with one click, i updated my status.
and in my own defense, i completely despise any reference to social networking sites, whether it’s on tv, or in a movie, on a commercial. like, loathe it. but it’s important here.
sometimes i use this tactic as a fishing scheme. to try to bait someone in particular into responding. it is this pathetic little game that i play with myself. and i was doing it now.
‘is going to lake highland’.
and with one click, i was off. i grabbed the quilted blanket that i had grown up loving, literally, to pieces. my grandmother had made it by hand, and my parents never intended for it to leave the house. but in college, it lived in my car. it spent many sunny days and many chilly, lonely nights at lake highland. which was once so frequented that it was just referred to as ‘the lake’.
i grabbed a new book i’d yet to start, and my just-purchased blank journal. with skinny lined pages, just the way i like them to be, to get the most out of them. thinking twice, i grabbed my blank sketch book and a couple charcoal pencils, though i didn’t really expect that mood to strike at all.
‘what are you doing?’ i said, aloud, checking my tired, gray face in the mirror before leaving, weighted down with too many things for such a short adventure. the drive would take about 20 minutes, if there was no traffic.
i had a few hours, maybe five or six, until the reunion we'd arranged. i knew in my soul that i needed time at the lake to prepare for the evening out. and i knew that if i was to get my chance to catch up with the fish that got away, i'd have to leave now to be home in time to go back out again.
the drive to the lake gave me too much time to think about what it had meant to me throughout my younger/better/thinner/prettier single days.
days wasted, sitting in wait. for some boy that i’d put too much stock in, despite a ridiculous number of warnings from one person or another. the times when no one came to rescue me, or just to keep me company. no one ever showed.
though, one time, a boy did show up. i chalked it up to fate at the time. not my crazy stalker-ness, going there every day after work. and not calculating the 68743135 other times i’d sat there alone into the equation. it wasn’t about probabilities then - it was all about fate. and my blind naive belief that, if it was fate, he would come. whoever 'he' was.
i knew exactly what i was doing on this day. i was baiting. i was tempting something that i had no business whatsoever tempting. it was a tightly sealed box i’d been walking circles around, trying to figure out (for years now). was there a way to get inside the box, or even to just touch the box, without setting off any alarms, or creating any avalanches? i knew better. because that would make it all too easy. i shouldn’t be within proximity of the box, not even with a ten foot pole. because of the slippery slope.
but... i am a dreamer. i always have been.
i remember the day in college when i decided that my problem, all these years, had been the non-diagnosis of attention deficit when i was younger. or, possibly, the lack of diagnosis of the adult onset variety. it explained so much about me, about who i was.
because i daydream. when i am under pressure, or really need to get something done, i just space out. i’m an incredible list-maker. only i can never remember where i wrote the list. i start everything with enthusiasm, and finish nothing. being a horrible test-taker kept me from trying to get into grad school.
but in my life now, i lay in bed at night, willing my mind to dream things that could never happen in my real life. conversations i’d kill to have. missed connections i’d die to have explained to me. times in my life that i wish so hard to revisit, just to change one little thing. in an effort to change EVERYTHING.
because i only ever remember wanting, not being wanted. and, just once, wouldn’t it be sweet to truly be wanted? by the person you wanted to have want you? i had more than one of those in my short single-lifetime. mostly, one. but there were so many fleeting others.
i am in the habit of wishing i could go back in time. because i’d do it in a flash. and i even know the exact week i’d go back to. though there were three separate decisions i’d change, they all happened within seven days of each other, so i am nearly certain that i could completely unravel my current existence by revisiting one little blink in time.
i am also of the habit of getting my hopes up. probably from the lack or horror flicks (i couldn't watch) and the surplus of romantic comedies and dramas. i had always felt like i was supposed to have one of those ‘dream come true’ moments in my life. i’d definitely had a couple before. but not in the way i felt it should be, they were in a toned down way. not the kind i felt on my skin. like how your scalp tingles when you’ve had too much coffee. the kind that is so good, so incredibly unbelievable, that you would faint from being overwhelmed at the sheer amazement of it all.
on this day, i am driving the streets of my hometown. and nothing looks familiar to me anymore. i am certain i know the way, all these years later, from so many past trips. but the change in scenery always makes me think that i missed my turn. or went too far. and it had been several years since i'd been to the lake.
once i came home to visit, and was driving in the rain at night. and was so lost all i could do was cry. and i was only driving straight, on one very busy main road. no matter. i was completely overwhelmed at the change. i was so out of sorts that i couldn't even figure out at a point which road i was on, only i hadn't made any turns. it was awful. horrible. stressful.
with these thoughts running through my mind, i see an old familiar building on my left, and the tiny (most likely man-made) lake on my right, and know that if i don’t brake quickly, i will miss my turn. a quick glance in the rearview. no one that is too close, screeching turn onto the skinny road that will take me to my beloved lake.
a fear gains speed inside of me, because i realize that i don’t remember any of the trip here. i don’t remember intersections, i don’t remember lights. how did i make it without wrecking the car? without running red lights? i do not know. and this is not new to me. i don’t remember the last time it happened, i only sense that it was probably also on a visit home. so heady that you're on autopilot. not safe, not in the least. many years before, i was so lost in thought over a boy that i realized mid-gigantic-intersection that the light was very very red. luckily it was in a western town, where traffic didn't exist, and no one was around. i had to pull over that time, to recover, literally shaken.
about halfway between the quick turn and the lake, i got lost. i remembered having to drive through a neighborhood to get there, but not which street to turn on. i drove slowly through, hoping to not set off any neighborhood watch alerts. hoping for a glimpse of my glittering water through the thick landscape. heart rate picks up, not quite to a panic, but to the place just under panic, when you still have control.
‘slow down, girl. everything is going to be okay.’ apparently, i am also in the habit of speaking to myself when i’m alone and stuck in my head. cruising around the next corner, i see a very familiar stop sign. soft left. my lake, at last.
circling up and back around the street, to point my car in the opposite direction, the right direction, i pull up to my parking spot, under the huge tree. i never was any good at naming trees or flowers, but i’m going to declare it now as an oak. i imagined it had been there for a hundred years or more.
putting the car into park, and turning the key in the ignition, for a split second i’m sitting in complete silence. i can hear that my breathing is faster, and feel my heart racing. memories flood. stomach-sick over boys from my youth. my mind tries to slow itself down with negating thoughts: nothing is going to happen today; you're going to read your book; you're going to write some wonderfully depressing things down on paper; then you'll go home; and have a lot of fun tonight. that is all. go.
out of the car with all of my things in tow in one trip. like a day at the beach, dragging too many things behind you that you’ll never need during one short day at the beach.
just ahead of the tree trunk, far enough away from it to not lay on its knobby roots that poke up through the dirt, but still under its sparse canopy, i spread out my holey quilt, corner to corner, and smooth it deliberately. reading book on one corner. journal on the opposite corner. it wasn't windy - this was an old habit. i slid out of and balled up my sweater, hating for a moment that i forgot to remember a pillow, and placed it in the middle of the two corners.
i stretched out onto the quilt. a shiver ran completely up and down my spine, goosebumps down both legs, and out both arms to the wrists. i was supposed to be here. i could feel it. i had always come here at my most desperate times. my loneliest times. my most heartbroken times, hopeless times. and though this day didn’t feel that way, it felt close.
i hadn’t been kissed, good and kissed, in at least five years. and i couldn't take it anymore. before this time in my life, i only ever wanted to kiss. to make out. i never wanted sex, really. just to KISS. like, for hours. all night until the sun came up. and the hole that the lack of kissing had carved out in my heart was just too much to bear. it made me think horrible, permanent, awful thoughts about what i should do next with my life to stay happy and true to myself.
i lit a cigarette, and stared at the sky, smoking slowly and deliberately. why did the sky seem so much closer here? why did the world surrounding me seem so much smaller? i always thought it was strange, that, given enough empty space around you, the sky and horizon in your view just seems to be a half circle - a dome, like a snow globe. like you’re seeing the sky above that surrounds you, from a point that is precisely in the middle of the beginning and the end of the world.
back in my city, i never felt this way, because there was never enough space to make that perception possible. but home, i remember this thought again. and think, for a fleeting second, that i’m losing my mind.
