A strange, fathomless undercurrent fills the air whenever you draw breath, which you do indefatigably often. I get up from my desk and open a window to divert and disrupt the airflow but the winter breeze (strewn with snow grains and falling from a griseous sky that is unreachably far away) quickly gooses my skin and I reclose the window while you’re hunching over your cup of rooibos tea. Veiled by the rising steam you turn another page; the tea’s quiet fragrance wafts through the room. I sit down again, dip my pen into the brilliantly saturnine ink and put a thin line onto the map I’m drawing, consult some of the photographic, cartographic, and iconographic references that are piled on the left side of my desk, then add another inch-long line. Your legs shift beneath the thousand-page book on arcology you’re currently reading and the sound your movement creates—leather on cloth, cloth on cloth, cloth on skin—radiates textured warmth. I half-see you in the polar north of my eyes, hazy as is everything at the outer edges of my vision, sitting on the matte black couch in your wool dress and knee-high stockings, facing me as though the sectional sofa didn’t provide three other directions to choose from, or six, considering your cunningness.

A slight muscular and osteochondral soreness creeps up my shoulders and neck and I lay down the pen for a little while, lean back in my chair, stretch out my arm to grab a glass of quinine water that I’ve put in an empty spot on the bookshelf because I’ve accidentally tipped over enough glassware and chinaware to be weary of placing vessels of any kind, full or not, on a desk that’s in active use. I take a sip and the bitterness quells the after-noon fatigue coating my mouth; I’m reminded that I’ve eaten nothing since mid-morning when I consumed a meal of charcoal grilled tuna and black rice salad whose taste I can hardly recall now, since my mind was then wholly absorbed by a particularly vexing Pnakotic curve that I needed to draw. Having conceived of no acceptable solution when I swallowed the last sip of apple cider at the end of the meal, I gave up on the problem for the day and enjoyed the brisk but beclouded walk back to my study.

Now I’m setting down the glass, letting my eyes go out of focus, enjoying this moment of blurry respite, but with vivid, immediate clarity I feel the heaviness of your heart and eyes deep in my bone marrow; a gravity which fills the room, which forever weighs on my gaze, and which wouldn’t lessen were I to leave this room and close the door behind me. You return my look and the deepness in the dark of your pupils unfolds, enclosed by concentric shells of moss green light as uncharted as the plant mantle of a primeval forest: I realize that I’ve been staring at you for unbroken minutes and daren’t move. My breath becomes shallow, birdlike, fleeting: colourless in even the coldest, driest hyperborean air. A thirst for winter overcomes me and I know that nothing could still it but as I sink deeper into your gaze it evaporates, as does my self-consciousness: You’re my abyss and I’m your abyssographer yet right here and right now there’s nothing except this unreflected fathomlessness. Heavy layers of darkness envelop me, their touch eldritch and warm-blooded, sinking into me as I sink into them, stripping my heart of biogenic sediments, until the grip of gravity breaks, my descent into this abyss comes to a halt, and I’m beginning to float upwards, towards the luminous cerulean of the epipelagic. The crystallized night flakes off and for a moment the circles of your irises shine with solar intensity.

I lower my gaze, agitated by the air currents, but I steady my hand and pick up my pen, wet it with the mercurially shimmering ink, hesitate for a moment, then set its tip onto the thick paper and draw a line, then another one, then more and more lines, their exact shapes manifesting in my mind unbidden and with emphatic insistence. Muscle fibres obey with lithesome willingness. The lines’ black sheen possesses my vision and reveals a web of capillary chasms on this depthless sheet of paper: as black as your pupils and the shadows lingering at the edges of your limbs.