This Once

Those chiseled cheekbones remain unmoving as his eyes scrutinize me across the coffee table. I take a sip of my latte and continue blabbing endlessly about nothing. For a writer, I sure talk a lot.

The muscles in his arms flex under even the most subtle of movements. His lips look so very soft and inviting, in wide contrast to the sharp lines of his face.
I’ve been waiting for this moment for quite a long time and I can’t help the tremors that run through me as I look him over. He’s just as good-humored, just as sweet, and just as boldly attractive as I imagined him to be.

You never really know before you meet someone for the first time. They could be nothing like they seem. They could be a GQ model, but then when you come face to face, the attraction is flat.

Not the case here. I hardly know what to say, I’m so intimidated. He’s just outgoing enough to provide a cover for my insecurity but just unspoken enough to make me want to rip off his skin and dig underneath – find the bugs, the highlights, the pain.

I prod him with questions about his blog, his travels, his personal life that always seems so cleverly shrouded.

His long slender fingers inch closer to mine. I don’t move, though I beg him silently not to stop. I wonder what they feel like, how warm they are, how soft. I wonder if they cradle other fingers in theirs, hold them possessively, or stroke them sensually.

He sits with the slightest of slouches but still towers with an air of confidence. You wouldn’t know with the way he’s talking – he’s a failure, a freak, a nobody. What he does have is meaningless. What he did have is lost. He regrets it and yet, as I raise my coffee cup to my lips, his eyes follow. He regrets but he wants. He wants it all.

I watch him more closely as his gaze wanders from my lips, down my cheeks to my neck, then to the crux of my low-cut top. He looks away, almost with guilt, then with a shake of his head, asks me about my life.

We’re a couple of losers, it appears, neither of us able to say much of ourselves that even resembles flattery. It’s almost like it’s cool to be a uncool. I can’t help but examine him as he responds to my self-deprication. His demeanor is deep and understanding, but his eyes are amused.

Does he notice how close our fingers are to touching? Did he jump when our knees brushed beneath the table? Is he painfully aware of how closely I observe his every subtlety like a detective searching for the tell?

I barely know him and yet he already has the power to crush me – a power he’s already convinced me he’d never wield despite his proclaimed self-interest. But he nudges me forward ever so slightly with his invitation to take a walk in the park by the coffee shop. As if I could say no.

His lanky form rises from the table, holding his hand out for mine. I stand too, but I still can’t even begin to match his height. I reject his hand on principle – I’ve lived a life wrought with enough heartache to know a hand should never be given too readily.

He holds the door open for me and I welcome the feel of the sun on my dimpled arms. The goosebumps dissipate and I remember that I’m not a slave to his magnetism; I can make him a slave to mine.

I shove my hands in my shorts and follow him across the park, my eyes focused on his steely long legs. Runners legs. I’ve never been able to work that kind of muscle into my calves, and I am continually baffled by those who can.

As we gain ground and the secluded forest comes closer, his fingers brush mine again, testing me. A shot of adrenaline pierces through me and I wiggle against his touch, enough to convince him to seize the day. He links his fingers gently in mine. Can he hear my heart pounding? Can he feel my blood pressure rise?

I glance up at his face. He is closed off, lost in some other world, dealing with demons no one else can understand. I want to make it better, heal his heart, quell his pain with the power of my body so he can fight another day.

We pass the first group of trees, then another, then another. The vast park is well-landscaped even as we climb so far into the darkened forest that the signs of life are no longer human.

I rub my thumb against his knuckle, my pulse hopping. He doesn’t return the gesture but pulls me deeper, deeper into nowhere.

“Fred…”

At last, he stops and leans his shoulder again a tree trunk, his hand still clasped in mine.

“You know how they say…” His eyes fall to the ground and he turns to me.

I wait for him to continue.

“It’s all supposed to work out somehow. Eventually, it’s all supposed to make sense.”

I have no idea what specifically he’s referring to yet I understand every word with explosive empathy.

I shake my head and examine the grass under our feet. “But it never does.”

I kick off my shoes and he does likewise. I can feel the heat radiating off him like he’s some radioactive force that will both heal and destroy me.

He releases my hand and his energy falls away with it. For a moment, I’m lost, watching him from a far distance as he looks me over with an intensity I can’t even begin to interpret.

He raises his fingers to caress my cheek and those deep brown eyes bore into mine. The magic returns, flowing through me from head to toe, magnified most assuredly upon the spot of skin where his skin meets my cheek.