the same way i feel when i wonder if my blue is your blue, and her blue and his blue, and if everyone sees colors the same way. or when i think that we’re all just some giant’s playthings, being made to live out trivial lives for someone else’s enjoyment. for play, as toys. not as in god, more like a big overgrown kid.
i realized that i was uncomfortable in this natural silence. that i needed music to really relax and enjoy this day. earphones in. i sigh at the new soundtrack i’ve created for my current life. laying flat on my back, arms crossed over my chest and holding onto the opposite sleeves for warmth, i let my mind wander.
i don’t know where it went, but i think i must've snored, because i woke myself up with a start. i assumed i’d fallen asleep, because songs had passed that i didn’t remember hearing.
i jumped suddenly, upon opening my eyes. i didn’t realize that they had been closed at all. and i didn’t realize that someone was standing over me. and i didn’t know for how long said someone had been standing there. i hoped it wasn't a snore that woke me... how embarrassing.
for that split second, i thought i was going to throw up. a rush of heat and redness to my face. and then pass out, as the heat was followed by pale whiteness as the rushing blood drained back to the various places in my body that it had been before i opened my eyes, whiting out everything in my line of vision. rushing to my pounding, beating heart.
the face above was familiar, absolutely. but i was confused from waking, even more so because of the way that seeing someone’s face upside down disfigures them in a down's syndrome kind of a way. i saw a frown; he was smiling.
i yanked the earphones out of my ears and propped myself up quickly on my elbows, twisting my body in an uncomfortable way that would likely induce vertigo, if i turned my head back too quickly. my vision started to go white again, before it came back with a dull pounding clarity.
the blood continued to rush down from my head and flood my chest. my heart was beating so loudly now that i thought it could be heard by the ghosts who have always haunted the school on the other side of the lake (you could see the figures in the window if you stared long enough).
it was then that i noticed the second car, parked just behind mine. my mind thought ‘what are you doing here?!’ but instead, gave me the seconds i needed to edit my words.
‘hi,’ with a slow smile.
he looked directly at me, but said nothing for a full minute. then, ‘may i sit here with you?’
‘of course.’ i tried not to sound as excited as i was. my heartbeat was in my ears now. i fought the smile from growing too wide, and settled for a shy, corners of the mouth upturned smile.
i grabbed my books quickly, embarrassed for no reason, and piled them on my side of the blanket. i moved to the right, making room for him, and put on my nap-warmed sweater. the sun had dropped a little during my dreaming, and there was the slightest hint of a chill in the air. not a chill, actually. a little soft breeze. it was rippling the glassy lake, just slightly.
‘do you mind if i smoke?’ i asked. my nerves were all balled up in my belly, and i thought that this would help.
‘no. can i have one?’ a smile. a warm smile. from someone you haven’t seen in a very long time. someone who is actually very happy to see you again. right-side up, he looked great. i nodded, shared, and lit his before mine.
slowly, trying to choose the best words for the situation, ‘so.’
funny thing was, he said ‘so’ at the exact same time. the tone i was saying it in, it was the knowing kind of so. the 'so' that would have been followed by ‘you took the bait’ if i wasn’t with all my wits. my brain was granting me some kind of grace this day, because usually i say stupid things quickly, and realize how wrong the words were about halfway through a sentiment.
his 'so' was in the only slightly busted kind of a way that would have been followed by, 'here we are.'
we both laughed nervously at our jinx. and didn’t speak for what seemed like a very long time; actually, probably, only a few seconds.
‘how have you been?’ he asked slowly, staring into my eyes as if they’d let him know if what i was about to say was not entirely true. i loved the way he talked. slowly, so you can get to the heart of what he's saying.
‘i’ve been alright.’ a pause to not choke on my words. i always choke on words when i'm nervous. like i try to breathe in at the exact moment a word comes out. a slight little hiccup in between syllables that makes me gulp. it's horrifying. i don't want people to know when i'm nervous, and it gets me nearly every time.
‘how have you been?’ i stared right back, trying not to be the first to break the gaze, even though i didn’t care at all about having the upper hand. because i had company.
