Longing eats him like a cancer. A longing that sometimes wears her face.
He’s dreamt of her since childhood. Like Heathcliff or Gatsby or that schmuck from Great Expectations. He’d left her though and when he saw her, 17 and faintly pressing the edge of adulthood, he’d seen her from a distance. He clutched his distance like a coat against bitter wind, fearing her. Fearing the death of his dream. How could she, all flesh and blood and fiery human will be the boyhood fantasy he’d treasured for years?
The Ghost of his fantasy beckoned from within her.
She had the same deep little girl eyes. The same slender, nail tipped, hands. The same sharp boots and heartbreaker viciousness that had busted the shins and hearts of the school yard boys.
The second time he’d seen her, when she was a woman of 22, he couldn’t stay away. She’d caught him completely by surprise, though he was pretty sure the feeling was mutual. He sat in a dive bar waiting for his roommate, Sam, to show up. His roommate was bringing a friend of his, a one time fuck buddy who’d moved to New York. She’d walked in on Sam’s arm, faintly familiar and undeniably hot. Her red hair fell past her shoulders, her darkly painted lips shined against her pale skin. She wore a summer dress and wholly impractical shoes, their high heels made of clear plastic so she seemed to always hover on tiptoe.
He’d bounced in enough clubs to know he’d have to keep a close watch on her. A girl like that couldn’t help but be hit on by all manner of unsavories. She’d seen him slumped at the bar in black leather jacket, somehow managing to make a beret look hot. She’d caught his name when Sam mentioned it and couldn’t help but wonder if it was him. The boy she’d never forgotten. When he turned on his barstool to meet her eyes, she knew.
“Veronica,” Sam began. “This is Brogan.” She shook his hand and leaned in close, fighting the noise of the bar, she fairly shouted.
“Is your last name Stern?” His ice blue eyes widened and he pulled her into an embrace. It was her. Not just a girl named Veronica, but the Veronica. His Veronica. And she was here to share the bed of his roommate.
Veronica was in a singularly untenable position. She was here to spend the night with Sam but Brogan had blind sided her and she found that 12 years had done nothing to abate her desire for him.
In fact the beauty she’d seen in him as a boy had sprawled and curled into luxurious manhood. His lithe body had the taught energy of a caged panther. His hair had grown from strawberry blond to a spun gold.
His eyes were a shade of blue that set off a flutter beneath her ribcage. Not to mention the boy could dress.
It simply wasn’t fair.
After Sam and Veronica had retired to the same bed, Brogan stayed up late into the night, smoking and typing, listening for the sounds of fucking. He half dreaded it, knowing the bile of jealousy that would well up in him. But a part of him, a part he tried to ignore, wanted nothing more than to hear her moans.
They never came.
In the broad light of day she was still beautiful.
He listened to jazz and tried not to be aware of her padding from Sam’s bedroom to the shower and back again.
It wasn’t too late, some part of him whispered, Sam has already gone to work. You could catch her in the shower, on the way back to the bedroom, while she’s dressing. Throw aside the plastic curtain, drop the towel from her curves, take her naked from behind as she leans over to pull on her panties.
He remained in his chair.
She’d not forgotten him in his long absence. He could take solace in that. Some small part of him he even allowed to hope that the mark she’d left on his heart had a match on hers. But the cost of asking was too high.
But he e-mailed her a few months later, a respectable amount of distance between their meeting and his contact. They got reacquainted.
Through phone calls and e-mail she flirted with him shamelessly, all but saying “When are you going to come to New York and fuck me silly?”
And why should he be surprised? She’d always been forward.
Every day after class she’d spent at least 15 minutes hugging and cuddling and enormous teddy bear the class had creatively named “Mr. Bear.” The little sensualist. She would revel in his softness and fur with a joy known only in adults when they’re doing ecstasy.
One day he joined her, indulging in the fur of Mr. Bear’s right side, while she enjoyed the left. As they sat there, arms unable to fully encompass Mr. Bear’s plush body, Brogan felt the slick warm touch of her hand. His head cocked slightly, he waited to see if the brush of skin had been a mistake. It was not.
