Never Forget Your First

Remember your first kiss?

“So what was it like? Your first kiss, I mean,” Liz said, figuring she might even know who first pressed her lips against mine and I reciprocated.

Where do women come up with these questions? Why she was so inquisitive about such a ancient history was lost on me. I sure as hell didn’t wish to know who she locked retainers with back in her training bra days.

“Well? Can’t you even remember, Erik?” she said, incredulous that I may have forgotten such a major milestone in my emotional, psychological and sexual education like another lost bit of high school I absent-mindedly tossed on that pile of Pythagorean theories, amo-amas-amat’s, and names of all the noble gases.

“Really, I don’t remember much about it other than it being another dance to hang out at…just softer and smelling better,” I said with a chuckle. Which I soon regretted.

“You’re either closer to a forgetful Alzheimer’s diagnosis than even I thought, or one cold son of a bitch,” Liz said like she was a helium-filled balloon shrinking and sinking to the floor right there in front of icy old me.

“Give me a minute and I promise I’ll let you know all about it,” I said, trying to buy some time to actually remember or at least come up with a plausible story.

So she went to the kitchen, busying herself with fetching me another beer. After all, I was rummaging back into my cluttered closet of a memory to bring forth the mother lode of her need to connect on some level she could tap and understand.

She came back into the room and quietly set a glass of beer on a coaster on the side table. She then curled herself up next to me on the sofa in that way girls do—legs and feet beneath their bottoms like nesting cranes—wrapped the Mexican striped throw around her shoulders and smiled a softly expectant smile at me. Its message was plain: “I’m waiting!”

“I regret that my porous old memory cannot recall every aspect, facet and emotion of that night. I’m not even sure who she was. Rosemary? Barbara? Definitely not Mary Grace. Though, boy, do I wish.”

“Ahem, stick to the knitting, Erik.”

“Okay, I see brown eyes shining up at me, sparkling like polished mahogany in the moonlight, or street light or maybe porch light.”

“That’s a good pull after that clumsy start, Romeo.”

“Yeah, well…I can still feel that cold stab of fear, tempered by hot blasts of potential embarrassment at the very real possibility of  screwing this up and setting my life on a path of remaining forever the untouched one. Obviously, I’ve gotten over that hurdle.”

“The night is young, Erik. Touching will be optional. Go on,” she said, her eyes softening a bit from their clinical observation of my amoebic squirming in the upholstered Petri dish next to her.

“Girls, yourself included, I’m sure, think about this moment, dream about it, worry about it, from an early age. Am I right?” I said, trying to absorb something of what she was feeling. You know, like I was a girl.

“Did you practice, perhaps pressing your lips to a mouth made of your thumb and index finger, there in your pink and sky blue-appointed, single-bed sanctum sanctorum?” I asked.

“Of course not,” Liz said. But the red rising from beneath the throw, up her neck and glowing like hot coals on her cheeks told me otherwise.

“A guy can’t think that far ahead, would never give that first kiss a dry-run. It isn’t like rehearsing his expression of insouciant cool in the steamed-up mirror behind that locked bathroom door. You figure one night it just happens.”

I could see her lean in now, her warm interest overcoming her cool displeasure.

“ Ya know, it’s uncharted, virgin, that first feeling of neo-carnal warmth a guy feels glowing off that girl, that woman, Her. The smell of her recharged perfume in the dark is heady stuff, sweaty, intoxicating, inviting.”

Liz pulled her legs from beneath her and hugged them to her chest, resting her chin on her knees.

“Then that feeling of her mouth drawing closer, warmer, tropical, her breath sharing mine, mine with hers. My shaking hand on the small of her back, hers rising to slide within my black hair bristling like a porcupine’s quills at the back of my neck.

“Then you simply fall into that wet, warm pool of flesh, that doorway to the pounding trip-hammer heart, the unknown, the soon-enough revealed. After that, the fall becomes a climb and dive from the high board. Then another. Then…”

“You’re not playing me, are you, Erik?” Liz said. “I mean, is this really how you felt?”