I can’t resist – I place my hand on his, fearing he’ll stop. I pull his palm to my mouth and kiss it gently, then glance up at him through my lashes.

He’s watching his hand where I place another kiss. I search his eyes for confirmation, reciprocation. He looks away and huffs but doesn’t recoil from my touch. I interlink his fingers in mine and kiss the tips, one by one, pleading with him to respond.

He turns back to me, a new look of resolve in his visage. His thumb runs across my lips – the sigh that escapes my mouth deepens the sense of urgency building in my body.

He grasps my arm with his other hand and pulls me closer, tipping my head back to look him in the eye. “You do.”

We are locked in a twilight zone, a war of should’s and shouldn’t’s, enveloped by an enemy that ropes us to each other in firm but frayed knots.

He runs his thumb over my cheek one more time and I squeeze his hand tighter. At last he leans, low and cool, his breath close enough to taste. I place my free hand on his chest. His lips brush mine so softly it almost seems like a dream.

“Can I?” he whispers.

I hesitate. His scent is near me, his body so close, his soul within reach but it’s so reckless. So much to ruin, more pain to cause, more…

I push the thoughts aside and nod.

His breath expels from his body in a minty rush and he winds both hands into my hair before kissing me again, this time with firmness, with passion.

I lose myself, my lips, my body. I feel nothing but his pores under my fingers, the stubble on his chin, the veins in his neck, the buttons of his shirt as I release them one by one.

I feel I can taste it all in his embrace – the lips that yell and curse, that cry in the night when no one is watching. The tongue that tastes rich foreign delicacies but craves a deeper, more passionate flavor. The arms that squeeze his soulless wounds as darkness dissipates and dawn offers its unforgiving torture. The hands that labor thanklessly, lost for want of a softer touch.

I break from his kiss, his eyes begging, needing. I bare the skin of his shoulders, his shirt falling to the soil as his hands run smoothly under mine.

For a moment, all is still. Our gaze never breaks, our bodies don’t dare divide. I take his hands in mine and run them further under my clothes, smoothing them across the planes and slight curves of my body. I release him, allowing him to roam freely as I remove each boundary that separates us, our shirts and pants a colorful discarded heap against the deep green grass.

I pull him to me, closer this time, and the breeze blesses us as we collide on every surface from head to toe.

Skin against skin, organ to organ, soul to bone, we fall to the green, chests clashing, teeth gnawing, our most private recesses entwined in a lost cause rebuffed. I refuse to believe it, fight to deny that we should be anywhere but here, sharing a painfully slow, sensual tryst that none can break, strip, or steal.

Even as our bodies shiver, our sweat pools, and our limbs quiver with strain, I know this moment was the only one we ever needed. To be here. To have this one perfection. To know bliss.

My body won’t peel away. It won’t disconnect or fracture the solidarity that hangs delicately between us. My lips refuse to part from his. I must feel it all. Every inch. Every ounce of blood that pounds through our veins.

As he pulls away and sits back, tearing away my carnal fire, I follow each centimeter with a new kiss, the kisses I know he doesn’t want to leave. I don’t stop – won’t stop – even as he begins to reclothe his lean naked frame. I’ll taste every empty space until the last.

And when he finishes and I fall to the ground beside my evil bindings, the hunger beads in his eyes. I feel those calloused fingers on my back, tracing the lines of every tendon, bone, and muscle as I regretfully dress to the melody of his lowering stroke. His lips are shut off but his hands speak my name, starting once more at my feet, then shooting a gust of frenzy through my legs, my hips, my breasts, my arms, my neck, my face, my hair.

When the last article of clothing is laid, the ground looks naked, bland, unfair. What should be there is not. What is there no longer holds beauty.

I lean against a tree trunk, already jealous of its prickly, impervious insensibility.

He leans over me, wipes a tear from my face, and savors my lips once more with his. “This did.”

With one last caress of his hardened face, I nod. I kiss his eyebrow, he holds my hand gently in his and backs away. Our fingers won’t quit their grasp until distance wills it.

I slide down the rough bark to the ground, bury my face in my knees, and refuse the sound of his shoes padding in the wrong direction.

I murmur into the hands now dead and void of light. “We do.”

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4 thoughts on “This Once

  1. I like this, but am left with questions unanswered. Why exactly is this interaction forbidden? You can sense the thread of conflict in several exchanges: “We are locked in a twilight zone, a war of should’s and shouldn’t’s, enveloped by an enemy that ropes us to each other in firm but frayed knots.” Is this an excerpt of a larger piece?

    Liked by 1 person

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