By Lucas Jacob
Do you remember high school, he said. It wasn’t really a question.
Sure I do. It was yesterday.
He had to admit that was true, or he would have had to if he had responded at all rather than looking at me in that way of his, as if he’s in danger of saying something meant to sound sweet.
It’s a risk he takes, though, because sometimes it just doesn’t come off, and he sounds like some guy in a movie with soft light all around his face, his pores visible but dusted with the magic of being larger than life on the screen and therefore seeming rugged or honest. But other times he actually does have a light behind him, showing off the stray strands in his hair and making his form seem fine, like he could hold me in his silly-sweet words. When he’s like that, I can feel myself go soft from my hips in waves up to my chest and down through my knees.
Or sometimes there’s a breeze that catches at his shirt and presses the fabric against him, giving definition to that wiry boy’s body that feels so firm against mine when we lean together just right, and those times the sweet thing even sounds sexy, and I do lean in to try to find that fit.
This time, there was neither a breeze nor much light as we sat in the stale air of his mother’s basement. I tried watching his eyes to see how often they fell on my chest with my shirt off and his hands moving up and down my arms, so that they would brush my breasts in passing, like an afterthought.
It was all slow and halting like the first time, though that was a year ago, and we would not have imagined then coming full circle to a half-undressed discussion about whether we should have a last time or just let it go and head off to do whatever was next in summer jobs and college. I don’t know how I’d never thought it was going to hurt, but I hadn’t, and there I was, hurting and wanting something, but knowing he couldn’t give it to me because I had no idea what it was.
I thought of saying something dramatic, of exclaiming, I remember everything, not just high school!, sounding like I couldn’t live outside the reach of his hands, making a grand gesture to break our hearts so that we could pick them up piecemeal and maybe each end up somehow with a few still-beating bits of the other’s love.
But just then, he stilled his hands, and I thought I saw a smile play across his face.
A few minutes later, I was listening to my tires whisper along streets whose elongated lights eased in and out of my peripheral vision, thinking how unexpected it is, how easy, to learn to leave ourselves behind.