issue twenty-one

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       After the rain-delay, one of the announcers describes the storm that had ripped through Milwaukee as "pretty, but scary." No surprise that I thought about you.

I also thought about the first time I whispered "she's pretty," back when I barely knew what the word meant. I was twelve, maybe fourteen, somewhere in that time when the arrival of a moustache meant I was a guy to be reckoned with at the Legion Hall dances. I went home that night and actually looked up the word -- "pretty" -- in a dictionary. That's the kind of guy I was, and that's how long ago, too.

It talked about "conventionally accepted elements of beauty" and "pleasing to the eye," but I'd already known that, I'd learned that coming up in school, but it wasn't at all what I felt. It was the wrong sense entirely.

My father used to say something about "pretty as a parson's daughter," and maybe that was the link, between the physical and the sacred. Remember, we hadn't quite met, so you were still a "she" to me. She who allured with her sleek, soft, sensuous -- sensuous was a word I learned much later -- skin. I could not drag my aching body across the floor. You were ten yards away, each yard as formidable as a mile. I could breathe, and half-stagger, half-limp backwards to a folding chair, but that was it.

"She's pretty," I whispered, no one but me to hear.

The ballgame voices ramble on, the weather no longer interfering with the pitching and catching. In my kitchen this summer night I remember my yearning for that skin -- how innocent I was, you were, we were. And how that changed.

I remember junior high, and high school, and arguments, and pleadings, and compromises. I remember our ten years of touch, tremor, sex. I remember separations and returns, and separation.

I'm close to forty now and still working on love. And still I think of you.


M  C  R

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