Archive for the ‘loss’ Category

“Still,” he reminded me.
I didn’t care that his mouth and breath were like ice as he bent down to kiss me again. He parted my lips with his. Cautiously at first. Then, as I blatantly ignored his demand to remain motionless and my hands traced their way up his back, he moved more urgently, pinning me firmly between the door and his marble physique. And as if suddenly remembering to show restraint, he retreated in to a light suck and tug of my upper lip before breaking away. The room spun into disorientation, his kiss and touch making it impossible to think or breathe or want anything more than to do that again.

His whisper was like silk against my ear.  “I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited to do that.” And then said something at the end that sounded like again. Because that wasn’t possible, I dismissed it as my imagination.

He kissed then pressed his forehead to mine as we stood, me trying hopelessly to gain control over my faculties. I slid my hands to his chest. My curious, wandering fingers detailed the steely cool sinew under his black cotton shirt. The soft material clung to his well-formed body. And over his heart, where a beat could never be felt, a mangled knot embossed the hard surface. He sucked in a sharp breath and clasped his hand over his chest, trapping mine in place. Then, with a gust of air he was gone. Alex tore himself away and vanished, leaving me teetering in his absence.

I was startled by his reaction and couldn’t conjure any recollection of scars when I saw him over the summer. He was pristine and unblemished.  Alex shirtless was not something easily forgotten.

A second or two later, he reappeared in the corner of the room furthest from me, with fear and a hint of remorse riddling his expression. Had I hurt him? Of course not, I thought. What ever I did to elicit such a reaction, I was relieved that he hadn’t just disappeared completely.

“I’m sorry,” I said, unsure as to what for.

“You don’t listen to directions very well, do you?” he asked, only half joking.

I slowly walked towards him wanting to laugh, but more than that, I wanted him to stay.
“Please don’t go,” I said. “Stay.”
It sounded like I was begging. He must think I’m pathetic. Or worse, desperate.
A mischievous smile snuck across my face. “I promise I’ll be good.” And held up two fingers in Scouts honor.
I crawled under the covers and patted the very end of the bed. An invitation for him to sit.
“Besides,” I yawned. “I have tons of questions, and you promised answers.”

That night, Alex was waiting for me in my dad’s room when I finished getting ready for bed. He was leaned forward in the corner chair, chin propped up on his interlaced fingers; pensive, exquisite, and something else. It was when he looked up from his prayer like posture that I recognized the other thing. Seductive, and unknowingly so. I caught myself grinning before snapping out of my trance. I glanced over my shoulder and then quickly closed the door, paranoid even though David had been sound asleep for a couple of hours.
Attempting to sound exasperated. “What if I was David?” I scolded in a whisper.

He raised his brows and offered a wry smile. “Then doing what I’m about to would be a little awkward,” he said, lithely rising to his feet.



I froze, then stumbled back against the door as he trained his narrowed gaze on me. There was a look in his eyes that I had never seen in him before; feral and hungry. I wondered if I should be afraid. The charge in my blood warmed the pit of my belly as he slowly stepped towards me, the pulse in my neck hammering harder the closer he got.

No, I thought, not afraid.

Standing inches from me, he watched with amused gratification the effect his proximity had on my flesh. He slowly, and ever-so-softly traced his cool, slender fingers from my trembling hands, up arms and over my shoulders, to the sides of my neck, leaving a trail of desire burning in the wake of his touch. His eyes met mine and then fell, watching my lips as they parted. My chest rose and fell in uncontrollable intervals, the heat now frantically spreading through the rest of my body.

Alex cradled my face in his hands, whispering, “Stay very still.”

As if I were going somewhere. Unless my stupid, wobbly knees gave.

Alex licked and pulled in his lower lip, then slowly released it. His eyes searched my face as if asking permission to proceed. Without so much as a hint of resistance from me, he tilted his head, and like a feather, barely touched his lips to mine. He pulled his face away, his cool breath tingling my lips as his departed from mine. I couldn’t will my eyes to open, instead, I let his gravity pull me closer.

