I was eating breakfast in Pacifica, California, in a booth by the window when I noticed a dark-haired young woman leaning out the window of an old red pickup truck.
It was a chilly morning yet the woman was resting her smooth, bare arms against the cold metal of the truck’s window frame. She was tossing words out the window to a man she was talking to on the curb. In between sentences, they gave each other long, lingering smiles.
I could sense the tension between them and, like a dancer, muscled and poised in his blue mechanic’s uniform and thick black braid, the man moved his weight back and forth, from one foot to the other as she spoke.
“Make love to me,” I imagined her saying. “Make love to me like an artist, like kids in the pool, like ice cream.”
I had a man who used to make love to me like that.
A man who invented the three-day-kiss—a man for whom the lyrics about an all-night, do right man were written.
I had known that kind of man.
But illness or injury or anything that breaks the body is the most jealous of lovers and she stole that man from me.
She wedged herself between his feelings and his body and slowly prevented him from caressing me the way he had, or from moving the way he had, or even from holding himself up over me the way he had.
After she got her hands on him he, and I would make love and he would put himself inside me and we would both know that there was a time when it was oh so different. Surely I could let him enter me with all the fervor that he used to bring to such an act without hating him for having been hurt or hating him for being ill.
But of course I couldn’t.
I would lay there afterwards, my head on the immobile place that used to be his strong, supple shoulder screaming inside myself, “No! No! I want it back. I want it all back.” I didn’t want that frozen shoulder. I didn’t want that strange body.
I wanted the man I loved and the body that went with him.
I wanted the man who put his hands on me as if he had just been given a treasure map and hungered to discover every by place of it, making each traced line a territory of his own.
I wanted the man who could use his body and my body to scream that poem that only flesh and matter and sinew could write.
I wanted the man who had not only thrust himself into me but who could probe and savor and hold back, even as he pushed deeper and deeper. Riding along the edges of the waves he created, wave after wave, until he rocked and swayed and swelled with the engulfing motion of his own ocean.
I wanted the man who sucked on my breast until I was the last woman on earth and he the last man and our final moment together was so complete it became our first.
I wanted the man who shattered me, leaving a spidery pattern of lines on the glass, and then kissed me back into wholeness, holding me until every note of the final movement had been played out and only a soft melody persisted.
I wanted that man. But that man was gone.
“I can’t do this,” I had said to myself, unable to find a gracefully accepting bone in my body. I was swimming in a bottomless sea. “I can’t do this.”
Outside in the parking lot I watched the mechanic throw a bright boy-smile to the girl in the truck. He threw his head back and tossed his keys high into the California sky. Chin up, mouth slightly open, he then leaned back and watched as the keys plunged down into his cupped waiting hands.
When I looked again he and the woman were pulled together in embrace, their mouths stuffed with the flowers of their kisses.
I watched as the man released the woman and, unable to take his eyes from hers, began stepping backwards across the street. She watched him as he got into his car, turned on the engine and revved it.
With a final glance back at the woman, the man nodded once, put his car in gear and sped away in gleaming chrome.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock