snapshot 25

“i’m learning French,” she said, stepping playfully on the back of his shoe as they strolled along in the blistering sunshine, shoulders swaying into one another every now and then but fingers remaining empty, devoid of each other’s body heat. he fought the urge to kiss her dramatically on the crowded sidewalk, dipping her backwards like a movie cliche and freezing time around them and instead stopped short after her heel nudge, smiling at her surprise as her little frame collided into his back.

“hey!” she swiftly bit his shoulder on purpose as she bumped into him, her hair spilling for a moment into his atmosphere before she laughed and threw it behind her, a dark flag waving anything but surrender. “it’s too hot to be making me push up all on you, crazyboy.” but she was smiling. it was June, and she was always smiling.

“parlez-vous Francais?” he asked as she skipped up beside him, silver flip flops flashing.

“non.” she shook her head. “i mean, un peu. Pah-ree. vin. voulez-vous something about moi.” she raised her eyebrows at him and giggled, bells on a clear morning. “oh! and ‘pomme frites.’ i think that means French fries.” she shrugged. “i really am only interested in the wines. and maybe their kissing.” her eyes were sparkling, light through water, diamonds bobbing just below.

suddenly, just in that crystalline moment, he knew he’d have gotten away with the street corner kiss.

snapshop 24

what happened? he asked tentatively, reaching to smooth away a rain-soaked strand of hair from her sad face as she stood perfectly still, water dripping from the bottom of her skirt.

i was trying to achieve freedom on the open road, she told him, blinking back tears that might have been raindrops. was that too much to ask?

well, no, he said. but next time it rains, maybe you should put the top up.

 
snapshot 23

i think i’ve figured it out, he said. you’ve been silently resenting me all these months, pretending to enjoy my company while inwardly scheming and plotting this sadistic attempt to rid me from your life.

oh please, she said. we’ve only run a mile.

 

snapshot 22

“it isn’t that i can’t cook,” she said, running to rescue the bubbling pot from its burner, little red dots of sauce landing on the stovetop. “it’s just that people are such picky eaters these days, and you can’t go wrong with cheese and crackers, you know?” she smiled and dug into a cabinet, emerging with two wine glasses.

“plus, i’m on a white wine and tortilla chip diet lately. for the summer, you know. and those are two difficult recipes to master.” she rinsed the glasses and held them out to him, and he obliged her by pouring.

“well put,” he said, raising his glass. “cheers to grocery stores and wineries.”
“yes,” she agreed happily. “the finer things in life.”

 

snapshot 21

it was just-dusk and the lake was quiet, bathed in purples and crimsons of a golden day’s fade, flashes of a falling sun still drawing crystals from beneath the silvery surface to sparkle like magic all around them. he grappled with the angled edges of words at a time like this, certain nothing he could say would ever capture the way he felt to be so very present in this moment with her, watching the last light smooth across her upturned face and bathe her in its golden kiss. her eyes were closed and she drifted along beside him in a kayak, her small hands resting on the paddle that lay across her like a safety bar. she was safe here, awash in the silence, lost for a moment inside her private thoughts while he thought only of her.

“it’d be nice to sail on like this forever, don’t you think?”

he looked at her as her words sliced through the quiet haze, one of her hands trailing along in the lake beside her, leaving a thin ribbon of ripple in the sparkling surface. she was cutting diamonds with her bare hands, reshaping the natural world with the simplest of movements and stirring tides within him he never knew he’d held at bay. he almost reached for her hand; he almost broke the purple space between them; he almost stole the current of unreality seeping from her watery fingertips by attempting to harness them with his own and feel her very otherness, so foreign and so desirable.

he drew his oar across his own boat and rested his hands atop, forcing back words of practicality: how this was just one small lake, hardly forever sail-able, void of the romanticized notions of an ocean spanning miles of endless water for them to traverse across; how he would take her there, if only she’d let him, and feel her beside him over blues and greens and seasalt nights that knew no tomorrow…

but her words carried no serious wistfulness; shere merely spoke what she felt, moment by moment, unconnected. she understood them here and now, drifting casually on a summer lake for a stolen evening, finding joy in a contained sunset and a steady shoreline. here, she was safe enough to speak of endless sailing and its dreamlike qualities of “one-days” and delicious escapes.

“it would,” he said, and the rest of his words flew softly away, lost in the poignancy of a moment not yet ready for capture.

 

snapshot 20

“i’d like to be a stylist,” she said, her voice muffled from behind the rack of clothes. she emerged with dozens of fabrics and colors draping over her arm, summery hues offset by glimpses of black. she wore so much black, and although she seemed to pull off any color well, he couldn’t take his eyes off her in black. she simply defied all notions of conventional beauty with her shocking features, and black highlighted every glint of her pale eyes and curve of her small frame. he’d never known black so intimately before, studying its shine in each new light and marveling at its ability to tame beauty into such a sullen thing.
“oh yeah?” he replied, catching a hanger as it slid from her arm.
“oh yeah. best job ever, i think.” she readjusted the pile of clothes and blew a strand of hair out of her face. “like, have ‘what not to wear’ parties and stuff. think about it. i’d be helping people with such an important decision — their identity.” she giggled. “the shallow part, at least.”
“i don’t think that’s shallow,” he said, selecting a yellow shirt and adding it to her arm. “it’s very important to look nice. i mean, how do you think people get jobs? or dates? or free ice cream cones, or talk their way out of speeding tickets, or get to be the next bachelorette? by looking good, that’s how.”
she smiled brightly, plucking the yellow shirt off her arm and dropping it back on the rack.
“free ice cream, huh?” she said. “i like the way you think. perhaps i’ll start dolling it up for my excursions to the Tastee Freeze.” she spun and started toward the fitting room, grabbing a straw hat along the way and plopping it onto her head.
“oh,” she added suddenly, thrown over her shoulder, “and for the record, if you’re going to enter into my new profession and try to choose clothes for someone else, you should be warned: yellow hates me with a passion. i can’t coerce it into gracing my skin, no matter how desperately i plead.” she sighed, feigning a sense of forlorn. “so please, let’s not speak of it again. i’m learning to grieve it properly.” she swept into a little curtsy and tugged at his shirt, moving on.
he checked it off, settling into a plastic chair as she disappeared behind a curtain, lost in her girlish world of pinks and blues while he lounged behind in befuddled contemplation of a yellow he knew never truly had a fighting chance.

