San Anselmo, California, December 20, 2007
As I was leaning over to whisper my answer into her ear, I knew I was about to pick up an ember in my fingertips. Her eyes were flat-blue, nothing sparking in them but something humming as if the stove had been left on. The streetlights were reflecting on everything in the bookstore that was largely metal. Her hat came off, she tossed her hair, pressed her fingers into it, spreading them out and then and pulling her hair into a bun, stretching backward to expose her neck, her lips parting. She took off her gloves and opened the top button of her sweater, her naked shoulder almost improper and obscene in this weather. She paused, leaning slightly backward, like a woman asking for her throat to be bitten, a suggestion of what she’d look like later perhaps, glimpsing something in her that’s usually invisible, what a woman promises. Then like green neon her eyes flash back to catch me staring and she’s surprised that I’m not looking at her body but into her eyes, smiling, which seems to make her self-conscious. So she closes her eyes and stretches to her left, away from me, her hemline sliding over her muscled calf as it flexes, giving me a chance to look at all of her as long as I want. It’s as if we are on my bed, relaxing between sex. Then she slowly uncoils and turns to face me, hands on her hips, swaying in circles from her waist, her hip grazing me occasionally, back and forth, back and forth. We don’t talk about anything much, just stringing sentences together, laughing at each other’s jokes, luxuriating in each other’s attention, enjoying the sense of diminishing the distance between us. As she talks, her gaze drifts to different parts of my body—beginning with my hands—before returning to my eyes, making sure I know she’s checking me out, smiling, letting me read her face as she looks away. I pick up a book and she presses against my arm and shoulder so that we can look at it together as if we’re at home alone sitting on my couch. When I’m about to turn the page, she gasps and reaches to grab my wrist, at the same time spinning to look up at me and making a face, as if she doesn’t need to speak. Her thumb and index finger press into either side of my wrist to emphasize her point, to drive it home, to say, “I shouldn’t have to be doing so much work.” Later, I try to explain all of this to my girlfriend who is watching the whole thing from the other side of the bookstore, moving quickly into my line of sight as if to remind me I’m not alone. “It’s like you were undressing her in public,” she scolds me. “But I was just watching what was happening, we didn’t actually do anything.” But she’s having none of it, because this is how we first met.