‘busy. tired. but i'm well.’ and a smile. the kind of smile that crinkles the corner of your eyes. a genuine smile. he was happier than he was nervous.
silence again. there are a few types of silence. there’s the silence you intentionally insert in a situation when you want someone to crack and spill their truths to you. there’s nervous, uncomfortable silence, which is usually the type i find myself sitting square in the middle of. i’m truly horrible at small talk, i never know what to say or ask. which is sad, because i used to be great at it. if i'm talking to someone now, i tend to dive in deep. but before i get to the root of what i want to say and ask? tons of awkwardness.
but then there’s comfortable silence. when it’s okay to not know what to say next. that’s the kind the two of us were sitting in.
‘i hope you don’t mind that i came.’ he finally offered.
‘no. not at all. in fact, i think,’ one mississippi, two mississippi, calming breath, ‘i wanted company.’ my eyes cut away first, fake squinting to focus on something that was really nothing, somewhere that was really nowhere in particular, on the other side of the lake. this was, in spite of all the things i knew to be so dangerous, so slippery, exactly the boy i’d been baiting.
i sensed a smile, but couldn’t actually see it for myself, as i was so engrossed in the something that was nothing across the lake. maybe i saw it out of the corner of my eye, but i think i heard it in his voice.
‘i’m really quite happy to see you. i’m glad you’re here.’
he moved so slightly closer to me that i thought for a second that i was making it up. shifting my weight slightly to my left, i brushed his hand. looked down at it, then looked away again. he had, in fact, moved closer.
this time the heartbeat was panic. i didn’t know what to do. i mean, i wanted this. i had dreamt it over and over in my head. i had willed it to happen after midnight so many nights, especially recently. and now it was happening, and for some retarded reason, i instinctively wanted it to end. not the company, so much as the heart racing. the panic attack.
'in a way, i'm sorry that i am here. i know your situation. and i know that this complicates things for you. but at the same time, i knew i'd never forgive myself if i didn't come here.' he leaned back on his elbows, and i caught his profile. could he see the same nothing on the opposite side of the lake? i tried to follow his eyes, but studied his face instead, for about three seconds.
it was a nice profile. nothing stuck out too much, nothing overpowered anything else: nice true eyes, a nose perfectly suited for his face, a nice hairline to frame his nice face. nice teeth. nice close-lipped smile. and a peace that was both new and familiar. i wondered so many things about how he came to be sitting here, next to me. he was not necessarily the person who would stand out as the most attractive person in the room that everyone would covet, but he looked good to me. he was precisely my type.
'it's really okay. i'm glad you came.'
i laid all the way back, elbows out, head on stacked hands. the thought of taking off my sweater now seemed completely inappropriate, no matter how much my neck would hurt as a result of not having a pillow. i didn't want it to be perceived as flirting. and now it was too cool, as well - the temperature was definitely dropping. the sun was creeping toward the horizon, there were no buildings to obscure the view. just trees. it was the golden hour. everything was basked in warm, glowing orange.
we just stayed like that. in silence. there were so many things i wanted to say, to know, to ask. there was not as much history as i’d have liked there to have been. my mind couldn't put my questions in the best order, so nothing was said. i was pretty deep in thought, staring at the clouds freckling the sky when he broke the silence.
'it's nice here.'
he brushed the top of my hand. very very lightly. i perceived it as a way to initiate touch, allowing me to move my hand quickly, if i wasn't okay with the touch. very carefully, so that it was almost like an accident. in case i wanted to undo it. i lifted my hand slightly, as if it had jumped, as if it was a reflex. but it was not a reflex. and he took note. his hand rested on mine. perfectly still.
that initial contact. i mean, he had touched me in one way or another since i'd known him. but nothing that felt anything like this. this was different. this was forbidden. this was dangerous. this was exciting. this was scary. this was warm. this was well thought out on his end.
