marks of my nails imprinted in your flesh– and I consider that I feel the ink, too, flat and permanent beneath your skin. I push up a little to look at it – your tattoo from before you knew me, faded and stretched on skin as old as yours, warped from where a scar from some forgotten war grew beneath it, an ugly blemish that couldn't be more perfect.
A compass. North, South, East, West – you have been in each of those directions and you have taken what you wanted from them. The detail on it has grown tarnished as though the brass of it needs polished, the leather needs greased and the needle needs oiled; it is no longer round, skewed instead as you have seen the world twisted out of shape and out of your power.
All of you is like this – this is how you are. You are no more a nation that you are a person than you are a room; an old room, cosy and cluttered and filled with books, with a mahogany desk with a globe on it and a leather armchair and a fire in the grate, with faded wallpaper and heavy velvet curtains and maps all over the place, on the floor and the desk and the walls, maps of everywhere, old and new and marked with compasses drawn in the corner of each in faded ink—
Like your skin.
And I'll have your history book heavy in my hand to put back on the shelf whenever I choose.
Lookit America being all eloquent – must be because my country is such an awesome seme, lolololololol...
Spitfire: British WWII fighter plane.
1620 (as opposed to 1492): The year the Puritans, having sailed from Britain and not Spain/Portugal, landed in what would come to be known as Jamestown. The other two dates America mentions should be self-explanatory.
That will be all, Jeeves.