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Archive for July, 2010

Bonfires and Coffee

The bonfire’s flame danced a reflective waltz in her eyes as she kept them focused on the man sitting across from her. Someone she had just met hours before who seemed both familiar and comfortable. She relaxed into an image of her head on his lap while the bonfire warmed her front and the breeze off the sea cooled her back. One of his hands would stroke her hair while the fingers of his other would trickle up and down her arms and side and back. Did he just look at her? Did he catch her staring? Her chest seized and her breath stopped in that moment. A chanced glance catching her stare with the dark of his sparkling eyes was all it took to feel fifteen again hoping the boy she wanted wanted her too.
     He looked away and she squeezed the sand beneath her feet and breathed deeply the salted air when her lungs began again their cycle, exhaling purposefully. Methodically. What gave her the right to think he even saw her. Constant waves of self-pity had eroded her judgment of her own attractiveness. She felt she was no longer a member of the same species as this vision of a man in front of her. Guilt and shame took over. What was she thinking?

He stole a glance, appearing as casual as he could, and saw the warm glow of her skin red with the bonfire’s splashing of color. So piercing were here eyes when he caught them looking at him that it made his heart lurch and his throat swallow. Someone’s girl, he supposed. But one that broke the rules of a relationship if she was. That look could mean anything. Nothing. Who was he to think someone like her would find him interesting enough? Did he dare try to look at her again to see if there was something in her eyes?
     He smiled as if amused by is friend’s story and took the slightest peek at her. She was kneading the sand with her feet, the way a cat would knead your chest if it was in the mood to lay on you, digging tiny holes with her toes then filling them again. A leather bracelet around her ankle. He never knew why women wore them, but on a leg as perfect as hers, it belonged there. His peek was turning into a stare and she would catch him if he held to it much longer.

Her girlfriend convinced her to come to the beach this evening. Three of their friends joining them. An escape from the city the fresh air would give and some time to enjoy some company, have some laughs, and get caught up on what each was doing. What she did not expect was this newcomer. He gave his name when they were introduced, and went on about his business. Well, she was one of four other people he was meeting. Still, there was something about him. The way he held himself. How he smiled. How his lips … good lord, what was her problem?
     He had helped start the fire and carry some of the things from their vehicles. He wasn’t overly muscular, but fit enough. A belly that knew food and arms that knew real work. Man’s work. He could probably fix cars and hammer boards together. In her imagination, he loved poetry and killing spiders equally. He would tear up at the right kind of movie and take out the trash before it needed to, just so she would always have enough room.
     Was he looking at her again? Her feet were still busy mulching sand and when she looked up from them to him he was smiling at something someone was saying. He had looked at her feet playing with the sand. He probably saw the bracelet on her ankle that once belonged to her sister. She would like him, of course. Her memory was still fresh, though some of the details had faded a little.

He saw her hands clasped together between her knees and before his peek ended she glanced up and caught his look with her own. She didn’t look away this time, so he didn’t either. Several seconds passed before he realized they were staring at one another. Was there something on his nose? No. She was looking him in the eye. Her expression was dreamy as if her thoughts were somewhere else and he recalled how hard it was to meet her other friends after first shaking her hand. He had to force himself to let go to shake hands with the others. It almost hurt him now. For he had held her hand for mere moments and wanted to be holding them now.
     But who was he again? Just a guy. Nobody special. But, her! Oh, she was something. His imagination of her she would look fantastic in an over-grown sweatshirt reading a book and drinking coffee on Saturday mornings while leaning her head on his chest. She was smarter than everyone else and yet thought he had so much more to teach. She would laugh at his jokes because she thought he was funny. Was that a smile?

It was torture staring at him not knowing anything of how he might like her. It was also madness to become so taken by a man she’d just met. No. There was too many things wrong with her for him to like. Too many insecurities. And she did not think she wanted to find out that he wouldn’t. But, at the very moment she was going to turn away, he smiled at her. Electricity surged down her arms into her hands and they began to hurt with how much force she was gripping them together. And in that moment of weakness, she felt her own face smile at him. Stupid!

She was smiling! How had he not noticed her beauty before this? Her lips and the little crinkle of skin her eyes made above her cheeks soaked in the firelight. She glowed. He had to do something. What? If she knew how she made him feel she’d run away laughing. But, she wasn’t running. She was looking at him and smiling. Should he get up and go talk with her? Would she let him come over and sit so close?

Oh, if he came over and sat next to her she would freak. Please come sit next to me.

He felt his neck flush with apprehension. Was it really him she was smiling at? And why would she? He was letting his imagination run too loose. But, what if she would let him come over? And what if she did let him hold her hand?

She noticed him flush but he wasn’t making any move to come over. But he was still looking at her with that smile of his. Warming every part of her. Maybe he was the shy type? Shy men could still kill spiders. But, he seemed comfortable with everyone there, so he wasn’t that shy. But he also wasn’t moving. So, with everything to lose, she stood up and planned to stretch to make it look like that was her only plan if he didn’t react.

Something made him stand up. There was no explanation from where the energy or decision came from. He just did. And since he was up, he was going to walk over to her and say something. Something witty if anything came to mind. Maybe romantic, but that was a stretch for him. And at the very time he stood, so did she. Her expression changed to surprise and to happy faster than he thought possible.

He was walking over to her. It was only a few steps, but it felt to her like the slow-motion sequence of a movie. As he got closer, he looked to be considering what to say. Mulling something over. Or maybe just trying on a few phrases to see which fit better. Then he was right in front of her. So close she had to look up into his face.

“Do you like coffee?” he asked.

“Only when I read.” she replied.

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While rummaging through some boxes of books I had tucked away from my last move, I ran across a copy of The Forest for the Trees, by Betsy Lerner. The first chapter nailed me! I find I cannot focus, that each day a new “voice” or “form” presents itself as how I will write. Some days I want to write a sonnet, others literary prose as fine as the greats. But, while writing more and more, and reading more and more, I find I keep coming back to humor at the base of my writing like flour is used in baking. Maybe Betsy is on to something here … to keep working to find my voice.

Two evenings ago, I came across a little story I started several years ago. I read it and actually laughed out loud at a couple different parts. The writing was terrible. Transitions were poor. But, its pace was nice and had me in a smirk the whole way through. I’ve done a rewrite on the first three single-spaced pages to fix the transitions and I can honestly say, it’s pretty good. Maybe not great, but quite fun and less distracting now that I’ve added a little polish to it.

Anyway, I am trying to find my “voice” … my “form”. Maybe it’s writing with a smirk.

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