‘there are some things i wanted to tell you. i knew that if i waited until tonight, there would be too many people around. and i couldn’t say what i wanted to say, not the way i wanted to be able to say it. and you wouldn’t be able to hear me, the way i want to be heard.’
by now, my head was floating well above my body. my heart was outside my chest. my feet were completely numb, as were my hands. i realized that i was staring at the last few slowly dying leaves clinging to the branches above me, fluttering in the breeze. i looked sideways, fearing the eye contact i was about to make, but trying not to look scared. i didn't want to discourage him from saying what was on his mind.
thing was, the warmth in his eyes put me right at ease. i knew that anything he was about to say would leave me feeling great, days later. maybe even weeks. high.
he turned on his side, facing me. everything was so easy. what he was wearing, the words he was saying. how easily they flowed. it was like he’d rehearsed this time and again. probably even on his way to find me.
he told me about the first time i caught his eye. the first time he said hi to me. the first time that i was on his mind when i was nowhere near him. he told me that he was sorry that he never said anything. i wanted to let him say everything before i spoke, but i stopped him there.
‘i wish you would’ve said something.’ and i was completely aware of the sadness that flashed in my eyes. and i was more than relieved that tears didn’t follow. i cry so easily. sometimes just a thought, or a commercial on tv, will make me cry. sometimes i don’t even need a reason.
and, sadly, the same flash in his eyes, ‘me, too...’ his voice trailed off. he was trying to remember where he left off. trying to hop back on the train of thought that i’d slowed to a stop.
after a few seconds, he got it back. ‘i know that if i had at least just told you, my life would be different. even if it was only slightly. i wouldn’t have this feeling when i come home to visit. i wouldn’t have to think i see you. everywhere i go.' now, he paused. 'i have a confession...’
he looked to me. he needed a nod, or some acknowlegement that it was going to be ok, whatever he was going to say next. i said, quietly, hiccup-y, ‘go.’
he took a little breath, ‘i drove past your house. more than once. after you left. after i left. when i came back. actually, every time i came back. to see if i was crazy for thinking that you could be here during exactly the same time that i was.’ he looked from left eye to right eye and back again to center, scanning my face for a reaction that might not come in the form of words.
i realized that i was holding my breath. i had been holding my breath since i okayed his confession. i let out a sigh when he said those words. really? all my life, i wanted someone to say those words to me. i was speechless. my mouth had fallen open. just slightly, nothing drastic, just a reflex to take in a little breath.
‘i’m really sorry about this timing. i know it is shit. i know it’s really unfair to you, and not at all unfair to me. i know that i have nothing to lose by telling you all of this, and that i could put you in a very delicate situation at the same time. and i want you to know, i am really very sorry. but i just couldn’t let this opportunity slide away. i’d never have forgiven myself.’
he sat up so abruptly, i thought he was going to leave me sitting there dumbfounded. get into his car and speed away, so quickly that it would seem like a dream, or that i’d made the whole thing up. this is how things would have gone in my previous life.
instead, he reached into his pocket, but i couldn’t see what was in his hand. his arms were looped around his propped up knees, left wrist inside his right hand, grasping. i noticed that his shoelaces were ratty on the end, from all the places he'd walked in them. i loved his shoes. i loved the frayed ends of his pants, worn from wear. the way they slouched over the top of his shoes. i loved that he was here, telling me these things. it was exactly what i needed. when i needed it. i decided that i would tell him. as long as we were confessing things to each other.
‘you know... i needed this. there has been something missing from my life. for a long time now. and as dangerous as this is for me, i’m okay with it. because i had always wondered about you. and the things i didn’t know, well, they kept me up at night at differnt times over the years. and distracted me from my life, anyway. so your timing is actually perfect. and i can’t believe that you said it out loud. to me.’
i propped myself up again, because we were further apart than we’d been since he was standing over me, and after all that gut dumping, it seemed appropriate to be closer, physically. a little smile crept over his lips at the end of my string of sentences. he tryed to downplay it. downturn it. and i knew something was coming. something was about to happen. i lit another cigarette. i’d already smoked more than i’d smoked in the last couple days combined. i was anxious.
i followed the edge of the lake with my eyes, in a complete circle, all the way around it. no cars driving. no trains passing. a few cars parked at the school, but no one near them. no kids playing, in fact it was nearly silent. there were only small groups of ducks gliding between the grass sticking up in patches along the edge of the lake, little duck families. it was a saturday. and that was fortunate. i was glad we were completely alone. it took the edge off.
he turned swiftly on his axis. i had seen him do it before, just as effortlessly. he was facing me now, crosslegged. with a folded up piece of notebook paper in his hands that were sticking out of too long sleeves. he was curling the edges up. they were becoming slightly grayish brown. i wondered what he’d have to say before handing it over. or reading it to me. whichever he deemed best. i wanted him to do it in his time; i fought the urge to say, ‘what’s that?’ or the dorkier instinct, ‘whatcha got there?’ i am notorious for saying something really dumb at important times. and also for thinking of the perfect thing to say at night, laying in bed, so many waking hours later.
surprisingly, my mind wasn’t racing. my heart wasn’t pounding. i was calm.
