Halfway across the river, the ferry turns. The gulls, as always, surprised by the boat's movement now wheel and dive, complaining cries as they take up their stations once again. The turn means a breeze from a fresh direction can ruffle hair, feather the hem of the skirt that after all these months I dare to wear so that it dances round my knees. I lean against the bow gate, as I always have whenever I ride on this ferry, lean into the breeze, let the iron railing keep me from falling. Now, though, I bend my knee, let my left foot float up as if I am a dancer posing.
The ripples across the water sparkle, silvery, in bright sunshine; the day is mild enough that I need no jacket, though the summer's past. There are no crowds crossing today, I am alone here at the ferry's bow, face bent sunwards, gulls calling, wind swirling round. The spot, here at the bow, where I now stand, is where I always stand: a few points to starboard (as my father used to say) so that I can watch the Surry County shore swing by, stately and slow, as the ferry turns, so that I can feel the breeze pick up, as if to carry me away into the sky. It's barely a hour's drive away. Funny that it's been so long since I did.
If I close my eyes, I think I can smell the tang of the sea, the spicy-sweet of loblolly needles thick on the ground across the water; I can feel that I am home again. And feel that although when the ferry thumps into the slip this journey will have to end, there is nevertheless always the possibility of return. Barely an hour's drive.
"A question of an inch or two, if you believe the map."
I feel your presence, almost touching, the same moment that I hear the rumbling of your voice. Feeling, hearing, I open my eyes to the dark green of trees, silver of water; I will not turn, not yet, to see that you are standing at my side, watching the shore slip by. I will not ask where you have been. Why you have not come.
"Such a small distance, really," you say.
"And yet, so far."
"You've made ... "
"Yes. No need to say, I suppose."
I know, though I look straight ahead so I will not see you, not just yet, that your eyes now travel over me. That you now see the breeze lifting my hair from where it brushes my shoulders so that it floats round, a halo for a far-from-angel. You see a dress, bright with a print of flowers, light as gauze, pretty as young woman's heart-shaped face, as my face. That you see how an inch less there has made a curve that is just the right fit should your arm need to wrap round my waist. That now your eyes trace how an inch more there has made a hip that you could hold to pull me closer to you; an inch more there is now the softness of breasts where once I asked you not to touch. But now, perhaps, you know you'll need to touch. Eventually.
"How has it been?"
"How has it been, my incubus, you ask," I say. "How has it been? How has it been since you remade me?"
Now you smile.
"As you say." And do you make a courtier's bow?
"Mmm. And shall I tell you a story, now," I try to sound as if I am musing over a tangent, over the fencing of flirtation. "Which story shall I tell? Which fiction?"
"That I remade you?"
"Ah, yes. That is a nice one."
"Have you another?"
Well, yes, actually. Yes. I am, we are, stories that we tell ourselves, conversations with the world. We are a story that we make; a story that we can, if we chose, rewrite; we are a dozen stories, hundreds, a fugue of stories -- first one for a few bars and then the next and then the next and then a harmony, maybe. A dissonance, maybe. A symphony of stories, a complex dance of stories. So:
"One evening, in a bar at which I'd never stopped before ... "
"The laughter of my cousins, silver bells of laughter, chased me off from their sunlit room ... "
"Maybe it's just a question of an inch or two ... "
Your hand reaches for mine, covers it. The trees on the shore are coming closer, the ferry nears its slip.
"Or," you say. "Once upon a time, there was a boy who, liberated by a touch, became transformed."
"Or maybe not," you smile.
And I smile too. Waiting for you to take the next step, whatever you decide. Waiting for the step that then I'll take, to see which of the many dances we could dance, we today will chose to dance -- or if we'll chose to dance at all. Waiting, as it turns out, for you to say:
"We're going to dock quite soon. Shall I come with you?"
"You don't have a ..."
"No," smiling again. "You'll leave me stranded if you don't."
I won't leave you stranded.
But I will drive now, not you.
The motor whines, as we crawl up the road over the bluf, through the shady dim, until we emerge between the yellow fields of soybeans laid in their neat squares between the trees. Where the ferry road meets a forgotten country highway, the little blue-gray metal soldier still stands guard on his column, one leg poised on the drum, rifle butt on ground, before the redbrick courthouse, white columns still needing paint, as they always did.
To head back home, I must turn here. Glancing at you, I see you nod.How odd, to have you here beside me, immobilized by the seatbelt, your bulk almost fitting in the seat, looking out at rolling fields, dark trees beyond, the neat frame farmhouses. To have you sitting beside me, as if tamed. Quiet, contained for once, as we drive on. The road curves easily round the low hills, a long and sweeping curve now as we approach the county line.
"Here," you say. "Turn here."