 

snapshot 19

the park was abuzz with early springtime madness, the kind of contagious vitality that sends children slamming through screen doors in anxious anticipation of grass-stained frenzy and dots Winter-vacant sidewalks with such April novelties as make-shift lemonade stands and training-wheeled excitement. it was a golden day, a hopeful promise of weeks to come, and he had to keep himself from sliding into thoughts of how much more he liked her in the sunshine, if that was possible; how when Spring broke, he discovered her anew, as though his affections had worn a transparent shell unbeknownst even to him throughout their colder days and now it’d begun to crack and fall away, revealing a softer kind of desire that made him want to take her in his arms and promise her things he didn’t have the words to describe… beginnings that would know no end and back-sprawling afternoons of cloud contemplation, her head resting on his chest as they drifted into feathery ramblings of cumulus and cirrus. he wanted her tired smiles, her quiet laughter, her thoughtful hours. he wanted to catch her tears with his thumb and sweep them away, lost in the tiny freckles on her tanning cheeks. he wanted to know her when she had no words left to say.
“i looooove summer!” she exclaimed, jumping suddenly on his back and kicking off her flip flops in front of them, her arms a tight noose around his unsuspecting neck. he took a few running steps, jolted from his reverie, present in the reality of her buoyancy and forced himself to shift internally, recalibrating to her surface track of bubbling laughter and freshly painted toenails.
“it’s a frisbee sort of afternoon,” he found himself saying, grappling toward her genuine levity with a latent sense of reluctancy and suddenly spinning wildly in circles through the grass just to catch her sudden shrieks with greedy ears and orient himself back in the world. somewhere in the stratosphere were clouds they might have tried to tame, but he knew for now he’d have to wait.

 

snapshot 18

“have you ever been in love?” she asked him suddenly, conversationally, and no pieces of the sky fell down around them. he glanced her way but she wasn’t looking at him; she thumbed through stacks of used cds, pulling out a Cure album. her question had been tossed out lazily without a hint of false nonchalance; she was really just making mild conversation, it seemed, throwing it out the way she might ask if he’d ever tried strawberry milk or wore Umbros as a kid. her profile was soft today, a long scarf draped loopily around her neck, hair pulled back into a messy ponytail. she was every girl, but unlike any other; she wasn’t his, but she spoke to him of love. here, in a tiny vintage record store that smelled of must and coffee grinds, she pushed him back into memories of before her and asked to know who he’d once been.
“i thought so,” he said, hating the cliche nature of his answer, how it sounded exactly the same coming from his lips as it did in every bad romance movie. “i mean, i guess, sure. at the time.” he grappled, threw words out like slippery fish, tried to interest himself in the stack of vinyls in front of him. she giggled a bit.
“that’s what they all say,” she said, and he would have hated her for that answer, if he’d known how to hate her at all.
“you know what i mean.” he turned toward her, a Depeche Mode album in his hands. “how about you?”
he could play this game too. he could make his voice disinterested. he could lie to himself and pretend he wanted to hear her answer.
she looked at him, grinning, and nodded happily before adding another cd to her growing stack.
“of course i have,” she said, sidestepping down the aisle, picking up Simon & Garfunkle.
“i try to fall in love at least once a year, sometimes twice.” she was in front of him now and stood on her tippy toes to suddenly kiss him swiftly on the nose. “it’s nice to have a little adventure, you know?” she winked, eyes sparkling, and twirled toward the counter with her pile of music.
he hadn’t found a single thing that appealed to him, and her arms were nearly overflowing. and he suddenly knew that when it came to things like music and poetry and the lighter side of almost-love, he had a lot of catching up to do.

 

snapshot 17

“in my version of Heaven, we all become angels with lightning wings,” she said, twirling around her living room with pointed toes, arms waving.
“i don’t think we turn into angels,” he said, and she smiled, finishing another sequence of turns before looking at him knowingly.
“just wait until i zap you.”

 

snapshot 16

“it’s the world’s most famous birthday,” she said warmly, throwing her arms around his neck from behind and dropping a kiss on his cheek. she stay suspended there, hanging over his shoulder, her head nestled up against his neck. “and you get to see me for a few minutes! don’t you feel like the luckiest boy ever?”
“the very luckiest,” he said, flicking her nose lightly. “oh, how very lucky this famous birthday makes me.”

she laughed and pushed herself up, drumming her hands against his shoulders before skipping across the room to flip on the radio. Christmas music spilled into her apartment.

“dance with me,” she demanded, beckoning him from across the room. “come on, before we have to go.”
she was bundled into her jacket and scarf, bags of presents for her family waiting by the door, and he wanted to tell her to take him with her –  that he wanted their Christmas memories to include each other this year, sharing one car and holding hands at the dinner table as they bowed their heads for Christmas grace and family glows. they weren’t there yet, he knew this, and although he considered kidnapping her in all her wintry youthfulness, he knew he only had her for a few brief moments more on this treasured day. this loved-ones day. this golden day.