‘so i wrote this thing. a long time ago. and i could never shake the thought of wanting you to have it.’ he looked down at my quilt, and handed it over.
i didn’t know if i should read it now or later. i was afraid to unfold it. i held it in my hand for a minute. it was still warm from his pocket, or his hands, whichever, both. he was toying with the gaping holes in the quilt. tracing the edges slowly, deliberately. he was afraid to look up.
‘thank you.’ i whispered. he looked up for a second, so i asked, ‘should i read this now?’
‘do you want to?’ he said, as a nervous laugh of words.
‘i do.’ i unfolded it. i hadn’t unfolded something that felt like this in my hands since high school. folded passed notes between excited girls with crushes. i was instantly back in time, maybe 15 years, from one tactile stimulus. the senses are an amazing thing. the same fluttery feeling in my stomach accompanied the sound of unfolding paper.
i read it once. it was not addressed to me, like a note, like i had expected. it was prose. i had to read and re-read so many times. my attention was darting, seeing words like flashes, wanting to skip ahead in excitement, missing meaning, going back. over and over. and he watched me read. it was sweet.
i folded it back up, and slid it into my pocket. ‘thank you. really...’ i touched his hand where it was resting on his knee and looked him dead in the eye. ‘thank you.’
i moved closer, on my knees, for a hug. i think i might have caught him off guard. this was full contact, now there was no doubt, and no fear. it felt great. it wasn’t a quick hug, like when you’re saying goodbye to someone you’re going to see the next day. and it wasn’t an obligatory hug. it was a long, heartfelt hug. a hug of longing, a hug that had so much more behind it, on both sides. a hug that didn’t want to end, to break up. a hug that had been waiting in the wings for several years, for the right moment.
my arms were around his upper back, draped across his shoulders, holding him close. his were around my waist. suddenly, i was very glad that i was wearing a skirt. a full, shin-length housewife skirt. i felt pretty and awake. it was laying so perfectly, covering my legs completely, material spread out. we sat like that for minutes.
finally, i sat back off my knees, afraid that if i needed to stand up anytime in the near future, i’d fall from the way i’d had my weight on them. the pins and needles from knees to toes hurt, but they were worth it, and faded.
it hadn’t said too much or too little. it wasn’t really all on the table, but because of the gesture of the passed note, it felt like it was.
‘i came here with the intention of kissing you.’ and now, it was on the table.
my face blushed. was he really saying this to me? would a kiss have been more romantic than speaking of a kiss? how thoughtful, to say what he wanted to do, without just doing it. he was really completely thinking about me. my life. my choices.
my stomach dropped. in a way, i wished he would’ve just kissed me. removed all guilt from me. taken the decision from me, for himself. made it so that he kissed me unexpectedly, not that i kissed him or welcomed it. removing blame. giving me the chance to break it off and walk away, without any need to think and rethink it after the fact. so that it wouldn’t have been a conscious decision. so that it wouldn’t have felt so much like cheating.
i realized that more than a minute of silence had passed while i thought this out. he was uncomfortable in it, so i said what i thought would make him feel better.
‘i wish you would’ve.’
he looked genuinely surprised. like he had expected me to tell him all the ways that it wasn’t going to happen, or that it wasn’t okay, or that i had no desire to kiss him, or to be kissed by him. and because of the prose, i pushed the envelope a bit further. i felt like i kindof owed it to him in a way. i'd been on his side of the table so many times, putting it all on the line, only to hear disappointing words follow my confession.
‘i haven’t been well kissed in a very long time.’ i expected to smile after saying those words, because they sounded ridiculous and silly, the tiny smile didn’t last at all. my face grew hot, and the fake smile faded very quickly into a sad face, on the verge of tears.
he put his hand on my shoulder. ‘this is what i didn’t want. i don’t want you to be sad. i wanted to make you happy.’ he grabbed my hand.
