He’d never been in love and he was almost twenty-one now, and he didn’t know what she was doing to him other than making him feel like a man who’s come out of the rain and into a room with a roaring fire that he thinks of as her heart. He had to know what to do next so he simply did what he felt, he went to see her next day and stayed for hours, writing all the while and running up a bill but watching her between pages, when he sipped coffee and pretended to be resting his eyes, so management wouldn’t get suspicious Earlene had a beau who seemed to be glued to his chair, chained to the table, but he was in one corner so nobody would mind when lunch hour, say, filled the place. She came by and smiled at him and even though he was sitting she didn’t have to peer down very far to catch his eyes so he could keep remembering hers as long as she was too busy to return. When she did, it was the smile and the long look while she was walking and his eyes catching hers and taking them as far into himself as he could open up a place for all of this to go. He was writing about rain and sun and fog, he was writing about walking with her and stopping to kiss her and to be kissed, about holding her and the precise way, as precise as he could make it, of the way her body felt, a body he had not seen naked but knew from the feel of his fingers in the folds of her clothes was going to be perfect, at least for him, and keep him happy for a very long time, as long as . . .
Was that enough? Was that all love was? If it was that simple, why was this his first time? What about those others? The high school flirts, the after-school fucks, the street girls who gave him the eye and he gave them what they were asking for, the working girls with their games to keep him coming back, the motherly women whose bodies taught him how to use his own to please them and prepare him for the girls and women to come, and he was not even twenty-one, my God! why didn’t he have it down yet, why was he still a callow, untutored lad with no one to ask what he should do next, how to get out of his heart this hot coal that went on smoldering when he happened to be alone . . . Now, hell, he had to go, he couldn’t stay on, and whispered to her he’d be across the street when she got off work, and she smiled without saying what she did not need to say. And sure enough, she came through the door when Aggie’s closed at ten, and here she was again, her black hair, her dark eyes and skin, and a fire inside ignited the smoldering ashes when he touched her hands with his and felt a little leap inside that may have been his heart . . . She said she missed him when she didn’t see him, or that’s what he hoped her eyes were saying, but there was no need to ask, not now . . .
(28 January 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander