The lights went out. Well, they didn’t just go out, I had to turn them off. I jumped into bed. Well, I didn’t actually jump but I got myself into the bed.
I had to maintain my military rack. Hospital corners and a three inch fold of starched sheets all tucked into their place with surgical precision. Well, not “surgical” it was more “military” in its precision. The South Carolina humidity was all around me. I had taken a shower an hour or so ago and I hadn’t really ever dried off. Judging from the gleam in her eyes and the smile, I wouldn’t be drying off any time soon.
My roommate was not there. I don’t know where he was but he was gone which was good. Ever since I’d picked her up at the airport and saw the tan shadows of her clavicle, I’d fought the urge to touch her. I fought it but I didn’t win. Every chance I got and a few I didn’t, I reached out. In the terminal of Beaufort’s small airport, we hugged and I couldn’t let go. She smelled better than I imagined and I have a good imagination. From her letters and phone conversations, we had developed a romance. I know how cheesy it sounds but you weren’t there.
I had met her about two years before in an art class. The very first day, she volunteered to be drawn. Rarely does anyone beat me to a volunteer that involves being center stage so she immediately had my attention. With a blank sheet of fibrous, recycled paper in front of me, I began.
Only I couldn’t.
She was beautiful. I couldn’t take my eyes off her face. Seriously.
I flew through a figure sketch full of curves and cute angles. But when I got to the face I stopped. I had to. She noticed that I had done everything but the face and when she asked why I explained that I didn’t want to mess it up.
I finally knew what all those corny soft rock songs were about. She walked in slow motion and there was probably little hearts in my eyes. You know – all of that.
The year went on and you could have painted the sexual tension if you knew what color to choose. Electric. The closer we got to each other, the more obvious it became. But nothing actually happened. I’m not sure why. I dated, she dated but you could see in the stares that lasted longer than normal and the way her eyelashes smiled at me in a coy look. Girls know what they’re doing when they do it and she did it every time.
Then I moved. I always move.
But we stayed in touch. Letters regularly and the occasional phone call. It doesn’t sound like it would be enough but it was. It was almost too much. I dated, she dated but on paper and through the communication lines there was something. I don’t even know what it was but it was great. Every kiss from the lips of another girl and I’d wish it was her. Every time I’d drive home from the bed of someone else, with the cold morning air fogging my windows and only the paperboy on the road and I’d think of her. She was always in my thoughts. I did everything for her. It doesn’t make sense but this kind of stuff rarely does especially when you’re young.
I visited her. She had a boyfriend – or whatever. Tension. The letters said one thing but neither of us could live up to the expectations that we had set. Pedestals. All my girlfriends were a shallow version of her and I’m sure she had her own issues with other dudes. In college some guy stalked her, that’s how great this one was. I got a picture of her and she was a blonde. The magic of hair dye couldn’t take anything away from her. Normally, she was brown haired and brown eyed. I know it sounds basic or not poetic enough for this – but it wasn’t. Seriously. I had fallen but it wasn’t as bad as the radio made it sound.
Trust me, it’s better that I skip. You’re not missing anything. Seriously.
I got stationed in South Carolina. It sucked. Then, one day I bought a phone card. It was twenty dollars and never has such a single bill paid for so much. She answered in her angelic, melodic voice. I know what you’re thinking but don’t. I’m really not normally so Celine Deon in my sappiness. Anyway, she said she was glad that I called and that she had been thinking about me. Some people have a way of making you the center of attention. It’s not that I’m an attention junkie although a few of my counselors would probably disagree. Whatever it is, it’s a good quality and I’ve only known a few who can pull it off without coming across phony. Try to ignore the Holden Caulfield vibe.
She had just quit school and her job and was hoping I’d call so she could come to me. It sounded like a bodice ripper but it was real. She wanted to see what would happen if we were in the same zip code for a while. Both of us free of significant others and both of us at such a point in our lives that we may as well throw caution to the proverbial wind. So she came to me.
