I thought I would share this piece because it doesn’t spoil the rest of the story. It’s just a little glimpse into the past. Most of the story takes place in the present, but I like this bit and I hope you do too.
I had been working that evening, as an usher in the concert hall, when Jake snuck in to ask me out. We had developed an increasingly friendly relationship during the first semester of school, but it wasn’t until after spring break that he singled me out for a date. I was taken by surprise when I found him standing next to me in the back of the music center, lights dimmed; a concert in full progress. He slipped in noiselessly, asked if I would be interested in a trip to the beach, and then slipped out again as soon as I responded. I felt compelled to pinch myself; seeking reassurance that this was not an imagined encounter. I was completely befuddled by the question, unsure whether this was a date or just a platonic night out between two friends. It wasn’t until the next evening, in the middle of our trip, standing on the pier while rain poured down around us that I finally discovered it was indeed a date.
We met outside of the parking garage on College Avenue and chatted amiably as we rode down the parkway. For the moment, I had decided to put aside the question of the status of the evening. I wanted to enjoy myself without regard to where our relationship was headed, if indeed it was headed anywhere new at all. We laughed along the way, recalling something funny from Art History. I have no idea now what it could have been that made us laugh so hard, but I only remember that we did laugh, so violently, that I chastised Jake about his driving. I also recollect that we argued about music, alternately defending the merits of The Red Hot Chili Peppers versus The Cure. By this time, I had all but banished any thought of romance to the back of my mind. We grabbed some dinner at Pop’s and then strolled along the midway stopping in various stores as we walked; playing the odd game or two and then purchasing some candy before heading out to the beach. It started to mist but neither of us really seemed to mind. Despite the weather, the moon was visible and we followed its path back over to the boardwalk and out onto the jetty. We sat quietly for a while on what would eventually be our bench letting the light rain wash over us. It was becoming late now and I tucked my legs up under me, relishing the quiet of the silent boardwalk behind us and the gentle lapping of the waves. Jake seemed lost in thought as well, though I couldn’t see his face. I remember that I sat away from him with my back leaning against his shoulder, a strictly friendly gesture I was sure. I felt a little frustration at that, at my inability to articulate all that I was feeling; all that I seemed unable to repress. I quietly stood and made my way over to the railing seeking distraction in the water below me. I don’t know how long I stood there, rain still light, but falling more steadily now. I pulled a rubber band from my wrist and tugged my hair up and off my neck securing it in a twist with the little black ring. I didn’t notice at first, when he approached, placing his hands on me, one lightly against the nape of my neck the other on my waist. I should have sensed it, later we always seemed to be so attuned to each other, at least physically anyway. But that night I didn’t perceive anything at all. Perhaps it was my insecurity that blinded me, maybe it was just surprise, but I gasped a little as he turned my body, easily moving my face to meet his. He held me there for a while like that; simply staring down at me. I could smell his breath; it was sweet like the candy we had shared earlier that evening. His eyes were a few inches from mine now and I felt a little embarrassed; I could feel the hot sting of my tears and I knew that he could see them. Yet, there was nothing I could do except let them fall as I felt relief wash over me; the relief of no longer needing to wonder whether it was my heart only that seemed in a state of constant ache. He took his hand from my waist for a moment to gently wipe the water from my eyes then secured it to my side once more. The moon illuminated his face as I saw him bend at the neck and place his lips on my mine. They were soft, softer than I had ever imagined, yet firm as he held them there. His lips, like his breath, were sweet and he was still at first, lightly placing kisses on my lips until they were no longer soft but demanding instead, insisting that I answer his unspoken questions with my own kiss. I wasn’t crying anymore; too intent on meeting his demands with my own. I could feel it now, the unspoken hunger that rose up out of the night daring us to share with our bodies what we had been feeling in our hearts.
Now, here we stood once more, children in tow. I couldn’t help but remember how afraid I had been back then; afraid to let go; afraid to believe that this was more than physical need, than simple biology; afraid to give way to the pleas of my heart. I looked down at Katie and the boys who were huddled close together taking in the music and then turned to Jake. He, too, was engrossed in the sounds of the choir and I couldn’t help but admire the curves of his face, the line of his shoulder, the strength in his hand as he reached out for mine. He was a good man that much I knew. And too, I knew I loved him. I had no doubt of that. So why did I hesitate to give him my whole heart? That, it seemed, was the only thing of which I remained uncertain.