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The Birthday Dance - Friday, Dec. 20, 2019
Thursday, Jul. 04, 2019 @ 10:26 pm
Falling / Catch Me
We arrive at the campground in the mountains, park in our site, and bundle up into fleece jackets. His friends have not yet arrived, so we venture off to explore the area.
We walk together through the forest, rain falling lightly onto the underbrush of salal. Tiny diamonds of rain garnish the carpets of mosses. His hand holding mine. The trail curving off into the distance.
We reach the lake shore. I climb on a huge log to better survey the landscape. The lake is massive and hemmed in with rocky snow-capped peaks. Clouds shroud the subalpine meadows in mist and haze. The water is still and clear.
“Shannon,” Russell calls out. I turn to him. He takes a photo of me and the scene. “Look behind you.”
I turn towards the lake. A full rainbow arcs across the valley amidst the sun and falling rain.
We walk together up another trail and stand on a bridge that spans the outflow of the lake. The water a torrent of rapids below. He pulls me towards him, and he kisses my forehead, the rain still falling, the sound of water drowning out all other noise. My body loosens and opens, my breath quickens. I want this, I want him. I don’t know what to do with this fire, this wild ache within me.
“We should come back down to the beach after dark,” he says. “The stars will be great here.”
The fire burns low. Karen, Russell, and I sit near to the cast iron fire pit, talking quietly and freely, two empty wine bottles on the picnic table. I lean back in my chair and gaze at the stars. Ursa Major and Cassiopeia visible through the crown of forest. A flash of light, a bright and thin streak across the sky, like a spark cast from flint on steel: a meteor.
Later, as we lie together in the absolute darkness of the camper van, I think about the meteor, about how he saw one too, about how I felt upon making a wish. I roll the words around in my mouth and build up the courage to tell him.
“When I saw that shooting star,” I say into the darkness, “I realized that it felt greedy to wish for anything when I already have everything that I need.”
We paddle up the lake, large brown trout swimming in slow patterns beneath us.
We paddle into a small cove where a creek falls into the lake. We lay down our paddles and laze in the sun. I watch him do a few yoga poses on his board. I accept the challenge. I slowly and steadily place my head on the board and bring my feet up into a headstand. He is watching me carefully. I slowly open my legs out wide into splits, then gently place them back onto the board, all with control and steady grace. I sit up with a smile. He laughs, “Of course you’d do a headstand.”
We paddle back to the public beach, sunlight flashing across his smiling face. I study his smooth brown back muscles, the way his shorts hang around his hips. I want to kiss every inch of his body.
We sleep in the camper and hold onto each other all night. The ferocity of our physical connection, the ease of touch. His hand on my shoulder, my leg, running up my neck. When I shift in the night, his arm adjusts, then cinches again tightly around me.
“When did you realize that your father was alcoholic?” I ask. I want to understand this more. He relates to me parts of his childhood, of waiting in the car with his brothers while his father drank in the bar.
“There was this one time when he was angry with me for some reason. He came into my bedroom and picked me up and threw me against the wall.”
I cannot respond. There is nothing to say. I press my head to his chest and listen to his heart beat a slow and steady rhythm, his blood whooshing like ocean waves.
In the morning, he runs his hands over my body, and in the soft light that filters through the blinds, I watch as he studies the soft expanse of my skin. I don’t remember anyone ever looking at my body in this way, with careful diligence and thoroughness. He kisses my waist, the tender inner part of my thigh.
“It was great to spend the weekend camping with you two,” I say to Karen and Brent as we are leaving the campground. “You are great company.”
“The feeling is mutual,” she responds, giving me a tight and firm hug.
Back in the city, we fall into our weekday routine. The climbing gym. Me watching him gracefully ascend the wall. Trusting each other to catch our falls. Cycling out to the beach, holding onto each other as the waves roll around us, warm skin and cold water. Eating berries and our mouths turning colour from the verdant fruit. Making love on the living room floor, the patio door open, a sea breeze blowing across my skin, and gulls crying out.
He takes me to a party in a tiny, fancy condo in Olympic Village. My heart aches in memory of living in a similar place just up the street. The same countertops, the same chrome faucet. I fold the sadness up inside of me, tuck it away. The sweetness of having hosted a similar party. Another lifetime.
I meet more of his guy friends. I try to talk with their wives but the women are withdrawn and disinterested, or maybe I’m intimidated by their makeup and neutral chic outfits and project my own fears of rejection. Instead, I drink bourbon with the guys in the living room. I eat three scoops of ice cream while the other women politely decline.
His hand on my back, my leg, the entire time. We are both several drinks in, and he only becomes more sensual, and I start to wonder what we must look like, physically attached at all times. He kisses my neck in the midst of the crowded room.
Fireworks go off in the distance in celebration of the National holiday, red and white chrysanthemums, champagne willow trees, the booms and crackles echoing discordantly through the glassy towers.
We meet his friend Anna at the climbing gym. The moment that I see her, my stomach clenches. She looks a lot like me. Her flashing green eyes, her light brown hair, her button nose, the wash of freckles across her cheeks and nose. Her bright, easy smile.
I belay her up the wall, and she tackles the route with ferocity. I watch her muscles flex and the way that she nimbly ascends the route. I see her determination. She makes it to the top, smiles down and gives me the thumbs up, and I lower her to the ground.
“Nice work, Anna!” I say.
Later, in the change room, I am washing my hands at the sink, my back to her.
“I’m jealous of your back muscles. How did you build them? I used to lift weights and could never see any progress.”
“I didn’t know that I had back muscles,” I reply. “I don’t lift any weights. I think it’s just my body type.”
After climbing, we cycle over to a brewery. We are sitting on the patio, the sun setting and a cool breeze rippling the fabric of the patio umbrellas. I place my hand on his leg under the table, and he immediately places his hand on top of mine and rubs it reassuringly. The question and the answer.
We return to his apartment, stand out front still straddling our bicycles. The night quiet and the ocean calm and inky black.
“How are you feeling? Do you want to come up?”
“Yes, I’d like to come up. It’s not very late.”
I lean my bicycle against his paddleboard in the entrance of his apartment. Sand sticks to my feet; my apartment has a similar sand problem. I follow him into the kitchen. I run my hand down his arm, across his back. He turns to me and kisses me.
“What would you like to do?” he says, his hands at my lower back, holding me close.
“This,” I reply.
I wake in the morning still wrapped in his arms. A veil of sweat across our bodies where our skin is touching. My heart aches with happiness. The only way to ease the ache is to press him into that part of my chest, to hold him near to me.
“Sometimes,” I tell him quietly, “I am overcome with this intense feeling of gratitude. I’m so glad that I met you. The feeling is an ache that spans across my chest. It’s overwhelming at times. Just a wash of gratitude.”
He is quiet, and I am not expecting a response.
“That is nice to hear,” he says simply.
I dress and wash my face; I need to cycle home to get ready for work. I return to the bedroom.
“Good-bye. Have a nice day.” I kiss his lips, his collarbone, his lowest rib.
“I will be thinking of you,” he replies.
I meet my sister for a walk along the seawall.
“So, are you spending every night with him now?”
“Not every night… though it does seem as though we are each other's default person to spend time with.”
“Shannon. He is your boyfriend now. You do realize this, right?”
“My boyfriend.” I test out the word. “I guess you’re right. You know what? That doesn’t scare me.”
Nothing scares me.