It was a distortion, a hiccup, a spasm. Nothing more than that, I think. But in the space of an instant, great changes. It was like the feeling you get down that first hill of a roller coaster…well, no, not really that feeling. It was much more…is visceral the word I want? No, that’s not it. It was more like the earth, for a split second, spun the other way, and then returned to normal just as quick; like my heart was turned inside out, and then snapped back. She did that to me.
She was my first love, you know. Oh, there were others before her, but they were not the same. She was the real thing. Maybe it’s because we were friends first. Or…well, who knows the reasons why when it comes to matters such as this. We were friends, to be sure, we could laugh, and tease, and be ourselves with each other. And that’s what friends do, is it not? I think it is. Yes, very good friends, we were. And the fact that she was beautiful, that her golden curls and cobalt eyes tugged at certain places in my spirit, that her bends and curves tugged at certain other places, this had no bearing on our friendship. Nor its end.
Nothing physical ever happened between us, though. Because we were friends and not other things. It’s not that I didn’t wish it. I did. And I think, on some level, so did she. But she had someone else: a jerk. No, I know what you’re thinking. It’s not jealousy speaking. He was a class A, number one jerk. It was her goodness that he manipulated to keep her. She never saw what I did. But I digress. I was speaking of the feeling of that day.
On the day my heart turned inside out and the earth reversed its rotation for one brief paroxysm, everything was clearer than it had ever been. The universe had a depth and breadth which I had never known existed. It was a parallax or stereopsis after a lifetime of monocular vision. I saw my path, and I took it. How does that poem go? Two roads diverged in a wood? That’s what happened that day: the roads diverged. And I, I took the road most…fulfilling.
She kissed me once. Did you know that? No, of course you didn’t. Nobody knew. It was a brief thing that happened a couple of years after our first parting, when she went away to college. She came back from school without the jerk. I should say, with out that jerk. Apparently she’d found another one. She had the knack. But we met – as friends, of course, long-lost and reunited – with a friend of hers and a friend of mine in tow. They were our cover, I think, they legitimized our reunion as one of platonic renewal.
But then she stepped into this bar we had strolled past after parking our respective cars (no, we did not drive together, we met – as friends). She stepped inside alone saying she had to speak with someone within for a moment. I later learned the new jerk worked there. She went in, and rather quickly came out to beckon me inside. Alone. Our friends waited in bewilderment at what was happening, and I was likewise confused. But she was clever, was my love. She had looked for the new jerk, and found him not there. So she called me in.
Inside the dimly lit, smoke-filled room, with the Cure warbling over a bad sound system, she handed me a drink and made small talk. Small talk! I tried my best, without actually asking her, why? to piece together the puzzle she had dumped before me. As we spoke of nothing of any substance, she suddenly took my drink from my hand, pulled me to her, and kissed me. It wasn’t a long, tongue-battling kiss, but it wasn’t a peck either. It was enough. It was enough to send waves of both pleasure and relief through my body – pleasure for the obvious reasons, and relief because I though at long last we were going to put this “friendship” to rights, and make of it what it should be. Apparently it was enough for her, and in a less enlightening way than it was for me. Immediately following the kiss we returned to small talk, finished our drinks, and went back out to our friends. All of this happened in less than ten minutes. Once outside, she returned to her car with her friend, said goodbye to me, and drove off. I didn’t see her again for another year.
Neither that kiss, as wonderful as it was, nor her erratic departure, as frustrating as it was, brought the same clarity of purpose, the same focus, nor that turning-inside-out spasm, as the day of which I have been speaking. That was a day of heightened awareness – no, hyperawareness. That was the day, as the world jumped into a wormhole, and my roads diverged, and I knew what to do.
It was that next year, when we met again under the pretense of rekindled friendship, that the word hiccupped. I still have some of those golden curls, you know. They keep. The cobalt eyes didn’t last, but that was to be expected. I tried to keep them for a time, but I let them go. It didn’t really matter anyway; they were empty. And since I’d consumed the rest, the real essence of her was within me, and that’s what’s most important. I’ll never get to have that sweaty, tangled, groping, pinching type of intimacy with her, but, in the end, the spiritual joining I have with her is so much more fulfilling. Having consumed her, she is now one with me. And her voice is quite strong in my head, so I know she’s happy too.
* * *
Donald Willard is a husband, father (paternal, not clerical),teacher, business owner, and freelance writer. Like Earnest Hemingway, he has crisscrossed the globe, experiencing life to its fullest. Unlike Earnest Hemingway, however, he has done this entirely in his own mind.
Mr. Willard writes fiction that spans various genres. He also writes humor, pithy essays, and occasionally SEO articles on very boring topics that, if nothing else, keep the fridge stocked with juice boxes and string cheese. His fiction has often been compared favorably with Stephen King’s, and his humorous essays with those of Dave Barry. However, these comparisons have been made solely by himself.
Some of his stories have been published in The Deepening and Wrong World while others paper the ceiling of his home.CONSUMED by Donald Willard,