It begins with the shoes. The red shoes. They hardly come out of the closet these days, but when they do – her walk is lifted, the tilt of her hips just ever so much more swung from left to right. Everything else is for her or for them, but the shoes – the shoes are for you.
Layer by layer she dressed this morning, knowing whichever direction the day thrust her, she would need to be ready and prepared to stand her ground. Calendars matter, to this woman. The schedule of roles she will play that day; friend, colleague, sage and unclaimed lover. The precise number of minutes given to eyeliner, perfume and mascara are counted out in the rush towards beginning the day. Every task their due and nothing other.
Layer by layer, her costume slides on dictated by what others need to see in her, or of her. She catalogues the demands inside her head.
Be soft, be warm, be strong, be open, be commanding, be wise.
Jeans and a casual shirt, because nobody wants to appear unapproachable. Business shirt and pencil skirt, or hip grazing, cleavage revealing black dresses with variations of red, navy and lace for days when she walks with people as powerful as she. Black when she needs to hide and red when she is feeling most alive.
Jackets and scarves chosen by necessity. She dresses first with perfume; in a sanctuary of scent she feels herself and then clothes rush on at the beginning of the day. Layer after layer dictated in the morning rush by how she will undress at the end of day. Not what you need to see but what she wants to show you.
After dark, things slow down.
Last on in the morning, at night first her jewels come off – pendants unwound from ivory neck while her fingers follow the slight curve where the artery rests. Hair pulled back exposing neck, an invitation offered gently in the night, only ever in the night. Cool night air whispers ‘welcome home’. Rings of heavy gold slide from fingers except the one band that never leaves her hand. That band that carries precious stories in its rubies. And now you know that ring is a symbol, you will want to ask.
Then those shoes, her arches sighing in relief but they give her calves a certain elevation and as her hips find their gravity again, she feels warm. The shoes were for you, but maybe also for her. There is no part of her body that does not come to life as she unclothes it.
The rest comes off even slower, the layers for them – demanding crowd. Off comes cotton, denim, polyester and ponte. Cuffs, collars and shirts unbuttoned one by one. Skirt unzipped and allowed to drop, kicked by painted dark red toe up into the grasp of hand and cast aside to laundry pile or hung up.
In this, she is most graceful and more so than in other parts of day. Dressed, she is more clumsy than most. More likely to stumble than to dance, but as layers slide off the dancer re-emerges. Back arched and ribs held high as joints flex and bend to undo all that is held together during the day. The collarbone emerges and the shape of her hits the light, curve and strength and softness. There are symbols and stories painted on her body in scars and ink; some of them you know but others you have not listened to yet.
Then silk, satin and lace. A dozen shades. Under the plainest of wardrobes, she is always silk, satin and lace. Stockings unclipped and eased down past bended knee; balanced in warm lamplight. Garter undone but she is not yet undone, there is still more to see, even more to know below bustier and corset and teddy barely containing soft breast. Still she is not undressed.
Here she is, left perfumed in the sweet musk and salt of the day, still layers of vanilla, sandalwood and orchid. High notes of orange, jasmine and patchouli. And this is her, both earthy and sweet. Vanilla, bergamot, florals and earthiness the essence of whisky, which is the other name by which you know her.
Still, layered in perfume she is not yet naked before you. She undresses but she does not leave herself unclothed.
It is beyond silk and lace, beyond what the skin wears and beyond costume of the day. Even removing silk and lace, undoing self entirely to the response of air against skin; all sharp pucker and caress. In undressing there are all elements of ache and relief, until she meets you, skin to skin and eye to eye. A dozen stolen, fleeting touches and then the eyes meet.
There is the wall you could not see til now, where every brick is a shout that said ‘Too much’, ‘too loud’, ‘too smart’, ‘too physical’, ‘too sensual’, ‘too strong’, ‘too intense’, ‘too present’ and the wall is hidden there, beneath blue eyes seeking out yours. Just one word is all she needs to hear – Leap!
Now, eyes upon eyes – back in a room full of strangers but where a glance and a look was true. There in a moment, her eyes slide from blue-gray flecked maybe to truest blue; she undressed for you.
A woman undresses from her eyes; as the shadow lifts and grey-blue hue turns to summer light – she is naked for you now. She leaps over the wall of misread doubt from voices past, while still clothed and disrobes for you.
It might happen in a room full of strangers; deep in the night while she pushes all noise and interruption to the side. Perhaps it happens while you’re not watching but she is thinking and assessing to one side. It is most likely to happen while you also, are watching her – the slow, steady and soon-to-be reliable slide of public to private sight. But whether she is still clothed in silk and lace, or wearing denim or corporate suiting for the day – she undresses from her eyes.
There is one story that is not told upon her skin, or in the ache of body that is expressed between the light and dark of night. She tells you only one story in the light of eyes unveiling into sacred, private sight. There is only one story that remains under cautious and wary eyes. The story of the Phoenix and the girl who rises.
‘I am the Phoenix, bold and wise. I am the Phoenix flying high and true and firm, but I will acquiesce for you. I will let you touch and hold my burning wing, hold my sharpened voice and sing, I will burn and rise again for you.. and let you see me, see me shining through. I am the Phoenix, I will rise again and rise and rise and rise again.’
And there she is, exposed at last – she is a creature of the myth. She undresses and you find her in between the grey and blue, the Phoenix, who rises and looks for you.