She grasped his hand and held it firmly. He looked at her both shocked and intrigued, his look was the 4th grade version of “You insatiable minx! Here?!? In front of Mr. Bear?!?!”
She smiled at him, knowing she’d found the perfect place and excuse to hold hands as much as they wanted. No one would question their time cuddling Mr. Bear and no one could see what went on behind him. She tilted her head down in mock shyness belied by the devilish glint in her eyes as they met his gaze unflinching. Her crooked smile widened, the 4th grade version of “If holding hands behind Mr. Bear is wrong, I don’t wanna be right!”
Back then she had loved only him.
Thirteen years later he isn’t so sure.
Her heart and another organ had grown sizably since then and now could no longer hold just the love of a single boy. It demands more and perhaps that’s what scares him most.
What could he do to hold a place in heart so full?
What would save him from being the cast off remnants of “Just a fuck?”
Still, when she says she’ll come visit him, he sees her. He couldn’t help but see her.
Meeting someone at the airport is the ultimate anticlimax. It’s anticlimactic because movies lie. There are no joyous embraces and longed long for kisses. You can’t do these things at an airport. You can’t park at an airport. You can’t be in an airport if you own or have thought about anything sharp.
Collective paranoia has turned the airport meeting experience into premature ejaculation; over before you know it, leaving you both unsatisfied and a little sticky.
Any joy is rushed aside in an always frantic and awkward push to to find the right car and get the bags in the trunk and “No, really, I’ll drive.” and “Are you sure you’ve got everything? I have to get away from the airport before this asshole behind me honks his horn one more fucking time.” There is only a stolen moment for an apologetic hug and guilty brush of lips before you fling yourself to opposite ends of a hulking mass of glass, metal and plastic hoping for a conversation to present itself.
It does but only in the form of the weather and vague allusions to work and other awkward banalities that make Brogan want to vomit because all he wants, all he wants in the world, is to say
“You exist, oh my god you exist. I thought you lived in another dimension. I thought I only dreamed you.”
He doesn’t want to be strapped to a giant piece of metal hurtling itself through space.
He wants to kiss her. He wants to touch. He wants to see if there’s any way he can get his body and hers to actually merge and take up the same space.
The awkwardness doesn’t fully wear off once they’ve left the car. It lingers because no treatise has been written on how to politely say “Hi. I came here with the express purpose of fucking you and, while I value you as a person and care about what you have to say, for the time being let’s just shut the fuck up and bone like crazed weasels.”
“I’m sorry this place is such a mess.” He mutters.
“It’s fine.” She replies, trying not to say ‘I don’t care if the bed’s on fire, fuck me, fuck me now!’
She’s on his bed now lounging in the corner of his vision as he paces the room abstractly cleaning. He’s not ready or she’s not ready or something. He doesn’t feel well. He hasn’t felt well all week and he wanted this to be perfect but now it’s ruined. She’s rumpled from the airplane and she probably wants to sleep or eat or shower and maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.
After all, she was past. She was a fairy tale. A story you told yourself on long lonely nights but made yourself forget in daylight hours. She was a memory. A beautiful honeysweet girl long since lost in the curves and cream of the woman now curled on his bed.
He wants her. Dear christ how he wants her. But the tremor in his hand makes him clench it at his side. The want in his body keeps him away from her. The desire he feels, the pure unadulterated need, it tugs at his body, like a horse straining at it’s reigns a wolf snarling through it’s muzzle.
“Were you planning on kissing me anytime soon?”
She’s calling him a pussy now. He can’t back out. He can do this. He’ll just hold back. Keep it skin to skin, nothing more. Desire can be slaked, if not ever fulfilled. So he kisses her. He rolls her to her back and kisses her. She’s sweet as he imagined but real, fleshy, warm. Her skin presses against his fingers. He half expected her to melt beneath his touch but her skin, her muscle, guts and bone all stand firm against his body. The bones of her pelvis rock gently against his. Her taught breasts smooth against his chest. Every inch of her body explores him, lithe and lively beneath his touch. She feels every inch of him, hoping to remember it all. Her flesh is soft her scent sweet. Much like he’d imagined but firmer somehow, earthier. Her sugary memory with a hint of sweat to it, her skin the moistness of rich soil. He’s touching her. He can’t believe he’s touching her. He can’t believe she’s real. She’s real and she’s here. He can’t believe she’s real and she’s here. Here in his bed. In his bed. He can’t believe she’s here in his bed. And real. Here in his bed and real. Real as real can possibly be and here and real and here and
“Are you ok?” She asks.