After a sigh and a pause. “Some bullshit training gig at Lejeune,” he said, his brows knitted tightly.
I wanted to jump up and down and squeal I was so excited. I didn’t though, knowing that being sent to a training command was as far down on David’s list of desired jobs as recruiting was. He often compared training to glorified babysitting. I was happy, because to me, training represented very few opportunities for real danger.
I contorted my lip, trying to fake mutually bummed.
“Sorry,” I said.
David tossed the envelope onto the coffee table and plopped down on the couch.
“Yeah,” he grumbled.
I took a seat next to him. David leaned back into the deep cushions and threw his arm around my shoulders. As he raised his legs to prop his feet up on the coffee table he stopped short. He appeared briefly startled, sitting up and dropping his feet. His boots hit the wood floor with a solid thud.
“It’s clean,” he said, finally noticing the lack of Chinese take-out boxes and empty whiskey glasses.
“Yup,” I replied nonchalantly, pretending the task was nothing out of the ordinary.
He looked at me and stood. “You did this?”
“By yourself?” he asked in disbelief.
I rolled my eyes. “Duh.”
As slight as it was, it was the first smile that dared to cross David’s lips since he was deployed. The house was in dire need of the attention, but I could tell by his appreciative expression that it meant more to him than just a task needing completion.
David sat again, sighing. “It looks great, kid.” he said, nudging me with his shoulder. “Thanks.”
“Yup.” I smiled back.
I contemplated telling him, while he was feeling so grateful, that I dumped all of his really expensive whiskey too. I flinched at the thought. No, I said to myself. Why ruin a perfectly good moment?

I wanted the old David back. I needed to know that he was going to be okay when I’m gone.

The next morning I woke with a clarity that I hadn’t felt in months. It was like I had been lost in a fog that was now lifting and revealing a world that I had forgotten existed. With this clarity, came an unexpected surge of energy. David was gone by the time I stirred, and amid the stacks of dirty dishes and empty pizza boxes, he left a note explaining that he would be back around lunch time. Did we have a lunch time? I wondered. And did he leave one of these notes for me every day and this was the first time I’d been coherent enough to notice it? I turned a slow circle, taking in the disgust and filth that had piled up since we’d been back. It looked like a wrecking crew had demolished the whole house, and I decided that a clean-up was past due.

I started in the kitchen, filling garbage bags with weeks worth of trash, and then washed, dried and put the dishes in the white, painted cabinets. Over the next four hours, I dusted, swept, vacuumed and mopped floors; scrubbed the bathrooms until they sparkled; and did the laundry that spilled from the hampers, running on the treadmill between loads. When the house was restored to an acceptable state of cleanliness, I pulled open all of the drapes, letting the sunshine absorb the despair that filled this space with claustrophobic darkness. And then, I did the unthinkable–I found and poured all of David’s whiskey down the kitchen sink. This, I knew would be a fight later, but a necessary evil. My dad would have called it tough love.

I admired my handiwork before taking a shower, and then napped on the couch until David got home.

I wasn’t sure how to read his mood when he walked in the front door waving a large manila envelope.
“Got my orders,” he said flatly.
He got his hair cut too. And was in uniform for the first time since the funeral.
For his sake, I tried to sound upbeat. “Where too?” But I was nervous as ever. I didn’t expect that he would be sent back to combat right away, but still worried that he would be too far away to visit regularly.

In the last several weeks, David slept less and drank more. Ate less and cried more. Spoke less, if that was possible, and died a little more every day. These things were obvious in the visible graying strands sprouting up in his lengthening bushel of brown hair; the darkening circles encasing his glassy eyes; and the shoulders that were once proud and strong, now wilting. I barely remembered what he looked like before our worlds were blown apart; before I went to away to a summer haven and he was sentenced to a war zone. My agony suddenly paled in comparison of how he must feel. I constantly reminded myself that I wasn’t there to witness the things that David had. And now, I knew one more person who had been there with him, and wondered how much he had suffered as a result.

I reached under the pillow on the other side of the bed were I kept my tattered scrapbook, and then turned on the bedside lamp. The binding was falling apart at the seams and the plastic sheets that held my pictures in place were tearing in the corners. It was the only one I had, so it overflowed with trinkets to memorialize my once beautiful life. It bulged and bowed under the strain of the 550 parachute cord I wrapped around it to keep it closed.

The book sprung open when I released the cord, falling to the page with a photo of all three of us. We were at King’s Beach on the California side of Lake Tahoe last summer. My dad asked a passer-by on the shore to take a picture of all of us standing on our paddleboards. It took the poor woman four tries because I kept falling over.
King’s Beach was my favorite. The water under the surface after the sand had been disturbed, shimmered like the swirling insides of a snow globe. My dad was planning on taking us back to Tahoe this Christmas. I was excited to see snow for the first time, in real life.

Though it was only a year ago, David looked so much younger–the difference when I looked at him now was staggering. Circumstances rather than time deepened the etched lines around his eyes. But in this photo of us, he and my dad were young and healthy and vibrant. They took such good care of themselves, always at the height of their physical fitness, so it was disturbing to watch David waste way.

My dad was a couple of inches taller than David, broader in the shoulders and had a little more muscle mass than David too. Intimidating in uniform. I snickered at the memory of how angry David would get after spending months trying to bulk up with protein shakes and extra trips to the gym. He would get stronger, just not any bigger. My dad always told him it was all about genetics, and that David’s were more like our mom’s than his. That only made David try harder.

There we all stood, on top of our boards, holding our paddles, smiling, happy and completely unaware of how that would all soon end.