It’s 5 o’clock and my heart is pounding. I’m waiting in a park at a green picnic table with a book in my hands that I’m mostly only pretending to read. I’m early and I have time to leave if I wanted. I could get right up and walk away and nothing would happen. I don’t, though. I feel like for the first time in my life I’m pushing out against all the things and people (the people!) holding me back. I feel free and wild and it makes my heart pound.
And then there she is sitting down beside me. She’s dressed in a red felt jacket with a white scarf around her neck, a very French look. All she’s missing is the hat with the button-thread poking out the top, I think.
“How’s the book going?” She nodded to it and smiled slightly. The book was the last thing on my mind, I was busy looking at her and how her blonde hair fell over her shoulders and stood out against the jacket. But for appearances I looked down to the book in my hands: Drops like Stars by Rob Bell. “A few thoughts on creativity and suffering” it says across the cover. Ironic, all things considered. Doubly ironic since she suggested it to me.
“It’s good. How’s yours?”
“It’s going okay. Kind of a slog though.” She smiles. A pause.
A second. “Yeah. Yeah I’m ready.”
We walked together to her SUV and got in.
* * *
Some years ago, back when I still lived in the country I spent a lot of time in the forest. I’d go to work then home, then work then home until I felt absolutely trapped and had to get away. I’d grab my jacket no matter what the hour and just go. Sometimes I’d take a camera and take pictures. One day I found turtles laying eggs in a dirt four-wheeler path that was close to a river. I stayed far enough away so as to not disturb them, but I did take a lot of pictures. They didn’t seem to mind.
* * *
We talked at first like we usually did. We talked about what we did that day, who pissed us off, what we managed to accomplish that day, what drama was going on with whom, all that. For the second half of the drive we were quiet with only the buzz of the radio and the sound of the cars wheels keeping our ears company. Normally silence between us is okay, a comfortable space for both of us. Sometimes it’s my favourite place to be with her and I feel closer to her heart and her mind than ever. Today it felt weird, like we were doing something wrong. Which we weren’t yet, but were about to. Why, then, did it feel so right? I fell back into my thoughts and the anticipation rolled up in my belly and barked. I didn’t dare to remain silent. I didn’t dare to speak too loudly.
“Sarah….are you sure?” I said quietly. “There’s still time to turn around.”
She glanced at me and said curtly. “Do you want me to?”
I saw her face tense as she said it and I realize she’s just as scared as I am. Thoughts race through my mind and I remember how unfulfilled she is, even if she doesn’t consciously realize it. I know I help her with that and I know she does the same for me. My own failed relationship has been chugging along for a while, deep in a rut yet unwilling to realize that it’s not worth the effort anymore. But after so many years what do you do? It’s not like you can just call your partner and just tell them it’s over, not when all your plans and everything you think and do and own is so intricately entwined with one another. What do you do?
“No. Not even a little, I want this more than anything. I just want you to know I will support you one hundred percent no matter what you choose to do. I’m on your side no matter what.”
We continued driving toward the cabin I’ve rented.
* * *
I found an opium field once. I had been sent to an outlying store to cover for a handful of employees who had quit the company. A decent hotel was paid for and I got time and a half, so that was nice. It was a pain to not know where anything was or the codes to the locks and registers though. By the end of the week I was stressed out without being able to do most of the things that usually help me relax. So I did what I usually do when I need to get a hold on everything; I drove. I drove for a while into the middle of nowhere and the urge to go exploring hit me. So I pulled off down an old abandoned-looking road and parked my car. Then I walked off into the woods down an overgrown trail. Twigs and branches snapped underfoot and more than once red pricker bushes caught my pant-legs. The path ended into a stand of old oak trees towering above all the others. I remember looking up and thinking, damn, I could see why the people in England used to worship them. Druids I think?
* * *
She on her side facing me with her eyes closed. Her skin is flushed and red where we had pressed against each other, her breath still deep and fast. I watch her breasts rise and fall with every breath. I take her in closely for the first time since we got there. She curved nicely; her skin was smooth and milky white. Her chest wasn’t as firm as
it once was and on her belly she had echoes of stretch marks from her one and only child. Her hair was long, messy, all over her shoulders and some over her face. Incongruous. She was absolutely beautiful. I’d known her mind for years and now I experiencing her body for the first time. I’m completely taken in, completely happy. I want her more than ever and I felt myself getting hard again just looking at her. I reach out to her run a finger around her nipple. Then I slide my finger up towards her shoulder and ease my palm against her breast. She’s looking at me now. I smile at her and slide my hand up and around to the back of her neck.
“I love you,” I tell her for the first time and pull her close for a deep kiss, the kind you reserve only for people you’re totally in-tune with. She returns and we kiss more, more until I’m rolling on my back and she’s laying on top of me, grinding her body against mine. Her nipples drag against my chest and I arch my back and lift her into the air momentarily. She giggled and I did too. I pulled her close for another kiss.
* * *
When I walked through the oak stand I came upon a small white field stretching maybe 100 paces by 300. It was clearly cultivated with the plants all in neat little rows. Flowers. Little flowers. It didn’t strike me as odd at all, this little field in the middle of the deep woods. Once I heard the guy dressed in olive greens and holding a rifle yell at me it seemed quite odd indeed, though. It seemed doubly odd when he raised up his rifle in my direction.