“Yeah.” He answers. “Fine.” Fine. Of course he’s fine. Why wouldn’t he be fine? There’s a beautiful girl, a beautiful girl he’s wanted his whole life, and she’s real and she’s here and she’s very very very much in his bed and what on earth couldn’t be fine about that? Nothing. Nothing could be not fine about that but if it’s so fine should he really be sitting here thinking about how very fine everything is should it just be so fine that it goes without saying and why oh fucking why won’t his brain shut us just fucking shutthefuckingfuck up.
“It seems like there’s something on your mind.” She knows! She can tell what he’s thinking, feel it on his skin, sense the terseness of his muscles their strain against his skin. She hears them calling for her, fighting against themselves, at once advancing and retreating both towards and away from her.
“No. I’m fine.” She’s not buying it. “I just… things have been weird… at work and all.” Work. Work will stop any inquiry or complaint. The puritan work ethic is the only religion he’s maintained. It’s irrefutable. It ends every conversation.
Her nails slick up his sides, making him jerk away to avoid the tickle. She smiles and attacks again. He catches her wrist and she slips away. As his arms dive at her wrist she blindsides him with her other hand. He loses his thoughts in the struggle to get hold of her, in the playful friction of their bodies, in the tangled mass of limbs and jerks, giggles and sensation in the giddy, lively, squirming girl in his arms. He pins her wrist to her back pushing her torso against his. They breath in rhythm as she succumbs to being caught muscles relaxing against each other. She breaths against him for a moment then begins to writhe again. He holds her with just enough force to keep her place. He holds her like something precious. Precious but not delicate. She squirms again.
“Oh.” He says sarcastically. “You want me to break your wrist.”
“No.” She pants, looking rebellious and playful, into his eyes. “You won’t break me.” Her trust in him is fearless and founded on nothing. In that trust he sees her there. The soft brown hair and sugar pink lips of the girls he loved.
“No,” He says, a tender huskiness to his voice. “No, I won’t break you.”
He kisses her deeply and feels himself melt into her. He rolls hem to the side so he’s on top of her now. With a warm sigh he rests his head on her breast.
“I missed you.” He whispers. And she feels his body stop fighting. She feels him let go. She feels him come home. He says “I missed you.” And she knows just what he means.
“I missed you, too.” She whispers back.
“After I left marin,” He sighs. “life got hard. Really fucking hard. Seems like since then I never stopped fighting. I thought, coming back, things might change but it’s all same shit different day, you know?”
“No.” She answers truthfully. “I work pretty hard to ensure it’s never the same shit. But I do know what it’s like to have to keep fighting.”
She wishes he’d stayed. He could have been her first kiss, her first love, her first… everything. Would he have hurt her the way those other boys had? Would he have left the same scars?
The truthful answer is “probably.” But she tries not to think of that now. She imagines him in her adolescent life. Every slow dance that left her stranded alone in the middle school gym he would have seen her. He would have drunk in her coltish beauty and, in his nervous adolescent way, taken her hand to dance. He’d found her beautiful when she was all grass stains and crooked smiles. He should have seen her flower. She wishes he had been there.
Or maybe she doesn’t. She likes who she is these days and knows those experiences shaped her.
She sighs and kisses him.
“I missed you, too.” She whispers.
And suddenly they’re kissing. Kissing the way storybooks tell you to. Hearts and souls just a hair’s breath from each other. Kissing that creates something indefinable. Something that feels like a shared soul that passes between them wafting on each new breath.
She marvels at his body. It seems to her that she can see the fingerprints of God in the clay of his flesh, see the way he was formed, feel the give of the clay molding into just the right shape, and knows how perfect it makes him.
