They called themselves Ladybird. Where they were from ladybirds weren’t a thing. Ladybugs were. But they liked the sound of Ladybird. Ladybird didn’t wear red and black in fact ever. Never did I at least see them wearing either of those colours. Ladybird was more into late 50s to mid 60s B-movie ufo uniforms. Ladybird was into turkey recipes and pretending to be into slot machines. They were into fireplaces and rocky beaches. They were into cheap gas station lighters with women’s breasts emblazoned on them and tap craft beer made of ingredients that sounded made-up.
Like a lunatic, I would paw at Ladybird till they would put aside their book and throw me backward onto the bed. Like a ninja, they’d have me naked from the waist down and have their fist inside of me before I could say la colazoine—Italian for breakfast.
We met learning the language. I was sitting behind Ladybird tracing the shape of their shoulders with my eyes when they turned around to ask me if I knew the word for sucking. Because their eyes twinkled as if there was a separate galaxy in their head I knew the word even though I’m almost positive that I hadn’t actually ever learned it. They smiled at me and turned back around. I had to chase Ladybird down after class to ask if they wanted to start a life with me. They never committed but followed me home nonetheless.
In class, Ladybird wasn’t Ladybird. They were Frank or Marie or Baudelaire or Virginia or David or Goliath or something like that. I can’t remember anymore. In the real world they seemed plain if you looked at all of the pieces of them put together in one human, but when you looked at the pieces separately they were a god. Like their eyes; their shoulders. Or their lips whose cracks seemed deeper than those even of the Marianne trench in terms of how much mystery lay within them; stories of past lives and tales told. Their fingers, so long, spidery, but still not freakishly so, but so long that when they were inside of me it felt like they had spread and taken over my whole body; pulling at the levers and pressing the buttons.
At first, Ladybird would just sit on the small mid-twentieth century turquoise chair that I had in the corner of my small living room. They’d sit with their legs crossed and their long fingers intertwined on their lap. They’d tell me to undress and count to a hundred in Italian and as I did they would touch themselves till they moaned out. If I wasn’t done counting they’d have me continue. When I was done they’d rise up from my chair and thank me for a nice evening.
Italian class was only once a week. Those weeks seemed so terribly long.
When they started to touch me I told them that we should speak only in Italian. When we had sex we asked each other where the pharmacy was, and we made up lists of items to be bought at a grocery store or of things one might need for a day at the beach. When they came they would yell out the names of the months in Italian.
It didn’t bother me that we didn’t find out the basics about each other. I didn’t know where Ladybird lived. Or whether they had a day job. They didn’t know that I was allergic to cats and strawberries. That I spent years in foster homes. That my mother was crazy and my father a cliche abusive drunk. That I was raped when I was fifteen and then again when I was thirty. We didn’t know who we’d vote for or even if we voted. I tried to assume that there was someone else and that’s why they never stayed, but I never wanted them to stay and there wasn’t anyone else for me. It felt good not knowing. When I’d run my finger down the scar on their back that ran from their left shoulder down diagonally to their right thigh feeling the soft pink raised skin like silk on my fingertips, they’d say nothing. I’d asked nothing. I wondered, then didn’t wonder, about what secrets were locked away inside.
Eventually our Italian improved. Eventually, I found out things. I found out about their love of turkey recipes; that business with the slot machines; that they’d watched all the Godzilla movies at least twice. They started showing up more nights and sleeping over on the weekend. The whole time we’d talk in Italian. When we went out I felt like we were Italian tourists. It felt like something. Who we were outside of our new Italian lives didn’t matter to either of us.
Then the class ended and Ladybird went away. They said nothing before and no word came after. When the next Italian class started they weren’t there. It took me weeks to ask the teacher if they knew of their whereabouts. They told me that they thought you had moved to Italy, but they couldn’t be too sure. I tried to imagine you on a plane with stewards in real Italian accents, with little Italian flags pinned to their lapels offering you a vino or a biero. I tried to wonder where you went, if you did go to Italy. But for some reason, I didn’t care. Ladybirds aren’t supposed to last more than one season anyways. You weren’t a bug, or a bird or a beetle. I don’t know what you were. I don’t know what I am.
Ambika Thompson lived her past life in an alternative universe that had everything sorted out. In this universe she can’t recall what happened in her past-life so she’s resorted to living in Berlin where she is a parent, writer, and musician. She’s contributed short stories to Okey Panky, Litro, NPR Berlin, The Missing Slate, Fanzine, Plenitude and Riddle Fence. She’s the fiction editor of Leopardskin & Limes, one half of the cello riot grrl duo Razor Cunts, and her favourite colour is rainbow. http://ambikathompson.com