Remember the airport and the clavicle from earlier? You have no idea. It was one of those small planes where you get to walk down the little steps and out onto the tarmac. You could see the southern breezes blow her brown hair into her eyes. Delicate hands brushed it away from her face revealing those brown eyes that inspire songs by Van Morrison. The door opened and old people entered the small Beaufort airport. Their transparent, green visors staining the giant Blue Blocker sunglasses that old people always wear. Behind the blue hair and the wrinkled flesh she was there, walking in that slow motion walk that got me the first time.
I fell again – hard enough to break something and I would.
This was the one who signed her name at the bottom of her letters. She answered the phone when I called and she was smiling in front of me. I’ve always been the kind of person that looks at people’s shoes and she wasn’t wearing any. For a moment I wondered if there was anything else that she wasn’t wearing. She was the one whose face I couldn’t draw. She was the first thought I had when I woke up and she was the one smiling at me from my small, military bed in my small, military barracks room without my roommate.
I’m ADHD and I’d just recently done probably about nine bumps of cocaine. My drug buddies kept knocking on the door, interrupting our movie. I did the bumps to get rid of them on a key. My key and it probably still had white flakes clinging to it in my pocket. I know it sounds like a cop out but it’s not. You don’t know these guys. It’s important to point out that cocaine doesn’t affect people with ADHD the same way. It’s too close to Ritalin. Needless, to say I was extremely clear headed at this point. Icy even. That didn’t stop me from noticing the perfect smile seducing me from the dark corner. I was seduced.
A gentleman never tells. But arching backs and smooth, sweet tasting skin crowded room 243A that night. Her legs wrapped around me. Her nails scratched my back. I felt lost in a beautiful world of bliss. I had never kissed anyone with such abandon. This was the kind of night that I can think about without getting hard. It went beyond that. Once again, I sound corny but sometimes we all do. Hopefully, at one point in everyone’s life, it will be unavoidable. This was the lovemaking that lived up to its name.
So we got engaged. Not right away, of course; even I’m not that spontaneous. She stayed for a few days. She blew my mind a few more times and not just with evenings like the above one. We could be in a stupid bar full of frat boys and cowboys, drinking cheap beer and she’d look at me. That was enough. We didn’t need more. I’d see those brown eyes and I’d understand all those sappy love songs all over again. It sounds annoying but it wasn’t.
I was in Texas, doing Border Patrol, at the time we got engaged. I had no ring or even a good story to impress her friends. Cosmopolitan magazine wouldn’t think anything of it and it wouldn’t have made an episode of Sex in the City but it was real.
She surprised me, when I got back, by flying in. Once again, I picked her up from that small airport. Once again she walked in slow motion and I fell. I fell a lot around her. But something was different. She seemed depressed – out of sorts. Of course, nothing was wrong but something was. We both knew it but neither of us new what it was. She withdrew and I quit smoking. I ate Pez to help with the cravings but nothing could cure my other cravings. Where was she? She was supposed to be the answer. No more nights of small talk with chicks, weighed down with emotional baggage. No more going to the grocery store alone. No more empty beds or showers with only one bar of soap. I was already imagining a house and bedroom that had been decorated in a theme that I would never pick but could rest in the knowledge that, later that night, I’d sleep next to a queen.
None of it was going to happen. Not yet – not for me.
She went home and tried to kill herself. Sleeping pills and vodka. She was diagnosed as a manic-depressive. Apparently, it comes out in women when they hit the age of 20 or so and it took my brown-eyed girl. That explained the sudden urge to quit school and see me. That explained the change in mood after Texas. Manic one trip and depressed the next but it seemed so right. The way you read about or suffer through during one of those catchy pop songs. Damn.
I’m fine. I haven’t spoken to her since. Her doctors advised her that she have no contact with me. Apparently, she needed to keep her environment stable and I was anything but that. It’s true that I was eating any pharmaceuticals that came my way and that my tattoos weren’t hiding the track marks as good as they used to but I would’ve been a good husband. A good lover. She would have made a great friend even if she was bi-polar. I never called or wrote. I had my own problems with the military and the rehab.
I wonder how she is. How she looks and smells. I know how I’m doing but it’s not enough to go off. I still get annoyed when I hear soft rock but I know what they’re talking about now. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Good even. Unfortunately, no one can measure up to the memories. They’re enough to understand but not enough to get by.
So, I look around again and I just enrolled in another art class.