“Oh, yeah. I can still feel it. Walking away, whistling my quiet, night-time whistle through the ivied posh, the ever-freshly painted not-so and my own not-very neighborhoods home, my left hand touching my flushed cheek, my lips that tasted of strawberry lip gloss, the smell of her perfume still on my fingers, Charlie I think it was,” I said, looking deeply into Liz’s brown eyes.

“Wow, Erik, that’s more than I ever expected,” she said, cuddling up close to me, putting her sandy-haired head on my shoulder.

“But that’s all I remember,” I said.

“You jerk,” she said. “I’ll bet it wasn’t this memorable.”

And then she gave me a warm, wet kiss full of promise, momentous and unforgettable. And I felt that spin and drop like I hadn’t felt since that first time.

Only rated NC-17.

For Day 22 of my Story-a-Day challenge, I was encouraged to make my prose as purple as I liked, in a quest to find out how much description I really need. We’ll, as a poet in the other side of my other literary life, I tend to throw the schmaltz around pretty liberally.  If you don’t think so, just take a look at the previous to poems I posted. I’m not sure I took a deep dive into it in my story, but I hope there’s enough gooey description in here to satisfy.

Waited Too Long

There was a smell of Time in the air tonight …
what does Time smell like? ~ Ray Bradbury

As I passed her on the street,
it hit me like a flash of light,
blinding me for a second like
headlights in my face on a dark night,
numbing my body and deafening me
to where all I could sense was
that aroma for the life of me I couldn’t place,
but stopped me cold like when you can’t
match a name to a face.
Then I recalled it was the perfume
you wore back then,
the one that filled my head with
the drop and the spin
a certain someone can make a boy feel
where he comes undone,
losing all sense of time and place.
Except I remembered the moment,
felt the heat of your body,
saw your face
and heard your breathing with ears
that no longer hear.
I turned and looked but, of course
you weren’t there.
Just a ghost that floated by on this
warm night’s air, like that night
where we stopped time, capturing it
like fireflies in a jar,
only to lose them all when you left
me in that bar.
One more deep breath and I moved along,
because, like Time, you waited for no man
and I waited too long.

A second poem in response to Annie Fuller’s latest Writing Outside the Lines double-header of prompts. This one is using that Ray Bradbury quote. Now onto the stories that go with these poems.

Objects In the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

Jen sat in her Honda, its engine running, backed into the parking place in the l ot so she could face the riverside walkway north of Albany. She also backed in just in case she and Ashley needed to make a quick getaway.

She could her friend Ashley in the distance walking with her boyfriend Sam. Jen knew what was coming. She and Ashley had talked about it for weeks.

“Ashley, you’ve got to break it off with Sam. He’s an arrogant prick who treats you like crap,” Jen would tell her childhood friend.

“You’re wrong, Jen. He loves me and I love him. You’ve got to understand what he sees every day in the streets. Sometimes it’s hard for him to shake it off when he gets off work,” Ashley said.

“Is that why he tends to stop off at Bogie’s at the end of his shift and drinks for two hours with the other cops before he sees you?” Jen said.

“Like I said, job pressures.”

“Is it job pressure that leads him to call you stupid, a summa cum laude graduate of Boston College? Two masters degrees? Nationally recognized teacher of special needs kids? Really, Ashley? You deserve so much better,” Jen said.

Ashley blushed and Jen wasn’t sure if it was because of the litany of honors she listed or the fact that Jen had heard Sam call Ashley stupid. Or worse.

But Ashley was adamant.

That is until Jen brought the video from the bar capturing Sam yucking it up with the other cops, three pitchers of beer on the table and a table full of St. Rose College girls behind them.

“Just watch this for a second, Ashley. And listen closely,” Jen said.

“Don’t do this anymore, Jen.”

“This will be the last time, I promise. If this doesn’t change your mind, just a little, I’ll give up trying to convince you this guy cares about nothing but himself and has disregard for not only you, but it seems anyone unlike his twisted self”
Jen held her phone up and started the video again. In it, Sam turned in his chair and started talking to one of the college girls.

“Sammy,” one of his cop buddies said, “don’t you have a real teacher waiting on you? These are student teachers, man.”

Sam turned to his friend and said in the way guys will when alcohol meets testosterone in a spontaneous combustion of stupid, loud enough to be heard on the phone’s microphone, and said, “Sometimes Ashley’s more like a student, one of those little kids she teaches, than these ripe young things. She’s always wishing and expressing and not getting down to what’s real. Fantasyland, man.”

