Summer Days When You Loved Me

Untitled design

While waiting at the fast-food restaurant drive-through there was a young couple in the car behind me and this came to mind:

There were summer days, the car windows down and the smell of that old ’71 Bonneville and its aging flecks of fabric and a thousand layers of Armor All, all dancing around in the wind. A bored Saturday at a fast-food restaurant and then the mall to look at and touch things we wouldn’t be able to afford for another ten years. Back in the car a hair-band ballad swayed us and we would both smile.

You said you loved me then. You took it back later. Much later. But sun-drenched summer days don’t lie and no matter what followed, in those moments you were either a liar, or you loved me.

Juicy Peach

peachy

“They had apples. Honeycrisp. Some other kind, too…I forget what–well, they’re all new apples.”

I smiled. “Thanks.” It was the closest I would get to the market that day. I love choosing my fruit and veggies from the farmers who grew them. The dried mud on a mound of small potatoes, flaking off around the little crate that contained them. The weight of a fat tomato in my hand. The smell of a bundle of herbs. Feeling like a Duchess as I peer at each package, choosing which would serve me best. But I wasn’t feeling my best that day, so he went alone. He delivered, though–Honeycrisp is my favorite. Pink Lady, second.

“I got some peaches, too.”

“Ohhhh.” I tiptoed to the kitchen to peer inside the bag. There they were, three perfect peaches.

I selected my favorite, though they all looked lovely. I turned around and let water run over it, washing the fuzzy skin gently. I gave her a little rub with the dishtowel on the counter, to dry her off. I put the fruit to my nose and inhaled, to my satisfaction it was delightfully fragrant. I bit into the fruit, grabbing  a paper towel to catch the juices. Sweet, wet, divine–the last taste of summer.

“This peach is perfect. Come have a bite.”

He poked his head into the hallway, peering at me standing near the sink. Eyebrows up, “Well, alright.”

I watched him take the four paces to me. His light brown hair in want of a trim. His green tee making his eyes more green than ever. His eyes are magic that way, pulling green, light brown, or hazel–depending on the shirt.

I held the peach up, about breast high. He stood in front of me for a beat and looked at the peach, put both of his hands around my hand, cupping it from beneath and raised the peach to his mouth. He looked me in the eye as he bit into the flesh, I was transfixed. Any words that had begun their journey to my mouth were halted in their tracks as I watched him take another bite, his eyes locked with mine. Juice running down our hands. I forgot the paper towel in my other hand. I forgot that I could look away, if I wanted to.

He released my hand, smiled and chewed, still looking me in the eyes. I felt a chain of electrical tingles run down my spine, then back up again. He made a sound that indicated the peach was, indeed, as perfect as reported. He then turned and walked back into the bedroom to sort books, and fold laundry. I enjoyed watching the back of him as he went. I stared at the space where he stood as I finished the peach in four bites, then made my way to the bedroom as well.

The Choice You Make – Sensual Sunday

I don’t know if I would undo it if I could. Your shirts are here. And your toothbrush with the fancy nubby side. I actually folded socks today (not my specialty). They weren’t mine. That’s how you know I care.

When you lift your head and put your feet on the cold hard floor, I swoop in and grab your favorite pillow, hook my arm around it and pull it in tight. I watch your naked back bend forward, the valley of your spine is perfect and I reach out and run a finger down.

You wipe the sleep and look over your shoulder, peeking through a mop of messy hair.

“I wish you didn’t have to go.”

“Me too.”

It doesn’t matter who said which, because we trade off these sentences, depending on what day it is.

I don’t know what force on this earth got to decide what love is or how it manifests, but I know what it is for me. Love is in the Don McLean song that crackles out the same line every morning, “The auctioneer saaaaaaaaid, I’m not through yet…” from your alarm clock. Love is around the edges of your iris, where light brown gives way to hazel. Love is in scrambled eggs and toast next to the window, on a single plate with two forks.

“I like ketchup on mine, do you?”

And now, even after what happened, we’re still here and maybe a little less sorry about it than the two years that followed, because love can also be an opportunity to choose somebody every day. We keep making that choice. I can’t undo it, so I will take solace in this.

 

 

Summer 1981

IMG-20110716-00377

I miss waiting for “The Wizard of Oz” to come on once or twice a year. I miss the lead up to the end of the school year and the phenomenon of the summer blockbuster. I miss not understanding about bills and politics. I miss jump-rope and jacks and creeks with smooth stones. I miss that first kiss feeling, when you weren’t even sure how kissing worked. I miss grape soda and skinned knees, tire swings and climbing trees. I miss swimming all day for weeks in a row. I miss the coolness of a desert night, sitting in a concrete pipe with a friend talking about everything, after the rest of the neighborhood had gone to sleep.

My Worth

avisualjournal2

There is a place. I am better there. Golden, and moonbeams shoot from my fingertips. I am right, but not the way you think I mean. Right like ocean waves. Right like an old book that hasn’t been opened in years. Right like ink-stained fingertips gripping and rubbing the linen until it’s perfect. There are truths in me that reveal themselves before I know their value. In anger, perhaps. Or fear. Today somebody wise said to me, “Pain is instructional.” And he is the center of that thought. He is the place I am right. From a pink hair on top of my head … or a grey one, to my heel, standing on a hard cold floor, waiting. And I will wait until the answers come. Until I know my worth. Until my voice is as loud as I need it to be to know that what I have done matters.

The Sky Ride

I was twelve, or thirteen, busting out all over and quiet at the same time.  Testing the waters, with my feathered hair and lip-gloss.  I wore my 501 button-down jeans and a black Jack Daniels tee shirt and we piled into the car and took a long ride to a  theme park.  Everybody with me was too young, or too old, and I wanted to have some time to myself, so they reluctantly let me go off on my own without too much protest.

