It's Time.

For a moment, my senses capture the freshly scented air that passes, and I wish I could bottle it up for a cloudy day. It's fresh, soft, like just-showered, gently perfumed skin. For a moment, spring is found. Maybe it has drifted from a neighbor’s home, someone else who's trying to urge spring on; they carry its scent in their textiles. And in these days where winter stubbornly hangs on, these little touches are more than delightful.

The temperature continues to make its cooler stance known, while the sunshine battles on, showing its face more often around these parts. The houses slice the sidewalk into strips of shade and rays; we walk slower in the warmth, hoping to build up a reserve to last the block, and then some. With each step, the extra weight felt from layers becomes burdensome. 

I am more than ready to welcome bare skin. Freckles. To bathe myself in a sunny glow from head to toe. To sit upon the porch, windows swung open, and let the breeze rejuvenate all that's gone stale. I'm ready to breath in air that's once again full of life. 


Tale: Trapped in a Moment

In that bar with the back entrance, the one up the steps through the alley, we had our moment. I’d never had what I considered “a moment” before, but I’m quite sure what we had was just that.

Your eyes caught mine scanning the room. A jukebox played on random, and a game of pool filled the emptiness that hung in the air between changes. Until then, my eyes knew nothing more than how to meet and retreat...until they got caught in yours. I was easy prey, hooked with the first try. You drew me in slowly, inch by inch. I remember feeling my whole self tilt forward. Feet anchored,I broke, just before falling, head first, to the depths of the wells that were your pupils. 

I stood alone; my palms began to sweat. It got stuffy. Didn’t it? On any other day I’d make my move and head to the bar, order a vodka and sit, my back facing you, hoping at some point in the night one of us would build up a false confidence, enough to get names. But you moved first, snaking through the crowd, and pulled out a crisp dollar to feed the machine. You paid extra to have your song play next. I knew it was yours because it broke the upbeat buzz, made others shift in their seats. You looked my way, eyes with a smile and a nod. “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone…” And with that line, you had me there all night. 

I found you intoxicating, something I didn’t know any man to be capable of. I needed to get closer, to breathe you in. With a lean to the left, fondling a toothpick with your tongue, you stood intimidatingly so. That’s when I made up a trip to the restroom, so I could pass you. And I made up the group of people that were all around us in that moment, because I wanted a reason to brush up against you. And I know you turned to watch me walk by, because I felt the slightest warmth from your mouth reach the back of my neck.

With a trace of your cologne on my shirt, I had a two-minute fantasy in front of the mirror. The wisps of my hair curled from the heat and the glass was fogged with the moisture from my breath; I left it marked with the outline of my lips. I found my confidence, but two minutes too late: you were already gone.

I believe in everything but feelings that are real, which is why I no longer see myself in my reflection anymore, I see her. When the day comes, I put on the same pair of jeans, pin my hair up the same way and even have the last of my perfume on reserve for that same night each year, the 16th of March. I arrive around the same time I did that night, looking like I never left our moment. And I walk up to the jukebox and I play our song and touch the same buttons you touched, because it makes me feel close to you again. Then I wait. With my back turned, hoping this night will be the night I learn your name.


Tale: No. 2

His avenue of expression came in the form of graphite. But he had graduated from the ubiquitous No. 2 pencil to a more sophisticated version years ago; he was after all an artist, not a shop teacher or professional Scantron taker. It was the transition from action heroes to pieces of fruit and nude models that called for a more diverse palette: an array of carbon ranging from soft to hard, the former making it easier and quicker to shade.

Before the switch in drawing utensils, he had only known change to be disappointing, but this was different. His lines hit the pages smoother, hugging each curve, and the depth of color was richer; both he and the images he created were given an honest chance to come alive. The side of his right hand collected the bits that chipped away when he pressed the pencil with authority, hoping to get the blackest gray that gray could make. And the tip of his middle finger went permanently stained, as it took on the role of his favorite blending tool. The residue would travel on, from the paper, to his fingertip, to his slacks, and now and again to his temple when he’d pause, head down, searching his mind’s catalog for memories, visual snapshots to draw from. He found he liked this kind of change, although he doubted he’d ever experience it again: what more would he need? But with time, the crisp lines easily smudged. The glossy finish atop the sharp gray eventually dulled. And any finished product was left vulnerable: one quick swipe of an art gum eraser could rip the lines from the sheet, leaving the piece scared, damaged, and as a result, unfinished. This, he decided, was no way to leave his mark, if he was leaving one at all.

Having never doodled with anything more than a BIC pen, he paced the calligraphy section of the art shop. The florescent lights swung from above, and he found himself in an intimate interrogation of the shelves displayed selection: What makes you think you're more special than this here guy beside you? Best for “drawing and illustration” you say? Prove it.  He didn’t bother to ask the longhaired, 40-something-year-old employee his suggestion; his far-off stare left him looking like nothing of an expert, and everything like the stoner he always had been, and still was. He checked out, leaving with a pen box that came with a variety of nibs, a bottle of black India ink, and one sheet of dense paper, all in a bag much too cumbersome for its slight contents.

When he got home, he turned off all the lights and sat at his desk until the sunlight streaming through the window turned the room, and everything in it, a peachy hue. He felt silly, but it only seemed just to break in his new supplies under similar lighting conditions as those who first began their works in ink. There was something almost primitive about it. Then again, it wasn’t like he had wiped up a batch of cow urine and mud or beetle guts, but it was more of a process than just putting pencil to paper. He liked learning new skills and he experimented with lines he could and couldn’t make from each nib, each becoming more dramatic as moonlight took hold of the room, turning its inner glow cool. And with the help of a few candles, he continued his virgin pursuit.

Just as the wick of his candles exhausted their full potential, he woke. His hand still wrapped around the pen like a stem of ivy: sturdy, but easily pulled apart with a gentle touch. He was slow to retrace his steps, looking at the puddle of hot wax, then the scattered supplies, and as he stared blankly before him, eyes burning, he recalled the image: tall pines draping over a mountain side, a creek running below, and a full moon in the night’s sky, a layer of thin streaks ran behind it. He lowered his gaze quickly to the page – excited to test his memory – but there was no proof: what may or may not have been had fallen victim to the depths of a black well of ink. It was an unfortunate happening, but nothing close to tragic, as he realized, with a grin, that he had indeed made his first mark.