“That’s cold, dude.”

“No, that’s the real world, real talk…hey, Jennifer, what the fuck you doing over there?”

The recording froze right there.

For a few seconds, Ashley blinked at the captured final frame of Sam staring cold enmity at whoever had just recorded him. Most probably Jen.

“Why did you need to show me this?” she said.

“I needed to give you proof that he’s a dog, Ashley. An over-the-line stepping, skirt chasing, arrogant and self-absorbed dog,” Jen said.

“While you’re home working for your next day’s classes, he’s out there…”

“Protecting us,” Ashley said.

“Okay, I’ll grant you that, at least for eight hours a day. But for the rest…I’ve seen him, cozy up to coeds and older chicks at the bars. Yeh, he can be damned charming with his blue eyes and self-assured way, but it’s all a lie. He’ll do nothing but hurt you, Ashley. And he won’t care. You’ve got to end this sooner rather than later.”

Shaken, Ashley said, “He and I will be going down for a walk by the Hudson tomorrow. I’ll somehow confront him and we’ll see what happens.”

“Do you want me around for support?”

“No, yes, I don’t know,” Ashley said as her eyes darted around the room and her mind raced behind them.

“I’ll be in the parking lot if you need a lift. No questions asked.”

“All right, but don’t get your hopes up. He gets one more chance,” Ashley said.

“That night, Ashley barely slept, compiling the many instances Jen had pointed out where Sam treated women, especially his doting girlfriend, like any other perp from the South End.
And here they were–Jen could see Ashley turning away from Sam and she knew she’d finally convinced her to walk on this guy.
She pulled from her parking place and glided up to the end of the river walk. With a kuh-lick, Jen unlocked her passenger side door and Ashley climbed in. Ashley motioned for Jen to drive away.

“Proud of you, hon. That took a lot of courage,” Jen said as she eased out of the parking lot and saw Sam stalking nearer the trails end.

Ashley just sat there in stunned silence. Then her shoulder shook.

“Trust me, Ashley. You just gained, by any substantive means, an exciting new life. Trust me, you’re better off with him in your rear view mirror as I have him right now,” Jen said. And she meant that. The charm fell of Sam as he drew closer to her car.

Jen peeled out and headed up the road and back to Ashely’s apartment. But while driving there, she was glad to be going to her doctor’s on Monday.

She didn’t want anyone to know, most especially Ashley and Ashley’s now-former boyfriend, about her terminated pregnancy plans for tomorrow. She hoped to put her one-time-only transgression in her rear view mirror as swiftly as the transgressor, now stalking toward his car in the snowy parking lot.

Today’s story for Day 15 of Story-a-Day May. Was to take a secondary character from a previous story and use that character/story as a springboard for them, or continue that story but in the point of view of a different character. I chose Jen, the girlfriend who picked up Ashley after her breakup with Sam in What the River Says, That Is What I Say. I wrote this in a sleepy hurry to get in Day 15, so please forgive any inherent lameness or outright stank, okay?

To Dream, Perchance to Sleep

I don’t dream.

But tonight, I bolted upright and shouted “No,” drenched in sweat, heart pounding, shaking like I had fever chills. I had a nightmare and I couldn’t remember a thing about it.

My wife, Cody, popped up, too, frightened by my reaction to my hazy nightmare. She switched on the bedside light.

“What is it, Rich? Are you all right?” Cody said, placing a shaking hand on my arm.

“I think so. I don’t know what happened. I think it was a dream, I guess a nightmare,” I said, still pumped and confused.

“What was it about?”

“I don’t know. I honestly can’t remember.”

“Will you be all right?”

“Yeah, I’ll be okay. I’m gonna go get a glass go water and calm down. You go back to sleep. I’ll be back in a little while,” told Cody.

“Okay, Rich. You sure you’re all right?”

“Yep, fine. Get some sleep, okay?”

Cody turned out the light, rolled over and pulled the covers back atop her shoulders. I headed to the kitchen, grabbed a drink and ran the faucet on a dish towel, wrung out the cold water and put it over my eyes after I parked myself in my desk chair.

