Sniff a glow here. Whiff a shine there. At least three fingers on each of her hands now reminded her of seashells, the deep salty ocean and the thrill of getting all dressed up, going to a nice restaurant, ordering a bottle of red wine, and then eating a beautifully prepared and presented dinner without using any silver ware. After their individually historic, monumental little hit-and-run, she lay basking in the lustily tossed and desperately twisted linens and wondered—though not as vividly or accurately as some of her more recently attended body parts—Didn’t it seem like his right hand was just a little bit cooler than his left? Or was it just me?
He wrote in his book: “CHAPTER SEVEN: The Love Scene,” and did not write anything else for the next three pages. In fact, he just sat there the rest of the night with the pencil in his hand, ready, hovering ever more pregnantly over the smooth white page, while he stared blankly out the window at the darkly shifting nightscape of tangerine-stained clouds and a stewed prune sky.
Still nothing. Still. Nothing.
Oscar lay in bed, fully clothed, looking at the ceiling but not seeing the ceiling. He saw, instead, her simple, thin, gold chain-link necklace lazily bobbing with a rhythmic, steady gentleness on the waves of her heartbeat as blood pulsed through the major artery just below the lightly tanned smooth skin of her neck… Right there where the neck curves to join the shoulder, but…. Right there where that soft slightly sunken triangle bordered on the south by the collarbone and on the north by the trapezius…. Right there where babies lay their heads to nap in their mother’s arms…. Right there where, when it’s exposed, women seem simultaneously vulnerable as if laying themselves open to invasion but powerfully graceful in an honestly naked, commandingly feminine sort of…. Right there Oscar thought would be the perfect place for another nipple. That’s what Oscar saw as he lay there staring at the blank ceiling.
Additionally, it didn’t help that her scent – describing to Oscar’s imagination a lazy Caribbean afternoon, lying on a beach with your love lightly glazed with sweat, the surf breaking suggestively in the background, audible most times just below her deeply relaxed, confident, promising breath – stubbornly and arrogantly fixed to his white linen shirt, drifted sneakily up to his nostrils as if on a secret mission from God to slowly change the forces of his nature, perhaps of all nature, so that the sun rises in the west and the horizon curves up at the edges.
It was deep into the night before Oscar went to sleep, and when he did he dreamt that he was sitting at a formal linen-draped table in an uptown restaurant, candle-lit, with his love. A man in a blue, crisp, epauleted, military-looking uniform – clearly not their waiter – came to their table and, with an attitude usually assumed by bad-news-bearing, government sanctioned employees, gave Oscar a ticket – a sitation! – for being with a woman who was much smarter, highly evolved, better than he.
Singing beer-drinking songs in French from her sorority, Oscar’s mother lay in the driveway changing the oil in their car while Oscar packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a small bunch of grapes for a personal picnic. He was going to climb the hill in the park where he could look out over the rose city, the emerald river and the purple mountains napping majestically. The sky was a flat, far away, perfectly smooth, cool, clean blue and, at his departure, cloudless.
He walked and walked and eventually arrived, glowingly moist and panting happily, at the park straddling the city’s west hills. He found a clear, sunny spot with an unobstructed view of everything.
Breathing in and breathing out was all the fun he wanted to have for a while.
Finally, after a mute parade of four identical clouds shuffled by, Oscar decided it was time to eat. Removing the grapes and sandwich from the brown paper bag, he discovered that inside of the clear plastic baggie that had held his precious peanut butter and jelly (actually, blackberry jam with seeds – his favorite!) sandwich, there was now in its place a small bunch of honeysuckle. He opened the baggie, closed his eyes, inhaled the sweet perfume. After gently removing the flowers from the baggie, he sucked the honey from the tight, pinched end of the blossom. He felt his mind explode, his heart expand and his stomach shrink. A scary thing was happening: where were all these emotions and memories coming from? He now felt too full to eat any of the grapes.
Looking up, he suddenly felt like he had stumbled upon a most personal, singularly suggestive, sideways moment: in the distance a cloud hung by its tail on the tip of the tallest mountain, draping post-seductively in the breeze like one of his mother’s white silk slips that – with a short throaty laugh – had just been dropped to the floor but had gotten interrupted mid-flutter on the arrogant nose of an overly eager, hyperventilating lustily, powdered comically, wine-drinking cowboy.
There they were, Oscar and one of his favorite women, sitting on a downtown patio one warm sunny spring Sunday afternoon drinking iced teas – unsweet with extra lemons – smiling sweetly across the small wooden table at each other. Oscar was not aware of anyone else, the world was flat and the sun, the moon and the stars, all visible, revolved around their table where the conversation was comfortably spare but warm and ripe and dripping heavily with hope, fear, anticipation and the unknown magic from the tangy dust of citrusy fairy wings.
Oscar finally focused dreamily on the world going by.