There’s a poetry to his body. Beat poetry. Tough, and sinewy, long and lean. His body’s all stream lined sentences. Only meat, muscle and bone. No excess.
Her lips graze his shoulder and she notices for the first time that across the bulge of his deltoid is tattooed the word “Veritas,” the latin word for truth. Also a translation of her name. She doesn’t think he knows this and doesn’t bother to mention it.
But it brings a secret smile to her lips.
There is honesty in fucking, unabashed and open. The body cannot lie because it’s never been studied, never been classified, categorized, polarized into positive and negative.
The conscious mind has no jurisdiction over the voice of the body so the body cannot lie. The purely physical is inherently honest. His actions are unthought and so, finally, uncensored. His body doesn’t know her. Not really, not fully. But it wishes to God that it did because it finally feels at home.
He forgets, finally, his problems and fears, bathing himself in the lethe of her flesh. She smells faintly like fresh cut grass and summer rain on broken pavement. Her taste is faintly sweet like strawberry lemonade and all he can think of is her flesh, her hair, her scent, his teeth. Her ass against him. The feeling inside her. The feel of his hand in the small of her back and the curve of her spine a she arches back toward him. His fist in her hair and earlobe quivering as he whispers into it. The smell of her hair so soft and warm like the day he first smelled it sunstroked brown and resting on his shoulder. She was here. That beautiful girl, this beautiful woman, breast resting in the palm of his hand, body surrounding him as he always dreamed it would
“I’m going to come inside you.” He whispers not as a warning really, almost to convince himself more than anything else. It’s the only sound he makes while inside her. But she feels him come. His rhythm loses it’s regularity to intensity. He grips her hair and bends her back. Harder. Farther. Till he collapses into her.
They breathe collectively.
For a moment he scans himself, takes stock of his thoughts and feelings and finds no hint of regret.
Not the smallest morsel.
She slips in his shower. She’s never slipped in a shower her whole life but she slips in his. There’s nothing to hold on to, only a slippery curtain rod suspended by springs and occlusion.
She falls for a moment knowing pain, injury, and possibly death will come in a moment and there’s precious little she can do about it. But he catches her, falls, catches her, till she’s bent over backwards, outstretched arms holding her bridge like over the rim of the tub that could have snapped her spine. His arm is in the small of her back, his knee braced against her, other hand against the bathroom floor, not far from hers. They hold this pose for a moment, making sure they’re not dead. Then he regains his footing and helps her to her feet.
The bathroom is cold and he holds her close under the heat of the shower. They look at each other like they’re in love. Hell maybe they are. The world seems to have stopped around them. A total absence of background noise. He looks into her eyes and sees the end of the world, a death he would welcome, a final, wearied rest. The rise and fall of mankind are in those eyes. The Alpha and Omega. He looks into her eyes and sees, fleetingly, something that would heal him, sate him, make him whole.
But he doesn’t know what she sees and can’t bring himself to ask.
She looks at him and sees a beauty so vast there’s a pain in looking at it. She grew up surrounded by natural beauty, but somewhere in childhood she’d lost her reverence for it.
All the sunsets, the redwoods, the craggy coastal vistas couldn’t hold the smallest candle to the sight of this boy’s eyes and the way the water drips off him in diamonds. She looks into his eyes and sees that he’s happy. She can’t remember the last time she’s seen that.
It’s not a revelation. No problems have been solved. But for the moment they’re forgotten. And though a nagging corner at the edge of his mind can’t help but whisper this is only a moment and a short one at that, he can’t help but feel content and whole.
As perfect as he seems to her. In her eyes he sees the endless horizon and the barely comprehensible word “eternity.”
The water grows cold around them and their flesh begins to cool.
“I guess it’s time for bed.” He says, and twists the water off.
“I wish you could stay longer.” He says, while they slide beneath the sheets. “Just tonight and tomorrow? That’s hardly any time at all.”
“I know.” She says. “But it’s all the time I could afford to take off. I almost don’t want to go to sleep, but I’m so exhausted.”
He doesn’t know how hard she worked to get here. He doesn’t know he got her through it. That she kept his photo posted at her work station the way World War II fighter pilots kept a pinup in their cockpit. A glance now and then at his sensuous mouth and golden hair had steeled her nerves and kept her at work.
