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At Last?

By , Crozet, VA
I am standing on the grounds of an estate. It has a large brick main building, with white bulky trim at the seams and handmade glass windows with whorls and bubbles that distort one’s view of the other side. There are people rushing around me. Children, teens, adults, mostly teens, are laughing and running to the main tent for lunch. There is some sort of carnival going on, though exactly what sort I never know. All I notice is her. She is wearing a short, white, cotton dress that billows around the hips and has pleats starting below the bust. There is a strong breeze and as it blows, her dress rises to her thighs, showing her long, lithe, blissful legs. Her dark hair is blown across her face, and she absent-mindedly brushes it back with her fingers as she looks at me. As I first meet her gaze, I feel the warm tones of sunset, bright orange, vibrant yellow, and light pink, explode from within me, and I forget that she looks down on me, and think only of my love for her. The scene flashes and we are walking behind a group of peers, the sky is cloudy and roiling with the oncoming storm, but I barely notice because as we walk she slips her hand into mine and my vision fogs, all my attention suddenly yanked to the point of contact. It is as if she sends a shock through me with her touch, and I am electrified and overjoyed. The surroundings shift again, although it is hardly noticed and nothing changes, while at the same time, everything is different. Now I am following her as we argue, although about what I don’t know, I only hear muffled tones and have the grey feeling of disagreement in my vision. Now I am running away from her and she is chasing me, laughing, and I am laughing too, and I stop on a grassy knoll and look back, and the knoll turns into liquid and ripples outwards. Or at least, it seems like it does, for my knees buckle at the sight of her running towards me. She is so lovely, so blissfully beautiful, haloed with mischievous allure. I catch her in an embrace and our lips lock, and everything moves in slow motion. I feel wisps of her hair blowing around my face and touching the back of my neck. I hear her exhale through her nose, feel the embrace of her lips and the brush of her eyelash on mine as she closes her eyes. Most of all I taste her. It is the taste of hope, of vitality and lust on her lips. I hear a promise in the embrace: I am yours, and it chills me to the bone with the thrill of realized uncertainty. The requital of affection is more satisfying than anything I can imagine.

In my waking hours I sit in class. The professor’s words lap at my consciousness like waves, but I am distracted. It is the same as always, she is at my left shoulder, near enough to reach out and touch, but too distant to talk to. I don’t know why I distance myself like this. I know she won’t be rude to me. Every time we speak she is civil, and she has even approached me spontaneously and initiated conversation. Still, there is that nagging sensation in the back of my skull, a little needle that says I’m not good enough, that she has bigger and better things going on, and that it will do nothing but hurt me in the end anyway. Today something is different though. Today I have courage. As I sit whittling the seconds away with my mighty sword on the paper in front of me, I suddenly decide to do what I have pictured countless times before. I quickly draw two horizontal lines, two vertical lines, and a large X in the middle square, handing it to her without saying anything. She takes it, looking at me, confused, for a second, before understanding and withdrawing her fingers. I turn back to the front of the class, trying to listen to the professor, but now interrupted not by the lapses in concentration, but by the rhythmic pounding of blood in my ears that blocks out all other sound. I did it, I think, I finally did it, and I turn back to her, and she slips the piece of paper back into my hand. I see she has placed an O next to my X, and I ponder for a minute before making my next move. I hand the paper back to her, and look away quickly, for despite my momentary confidence burst at the outset of the game, I am now nervous again. I’m nervous that she doesn’t want to be playing, nervous that she is just putting up with me and barely tolerating my scholarly delinquency. I wait a little longer, hear her rip a piece of paper, and look back. She hands me the game sheet, plus a little shred that has words written across it. I take them from her and read what she has written: “I feel bad playing in class, maybe another time?” I look back and try to give what could have been an understanding nod in another lifetime, but has in this case wilted into a sign of submission that doesn’t quite manage to meet her gaze. I turn back to the front sheepishly, putting the page marked with XOX back in my bag, trying to convince myself that she really doesn’t mean anything by it except that she wants to pay attention in class, but feeling in my self-pitying little hull that she is doing this as a gentle hint. I decide to take it and don’t respond.

We are hiking through a valley. There are thick tree trunks all around us, and a dark canopy laced with swooping vines above our heads. We are talking about meaningless topics that float off into the surrounding arbor, fading slowly as they drift through lush greenery and screeching wildlife. We reach the trickling remains of what used to be a powerful waterfall, and I climb down first, then turn around and help her place her feet as she clambers down the rocky, slippery incline. She doesn’t need my help, she is at least as good a climber as I am and in much better shape, but her acceptance of my assistance is a beautiful gesture, and I appreciate it. We keep walking along the trail, and it fades back into her room, where we have returned after finishing the hike. The sweat glistens off of her smooth skin and her hair lies in straggles of curling wisps, moist and lovely. I am content just looking at her. A pause, and then she steps out of the shower, a towel wrapped around her torso, her curves accentuated, and her eyes tease, laughingly, as she notices my gawking. She asks me for help choosing a dress to wear to the dance, even though we are not going together, and we decide upon a long, black, satin one with slits in the sides. Then she teasingly asks me which bra to wear, and I choose a revealing pushup style before realizing my mistake. I ask her if it’s okay, and she smiles and says yes, she loves that bra, and my embarrassment dissipates.

The first time I met her we were in a class together as freshmen. It was the first year I had gone to the same school as her, and I was immediately entranced. I had a girlfriend then, as I do now, but that didn’t stop me from thinking she was the prettiest girl in the school. I confessed this to a friend of mine, who laughed and said that she couldn’t see the attraction. I could though, and when our seating arrangements changed and I was placed directly next to her, I took the opportunity to work my charms. I didn’t talk to her except for when there were no other options, and limited myself to smiling at her at the beginning of class. I think this must have worked, for we didn’t talk after that for all of sophomore year and through junior year. In junior year I listened to my friend talk about how much he wanted to go out with her, watched her date a senior, and kept my opinions to myself. I have watched as she became one of the school’s most desirable, gaining the attention of all my classmates, winning most attractive by popular vote, and occasionally giving me shards of elation with her radiant smile.

We’re at a secluded beach with sun-bleached white sand and pure blue water, and there is no one in sight. The sand is warm as I run my fingers and toes across the top of it, drawing formless hieroglyphs and digging tiny trenches under shafts of sunshine. She is ankle deep, toying with the current and using her pointed foot to trace figure eights in the gently rolling crystal. She is wearing a modest black two-piece, and the ardent sunlight creates varying values of golden brown, from the light fawn at the peaks of her shoulders to the deeper walnut in the dimples at the base of her spine. As I gaze at her, enthralled, I try my best to memorize her every detail, as if she is about to slip away; as if, in the back of my mind, I know it is too good to be true and cannot last. I note her slender, delicate neck, bowed forward as she studies the eddies at her feet. The prominent vertebrae where the neck meets her torso act as a guideline which then leads the eye down the slanted contour of her back. Her arms are lissome and powerful, her shoulders narrow but taut with graceful strength. Her torso tapers smoothly to a lean waist, then back out to hips that are perfectly toned as only those belonging to an athlete can be. She has a freckle on the back of her knee that serves as the only visible blemish anywhere on her legs. It is a rapturous scene, but it slips away. The sun has set and I have built a bonfire on the beach. It tosses handfuls of sparks into oblivion that dance wildly as they strain to join the stars. We lay in an upturned V, our heads together and our outstretched arms touching at the fingertips, and the vast silence is broken only by the snaps of the fire as it burns down.





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