A narrow road, its signpost long disappeared, leads off between the fields. It is perhaps a quarter mile to the woods, where with a sharp right-angle curve, the road now becomes gravel. Another turn and we emerge from the trees to see a bowl of fields on gently sloping hillsides, a small creek carving S's, framed with bright green brush, meandering towards the James. The road curves along the high ground, ridge of an ancient beach, and just before it bends down towards the creek there is a field of cotton, bolls just exploded, white as clouds, the dark green leaves edged scarlet.
"There," you say, pointing to the right. "Just down here."
A lane of grass: I see where tires made tracks once, but now soft green covers the scars. We pass a stand of loblolly, the tall, straight rough-barked trunks swaying even in this day's light breeze; the gently moving trees thick enough here to screen the road, the lane here covered with their orange-brown needles. It is only when we pass the grove that I see how the trees hide the house from the barely traveled road, how they hide the way the fields slope down from the house towards the creek, hide the two hills beyond the creek, the hills washed golden as their oaks begin their autumn change of color, the hills nearly blocking that glimpse of the wide, blue river.
Looking all around, looking, wanting to drink all of this is, I barely feel you take my hand. I let this feeling, this place pour into me: The clear blue sky arching above us, the greens and browns of the fields, the black cows by the creek, the scarlet-edged green and the brilliant white of the cotton framed by the dark trees.
A tug almost too light to feel leads me on, up the front porch steps, behind you through the door and into the soft dimness inside.
"Come," you say.
And now, again, your hands there, at the curve of my waist, above the swell of hips. And now, breath on the back of my neck, where the tilt of my head has let my hair fall out of your way. Now lips touch my skin, your breath melting an inner ice.
I lift my hands to yours, to hold you to my waist, to feel you there, feel as if your hands could encompass me. Then, as if we dance, you now lift my hands, so that I spin to face you, so that I can see your eyes drinking me in, so that I can see that smile you don't know you're smiling, that smile smiled when a man sees how beautiful is the woman whom he desires. I feel you lift my hands, spin me, suspend me, just inches from you. You hold my arms akimbo, at my side and I am almost pinned. Just as I want to be.
Your eyes, I feel your eyes undress me, even as you hold me here, still, heart pounding. Your thumbs now press the very center of my palms, firm roundness pressing, as if to tell me: Now, feel. Thumb on the palm, now tracing circles there, now like a palmist reading fortune in the lines it follows but that you do not see because you are still gazing, so intently, into my eyes.
Thumb and fingers now, blunt fingers, strong fingers, stroke each of my fingers, feeling how delicate in contrast, letting me feel that. Thumb and fingers stroking, and as they stroke, lead my hands to your face, to cup your face, but loosely, so you can kiss first one palm, then the other, as you button me.
Last button loosened, you hands find mine again, lift them above our heads, sweep them down so my dress begins to slip down from my shoulders, so you can stroke the thin cloth off, so that it falls down to my feet.
I watch you watching me.
Feel your hands reaching around me, unsnapping. A deep shuddering breath.
Now, kneeling, your press lips to the soft swell beneath my navel. You hands again on my waist, stroking down, until that, too, falls to my feet. Feel your warm breath, and you, what do you feel?
You won't say.
But, your hands on my waist, mine on your hands, you rise again, standing before me, gazing at me: This time, not just into my eyes.
We stay like that a minute, an hour, who can say.
You step back, I step towards you, stepping clear of the pile of clothing, pile of froth now at my feet.
Now, I unbutton. Now, my palms stroking, push clothing clear. Now it is I who kneels so that the last is loosened, falls away.
Two hands, my two hands, can't reach round your thigh, though they can hold you, as I try to hold myself steady. They can brush lightly there, a thumb following the center-line of your inner thigh, hinting how I might like in a minute to feel your hands. They can move upwards; first this thigh, then the other, then to where they meet, and where I can hold you, your two warm testicles, heavy, moving in my palms.
If I tilt my head just the smallest bit, I feel your shaft, hard now and trembling just a little, hot against my cheek. If I turn just a little more, parting my lips, I can run the tip of my tongue along the curving outward arc of your desire.
Do you shiver, do I feel you shake, now that my hands are fanned across your buttocks? Your muscles contract, almost like smooth oak -- that is your color -- small bowls behind your hips, beneath my palms, smooth as an statues' skin, worn by the touch of generations, warm as beach sand furrowed by my fingers. Fingers now cup each cheek, now slip down, drawing you closer, as now my tongue reaches that purpling edge.
I touch you, circle you with my tongue, part lips -- but now your hands ease to my armpits and your gentle pressure upwards lifts me from my knees.
You peer again, deep into my eyes, as if you seek a secret, the secret that I too seek in the velvet dark of yours, that I seek in the glint, like distant pale-blue stars, of your eyes. I lift a hand to you, cup your square chin.
And with a sudden dip of one knee, swoop of your arm, you scoop me up off the ground, carry me off from this room into the one just beyond.Just beyond.
You have not asked, need not. You will have what you want, and what you want is me. Is me. Me.