“such a romantic song,” she said, slipping her arms around his neck and shimmying, laughing as “Santa Baby” provided their Christmas dance soundtrack.
“come and trim my Christmas tree with some with some decorations bought at Tiffany’s, i really do believe in you, let’s see if you believe in me,” she sang, her nose almost touching his. he held onto her the way one grapples at sunlight when dusk begins to fall and allowed himself to sway along with her, caught in her silvery glow, enamored with her very essence and how it enveloped him with all the weight of an isolated moment. he’d never forget her now, not the way she gave him his first Christmas music dance and wrapped his heart up in her green youth despite the whiteness waiting them outside her door.
“i’m pretty sure everyone believes in you,” he whispered, his lips pressed against her hair. “you’re better than Magic, you know. you put Santa to shame.”
she kept her cheek close to his and they settled into the intimacy of gazeless words, and he wondered if she was as nervous to lock eyes during that moment as he was.
“maybe one day, i’ll stop keeping myself from falling for you,” she finally breathed back. his heart beat loudly.
then, she suddenly snapped back and met his eyes with an impish grin on her face.
“of course, that depends upon how nice the diamonds are.” she swiftly pecked him lightly on the lips and in a flash she was out of his arms, pulling him toward the door.
“come on, you. your time is up. i need to go. i’ll let you walk me to my car.”

and as she drove away, he stood in her empty parking lot and wondered if perhaps she wasn’t the ghost of all his Christmases future.

 

snapshot 15

there were too many unfamiliar and avant-garde adorned people in the room for him to be entirely comfortable, fashioned though he was in a perfectly-cut D&G suit she’d breathlessly fast-talked him into, insisting upon the skinny tie with a girlish enthusiasm that they were “all the rage.” she dazzled and sparkled on his arm as they walked through an ornately arched doorway and into a healthy, vibrant buzz of crystal and satin-inspired luxury where everything seemed elevated and glowing, as though the Sun god himself had thrown such a fête.
“this is spectacular,” she breathed, her eyes widening and reflecting, spewing forth a golden jetstream in equal magnitude to the fire-and-fusion scene engulfing them. he tried to see it all from her eyes and appreciate the Magic: the ruddy flush of the girls’ done-up faces and the way the chandeliers dappled diamonds of light in their russet tresses; the swoosh-swoosh of their gowns and their gleeful exclamations as they oozed and dripped gushing compliments over one another like burn-out-bright candles spilling wax in bubbling torrents. it was a night crafted for goddesses, there was no doubt about that, and the tuxedo-clad gentlemen lucky enough to escort such brazen beauties fell to the side like dutiful accoutrements, every now and then resting their tentative fingertips on the small of her back or the curve of her elbow just to maintain a tangible sense of balance.
“let’s get champagne.” her voice twinkled airily, buzzing in his ear as she pushed her fingers into his arm. she kept close to him, touching his sleeve or pushing against him, as though he was her anchor in this effervescent atmosphere and she just might get swept up in the phosphorescence and float dazzlingly away the moment she detached herself from his side. he steered her glidingly across the classic checkered floor, feeling her flutter inwardly beside him as she tried to find her center while her heart went sailing.
“isn’t this amazing?” she asked him, her eyes huge and soft, her dark hair pulled loosely back so he could study her beauty unfettered. she wanted him there tonight, and he basked in that knowledge; she needed him to steady her, to bate her childlike awe. she displayed an eager dependence that made him a little lightheaded, a little wanting.
“i’ve never seen you more beautiful,” was all he said, handing her a delicate glass flute that bubbled with all the expectancy of the night ahead of them. she looked at him for a frozen moment, spinning him outside of the party into the periphery of space and time before breaking with a shy smile and lightly, lingeringly placing her fingertips on his lips.
“let’s make them all jealous,” she said, smiling coyly and raising her flute to his. she tucked herself into him, sliding his free arm around her waist.
“how very Daisy and Gatsby of us,” he said. her eyes lit upon his, her lips falling slightly parted.
“my favorite,” she said softly, still looking at him. “i’m sure i never told you that…?”
“you never had to,” he said. “i just knew.”

 

snapshot 14

she skipped out of her apartment jubilantly, flip-flopped and arm-flung, her hair free and flying like a dark flag as she jumped down the stone steps. she wore red, and wore it well.
“i always love the beginnings of things,” she informed him, kicking a little pebble across her parking lot. “there’s something fresh and liberating about a start-over, like the world remembers to take a breath, exhale deeply and invent itself anew.” she looked at him. “it’s way better than a second chance, or at least, way different. it’s a first chance again, because it’s an entirely separate story.”
it was april first, he then realized, listening to the rise and fall of her girlish tones and wondering how long her lightened skin would take to bronze now that a certain springtime veil had begun to lift around the world and around her wintered heart. she’d been holding the promise of april inside her with all the latency of an untold secret, screaming against the insides of her skin til she was nearly bursting from the effort of restraining such a golden thing. it all made sense, now, the little spurts of otherness the past few weeks — the moments when her voice would ring metallic and her eyes go a little grayer, a little glossed-over, and he’d wonder where she’d disappeared to when she clearly wasn’t present in the frame of flesh and calm that sat tucked beside him. she’d grown more likely to reach for his hand but she often kept her secrets to herself, twisting rings around her fingers when she didn’t feel like talking. He’d settled comfortably into the theater of the patient, living in the expectancy of life as game of “never knowing” with her. one day, she’d clamor into his lap with all the youthfulness of an almost-love and turn up her open face to his, and the next, she huddled deep within the solitude of her very oneness and give him nothing more than thin smiles from across a crowded room.
but this was love, for him; every inch and every mannerism of her was more than a passing chance at magic. he wanted her this way, ever-changing, wind-born. she left him with the very same sensation of an unforeseen meteor shower.
“so write yourself a pretty april tale, then, girl,” he said, sliding an arm around the small of her back and pulling her steps in stride with his. she looked at him quite is if he’d caught her off-guard and she smiled slowly, as though trying to learn where he might fit into this beginning. her arm slipped around him after a moment and they walked in silence, looking out at the expanse of an open season stretching before them.

 

snapshot 13

he arrived at her apartment mid-afternoon to find her still clad in her running clothes, freshly rejuvenated and barefoot. she was standing in her tiny kitchen with an array of baked goods claiming every inch of countertop and spilling onto the stove, little marbled heart-shaped cupcakes squatting like sentinels around a knobbly apple cake. he went to pull her to him for a hug and she barely withstood his embrace before squirming away and turning back to her project. three tubs of frosting stood open before her, her artist’s palette: chocolate, strawberry, vanilla. he’d never seen her so domestic but assumed she considered this more of an art project, a sort of painting ordeal, rather than any semblance of betty crocker home-making.
“want to help?” she asked, her voice a little metallic, clipped short. she kept her back to him even as she spoke, balanced flamingo-style, the bottom of one foot other resting against the inside of her other knee. he watched her slowly, painstakingly spread strawberry frosting on a marbled heart.
“okay,” he said, setting his bag down by the door where she’d left him standing. he thought they were going running, but she’d obviously already taken that on without him. fighting the impulse to grab her around the waist from behind and carry her to the couch and say, “it’s a sunday afternoon; how about we forget the world for a little while,” he stepped up beside her and opened a drawer.
she swiveled.
“what are you doing?” she looked at him, plastic knife suspended in air. a glob of frosting fell and landed on the floor. she instinctively swirled it around with her big toe, making an angry pink streak across the white tile.
“looking for a knife to help you frost the cupcakes,” he said.
“oh, no, i’ll do this,” she said, plucking the cupcake he’d grabbed out of his hand and dipping her knife into the vanilla tub. “i like to do this part. you can do something else. like hang that mirror up for me that’s been sitting on the chair for weeks, maybe?” she looked at him. “if you don’t mind. i was thinking i’d put it in the hallway here.” he followed her and she motioned to the expanse of wall outside the kitchen, then turned the music up. “nails are in my bedroom somewhere; hammer in the kitchen closet.”
she was back in the kitchen, leaving him wondering about girls and their mood swings and where he’d ever find nails in her bedroom, and why liking someone so much meant you’d give them the world if you knew it’d make their sunday better even for a moment.
ten minutes later, the mirror was up. she’d taken a little break to help him (translation: bossily directed him on exactly where she wanted the mirror positioned), but had disappeared quickly to finish the last of the cupcakes.
“i love it,” she said when he came back to find her. her smile was real this time, and he breathed an inward sigh of relief at this unexpected turn of mood. “thank you.”
she let him pull her close, heart in one hand, strawberry-slapped utensil in other. “sorry i was being a brat when you got here.” her eyes were huge and she was so much like a little kid just then, lips pursed, smelling of sugar and sweat and still-youth.
he opened his mouth to reply but before he could, she swiftly, suddenly spread a knife full of frosting across his face, her mouth falling open as she surprised them both. she giggled and he instinctively grabbed the cupcake out of her other hand and squashed it into her face, eliciting a gasp. she squealed and reached for the tub of frosting but he held her back, crumbs littering her hairline and flaking off like a sugary ticker tape parade to celebrate neoteny as he pinned her against the wall. for once he wasn’t nervous and it happened just the way he’d known it always should for them…
that after a few moments, neither one of them knew who’d moved in to initiate their first kiss.

 

