We were eighteen…just turned.
Turquoise light from a digital clock shined 1:42 a.m. throughout the warmish bedroom, creating a sense of the unreal. I was going to be in trouble, but I’d stuffed the notion of a curfew into the pocket of my denim jeans which lay crumpled near the door. The dreamy hue splashed the walls, skimmed the musty carpet, and lit up my lover’s rapturous expression.
“I love you,” he murmured as he peered into my brown eyes, his fingers buried deep in my black hair.
A cassette on a cheap stereo played the same songs over and over again, tunes by one of those short-lived new age groups about urban confusion and human obsession. The bed coverings had been worked over, twisting snake-like around us. I remember our mouths being connected throughout the climactic moments of our tryst and thinking I’d die if I didn’t breathe. I didn’t care – I was in love.
“My god, what’s wrong with me? I don’t want to stop doing this to you—I can’t stop.”
“It’s love,” I said.
When the coupling ended, I lied about being finished. I wanted more, I needed more. He complied. After, we lay spread-eagled on the bed, spent, staring at each other with fingers intertwined.
“I’m so dead. They’ll be wrecked at what their virginal daughter has done to their pristine reputation at the country club.”
“If they kill you, I don’t know what I’d do.”
“You’ll find another girl.”
“I’d rather eat glass.”
“Will you marry me?”
“What’s stopping us?”
“Look around. I’m in my parents’ house.”
“We’ll live here. In the guest room.” I moved over onto his pillow. He put his arm around me and we sighed in a kind of relief to be nearer again.
“You’re nuts,” he said softly, his tone bordering on ecstatic.
“We could get married and keep it to ourselves – stay at our own houses. We could wait until we get jobs, then move into our own place. Announce to the world that we’re married and already have been married.”
“What would be the point?”
He adjusted himself on top of me. He kissed my neck, my throat as I tilted my head back. Already, I could feel intensifying heat. He chuckled in disbelief, whispering, “I want you now.”
“Fuck me ‘til I scream.”
* * *
I sat near the telephone in my father’s red-carpeted study, a revered map of Palestine on the wall behind me and a glass-encased model of the Apollo 13 to my right. My lover was out again, only I knew he was not with a “friend.” The truth stared me down with its painted eyebrows raised in contemptuous triumph. I wiggled my fingers, fleshy hair to the truth teller’s face. A pencil’s tip had made a gray imprint on my palm where the nose would be. I stabbed at the delicate skin, trying to kill certainty. I was twenty, just turned.
I’d dropped two of my classes already and the university was threatening to take my scholarship away. I didn’t care. I dialed the numbers again, pounding in the last four digits, “Four…bastard...six…jerk…eight…sonofabitch…two…my love.” I meant the last words just the same as the others.
His tired father answered, “I don’t know where he is.”
“Just have him call me.”
“I will, sweetheart. I’m so sorry he’s unreachable.”
I didn’t slam the phone – I cradled it in my hands, listening to the dogged dial tone, a sound of blatant rejection. Dropping my head on the desk, I cried pitifully. Twenty years old and I lost everything. I lost love.
“Don’t give me that bullshit.”
“What?” I lifted my eyes to my mother at the door. She had a Mexican accent and pronounced the last word, “boollchet.” As always, she looked gorgeous. Her face was made up, her dark hair brushed out and long. Perfume scented the air with a glamorous aroma. She wore a black negligee, just because. Diamond stud earrings glinted from her perfect lobes. I could only imagine what I must have looked like in comparison, with my thrift-shop army jacket, my white-washed jeans with holes and frayed cuffs, my black tee-shirt stained by bleach on the front. Not to mention my red nose, blotchy skin, and hair sticking up in all directions. Hopeless curls.
“Losing everything – it’s bullshit.”
“What am I supposed to do? He’s gone, Mommy.” I broke down again, collapsing into a puddle of bitter misery.
She sat down, gracefully, on the large, faux-leather sofa chair. Crossing her legs, she tapped to her own music a bare foot with polished toenails.
“Make a wish,” she said. “Write it down on a small piece of paper.”
I did. I almost always did as she said.
She got up and took my hand, leading me into the darkened living room. We sat on the baby-blue shag carpet in front of the fireplace framed in black marble. She grabbed a long match out of a colorful box and lit it. She reached forward and flipped a brass switch, then lit the invisible hissing gas. A brilliant blue flame burst into life, growing into a licking yellow and orange fire. The glow mesmerized us. I saw the fire reflected in my mother’s large almond-shaped brown eyes.
Taking my hand in hers, she said, “Give me the paper with your wish.”
I handed it to her, looking into her eyes, wishing.
She kissed the folded scrap and said dramatically to the blaze, “I give you the Wish, and I ask you to see the Wish. I praise you and your infinite wisdom and power.” With that, she tossed the paper into the fire and we watched it curl and blacken into nothing.
I was about to ask when the wish would come true – my mother stopped me.
“There is no time for these things. They happen. It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, or it could be twenty years from now.”
She smiled at me and held my face in her warm hands as only a mother can. She said, “You’re young. There’s more pain to go through. You’re crying the first tears of a lifetime’s worth. Keep them like treasure. These heart pains, these tears, will be innocent, precious gems because they are the first.”
E-mail transmission from him to me – August 20, 2002:
It was great seeing you last week. I can’t believe how…I shouldn’t say anything. No, never mind.
The message sat there staring me in the face, plain, simple, black words on a white screen. I had seen him on a side street, downtown, pushing a blond-haired toddler in a stroller who happened to be his youngest daughter of three. He had his gray-haired head down and when he looked up, his lips parted in obvious surprise. Lips kissable, still. We exchanged internet addresses following meaningless small talk. Forty years old, just turned.
E-mail transmission from me to him – August 20, 2002:
No, go on. Ha ha ha! It was good seeing you, too. Life has dealt us surprises, hasn’t it?
I had explained to him all that life had granted me: a rocky marriage that at least had given me children, a legal career I hated, and the early deaths of my parents. I didn’t tell him my first tears from losing him turned out to be costume jewelry around my neck in comparison to the diamond tiara on my head, ruby rings on my fingers and diamond-ruby bracelets circling my arms.
E-mail transmission from him to me – August 20, 2002:
I will go on. You’re stunning. To see you made me regret everything. Light years more than I already thought I did. I am sorry, so sorry for my stupidity. I loved you then, I love you now. You will always be in my heart. Blue…surrounds me. If you’ll let me, I will fuck you until you scream.
Turquoise light, brilliant and dreamy, unmatched is its lasting power. My wish had come true. He had found his way back to me.
E-mail transmission from me to him – August 21, 2002:
Dearest, I’d rather eat glass.