by Jordan Motley
For almost two years it’s been there. There’s not much I can compare it to, except maybe a tattoo someone got for their ex-lover. Yeah, that works. I picture their feet shuffling lazily across the bathroom floor, dreading the long day ahead. Their face gazing into the mirror only to be reminded of the joy they once felt. Who knows, maybe they’ll get lucky and meet another “Maria.”
For almost two years it’s been there. Although, unlike regretted tattoos, this mark is internal. This scar is on my heart and I feel it everyday. Usually, it likes to catch my attention with an old memory.
~ ~ ~
Her toes dance in the water as she hums a tune I can’t recognize. I roll up my jeans and sit down next to a girl I met thirty-eight days ago. Oh no – it’s happening again, immeasurable happiness. The outer edge of my lips start to fold in, and like clouds in a thunderstorm a slow smile rolls onto my face. I try to look away, to mask my love somehow, but it’s too late and her questions begin.
Is now the right time? Do I tell her the truth? No, I can’t. If she doesn’t feel the same way, if she doesn’t love me back, what happens? What happens when I tell her that the best day of my life was the day she moved next door?
The date was August 17th and I had four days left before the start of my senior year of high school. The scent of freshly cut grass lingered close to where I sat on the warm sidewalk. I can still feel those hot summer rays slamming against my bare skin as I licked a half melted popsicle. I remember watching drops of sticky syrup slide down my fingers and suspend over the sun scorched concrete. It only took about seven seconds for cherry red and berry blue to make very purple, and after a few minutes of silent contemplation I decided it was time to go inside.
About half way to the door I heard the rumbling of a white and orange moving truck. Curiosity encouraged me to take a seat on our porch swing, which made into a pretty decent watch post. My eyes followed the vehicle as it cruised hesitantly down the street. I was convinced the truck was lost until it parked in front of the house next door. A tall man with salt- peppered hair slipped down from the driver’s seat, followed by a woman I assumed was his wife. At first, I thought they were alone, but then the passenger side door swung open.
Long legs stretched out from the cab in search of solid ground. Strands of light brown hair had escaped the once snug grip of her ponytail, and the left strap of her white tank top hung lazily off her shoulder. From what I could tell the girl looked my age, give or take a year. My boots scuffled against the porch as I slid to the opposite end of the swing. I watched her stroll across the front yard and observe what I hoped was her new home.
~ ~ ~
The sound of her voice yanks me from my favorite day dream and throws me back into reality. “Ya know what? Forget it. I’m done asking questions.” Frustrated hands press against the dock’s weathered wood, driving her body upward. Dammit. Dammit, Jack.
Deep down I want her to know how I feel. I want to answer all of her questions, but that conversation will have to wait if I want it to go well. Confessions like that take preparation and thought. Just a few days though, that’s all I need to come up with a plan and set a deadline. I ask her what she is doing on Friday and she shrugs her shoulders. Perfect – it’s a date.
My fingers search through piles of clothes sprawled out across the laundry room floor and after I change my shirt eight times the final decision is made. Today is the day. I grab my keys off the kitchen table and head for the back door. Before I can even conquer the driveway my destructive habit of over-thinking begins. Fear of the unknown encourages most of my doubts, but there is one thought that soars high above the rest, one that could crush my heart.
Fuck it – today’s the deadline. Today I am saying, “I love you.” Of course, I don’t know if it will come out exactly like that. I’ve always heard short and sweet is key. Shit, I’m in front of her house. I put the truck in park and begin a journey that may lead to the pits of hell. I pray for heaven.
After a few raps the door swings open and she greets me with a smile that can make anyone happy. While she locks her front door I take a quick peek at the dress carelessly falling from her body. I can’t help but wonder if she bought it just for me.
We turn off on a worn gravel path and park under a patch of shade lent by an old grain silo. The sharp rattling of keys as I cut the engine ignites every sense in my seventeen-year-old body. Before nerves can talk me out of it, I reach for the door handle and force myself out into the evening air. My mind is racing as we make our way down to the water.
Like times before, I watch her toes dance in the water. I roll up my jeans and stare at the clouds floating above. Why can’t life be that easy? I lower my body next to hers and silently rehearse a few lines I prepared earlier. I want this to be perfect. The wind blows a strand of hair against her lips and it’s taking everything in me not to reach for it, but something prompts me anyway.
I move toward her and our eyes meet. She’s so beautiful. Usually her eyes are a light hazel, but today they glow with a hue of dark green. Vibrant colors are tossed high above, painting the sky in ways I’ve never seen. Desire consumes me and I reach for her.
Wait. Something isn’t right. The smile that greeted me earlier has disappeared. A hue of green no longer glows in her eyes and toes that once danced in the water hover just above it. She pushes her body away from the edge. That dress wasn’t bought for me. I watch the strand of hair that was tossed by the wind drop from her lips as they part. “You’re not about to confess your love to me or anything, right?”
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