My sweating palms clutch her tennis sweater. Oversized white cable knit, blue and red stripes at the collar and each side of the ends of the sleeves, alligator logo, Lacoste. 1987. I saved the sweater from my summer—été—in the French countryside.
I can still smell the sweet lavender summer nights woven in the threads of her tennis sweater. Smudges of dusty maroon stain the end of the right sleeve, exposing her first love affair: tennis on clay.
I can still see her, alarming features I’d never seen in a person before or after; features so noticeable and addicting as the pungent piles of ripe peaches pandering in outdoor market stands for consumption: a gap playfully placed at the center of her front teeth, thick brown hair any girl would die for with fringy bangs that danced on top of old soul orbs, dark olive dewy skin made up of the entirety of the sun.
As I walked down the dusty road scuffing my hand-me-down tennis sneakers, she lounged past by bicycle. Out of nowhere, really. It was a peach cruiser.
White ruffled lace socks hugged lean, dark calves. A white pleated mini skirt dared to ride higher. Dark hair tied back in a white ribbon bounced against a brown Prince Woodie tennis racket case strapped to her back—the same racket on my back. And the oversized white cable knit sweater. A tennis icon. She turned her head back to look at me. Oversized rose-tinted aviator sunglasses hid her eyes and cheeks. Then, gone. Past the green horizon.
Was she going where I was going?
Love with her was pure irrationality and perfection in one sweeping, sudden fury.
The lancia boat I was lying inside on my back teetered side-to-side, creaking like trees moving by the wind’s hand. I felt the ancient splinters vying for my salt-dried skin. The sea splashed over the side of the boat, tickling my limbs, reminding me with each tongue of water that I was amongst the rawness of the sea, which could take me at any moment in one swipe. The sea reminding me of my immortality instigated the memory of Valentina. I closed my eyes, seeing her petal silk lips whispering if love, if love, if love, over, and over again until our lips were inches apart, almost kissing. Almost. It almost happened. Then I saw her hands dousing creamy white lotion onto my skin. Her hands pined for my skin. But she had already faded into a memory, as if what happened between us occurred many years ago, when it was only days ago. There was still more of her I had yet to experience; I feared this, and yet it thrilled me at the same time. She lingered, waiting for me to take the next step. One part of me wanted her to disappear, but never too far away from reach.
Harper and August cruise down Ocean Blvd strip.
Car lights flash, clap, flash.
The two roll down their windows. Harper looks over briefly at August whose head hangs out the window.
Harper smiles. The first.
The honking riffraff bursts the sensual ocean whisper and salt breeze.
Get. Some. Lotus. In. Your. Life.
A fire romps within the dwellings of a kept creature, I, a lost girl influenced by the masses, a timeless roaring rage to keep purity alive all in the name of doing what is right. Life seems long when the years trickle into a puddle, merging with otherness into sameness. It’s the acceptance of hiding which makes life normal. Sameness, hiding, long, acceptance.
I felt, I thought, I ceased. Time decayed after her.
The word lust is too sturdy and clear; whatever it was, it felt fragile and hazy in my bones and mind, as if for the past month I wandered lost in a foreign nightclub.
Emerson said in Nature, “A man is a God in ruins.”
I am a broken statue— Donatello’s muse project gone wrong— mind chipped and irreparable.
But I come back to her, if even just in memory, and then I am whole.
Prose autore, poet of the Modernist Era, womanizer, lifelong starving Bohemian artist in Greenwich Village, and deemed “too beat” by Ginsberg: Maxwell Bodenheim.