‘but i am happy. you’ve made my day. really, my whole trip. and with that, there is sadness, too. but it’s okay.’ my voice faltered. my eyes started to water. i was not crying. it was the same as the way that your eyes water from the outside corners when you’re riding your bike on a cold day. i know that my face is ugly and contorted when i cry, which is precisely how i was able to stop myself from falling victim to the sadness i was feeling.
i found my steady voice again, ‘it sounds a little crazy, but i like to be sad.’
somehow, we’d shifted ourselves now to be back in our original reclined positions with space between us. me, with my diamond arms holding the weight of my heavy head. him, leaning back on elbow triangle stands. both staring. i was wondering what to say or do next. what does one say after that conversation?
‘i feel like i should go,’ he looked at me, again. he was reading me. like a book. repeatedly. scanning my face, my eyes, for truth that words might not express.
‘i’d prefer if you stayed here with me. i hadn’t been here long before you got here. i can't believe i fell asleep so quickly - i wasn't tired. i mean, i haven’t started my book. i haven’t written a word.’ what i wanted, suddenly, was my sketch book. i wanted to draw his shoe, as it clung to his foot, on my blanket.
'can i get you anything?' i asked, showing the bag full of things packed for a long day at the beach. it was dusk. the sunlight was fading, i knew i didn't have much time. it would be dark soon. and i really wanted to draw that foot.
he went to his car and grabbed a composition notebook. i took notice that it was not the one that my page had been torn from, which made me smile - he'd planned this, absolutely. he sat down to write, neatly, quickly, in the time that the sun would allow us.
which, as luck would have it, was only about 15 minutes. we worked in silence. he stopped first. i stubbornly drew, squinting to see my lines in the dark, before giving up.
i put down the sketch book in frustration. i turned onto my side with my head propped up, and looked at him, on his stomach, watching me sideways. he turned to me and smiled, 'thanks for today. i feel lighter.'
'i do, too,' i said. my belly became full of butterfly flight. this was it. i could sense it on every square inch of my skin, electrified, i was shaking. i hope he didn't notice.
if we were ever going to kiss, it was going to be precisely now. at this moment. picture perfect. the sun had slipped beyond our vision. there was no more daylight. the moon was far away, high in the sky. it was full. maybe that explained this.
and then, right then, as i was looking at the moon, he totally went for it. at first, it was light lips. no hands, nothing else touching. if i wanted out, i could get out, but not for long. i didn't budge. i closed my eyes.
but then he touched my chin and neck with one hand, and it became more. and there was no getting out of it. i felt myself melting.
moving slowly closer, kissing. leaning down on me, with slightly more weight, kissing. our lips, kissing. arm around me, holding me, kissing. it was amazing. it was the way it is in movies. the way i'd wanted to be kissed for so long.
this was what i had been missing. and i didn't think it in a self-conscious way, or a guilty way, or an 'i have to end this' way. this was what my life had been lacking for so long. i remembered so suddenly how you feel so completely connected to someone when you kiss. i knew now the place where his words had come from. where his desire to see me and confess had come from.
i had craved this. and i had wanted him to be the one to break the drought, and he had done it.
we kissed for so long that i had time to think about all the times i'd been lying in bed awake at night, staring at the ceiling in the darkness, listening to songs about leaving and starting over, watching passing headlights on the street below create moving beautiful shadows on the ceiling while i stared blankly at it, heartbroken. it brought tears to my eyes again, in the moment.
i was completely lost in this now. we were entangled, horizontally. i was flat on my back, helpless to move, like a turtle. i didn't want to move.
there was no break, no stopping for breath. i felt my face blush as i realized that i'd never known his taste before. what a juvenile thought. and as if he sensed my discomfort at the fleeting thought, he broke the kiss. pulling back so that he could see my face. i smiled. a big smile. he returned in kind. not aware i was doing it, i caught a tiny bit of my lower lip in my upper teeth, and licked my lip. he didn't see.