snapshot 12

“anywhere in the world?” he asked, watching as she stood on her tip toes to reach for an item from the top shelf. he curbed the instinct to come to her assistance and chose instead to watch her with a smile, one sneakered foot kicked up in the air as she stretched against the shelves.
“since when are grocery shelves so high?” she mused, twirling toward him with the desired item in her hands. “ta-da.” she grinned and waved it above her head. “the irony, placing the fun foods out of fun people’s reach.”
he laughed as she tossed the bag over to him, high into the air. “fun foods, huh?” he remarked. animal crackers. of course, she’d been nearly scaling a grocery store shelf for an oversized bag of animal crackers.
“mmm-hmmm,” she said, skipping a little ways ahead of him. she was dressed casually today, faded jeans and a screen print hoodie, a brimmed beanie angled down over one of her eyes. he loved this version of her, more so than her other sevles; she was a little more carefree, a little less untouchable. this her just might be the one who let him in, if any; this would be the one who just might slip her quiet hand into his when he was least expecting it and sift his doubts through her laughter. this was the her she only gave away when walls began to shift, and he dared not let himself venture too close all at once and frighten her sense of inner poise enough to jolt her back into her thicker skin, cementing diamonds into the fissures of her porcelain foundation. he was practicing the art of patience, just by learning the lines of her jaw and watching her dancing steps.
“did you just call yourself a fun person?” he teased. she stopped on one foot again with her back to him and threw him a glance over her shoulder, her smile almost upside-down, arms extended to the sides, and gave a quick shoulder shake. “perhaps i did,” she agreed, spinning to face him, hands on hips. “inadvertently, tho, i might add. i mean, seriously — do you think not-fun people eat animal crackers?” she popped her lips at him. “they’re only the FUNNEST food in the entire world. especially the monkeys.” she spun again and disappeared around the end of the aisle, leaving him wanting her irrationality to complete him forever, and laughing.
“i don’t think these have monkeys,” he called after her, following her lead, as he found himself accustomed to these days. she’d taught him more than physics ever had about the rush of forward motion.
“that doesn’t matter,” she called back. “i can make a monkey face, you know.” she flashed him a grin and threw a jar of Nutella at him unexpectedly, jerking him into a quick lunge.
“well, watch it with throwing food, will you, monkey?” he said, shaking his head. “crazy.”
“you’re good,” she observed, motioning to the jar of Nutella in his hand. “i so never expected you to actually
his heart quickened. “well, you’re right about one thing,” he told her as she kicked her sneaker up against his, her face inches away. she tilted her head to the side and looked at him with a smile.
“i know this,” she said. he looked at her questioningly. “you know what?” “what i’m right about,” she said, matter-of-factly.
“that i’m fun.”
so like her, to steal even the words he so desperately wanted to own.
“anyway,” she continued, “we’re so off track, you know. this whole animal cracker thing really took us for a tangent.” she looked up at him. “so? what’s your answer?”
“my answer?” he was baffled, lost somewhere between her youthfulness and the promise of a monkey face he was determined to make her show him.
“you don’t remember?” she seemed semi-crushed, and he struggled desperately to conjure up anything he clearly shouldn’t have forgotten, to elicit such evident disappointment in the midst of a going-utterly-wonderfully grocery store experience. “it’s okay.” she pulled away and snatched a box of Life, hugging it to her.
“no, really, remind me—” he started, but she cut him off.
“i heard that in Hawaii, boxes of cereal cost six dollars,” she stated. “can you imagine? six dollars for a little Life?” her eyes implored him, and he knew she wasn’t really talking about cereal at all.
suddenly, he remembered.
“Fiji,” he said, and her eyes widened slightly, pulling a smile up with them. “Fiji,” she repeated, nodding. “that’s a good one.” her arm slipped back into his. “i think i’d be fun in Fiji, too,” she said lightly, and they both laughed.
“as long as Life didn’t cost six bucks, right?” he added.
“hmmmmm.” she considered this for a moment, waving the cereal box. “na,” she finally said. “i wouldn’t even mind if it did. i think i’d just eat more fruit.”
“and animal crackers, of course,” he added. “oh, of course,” she said. “we’re taking fun everywhere we go.” and just like that, she’d changed his world with the start of a “we” where an “i” could have so easily slipped on through…and even though he knew her well enough by now to realize she was oblivious to the potential of her words, he locked the memory away. she could go right ahead with her fun little life, but he was already playing for keeps.

 

snapshot 11

she’d been staring silently for a prolonged moment out the window of the coffee shop from their perch on the stools by the door, swinging her legs a little and taking inventory of the passer-bys sporting various arrays of winter bundlings against the February chill. he watched her observe a young couple who appeared oblivious to anything but each other, the rosy cheeked girl’s arm linked around her beau’s fleecy elbow and then tucked into her coat pocket, a welcome lock keeping him by her side. their mouths fell open in genuine laughter and their steps matched perfectly, and he was certain the lovely girl beside him on her high top seat felt no jealousy but rather a piqued curiosity about the trappings of such wintered love. he’d begun to learn her a little more, surmising that she was in love with the figurative nature of love, entranced by the seams of Beauty and Magic invisibly woven around quiet stories and whispered nights. she craved the love of poetry, but he wasn’t sure she actually wanted to feel it; she seemed to rather enjoy chasing a romance of hypotheticals, intent on her quest to harness the wind while never expecting to fall for more than the spineshiver of a breeze lifting her hair.
“love doesn’t really make much sense until you don’t have it,” she finally said, a note of certainty in her voice, dusting the freshly-cut ends of her dark hair across the lightly-freckled apples of her cheeks as though attempting to sweep them away. he was more than marginally attached to those freckles, tossed there by some kinder god like a handful of sand.
“expound, please, Miss Shakespeare,” he replied, throwing her a quick wink. she smiled, holding his gaze for a moment, then straightened her shoulders with a quick shake and cleared her throat pretentiously, flipping her hair and giggling.
“okay, then,” she began, toying with her coffee cup. “it’s like losing your favorite pair of totally worn in, had-them-forever, absolutely irrevocably irreplaceable sweatpants.” she looked out the window again, then back at him with winter eyes. he waited a moment, but she didn’t continue.
“soooo…okay,” he said, trying to wrap his mind around her girlish statement and not entirely sure that he wasn’t about to make a fool of himself in front of the one person he so desperately wanted to impress and could never seem to figure out. and to think he’d just assumed he was starting to learn her…
“you just compared losing someone you love to losing your favorite sweats, did you not?” he couldn’t help smiling, and to his amazement and utter relief, she burst out in a twinkling laugh and covered her mouth with her hand.
“no!” she giggled, then drew her eyebrows together as if considering what message she’d intended to convey. “okay…well, yes, i guess i did, didn’t i? but, you know what I mean, right? it’s like, they’re basically a part of you, one that you take for granted when you have them to snuggle into all the time…” her voice trailed a little and her gaze wandered back to the sidewalk as she sifted through her thoughts for a moment. she turned back to him, a little subdued, a little changed.
“but once you can’t put them on anymore…once they’re not there, where you assumed they’d just always be, you’re suddenly and entirely overcome with a feeling of loss…and you wonder just how you’ll ever live without them.”
she didn’t turn away and for the first time, the blue skies in her eyes held haze and clouds…and he was left baffled by how it could possibly take a smokescreen gaze for him to finally begin to understand.

