He drove a bit slowly on the quiet road, going out of his way a bit to see if the tree was now the lone hold out. Not in a rush to get home, he was anxious to see if the tree was still awash in golden color. He found himself taking the time to notice how the treeline seemed to meet the sky on the ridge overlooking the road. Driving farther away from town, he was thankful now for the road repairs that had annoyed him and sent him this way the other day. He couldn’t forget the vision of the few splashes of color in the dismal November landscape, how that tree in particular seemed ablaze when most others around it were still, brown, lifeless. He wasn’t the sort that would read much into symbols and such, but it was becoming important to him to see that tree once more before it joined its brethren, dropping its leaves and standing quiet for the winter. He pressed his foot gently, speeding up just enough to keep pace with his breaths. He wondered briefly how he would feel if he came upon the tree and found it bare, naked. For some reason, he remembered seeing his father just before they closed the casket. He didn’t look asleep, as they said. He looked lifeless in every sense. Wearing clothes he would never have worn. Lying still and grey under the stupid makeup. His hands crossed in some inane pose that was supposed to look peaceful. He hoped that tree still had its leaves. He slowed down before the final curve, very thankful this road was so deserted. Like some sort of unveiling, he almost felt before he saw the golden boughs reaching out of the copse of sleeping trees. Tears streaming down his face, he drove home.
“Have I lost you?” he asked.
“I was never yours to lose,” she answered. “Not really.”
He wondered how that could be when he had memorized the curve of her face and could decipher at least seven of her smiles.
She shifted in her seat, looking ready to bolt. He was reminded of a racehorse chomping at the bit to get out of the gate. But she was no thoroughbred. She was a very damaged human being. How could she leave?
“Where will you go?” he asked.
She stopped her scanning of the room and looked at him directly. She held his gaze a moment before saying softly, “Does it matter?”
He wanted it to matter. He wished the time they had spent meant something.
“Can’t we just go back and…”
She cut him off. “There’s no going back, just like there’s no taking back the things you said.”
“But don’t you see,” he pleaded, “those vicious words were not for you. I was full of those words before you came along. Those same words brought you to me. You’re helping me pour them out.”
She looked down at the ground.
He almost whispered, “Don’t you want to see how the story ends?”
She looked up at him, her eyes brimming with tears.
He crooked a finger under her chin and met her halfway with a kiss.
“Come on,” he said. “Let’s go home.”
She wavered for another moment and then said “I can’t let you destroy me.”
They stood another moment looking at each other, each realizing they had put their heart in the other ‘s hands. Their heads full of stories, they turned and walked home.
Studying the curve of her face, following each lock of hair as it brushed her shoulder, he sat quietly and listened.
Learning the patterns of crinkles his eyes made as he smiled, glancing at his strong hand as it rested on the table, she savored a captive audience.
They were made for each other, but didn’t seem to know it. Without instructions, they were a bit lost. With all that’s properly acceptable in the world requiring manuals, people were forgetting how to act upon instinct.
Scent. Flavor. Touch.
The eyes can only behold a modicum of information. What these people need is a firm push out of their heads.
As if shaken from a daydream, she finished her story and smiled. He returned her smile and took her hand. They sat quietly, listening to their hearts.
She became mindful all at once in his arms. Drawing in a breath, maybe the first real one in hours, she let him guide her around the creaky, sticky dance floor. His voice rumbled through her as he hummed along softly. The sax was done wailing for now and the piano and bass talked to each other. Her hand slid behind his neck as his found rest at her lower back. Pulled closer, her head found rest against his chest.
She wanted to look at him but wouldn’t break this embrace. This dance was their first touch. They had talked, laughed, shared side by side but somewhere they picked up tendrils of something more. Picking at threads of possibility, tonight was a beginning.
Thank God jazz songs can go on forever, she thought. Their conversation at dinner had been rollicking fun. Their evening walk to this club felt sparkling. But this dance was … perfect.
She was disheveled, but when he looked at her she felt like a goddess. He looked like the most delicious sin. Any other thought, past or future, was peripheral to this moment. No matter what, she would carry this memory as a precious gem forever. This night, this dance, this moment.
She was smart enough to understand this was the most she could hope for. Whether they parted tomorrow or rode off into the night as partners for the rest of their lives, moments of perfection are fleeting. They just might venture to physical heights previously unknown to them. But those moments are not meant to be sustained either.
Quelling all busy thoughts, she breathed him in again. He smelled of scotch, bar smoke, and soap. She tested a patch of skin at his neck with her tongue. Salty and rough. He squeezed her hip and she finally pulled back to look at him. They stood staring for what felt like days. Reading eyes. Clenching fingers. Music slowing to a fade for them. Without a word, they moved together.
I wish to heartily thank my supporters and friends and followers! I have had words stuck in my head all my life and it’s taken me to my middle age to write them down.
I’m working on a book of poetry to hopefully be published this year; up to six months ago, I would laughed at that idea.
I am particularly proud of the connections I’ve made with other writers. We should revel and share in our journeys and support each other as we have chosen similar modes of expression.
“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful pour out.” – Ray Bradbury