‘we should leave.’ he sat up. it was over. my heart sank.
i knew that the few short hours between now and the bar would not be enough time for the wound up feeling to fade. and i had to work on it, because too many people would be seeing me for it to be apparent. i felt for a time like i didn't need a car at all, like i could just float home. high above this little town that calls itself a city. over other little lakes with other kissing people, over different neighborhoods familiar to me for different reasons. places i grew up, places i'd kissed other boys.
he stood up, and reached out his left hand to help me to my feet. i teetered slightly upon standing, dizzying white vision again. one short kiss, and a long hug later, we said goodbye. his arms were resting on top of my shoulders as he hugged me, leaning slightly. neither of us wanted to leave or end it, but didn't speak the sentiment. we just stood there like that, thinking for a few.
as was the case the whole night, he pulled away from me first, breaking the hug. he didn't break contact though. he inched away, backing up, but holding my arm. his hand dropped slowly from my arm to my wrist to my hand. and he just looked at me. all of me, like he was taking me in with his deep breath. and with his exhale, he dropped my hand.
it was over.
we got into our cars. he pulled away quickly, i watched his tail lights get smaller. it didn't last as long as i'd hoped, not slow motion lights trailing, like in a movie, like in that one song. he made the soft right, and was gone from my sight.
i sat completely still in the driver’s seat in silence. i was shaking, trembling. my fingers were completely frozen, as if i'd forgotten my mittens in winter. but the screen in the car said 68 degrees. and then, i was laughing and giddy. and then i was crying. i was everything. all at once. i was ALIVE.
i felt tapped out, exhausted. my mind was fleeing me now, leaving me there alone. i gave myself a minute to calm down before i put the car into drive. and left the lake.
i drove home. i changed into the outfit i'd been planning for months. the one i'd given up cookies and ice cream for. the one that would hopefully make me look an eighth as great as the way that i felt at that exact moment when he first started to kiss me.
i had changed. i got ready for my evening out. stuffing everything down inside, burying. trying to forget it before my ride arrived.
my partner in crime picked me up, we drove amid small talk about what our lives had been for the past few months and how much we missed each other. then asked, ‘so... how was the lake?’
i blushed as if i was busted, averted my eyes, but played it off cool. i knew i had to. ‘it was perfect.’ a telling pause, but she didn't pick up on it. ‘it was exactly what i needed.’
i wanted to spill. i wanted to show her the note, and brag that all these years later i had gotten it. all these years later, i got what i'd wanted. i wanted to show her the drawing of his shoe. i wanted to tell her everything. all the embarrassing little details. all of my racing thoughts. the fact that i was shocked about the complete lack of guilt. but i couldn’t do it. i couldn’t acknowlege it quite yet. it was too soon, too new. and i was trying my best to forget it, to put it out of my mind. to act normal.
we drove downtown, the same way that i’d driven to lake highland. passing the turn i’d nearly missed, i gazed out the window with glossy eyes at the little man-made lake i'd passed five or so hours before. and i decided just then that i’d never go back there again.
this was the best possible memory for the lake to be stored away as, forever. i couldn't risk replacing it with anything else.
two hours and a few drinks later, he was sitting across from me again, at a crowded rowdy table. sipping his beer, smiling. with the slightest hint of a secret smile, one that only i knew the meaning of. he only looked into my eyes silently for two seconds. it went straight to my head. i took a big sip of my drink.
and then he launched into a conversation, including everyone else at the table. we caught up, the way friends who haven’t seen each other in years catch up. we caught up on all the trivial bullshit we didn’t waste time on earlier in the day, when the words were more private, personalized. when time was fleeting.
he left after only one beer. hugged me goodbye in a nonchalant way, telling me it was nice to see me, and to catch up.
i didn't think that i could ever see him again. not alone, anyway. i knew that i would get too caught up in any moment to stop myself, or slow myself, and that it would be a grave mistake.
we stayed in touch, kind words exchanged from afar. nothing that even hinted at what had happened that night. my heart bubbled over, and i had a feeling that he felt similarly. it was too much to keep to myself.
a year later, drunk, home again for a visit, i’d admit it to her. and she understood it. she understood my motivation, she understood exactly how it made me feel, she knew why i let it happen.
i had written it out, so i wouldn't forget any of it. and so i could show her after time had passed. every detail captured, like a photograph.