 

snapshot 10

“hmm, that’s a tough one,” she said, tucking her bottom lip between her teeth as she punctiliously coated her final fingernail with black polish. a wisp of her dark hair kept falling across her face and every now and then she’d blow it up away from her forehead, but like him, it remained magnetized to her eyes.
“it depends, really,” she said, looking up at him. “okay, so do you mean, what’s my favorite thing to order at a restaurant? or, what do i think actually tastes best, even if it’s bad for me?” she scrunched up her nose. “but then, that’s tricky, because if i know something is bad for me, that negates the possibility of it ever being my absolute favorite.” she wiped an edge of a finger on her coffee table. “so, maybe, what do i eat the most often?” she held first one, then the other hand before her, blowing lightly on her freshly coated nails, apparently satisfied with her fine motor skills. her eyes flashed to him. “or, if i could only eat one food for the rest of my life, no ifs-ands-or-buts, what would win out?”
he laughed. “okay, i didn’t mean for this to be a dissertation on the eating habits of an American girl,” he replied, stretching out on the twin bed serving as one of her couches. her apartment was so very her, an explosion of colors and accessories with ostensibly no similarities other than the fact that every single piece screamed of her personality: turquoise and purple abstract vases and over-sized painted picture frames; brightly-colored papasan chairs, and tapestries masquerading as curtains. the living room teemed with mismatched furniture but as usual, she sat on the floor, legs crossed beneath her, craving the very center of things.
“right, okay,” she said, stretching out her legs and leaning over them, grabbing the arches of her feet. “well, i guess frozen yogurt, then.” her voice was muffled, her head buried in her knees, hair spilling over her shoulders.
“frozen yogurt.” he laughed. “seriously?”
she sat up, smiling. “yep. i could eat it for every meal, every day. final answer.”
“never saw that one coming,” he replied, making a mental note to be more specific and always expect the unexpected when trying to find out anything about this never-cease-to-amaze-him girl stretched out on the floor before him.
he was no closer to determining what to cook for her — that is, if he ever found the nerve to ask her if he could make her dinner on Valentine’s Day —but at least dessert was now one less thing he ever had to worry about.

 

snapshot 9

“how come you never played for me before?” she finally asked, breaking the silence that had been hanging overhead like an invisible umbrella they both held up. he’d been afraid to speak after her initial shocked reaction, and she clearly had no intention of giving him an inch of grace in which to breathe. a third person could have filled the awkward space and walked between them; the hypothetical covering was huge, and he fought a sudden wave of vertigo. the tunnel vision he often experienced when sharing her air tightened around him like a vice. the night hadn’t gone at all the way he’d anticipated.
“okay,” he said, unable to keep annoyance from clouding his voice, “i got that, already. what i don’t get is why you’re reacting this way, shutting me out and being entirely ridiculous.” it was the first time he’d ever expressed such utter dissatisfaction with her, but she was wrong. tonight, she was all wrong.
“seriously?” she whipped her face toward him, her breath coming out in little puffs. they walked swiftly in the bitter cold, her boots click-clacking on the frozen pavement. she looked captivating in her anger, but he had no desire to touch her like this, afraid of how her red-hot would scald his winter skin. “you never tell me anything.”
they were tiny icicles spit at him, her sudden-chill words, quick and unexpected as stiletto daggers he hadn’t even known she’d been concealing. this was new, this burst of unprecedented emotion toward him, her fiery passion of displeasure that he couldn’t quite place. it rose in the flush of her cheeks and the tightness of her lips, and it hit him with the full-force of a street-blown gust, the possibility of what it could be…
but it couldn’t be. not her, with her private island of a soul and glitterstrewn days, locked within glass houses for him (and others, perhaps? he never dared to ask what befell in her life when he vacated her side) to covet and chase, lured ever-forward by every hope-inducing taunt of a girlish smile or a bluer gleam. but yet, she’d admitted to him once that a little green lay latent, and perhaps this was another flash, of a different sort…
“forget it,” he snapped, turning to stare into the street, where headlights shone brighter in the blackened cold and he struggled against the clarity of sharpened contours. “it’s not always about you, you know.”
he could feel her seething beside him; heard it in the quickening of her staccato steps.
“or maybe you don’t, actually. maybe that’s what this is really all about.” he spit the words out, frozen, waiting for her blood to boil and lava-words to flood over the black ice.
whether he’d hurt her or not, he wasn’t sure; whether she wanted to scream or cry, he couldn’t tell from the unwavering set of her rigid jaw. pursed and poised, the passion fell behind her curtain of denial and she pulled silence around her like the night.
even in her jealousy, she was a stolen ship; even as she burned, she rose no white flags.

 

snapshot 8

“tomorrow i’m leaving on a jet plane,” she beamed, clapping her hands together lightly and giggling. she started humming that song beneath her breath as she dug through a pile of clothes on her bed and then twirled on her toes, her hair breezing across her face, holding up an emerald-colored shirt against her.
“yes or no?” she asked. “california-esque?”
“yes, definitely,” he said. because to him, “california-esque” meant “does this look good on me?”
…and to that question, he was pretty sure he’d never have a no.

 

snapshot 7

“how far away do you think the moon is?” she asked, her voice an almost-whisper, dangling her bare legs off the edge of his world and wiggling her painted toes. he looked at her, sitting beside him without touching shoulders and seemingly unawares of his jealousy for the things she loved and the way she held them in her gaze; how she fixated on the night sky even as he couldn’t turn away from her profile.
“not sure,” he replied, forcing himself to look up and follow her into the Milky Way. “we could look it up, later.”
she let out a little half-laugh, half-sigh and turned to him, looking at him the way people do when they feel entirely misunderstood. he suddenly realized he was all wrong; that he’d ruined the magic she’d been pondering.
“sometimes you just don’t get it at all,” she said lightly, but he knew she meant it the way rain means to fall even through the sunshine.
“i meant right now. right at this moment, the distance from me to the moon. i wanted to know if i could walk it by daybreak.”
her voice wasn’t for him, he knew. at least for tonight, she’d already left him behind.