“I can fuck that.” She thought like the fighter pilot. “If I only live through this, I can fuck that.”
Beauty drives us to absurdities.
Why did she come? Why did she come just to spend so little time with him?
She curves against his body, feels his arms around her and knows, This. This is why she did it.
She did it because after the initial catch up e-mails she knew that Brogan was a man you couldn’t talk to while fully clothed. He had to be stripped of layers and defenses before he could say something really true. There was honesty beneath his skin but it took work to get to. She had come to touch his honesty. She had come to feel his arms around her. And she had, quite simply, come to have sex with a beautiful man she’d been wanting for 13 years.
In his arms it seems worth it and so she stays there, settles into him. He holds her for a moment, hesitant, then with a sigh pulls her into him and commits his body to hers. They sleep this way. Comfortable in the way one imagines comfort to feel. The platonic ideal of comfort. And, in the night, as one turns, so turns the other. So as long as this night is, as long as it can possibly last, they stay in each other’s arms. Embracing till the cold light of dawn.
The next morning she goes to the shower hesitantly, hoping he’ll join her. He doesn’t. Her absence from his bed reminds him how cold the room is. He steels himself to it, reminds himself that that’s how it was before she came and that it’s how it’ll be after she leaves.
He pulls on a pair of pants, cursing the cold. He doesn’t want her to go. He can feel something in her, something he lost and maybe… given time… He pulls on a sweater. But there had been no time. She was here and gone and had given him nothing to hold. All he had was more memories of her. She hasn’t even gone and already she’s a ghost to him. A faint smell on his pillow that he may have just imagined. In a day or two even that would be gone.
Pulling on a jacket he sits at his desk striving for distraction. He loses himself in the internet, in a video game, in anything that will give road to his wandering mind, use to his jittery hands. She returns to his room and slowly dresses herself. He keeps her at his periphery, out of his eye line.
“I’ve got some work to do.” He mentions. “Do you have any plans for today?”
“No. I just… wanted to relax today.” She says lamely. She’d wanted to spend the day with him. Her only day with him.
“The tv’s in the living room.” He suggests.
“No it’s ok. I’ve got a book. And my journal. And my sketchbook. I know how to entertain myself.” It was true. The daughter of two very hardworking parents she’d learned early and well how to keep herself occupied. “It’s only a few hours anyway. Till I have to leave.”
“Mmm.” Is his only response.
She reclines on his bed, facing him, hoping his vague business will end, or at least break for an hour or two. She reads. She writes. She sketches the back of his head. They both check the clock compulsively.
When the time comes he reaches for the phone.
“I’ll call you a cab.” He offers automatically.
“I’ve got it.” She assures him. “Is something wrong?”
“No. It’s just…” He has no idea what to say.
“Things are weird right now. With work. I’m sorry I’ve been so busy. I just wish your visit was…”
Longer? Nonexistent? Indefinite? “Better timed.”
“Right.” She sighs. Her jaw clenches at the familiarity of the situation. She knows her visit couldn’t have come at a better time. He was always this busy and he would always be this busy and fuck him, fuck him, fuck him, for having time for video games and not her. She’d been dating versions of him since she was 16 and she’d be damned if she thought he would change.
She calls a cab.
When the cab comes she waits, briefly, for him to stand, to move, to say anything at all.
“I’m leaving.” She tells him for a final time. His eyes flicker up to hers and back down again. He stands, stiffly, to hug her. When she in his arms he holds her tight. As if his muscles believe if they can just touch every curve of her body, they’ll remember it and mold her form in his empty arms whenever he needs her. He breaths the soft warm scent of her hair and prays to a God he doesn’t believe in that this time, lord, this time, he’ll remember that scent and recall her warmth in the lonely hours of his life. She feels this in his skin, his muscles, his breath and hopes against hope that he says something, one tiny sentence to show that he loves her, he wants her, will miss her. One voiced exhalation formed correctly and she’d forgive the hours he’d spent treating her like she was nothing.
“Have a safe trip.” He says.
He never sees her again. And he feels the lack of her in everything he touches.