I wandered around, watching people try to win stuffed animals, tee-shirts, or plastic cups with logos and big straws sticking out of them.  I wanted a boy to win me a giant stuffed prize so I’d be forced to lug the symbol of is affection and prowess around the park for all to see.  Big stuffed, fluffy validation of my worthiness.

The day was exquisite, balmy and slightly breezy with a sky the color of a Sky Blue Crayola crayon.  I stuffed my hands into my front pockets and pondered the scarier roller coasters.  Eventually I found myself in front of the sky ride that slowly glided high above the crowd and across the park.  That ride was just what I needed at that moment.  I could observe the world in the way it actually felt like I was observing it here on the ground.  In a detached way that also filled my longing heart with a sort of awe at everything around me.

People gliding the opposite direction would smile or wave, I’d give a tentative wave back.  Sometimes boisterous guys and quiet men would glide by and smile or wave, and I’d smile and look away.  Then a boy a few years older than me passed by.  Brown hair, tanned, shy-looking, he strummed every string in me.  Our eyes met.  It took a long minute for him to come into view and pass. I took another ride around and he passed again, this time with a bigger smile.  Me too.  I didn’t know what to do.  I wanted to meet him, but I was going to end up on the opposite side of the park if I got off.  So I rode around again, and there he was, again.  He hadn’t gotten off either.  And we did that, over and over – eyes meeting, shy smiles, small waves, and knowing.  Knowing that if we weren’t separated by that eight feet of air and a sixty foot drop, we’d be sitting close and telling each other everything you could share in a few hours.  And he would walk me to a game where he would win me a stuffed animal and I would carry it around as though he’d slayed a dragon for me.  We rode that way until the sky got dusky and purple and I knew I had to find my family.  I got off the tram, feeling a little heartbroken for what was never going to be, and hoping he got off too, so I wouldn’t disappoint him as my empty seat glided by.

Late Night Driving

Went on a late night drive with Will. He was restless and happy when he came home from rehearsal. Hair mussed up from his moon roof, chilled-neck hug and then a pat on my backside. “Let’s go on a drive,” he said.  “I want to take you out somewhere.  I don’t know if anything is open, but the night is amazing and I want to take you out.  Maybe we can just drive and find a little place.  Soft-serve maybe.  Maybe pie.”

I said I didn’t think we’d find any soft-serve, but maybe we could find a diner and some pie.  “Yes, let’s go.  I’d love to take a ride with you.”

Cool and humid night air.  Windows down. Talking about stuff we did when we were kids and why we’re always trying to capture that wonder you feel when you discovered something new. The roads were empty and nothing was open. Missed the I-Hop by ten minutes. We’d pass clumps of trees filled with singing insects, then buildings covered in windows, lights on, but no life inside. End of the world, but not.  Empty parking lots. Parts of Route 1 smooth as butter all black and shiny, other parts pocked and shaking the car. We were holding hands and saying I love you, too many times (if there is a such thing, when you mean it, and we did).

Hardly anybody was driving like a jerk and mostly we had the road. It reminded me of being on the road with my family – military, back and forth – California then Virginia, then California, then Virginia, then Texas and Virginia again.  Many hours on the road, watching the streetlights go by.  There was no portable DVD player, just the games my mom and dad made up.  Dad would say, “Hey, there’s a rub-broka,” and we were supposed to figure out what it meant. Mom would toss out “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” questions and my sister and I would play “Paddidle.”  When games grew old it turned to sisters annoying each other.

“Mom, she’s touching me!”

“Stop touching your sister!”

“Mom she’s not on her side!”

“Stay on your side!”

Stopping at I-Hops and Shoney’s and Denny’s on whatever route my dad decided for this trip. There’s something exciting about eating in a nearly empty diner after midnight. That’s still true for me.  A middle-of-night visit to Silver Diner excites some part of me that’s still wild and still seven.  You’re not supposed to eat in the middle of the night.  You’re not supposed to especially eat in the middle of the night at a restaurant.  Always – silver dollar pancakes and “dippy eggs” – usually with milk, or hot chocolate (with whipped cream) if I could convince my parents. There is something decadent about a spherical scoop of whipped butter that spreads neatly over the hotcakes. Mom would eye my syrup portion – I always overdid it, even for a runty beanpole of a kid, she didn’t like my sugar addiction. Grape Nehi, grape-jelly donuts (powdered please), grape Now & Laters, grape Pixie Sticks, grape Tootsie Pops.  I might have had a thing about grape.  I ate a lot and burned it hard and fast, running, climbing, skating, swinging, flipping, jumping – nonstop.

Will and I talked about camping and fishing and he kept laughing and telling me how cute I am, and I held it.  He told me his family went on a lot of camping trips and I tried to count mine.  Not a lot, but enough, I thought.  And for some reason paddle-boats were amazing to me.

He’d rub my thigh with his palm.  We’d talk about the empty buildings.  The lights.

“Does that one look open?”

“I think it closes at midnight.”

“Phone says there’s a Tastee Diner nearby that’s 24 hours.”

“That one’s dinky and really a greasy spoon, you sure you wanna try it?”  He knows more about these things than I do.  He knows these roads.  He knows what everything used to be.

“Maybe not.  I’m fine just driving.  Sorry we can’t find any pie for ya.”  He loves pie.

“It’s ok, I’m fine, too.”

We listened to a podcast we recorded together that had just been posted.  We got home before it was over and we sat in the car, windows down, leaning into each other, listening to us telling the story of how we met.

Now we’re both back in the house, distracted by pixels and electronic machines.  But I’m going to end this now and go climb into bed with the love of my life.

Good night.