 

snapshot 6

“i think it might snow tonight,” she said happily, skipping a little for a second to catch up to his longer steps before falling into stride beside him. she’d stopped to do something, he wasn’t sure what — adjust her boot or search for lip gloss or something else adorable that he was sure he’d have wanted to catch. he was practicing indifference here and there, or at least feigning attempts at it. he didn’t want to seem enamored, even if he’d passed that point long ago, somewhere between that day she stepped into his palms to reach for sunlight and the first night he realized the stars shone brighter around her face, as though framing one of their own demi-goddesses and paling in comparison to her lunar glow. he grappled at things when she was near; loose ends of thoughts and fragmented phrases that never came out just right, tripping around the words he knew he couldn’t/shouldn’t say. not yet, at least. not while she was so un-his.
“i don’t think it’s supposed to,” he replied. it was warm for the beginning of December, probably 50 degrees, and the first few snowflakes that flirted the night before hadn’t stuck. no clouds skittered overhead for her to lose herself in, this time.
“that doesn’t matter, though,” she said, looking at him. “you know? i mean, snow never comes when you expect it.”
he didn’t correct her but he didn’t exactly understand her logic, so they rode silence for a moment. she was happy today, he could tell, and she bubbled. it was her best thing.
“you know,” she said, stopping suddenly with a hand on his arm, “i just realized something.” her eyes were nearly translucent in the pale mid-day sun, a bluish-gray that made him slightly dizzy, as though he should have been able to see right through her and into tomorrow. he wasn’t sure he wanted to see what she kept behind there, even as he knew he’d never needed anything more…
“what?” he asked. her fingers clenched onto his wrist a little tighter and she smiled coyly, studying his face as though she’d just been caught entirely off-guard by something she saw there. he never knew she wanted his secrets.
“you’ve never loved a girl who loves the snow,” she said simply.
and it didn’t even matter that those were her words; that she’d stopped there, caught up in her own phosphorescence, without a fleeting thought that perhaps no one saw the world the way she did, traveling and careening through inner monologues of breathless wonder and starstruck clarity that nobody else could ever begin to traverse without the pressure of her fingertips leading them across her universe. at that moment, hanging on those words, he didn’t want to have to think enough to attempt to discern her, or tunnel through to discover the place from where she might glean that understanding, or why it was enough to halt her steps and dig her fingers into his arm.
he simply couldn’t get past his shock about how right she always was.

 

snapshot 5

she seemed a little nervous, for once, or maybe simply not as self-assured, and it unnerved him slightly to behold her this way, pulling the ends of her sweater sleeves over her painted fingernails as if trying to tuck herself away.
“sometimes i forget to believe in the important things,” she finally said, chewing on her bottom lip lightly. “you know what i mean?”
“not sure,” he said, looking intently at her, the way she reached out now and then to lightly touch the lip of her wine glass with her index finger. she was quieter tonight, more subdued, a subtle glow rather than her usual buoyant radiance. in a strange way he rather enjoyed seeing her like this; a little more vulnerable, as though perhaps the world could hurt her after all, or maybe that there were walls she couldn’t scale entirely on her own, labyrinths through which she might be apprehensive to traverse without the feel of another’s hand clinging to hers. he felt closer to her, as though her walls were a little less platinum tonight; as though her eyes were searching, rather than self-sustained and reflective. he could see a little more of her, a little less of her defenses, and he wondered what had caused the shift.
“tell me,” he said, searching her face. the restaurant was dimly lit and intimate and she seemed almost-his, the way this moment pocketed them away from the gravity of busy sidewalks and winter suns.
“sometimes i forget to believe in tomorrow,” she said softly, raising her eyes to meet his, catching him in the feather-weight of her lashes. “sometimes i forget i just might need my wings.”
they were quiet for a few moments and the jazz trio swept their thoughts along, bluesy and separate, two different streams flowing from one tiny table. even in her reticence, he wanted to learn the curves of her face and the secrets behind her eyes.
“i don’t think that’s true,” he finally said, looking at her profile in the thin light, shadows from their flickering votive candle ribboning and threading around her jawline. she stayed that way for a moment, hanging in the echo of his words and lost in the heartbeat of the music before turning and meeting his gaze.
“no,” she agreed, smiling at him. “i didn’t think you would.”

 

