This story is by Kenneth Bickley and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
On an early autumn evening shortly after sunset, with the moon peeking out from behind the clouds, I am strutting my stuff and on my way to visit my long-time girlfriend, my first true love of my life, Miriam. Tonight is a celebration: the first anniversary of our going out with each other. I have a present for her!
Sauntering into her apartment building, I push the button for the elevator and wait impatiently, my fingers drumming a tune on the wall. Its doors suck me in, engulf me with the stench of stale second-hand smoke laced with the stringent aroma of marijuana, and swoosh closed. Not being adverse to the pleasures of Mary Jane, I inhale deeply and prepare to enjoy my ascent. Laboriously the cables moan, groan, creak, stabbing me with a neurotic fear I would never arrive alive. Jerking and jolting to a stop, the ancient machine succeeds in disgorging me on the 7th floor. Saying a prayer of gratitude, I gingerly step out with my left foot, like a cat cautiously testing the firmness of quicksand. Now the stench of mold and of foul East Asian cooking, assault me; a cacophony of rock music, from numerous apartments blasts me.
Eagerly I head for Miriam’s apartment door. Faded varnish and scratched wood with a sometime working door handle, greet me. I certainly did not love her for her money! I hesitate before knocking: How long will our love last, I ask in passing. First love, I assure myself, will last forever. Already we have memories; they flash by in my mind as I wait for the door to be opened.
Our first meeting: I revisit it endlessly.
She saw me looking at her, but she did not see me. Fearful she would ignore me, I looked and looked at her. She who would later say “I only saw you.”
Did I see her first? I think so…Her first glance, I did not see. Because all I saw was her image in me. With trepidation I saw her looking at me.
She must be nearsighted, I thought, if she approaches, she will discover I am plain and insignificant, she will not persist.
She did persist; she came to me…
“Hey” she said to me. I nodded my head, “Hey. Good evening” I replied because night was falling. I felt like a fool; I searched within myself, all evening, for something brilliant to reply to her, to show I was not a doofus. I went up to her “I found your ‘Hey’ inspiring. It revived and revitalized my evening.”
She laughed, smiled and asked me,
“Do you have the time?”
“Oh yes, I have all the time in the world…”
She had opened the door to a space, to a hole in me.
She would engulf it for months.
The first kiss
There we are in complete disagreement…
She claims it was me
I am sure it was she.
She insists, gives me all the details, the place, the time, the colour of the sky and of my shirt…
And I know to my astonishment, my fear, my rapture, the softness of her lips, the shadow of her eyelids, the locks of her hair,
All against my cheek…
I swore to her, on all that is Holy to me, I
I will love you for the life which is in you, in me,
I will love you for the life which circulates in us
I will love you for the life forces
Which are given to me in loving you and in being loved by you.
In my soul I know I love her in my dreams, in my reality.
Groggily I shake these thoughts out of my mind and return to reality.
Tap, tap tap, ratatatap, I hammer out my coded knock.
Sue, Miriam’s room-mate, opens the door cautiously, looks at me, gives me a quick hug, backs up, invites me in.
“She’s in her bedroom.” Sue informs me, quickly retreating to her own room without any further word.
Huh, what’s wrong with her, I wonder. I shrug my shoulders, watch her go, then walk slowly towards Miriam’s bedroom door. Once again my mind flashes into memory mode. My lips break out into a smile.
Make love to me, make love to me, you were saying to me
Before love, I needed you to look at me to confirm my existence.
During love I needed your hand to anchor me and to save me from diving into the depths of me, into your closeness.
After love I needed your arms to hold me, to contain me…
Yes I needed someone to hold me, after having embraced me. You.
I am drawn to – the best in you.
Wow, I think, am I stoned or what?
Without knocking, I push the door open and enter the dimly lit bedroom. I squint my eyes and see Miriam on her bed, lying naked on her back, with her head on the shoulders of a man, Steve, who is lying on his left side, also naked, his left arm hugging Miriam. The sheets and blankets are a mess, rumpled and thrown about as though a three-round wrestling match had occurred. Lifting my head, I sniff and rub my nose as though there’s a distasteful smell in the room.
Her black hair, all disheveled, Miriam languorously raises her head and gushes, “Forgive the mess. We just finished screwing.” She giggles. “Oh I, I… listen. I just got to tell you – you’re the first to know – Guess what – Steve and I are getting married. Look at the huge diamond ring he gave me. And we have set the date for two weeks from now. My parents are going to be ecstatic because he’s a doctor!”
I stand motionless, my expression pale, inscrutable. Miriam babbles on; I shake my head, as though clearing cobwebs from it.
Steve sits up, leaning on my right elbow, points a finger at me and calls out, “Hey Man, be a good guy and get me a coke from the ‘fridge. I’m parched. Miriam gave me quite a work out.”
Miriam looks quickly at Steve who returns her glance with a smirk and a glare.
“Maybe we should invite him to the wedding,” he suggests.
The room is silent. As the silence lengthens, Miriam noisily French kisses Steve.
I turn around and exit the room. There is the noise of the ‘fridge door opening and closing, the sizzle of a can of coke shatters the silence. Returning to the bedroom, I hand the can of coke to Steve. Without thanking me, Steve turns his back on me.
Tortoise-like I back out of the room, all the time staring at Miriam. As the door closes, her eyes lock with mine. She yells out, “Steve’s a doctor; you’re not.”
I stutter, “But…but…it’s our anniversary!”
Who knows how long love will last?