I asked her once how she could smoke a cigarette and still taste so sweet. She just smiled and said “I’m cool like that.” I laughed, pulled her close but not close enough. I needed her inside my insides, her soul in my soul. And that’s what love is. The feeling of needing to be one, no barriers, no boundaries. Porous.
At lunch, she sat next to me but turned her back to me, talked to friends at other tables. When I finally got her attention she asked if I’d had wine on the drive up. I lied and said I’d had a glass, emphasis on a. Don’t recall her saying anything about cigarettes but she must have smelled them, and I’d guess the kids and other counselors did too. I was clueless at the time, years later I worked with serious smokers, put two and two together.
When the baseball game ended she told me there wasn’t room in her car and maybe I could catch a ride back with someone else. This was how she told me it was over without telling me. She didn’t know any other way at the time, at that age, and I couldn’t hear her, at my age, just got more needy, more clingy. Eventually I asked her point blank, forced her hand. And when she finally came clean it felt good for us both, I think, to be sure, finally. To be final.
A few years went by. We kept in touch, not often, but often enough. We met for drinks with a friend of mine and she flirted with him as she’d always done. And that was fine. I could see what was coming, see it in her eyes.
When the call came she said there was a party at her place, asked me to come. She gave me directions, I drew a map on paper and hoped I could find it, 45 minutes away. I parked down the street, hooked a few swigs of vodka in the car and wandered out, wandering around figuring I’d find her somewhere, sooner or later. When our eyes locked it felt like it was just us again, just for a moment. A hot, sweet moment. Then the crowd and the music came crashing back. She was dressed in black leather pants, a black t-shirt, pack of cigs rolled up in the sleeve, skin tanned a luscious shade of butterscotch. I bummed a smoke, we shared a beer bottle, she flitted away hostess-style and I fell in with another girl who I overheard saying how much she loved words like effervescent and mellifluous. I suggested efficacious and shifted to drinking with her until the temperature dropped and she began to shiver. I draped her with my jacket, asked her to go out sometime and got a yes, but never saw her again.
On the way out, whatever time in the morning, on the front porch alone saying goodbye to she of the leather pants and t-shirt and butterscotch tan. The hug turned into something a little more, and a little more, and when I invited her upstairs she just laughed. I suggested she was making a huge mistake. She said the mistake would be falling in love with me again, and that made sense. I persisted, she almost gave in, and thoughts of the mellifluous one maybe seeing us nagged at me as we kissed like we used to, like no one else mattered. And I knew success really meant mistake though it felt right trying to make one. I said goodbye, took a few steps backwards, mouthed the word mistake once more before turning my back on her.
Next day I gave her a call, to be sure we were cool. She just laughed and said of course we were.
Never saw her again either.