snapshot 4

“did you dress up for Halloween?” she asked, pulling down the sun visor from his passenger’s seat and snapping the mirror up. “my eyes turn greener in the fall, i’m realizing.”
he wasn’t sure how those two statements interconnected but she amused him, the way she tilted her head first this way, then that, inspecting the hues of her Autumn-lit eyes and their chameleon-esque properties. so like her, to change with the seasons, assuming the lightness of feather-blue as Summer sunned sprightly and then sliding into an earthier existence when the thinner air cooled and settled beneath her paling skin. he’d fallen dazed into her blues, but the idea of a greener shift enticed him. he felt himself becoming more comfortable with change the more time he spent sharing the very air she breathed and attempting to harness her words. he craved her very syllables with the voracity of a forest fire, even when they fell more for herself than him.
“i didn’t,” he said, hugging a sharp bend as the road climbed and the pine trees thickened. he didn’t think she’d been here before and he was eager to show her things, give her pieces of the world she hadn’t already discovered on her own — things she could wrap her little hands around and pull close, the way cold fingers encircle steaming mugs in January freeze; the way children cling desperately to freshly-picked dandelion dreams as though holding the whole world in their clenched fists, a blossom bobbing brightly as they run to show beauty to their mothers…
“i figured as much,” she said, closing the mirror and tucking a leg beneath her. she’d pulled her big sunglasses down and he couldn’t check her eyes for green but he believed in it, knew even Autumn was jealous of her self-sufficiency and felt the need to splash a little of its charm across her world.
“why’s that?” he asked, a little annoyed that she seemed to know him better than he knew her. he had no idea whether or not she was the type to dress up.
“you’re very down-to-earth,” she said, smiling and suddenly pulling lightly, swiftly, at the sleeve of his sweater. her fingers vanished almost as quickly as they’d appeared and he wondered if he’d imagined it, the little tug.
“you could use a little make-believe, you know. it wouldn’t kill you.”
she was teasing him and he couldn’t help smiling at her, wishing she’d push her sunglasses to the top of her head.
“so what was your costume, then, green eyes?” he asked, easing the car to a stop as they pulled up to the look-out at the beginning of the trail. she didn’t answer and he turned, about to form a guess…
but it was too late; he saw that at once. he’d lost her already, in that split second…the way her mouth parted slightly and she pushed up her glasses, eyes fixed over the edge of the cliff and lost in the sunlight, finding something wonderful over the precipice that was hers alone in this wildfire moment, with no tug of his sweater to suggest she felt like letting him in and walking him across her thoughts. he struggled with the silence for a second but caved and simply looked at her again – and there it was: the flecks of green she’d promised, glowing behind the un-shaded awe she saved for things she loved, and he all-at-once knew that this green would take no getting used to.

 

snapshot 3

for a few moments they held silence comfortably and she drove his car exactly the way he always knew she would, just a little too fast in her high-heels and entirely self assured, composed and beautiful and oblivious to how he’d steal tiny glances out of the corner of his eye just to watch the way she shifted gears or checked her mirror before zipping into the next lane. he’d never let a girl drive his car before and was a little surprised when she’d asked — or, kind-of asked.
“i’ll drive,” she’d said matter-of-factly, tying the belt to her new little jacket as her heels clicked across the parking lot. “i mean, your car.” she extended her palm for the keys, twinkling eyes and playful smile. she was testing him, as though there were any doubt as to whether or not he’d give her anything she wanted. perhaps she hadn’t realized that yet? but there was the pounding heart…he was sure she could hear that, the riot inside him every time she showed up with his dreams just right. he’d been a little nervous to ask her to go out tonight but she seemed as collected as always, beaming out of her apartment with her hair down and bright eyes and robbing him of any desire to ever bring her home again. he’d dropped the keys into her hand and she’d grinned.
“really? you’ll let me?” a youthfulness, an almost-interest…
“sure, why not. can you drive standard?” he’d asked.
“of course i can,” she’d said. “but you can drive home. my feet will hurt by then.”
“deal,” he’d agreed. and it was all perfect, watching her from the passenger seat of his own car, looking every bit the way a girl should look. he knew he’d never sleep tonight, not after having to drop her off with her blisters and tired eyes and watch her walk away from him, up the steps to her apartment in the dark and leaving him behind with her ghost, the way she always did.
“listen to this part,” she said, turning up the radio. “this song is about me, you know. he always writes about me.” she was laughing and her hair was blowing across her face, and without thinking he brushed it away, catching them both off guard. he tucked it softly behind her ear, and she said nothing. but her smile…he folded it away, silently, in the glove compartment for now. his mind was too full already.
“and i was thinking i would like to see your eyes open up real wide the minute that you see me…”
“that’s it,” she said, swerving a little and giggling, happy. “that’s how it should be.”
from that moment on, he loved the Counting Crows.

 

snapshot 2

november descended warmer than expected and he tried not to let his disappointment show, walking beside her in the heart of day and listening to the way the leaves crunched and crackled beneath their feet. if it had been just a little colder, he could have offered her something, anything: his jacket, just to see the way it engulfed her little frame and watch her snuggle her hands into the fleecy pockets as though burrowing herself into a part of his life…or an arm, to slide around her and keep her close, where he was beginning to think he might want to have her always, tucked safely at his side…or his days, one upon the next, a string of firelit nights and untold stories that needed only her hopeful voice to turn roots into wings. but it was just warm enough for almost-love and she seemed to want to keep her own smile, quiet around the corners of her lips and turning up just beneath the pinkish flush of her appled cheeks.
“you never really know what day could be the best day of your life,” she mused suddenly, offering a sideways glance. “ever think about that?”
and he hadn’t, but now he did, and he couldn’t think of words to say other than that he knew his best days still lay ahead if they held her, framed her in like a photo collage of all your favorite things and wildest dreams and once-in-a-lifetimes. but he knew she wasn’t ready for that, for the gravity of winter words, for she still spoke from the lightness of a summer heart that danced around the edge’s of autumn’s chill, and he wanted to say something easier, something simpler…but when he opened his mouth and turned to catch her profile in the thin light, he suddenly saw tomorrow aglow in the translucence of her skyward eyes and realized she hadn’t even wanted him to answer her at all.

 

snapshot 1

“i don’t think you’re ready for me yet,” she said, hands outstretched to pull herself up into the sky, head thrown back, eyes closed in anticipation of flight.
“of course i’m not,” he agreed, offering her a foothold in his cupped palms. “you’re never ready for Magic; you’re always amazed every time flowers materialize out of thin air.”
“you make no sense,” she said softly, stepping lightly into his hands. “but you’re something i can believe in, the way you are right now, with sunlight attaching itself to your hair, at the close of this golden day.”
and he suddenly knew all he had to do was give her a sunset and she’d be his.

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