“There goes a man carrying his arm.” And indeed, there was a man carrying his arm – the arm he was missing.
“That forebodes an exceptional afternoon,” said Oscar. What Oscar did not realize was that they would later see a young homeless man, looking at his reflection in a downtown store window, shaving, enthusiastically singing a Carpenter’s tune – “We’ve only just begun!”
The colorful afternoon would easily and nicely blend into a colorful evening and then, joyously, an even more colorful night. As if the nightly television schedule – starting with the evening news – were being sung by Frank Sinatra.
On the sidewalk on the north side of the street, someone had dumped or spilled a basket of berries: red, blue, orange, green, and violet. On the sidewalk on the south side of the street, someone had dropped hundreds of fake fingernails: red, orange, crimson, pink, teal, midnight hickey on the top side but all white underneath. Then, in the middle of the street Oscar found, balancing on its edge, a penny, bright and shiny except where crumbs from a pimento cheese sandwich and mequite-flavored barbecued potato chips clung to Lincoln’s beard.
This all seemed so beautiful and natural to Oscar because… Oscar was in love.
The autumn air has a chilly snap. Bundled and scarfed, she and Oscar walk down the flaming, maple-leaf-covered sidewalk. They look at each other occasionally, shyly and smile, each feeling a glow that hadn’t been felt in a long, long time. Oscar keeps his hands warm in his coat pockets. He starts tingling again the way he does when his mother roots around in her purse for her keys.
The pocketed fidgety fingers of Oscar’s left hand jostle a forgotten miniature beach stillife. Gently extracting the scene, he offers the two pearly white shells, seventeen sparkly grains of sand, and a nervous starfish to the closest angel, who happens to be next to him on the sidewalk. “Happy Valentine’s Day.” A surf pounds deep in Oscar’s inner ear. He tastes salt.
Talk of love!
It should be noted that Oscar, in addition to being indifferent about tying his shoes, chose daily to forego the annoyingly confining grip of any underwear, specially jockeys. This looseness comforted Oscar. He would argue that it kept his mind – and body – free. Free to wander. And so it did.
The tumbling Venus pebble he’d been kicking down the street came to a halt by a postcard. He picked it up. Turned it over, twice. It had been run over by cars and had a pebbly, gritty finish. The gloss and shine was long gone, but not the shock of the familiar tiny handwriting.
“Dad, here I am horizontal on a slightly cloudy cool but dry Saturday afternoon and Mom is cooking chikken and making her bed and phone calls til we go buy me some of the latest technology for swimming in some of your pools cause she just got back from her tap class while I was sleeping since I didn’t get in til two last night (or this morning) ’cause I had driven pretty much fast and furious and thinking obsessively of things beginning on the right and heading left across the country when on sunny beautiful Wednesday afternoon at four my morning coffee date with a circus performer started beautifully then tumbled gloriously and finally – lo, fatefully – ended so bittersweetly but with a greatness of promise and hope due to things done, seen, said and felt between and of each other which I think has been a surprise to both of us (at least it was to me: she felt… very very good – and the hugs!) but now throbs a new dilemma which basically consists of (and here we now deal in a MOST tiresomely familiar currency to me) frustration: what do we do with ourselves now can we wait what’s fair and when when when I love you? (More later of course given strength and the above-mentioned new technology. Check your answering machine, please; I left you a message yesterday morning. You can hear the voice of my being there.) And I love you, too… wherever you are. Oscar.”
Shoes matching each other this time but still untied, Oscar shuffled down the street. Staring through the scorching black pavement toward China, he kicked a pebble that was beginning to resemble, if he looked closely, Venus de Milo. The naked one, with both arms, standing demurely in a big oyster shell by the sea. But now Oscar senses she’s wearing a slippery, seductive shift of vanilla oil, his favorite. The perfume’s lusty smack of ice-creamy bean oil and sweet suggestion snaps the waistband of his brain’s jockeys with a giggle.
Oscar knew in a flash of cosmic visual match-making that the symbol for his mother would be a giraffe.
• • • • •
If there is a way to make an omelette without breaking eggs, Oscar thought, his mother would have some helpful hints and some insight.
• • • • •
What happens in space when a black hole gets close to another black hole?
• • • • •
How come nobody recognizes Superman when he’s out of his outfit?
• • • • •
Could there possibly be anything faster than the speed of light?
Well, after spending some quality time sitting alone in the bathroom – but not so much time that suspicion would be aroused – Oscar had thought of four things: the first, and most obvious to Oscar, was the speed of dark; second, the developmental speed of an idea along its wildly convoluted path from its conception to its conclusion somewhere right before “Aha!” or “Oh!”; third, the escape velocity of an angel’s fart; and, finally, how quickly her kiss simultaneously evaporated from and burned Oscar’s lips leaving a swollen, glowing, rainbow tattoo of warm sweet affection, infinite memory and unmeasurable feeling.
After flushing, Oscar got in bed.