Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Look at Love on Larchmont :: A Series

There is a woman in front of me, with cool, black sunglasses, and lips stained red. Her blouse is fitted around her small frame, and her skirt flows in all of its femininity along with the early afternoon breeze. She holds her chin up with one of her hands, and with the other tucks a stand of hair behind her ear. 

There is a man sitting across from her, and I see his eyes as they take in the whole of who she is. She tucks the strand of hair behind her ear once more before he takes her hand for himself. It’s a small pull across the table, him bringing her in as close as possible in the light for all to see. She laughs at something he says, but I don’t hear him, and even if I did, I can tell that she likely laughs at the things only a lover might find endearing. 

She sips an espresso, and he leans back against the chair, and the noise of the street bustle settles in around us all, but they won’t notice the shift in song or sun. Everything looks like noon when two people feel as they do. 

He puts his legs up now, leaning further back, and she’s now on the other side of the table, nestled within his embrace, and she’s looped one arm with his. As the minutes fall away, as the noise settles further in, they, too, are falling right before my eyes. So I try not to watch, but it’s difficult not to because they’re both quite beautiful. She is pink and dressed in red, and he is dressed in crisp blue. 

I want to envy them. It’s easy envying the good things in life, especially the things that one does not have, especially when one has had and lost. But I can’t. And I’m not sure whether it’s because she’s beautiful, or because he’s blatantly obsessed with her, or because they are proof that such afternoons still exist. 

The man who doesn't believe I'm real

"I don't even believe you're real," he went on. He explained his theory about what life is and isn't over a very causal lunch, and I wasn't having any of it, yet I listened.

"You don't believe I'm real?"

"No," he said, matter-of-fact.

I sat back in my chair. Los Angeles has a talent of taking the strange and unique up to unanticipated octaves. He was no exception.

"But I am real..." I retorted.

"How do I know that?"

"Because I know I'm real."

"But I've made you up, you can say that you're real but it's all still my own allusion."

"Oh my god," was all I had left in me.

After our meal, we walked a bit and he continued to share his outlook on life. The more he explained my fictional personhood, the more I questioned my taste in men.

I couldn't decide if his outlook was a relief for my own existence, or if perhaps I'd stepped into an altered reality altogether.

I should have walked away, but I tend to stay to see where the stories might go. He is handsome, and his intentions are almost always in the interest of others above his own. When he made a joke and I laughed, I wondered if it broke his heart just a little to think that my laugh was merely a made up component of my fictionalized character traits.

He is adamant that nothing around him is actually real, save for himself. But when I ask him to stay he says he can't for fear of hurting me or losing me entirely.

"But I'm not even real," I offer.

And his silence is proof enough that his theory cannot stand alone.

Ocean Dr. & Beach Blvd.

We laid beneath the early sun, and slowly slept in waves as the day unraveled above and around us. He wasn’t ever as still as I can be. In between naps and whispers of conversation, he’d walk down to the ocean and cool off. In those spurts of solitude, I’d quickly roll over to reposition myself. Upon his returns, I’d be right back to seeming deep in sleep behind the disguise of dark sunglasses. 

He stood above me, dripping wet. And I wasn’t sure if he could see my eyes gazing up at him. His skin was not flawed in the same ways mine is. I spent hours of our time together tracing my fingers along his bare back, admiring just how close to perfect someone’s skin can be. I closed my eyes as he stood above me, only to wonder if he could see the extent of my imperfections beneath the blinding sun. Could he tell just how shallow my breathing was, just how deep my self consciousness could go? I tried to remain on my stomach the entire day, but the sun was working on what would later be a bad burn, and so on my back is how he found me upon his second return. I kept one of my arms drawn above my stomach so that I didn’t feel so naked, as if that even mattered. 

He laid down beside me and closed his eyes: Another opportunity for me to reposition. So I drew close to him, careful not to lay on my side. I didn’t like the way my skin shifted when on my side, and I was desperate to take a deep breath. My hot hand felt the coolness of his damp palms, and I wished I could freeze the moment and suspend it in time for days when I was alone and missing him, or missing the gaping space he so hollowly filled. I figured that heaven could be a beach and the ocean and good company. Or love itself, if simple admiration of him was not enough.

I couldn’t see his eyes, but I knew that they were looking at me. “What?” I asked, hardly audible. 

“I just don’t understand why people want to be with other people,” he said, completely audible. “Why commit? Why tie yourself down? I can’t imagine myself committing to someone until later in life.” I quickly let go of his hand.

I didn’t need to engage the conversation because I could not ask someone to stay if they had no intention of staying. So I rolled back, and tried to figure out whether I felt free or sad. He’d been distant all day, and I was too tired to chase him. “So don’t,” I said, as if he were a friend and I was listening to him talk about another woman. 

He went on a bit more about his opposition to commitment and his desire to embrace being so new to the city. He said something about living his life, and I listened and acted as if the moment we were sharing together, and all the moments prior, did not qualify as moments he had actually lived. I kept waiting to feel small and expendable, but each time I tried to turn his music down, he’d turn it up and tell me to stop fiddling with the volume. That’s that, then — I concluded. I don’t like his music and I don’t like that he won’t let me turn the volume down, so he doesn’t have to be right for me. I can be okay with this. 

When I failed to offer up an argument, we let the sound of the waves speak for us. The process of receding and returning like a song or foreshadow for my feelings; water that could not purify or give me life, but only dry my bones and burn my skin. The crashing of the waves was a truth resembling his own — I heard it, and yet I knew I could not stand against the inevitability of its strength and consistency. 

We were suddenly strangers. Or, perhaps, we had been strangers the whole time. I decided not to argue because I’d made up my mind about leaving the next morning. I'd take my suspended moment in time, remember? And once it was over, I'd leave. I deemed him selfish enough to excuse my own selfishness. An eye of an eye - or, rather, a heart for a heart for a delayed heart break.

Yet, he rolled to his side and laid closed to me, nestling his head partially within the curve of my neck and shoulder. He reached for one of my hands, and remained still for some time. As I felt his weight become heavier against mine, I allowed myself to breathe. Perhaps he felt my ease, because he awoke shortly after I’d sat up, and kept one arm around me. I pulled a book out and began reading to him. He laughed at the crooked humor, and kept his eyes on my mouth as I read. Sometimes he’d trace my lips with his finger until I stopped to kiss him quickly before continuing on with the story. After each short, he’d ask what the story meant.We went back and forth on each of our theories, and shared our empathies for the made-up characters. And suddenly I forgot that he was a stranger, and the day had nearly unraveled, and he wanted to go home, and I couldn’t help but follow.

My dress was white, and my skin was warm in patches of rose and gold, and his eyes couldn’t have been nearly bluer, and the sand was dried like a second layer of skin upon our feet and legs, and we were dehydrated and gloriously lazy. He laid on his back looking up at me as I sat peering out the window, hoping that the day would slow in its unholy unraveling. He traced his hand upon the seams of my thin dress and along all the curves of my body, and his blue eyes deepened as his focus narrowed in on me. “You’re so beautiful,” he said, breaking the silence and answering my unasked question of what are you thinking? I blushed a deeper rose than that of my shoulder. “So are you,” I responded, still white knuckling the reality that tomorrow would be much different. He could be a stranger and still be as beautiful as the man I thought I'd learned to know.