What had scared me so much? Did it really matter now?

I wasn’t fearless in the blank darkness of the hood it places over me, of its smothering dark hand. Darkness had always been my friend, my forever bedmate.

Always, the dreamless monster steals my night, robbing me of sense and senses, sending me to stagger through another day hating the Sun for dropping from its apogee, a golden chanticleer crowing the dawn of another dread sundown.

My every-night nightmare had become a killer of men, of knowledge, of thought. It hid in the darkness of my slumber, the destroyer of light, color, joy. It had come to affect my work as a writer. I’d come up dry on my last two manuscript attempts. Publishers don’t like contracted novelists who don’t provide them books to sell. I hated what I’d become, too.

This nightmare is a dreamless night that tears at the dreams of my day. I pulled the compress and stared into the darkness, wondering why I even bother to close my eyes anymore.

Each evening I climb under the covers, fluff my pillows, kiss Cody good night and lay my head on the pillows in hope for what everyone else slept like. Instead, I blink once and night becomes day.

My weak flesh craved to have its raveled sleeve mended, even knowing my true nightmare monster of dreamlessness rips away the threads, stealing all my hope of a healing night’s sleep. It had driven me mad, no doubt.

And here tonight I had a dream, one so vivid, frightening me so much that it woke me in a state of breathless terror. And I couldn’t remember it. A fruitless fright, another empty night.

So I decided to kill off my dreamless monster by killing off the sleeper. No great loss. What good is a writer who cannot dream? It would be my ultimate creation. An anti-creation.

I sat and wrote it all out for myself, for you, a 600-word bit of flash fiction——or non-fiction, I couldn’t tell anymore——of a man finally achieving his dream. I started to write my note to Cody. But I stopped when I realized she’d left me a year ago. She couldn’t take my depression, my walking-dead wandering through life, my violent outbursts because I didn’t understand awake, asleep or in between.

Then I took all the pills.

Here it is, my first and final dream, a lyrical piece of sweet release. My good night after all.

Day 14’s effort in my Story-a-Day quest through May. Today’s prompt, from novelist Maria Hazen Lewis, was devilishly simple, but gave me fits. Here it is: 

I had a nightmare last night. I woke up and started writing….

Burning Through the Haze

The gull gray clouds
atop this Spring day match
the gray atop me.
Both the sky and I hide
our sunny selves behind
our silver shields.
Yes, I possess
the light and heat
to illuminate and warm you,
just not as certain as
we know the sun eventually
will break through.

In my Armageddon-black-hair
past, the times when light
escaped from within
were more likely
bolts of angry lightning
triggered by the merest shift
in my storm-swept mind.
But as you and age burned more
of my clouds away,
the more my light shines
like this Springtime day.

Venus, Galileo & The Center of the Universe

Weren’t you lucky to make
that great discovery,
tipping the axis of not only
your world, but every satellite
held in your gravitational thrall?
But that’s Lady Luck, be she
good, bad or just dumb.
She was impervious to your
celestial attraction, but you
were not to hers. I made such
a discovery, but not until
I passed through your orbit,
and that too close,
for too long.

Salving my burns on the way out,
I was lucky enough to look back
to find you weren’t the center
of my universe. You weren’t
even the center of yours.
But I can live with these scars,
I’ve found other stars around whom
I’ll glide but never alight.
Look all around, not only
down and within, and maybe
someday our paths will
align once again. No longer
cracked mirrors, but diamonds
shining our rainbow illuminations
for whatever short spins
we’ve got left.

Day 7 of Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo, using a combined prompt for poems of discovery and fortuitousness.

The Search Continues

I’ve been searching for something
my whole life, but if you stopped
and asked what my goal, my hoped-for was,
I’d likely give you the same kind
of twitchy, unfocused look as
any other liar. I’d give you some answer,
firm as granite or flimsy as fog.
But, in truth, that answer’s proven
as elusive, as out-of-reach as
that for which I’ve searched.

It’s worn me down over all this time,
and the only truth I’ve ever found
is this: Life’s one long crawl
toward a shiny something that
turns out to be nothing more
than a mirror reflecting the fact
I’ve spent my life digging
for nothing more than a clear look
at who I am and what I’ve become.
And I haven’t captured that yet.