Faces


     I remember you caught me, that one time I slipped on the corté. I fell right into you. But your thick arms immediately encircled my waist, my arm flung naturally around your neck, and we stayed there for the longest second of my life. Fitting, isn’t it, that our love sparked itself amidst the dance of love, the tango? We thought we had both taken the dance class because we needed a physical activity credit to graduate, but God, it seems, had a different idea. Flared by that encounter, our lives grew together over the next few years. We laced our roots together like lovers’ fingers, as slowly as the Old Forest in Middle Earth is said to grow. We have had our moments, of course, when we need Tom Bombadil to soothe us and remind us of all good things. We must remember.
     We were dancing, too, the first time I was mad at you. A man twisting a handlebar mustache watched us as you led me onto the Electric Cowboy’s dance floor. I tried to follow your unfamiliar dance leads, but the toes beneath the straps of my gold metallic sandals steadily turned black and blue as my ego burst into flames. I scowled at you throughout the song and let my restless tongue flame out my mouth like a hideous dragon when we sat down afterward on rickety black stools. Were you trying to make me look like a fool? You know I didn’t learn the two-step with you! Your blue eyes shifted uncertainly between each of my own. Surprise, guilt, and concern gaped down at me, your eyes huge and head down. Your puppy-dog look. I tried not to look into your eyes, both trying to stay angry with you and trying to calm myself. Memory sharpened by emotion, I remember the smell of the beer, the dimness of the room, and which pair of jeans you were wearing. You looked like you’d been whipped by the person you loved most in the world. Now I peer backward in time and appreciate your romantics.
     Now I’m sitting alone in a coffee shop typing away, reminiscing on love. How cliché. It’s near midnight and my fuzzy, red scarf trails into my latte as I reach for my journal. I’m near the end of it now. You’re scrawled on nearly every page, imbedded in the ink. I wish you were here to read it. It’s full of you and me, bound in blue leather.
     You know, I remember our first kiss. The night’s blue sky cloaked the air above the car whose door you opened the door for me. The stars shone with a fresh, clear energy, and Jack Frost began to nip at our noses. The Christmas dance waited for us in the high school gym, but you caught my arm to say thank you for a wonderful night, in advance. You had stepped so close, gazing into my grey eyes with yours like deep blue pools, that I stepped back in surprise. Your warm fingers caught my left arm and brought me back. Just a peck, but my heart danced the jive around my chest like white feathers caught in a firestorm. I can still feel your lips lingering on my cheek, even now as a blast of cold winter air sneaks through the door on the coattails of café customers.
     Faces populate this coffee shop. That’s why I like it best. Gazing out a window, careless above a chair, engrossed in a book, or engaging a dear friend in conversation, the faces of the men and women tell their stories. A person’s face weathers like a rock on the shore. With each wave rolling upon it, a little wears away. Outside, we are cold and smooth. Worn and faceless. But here, we all have faces. Memories of laughter, real friendship, subtle fear, and loneliness echo in its colors and contours. The waves cannot quite reach us here. One easing, for a few allayed minutes, away from the washing waves of winter air. Or maybe it’s just me, forcing features out of a grey rock.

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