And, lying here on your bed, seeing you loom over me, a giant, backlit by the low rays of the sun, long shadows of you cross me, the bed, fill the wall behind me if I would look behind me, if I cared to, instead of watching you.
Watching you, your eyes fixed to mine, as you side-step around the bed until you reach its foot. Watching you, as you lift one knee, then the other, dipping springs so that I almost, almost slide to you. You kneel there, between my legs, low slanting sunbeams turn your chest hair golden, your body pale gold as the wood behind the chisel's pass, as a chisel might have carved the flat muscles of your stomach, the smooth grooves V-ing down from your hips, like the V of your torso, converging to ...
Converging to ...
To your erection, rose and red and arching out to me. To me.
Now, as I watch you turn to one side, I see one wall of muscle sliding over other, deeper walls of muscle. As you reach, holding a foot, rubbing the arch of my foot with your heavy thumb, thumb meant for grasping sledgehammers, for freeing rusted bolts with a single twist, for cracking pecans from their shells, rubbing and pressing the arch of my foot, lifting my foot so thumb and index finger trace the contour of my calf, so thumb can gently, o so gentle circle round the hollow behind me knee. So thumb can start to move, slowly, oh so slowly up the centerline of my inner thigh, your palm curved round the back, lifting me, stroking me.
Shivering, as your thumb approaches, barely brushes the hair.
Before you stroke downwards, towards my knee, laying my leg back on the softness of the mattress.
Then take my other foot. Pressing, lifting, stroking, this time a fraction of a inch farther.
The brushing of your thumb a little closer, little closer makes me shiver.
I'm not sure if I can bear the waiting.
And as I wonder, you bend to me, lowering your lips to my breast, until you have encircled my nipple, until you inhale me, until your tongue has danced around me. Raising yourself again, gazing deep into my eyes, I see you smile flash before you bend again and kiss the other.
I feel your weight on me. I need to feel your weight on me.
Need to feel you, your weight on my hips, your thighs straining and tight between mine.
Your hips lift slightly, your tonuge plunges still deeper, and then ...
You are thrusting into me, deep into me.
I feel you push my lips apart, filling the space that have opened. Feel you slide, inch by slow inch, millimeter by millimeter, sliding along silk, each second for each millimeter that you move feels like a minute, each minute is an hour. Feeling your thick shaft that my inner walls grasp firmly, I want to moan. Feeling your upward arching shaft brushing that nub makes an inner web alight, turn all electric.
I feel you, slicing like a sword towards a core of me that's buried someplace I never knew. I feel you, unstoppable as a train plunging in me, impaling me.
My legs lift so you can drive still deeper, deeper. My legs wrap round your waist to hold you deep inside me.
Like the rich dark earth, I am now plowed. What was impossible, is happening, the feel of you in me, solid as the hard muscles of your thighs, your shaft that I enwrap as you probes deep and then, a feeling like tearing silk, retreat only to plunge again, and again.
My fingers, two fans across your back, feel you shudder. Inside, you stiffen, throb: I feel this when you pauses for this moment deep inside me, as our lips break apart and we gasp trembling, shaking draughts of air.
Then, again, slowly now, I feel your hips lift, you slipping out, almost out.
And like the ocean's wave coming crashing in.
Waves crashing on my shore, waves that rose from deeps far, far beyond the horizon's limit, that rolled across the width of ocean, driven by the spin of earth, the pull of moon. Insistent, inescapable.
Waves crashing, spume flying, each wave bigger than before, second than first, third than second.
Within me, washing through my body, warm and liquid like the Sun distilled, humming with energy, vibrating with what soon is to be set free, what soon will fling me to the sky, to the stars. Feeling us spiraling higher, higher with each thrust, feeling the swirling, sparkling galaxies exploding in the velvet dark inside, the viscous warm bubbles rising, swelling, one after another, iridescent and golden, each growing faster, sweeter than the one before, growing so fast, starting so fast they seem almost to subsume the one before and be subsumed. Just as the waves do, crashing onto the shore
They say the seventh wave's the biggest.
Is the one.
It's not until you flick on the beside light that I see.
On the dresser, beside the neat row of tiny bottles, delicate flasks: A dim photo, in an old-fashioned metal frame, of a couple. He's in his dress blues, her flowered, flouncy dress was fashionable once, a time barely remembered.
Tucked in the mirror's frame: A snapshot, young boy in bathing suit, water-flattened hair, droplets on shoulders catch the sunlight, the dark cold lake sparkling behind, the pines climbing beyond almost blocking the sky.
You see me looking and when I glance back at you, you nod.
There is a photo in your hand: I'm leaning on my car, tie loose, outside the office building by the highway. Tired eyes, half smile.
There is a framed photo on your nightstand: My long hair brushes bare shoulders, almost covering the satin straps of the dress, dark lips, a flush along my cheeks, an easy smile.
I have a thousand questions.
You have just a single answer:
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