I ran. I ran as fast as my feet could carry me and the trees whipped by. I was scared he’d shoot, I was scared of what I stumbled on. A drug field, a poppy field I now knew. More importantly, one with an armed guard. I kept running and I imagined myself as James Bond fleeing with the sensitive documents. Despite the circumstances, for the first time in a long time I felt like I was in my element. The idea that my death could be just around the corner and that drug gangs don’t fuck around didn’t cross my mind. Since when does James Bond ever die to the villain after all?
* * *
We had fallen asleep spooning. I woke up with my right arm falling asleep underneath her. When I slid my arm out (quietly, gently), it woke up with a thousand pins and needles. I winced and walked naked into the kitchen. Bits of something-or-other we tracked in poked at my feet and I made a mental note to sweep later. It was still dark out. Four-sixteen said the clock on the oven. I looked outside and there was snow coating everything. It must have snowed during the night I thought to myself and flicked on the light switch. On the wooden table was the vase with the flowers I had bought. White lilacs mostly. I had added a single white rose as well. I had thought that going with a red one would’ve been too glaring, too forced an accent. White with white was best. I touched a petal. It was fleshy, smooth and a bit dusty as flower petals are.
I felt like I have crossed a threshold and I had, hadn’t I? We both had. We’ve finally crossed that line and now there’s no going back to just being friends. Were we ever friends, though? To me at least it felt like we had been lovers long before the actual sex. At first I thought nothing of her, let alone the idea of ‘us.’ She was just someone with similar interests to talk to. From there it went to what we were reading to our ideas to….well, everything and anything. We meshed so instinctually; I’d never felt that way before. Is there even a word for that kind of feeling? Mesh doesn’t feel right. Interact is too mechanical. I don’t know.
I had let go of the flower and was walking to the living room when I heard her getting up as well. She was naked and beautiful. I step over to her and kiss her forehead.
“Yeah, I was doing okay until you got up. I think you poked something.” She looked up at me in mock-anger.
I gave her a hug and she hugged me back and smiled. Arms around each others’ waists we walked out to the living room and sat on the futon there. There was a Navajo rug folded over the back and I took it out and covered both of us with it. We laid there for a while.
“There’s no coming back from this is there. We’re stuck.” Sarah told me quietly.
“Yeah.” I replied after some seconds.
“Then why do I feel so comfortable, how can I feel so right being here with you? You’re not my husband. I should be upset but I’m not. I should feel guilty but I don’t.”
“I don’t know why, not really.” I told her. “I feel the same way too. About everything. I have from the beginning. I knew my heart was going really early on. It was like, I don’t know. Like I was okay to begin with, life was fine and going alright, I was okay with everything, happy with it even.”
“Me too. I was really happy and I do love my husband, I do.”
“Yeah, I know you do.” I replied.
“I just don’t get how I can be this way too, to want you, too. I’m not just trying to validate myself and it’s not the sexual thrill either. It’s not that I lack self control either, I could have said no if I wanted to. I just…didn’t. I wanted you more than anything and nothing else mattered. Like all my life I was a piece from a jigsaw puzzle but I never realized it. So I went on through my life and through everything happy because I didn’t know that this feeling ever existed. And now that I’ve found you I know that I’m a two-piece jigsaw puzzle with one piece missing.” Sarah shifted around and searched my eye
s. I held her stare for a second then looked away. Then she looked away too.
“What?” she replied.
“In drops like stars there’s a bit that’s really, really true, I think. It went like….okay, you know my guitar? When I go at it I can really make a lot of noise, but in reality I only know a few chords and how to play interstate love song.”
“Half know how.”
“What?” She had broken my train of thought.
“Half know how! You messed up some of it and you can’t do the solo.”
“Pfft. It’s more than you know how to play.”
“Anyway…if Carlos Santana were to walk into my house one day and pick up my guitar what could he do?” Santana was one of our favourite guitarists. “He’d be able to take that thing and make music with it, things he knows from the past as well as create new things. He could play us something bluesy and make us feel low or something jazzy and make us feel high. He has that kind of connection with the guitar that I don’t have even though he doesn’t own it, I do. He possesses the guitar, he has this innate, powerful connection to it and he can bring out things that I just can’t. Even if I learned to hit all the notes the same way, it wouldn’t sound the same. I just own the guitar, he possesses it because it can be like that, you can possess something and not own it. You can own something you don’t possess.” I stopped here, worried I might have been too arrogant, too presuming.
“Are you trying to say my husband owns me but doesn’t possess me?” Bullseye. She had a way of noticing when I was worried about something and getting right to the point about it.
“Umm…” She smirked at that.
“And you’re saying that I possess you, but don’t own, too, aren’t you?”
“Umm….” I said and she smirked wider.
“Aren’t you?” she said more forcefully.
“Well…yeah. Yeah I am. Or at least I hope I do because if I don’t I don’t want to….” She cut me off with a finger on my lips.
“Shh. It’s true. At least, I think it is so far. Maybe. We’ll see.”
“Mmm.” I replied back to her.
“So what are you making me for breakfast?” She poked me in the ribs. “I’m hungry.”
* * *
When I was young I liked to be restrained. It didn’t matter how. I could be pinned and have my arms held back or maybe I could be wrapped up tight in a blanket that seemed to be twenty times my size. I liked the lack of control. I liked the feeling of being trapped and forced to submit to the situation. It made me feel safe. It didn’t make any sort of rational sense to me then and still doesn’t.
When I ran from the poppy field I felt like I was leaving that behind and not so much becoming something new as regaining a part of me that had been tied up and taken from me a long, long time ago.