Liberty; Earth – The Aegean Coast
This time it would be picked at random. The precarious thing about taking shore leave, something that is supposed to be relaxing and carefree, often turns out highly scheduled and crammed full of preplanned activity. Sometimes it seemed the same as being in the service – the only difference being not wearing the uniform. But this time would be different. Swiping through destinations on the tablet, putting my finger down while it spun through the sites, that is where I would go. Holding my finger down , I slowly open one eye, then both. Hey – not bad.
It was early summer on the Greek coast. The narrow streets of the towns, the hillside homes and villages, the blue waters against the rocks below – it was the perfect accident. Not being one to sun burn on a wet rock, I opted for stretching my legs along the winding roads, eating wherever I wound up, all while staying in a centralized area. I had six days, so I would make the best of it.
Sitting at a street side café I took my time to not hurry. The passersby of people in their unfamiliar language, the sun beginning to set from the oppressive Mediterranean heat, and the hot breeze turning cooler were all welcome. She walked passed a shop just down the street, that signature thick hair, her slender frame, and tan skin. That’s not her, I told myself, paying the check and gathering my things. I make a quick walk toward the shop she had entered, anxious though knowing I felt as if I was going crazy.
Making my way in, I try to act normal as I looked around. That light brunette color, there she was. Walking toward her slowly, I tried not to seem anxious. “Rebecca?” She turned as if surprised to hear her own name, but the look on her face was priceless. A light gasp and a hand towards her mouth before she spoke.
“Clay!” she lets out, “Oh my God! Hey!” Her face was an expression of genuine surprise, that good surprise, when you don’t see someone for a long time. She reaches out an arm and does a sort of distance hug, pat on the back, kind of gesture. Definitely not an expression of deep affection. We talk in disbelief as to how we ran into each other. She was taking a detour, having just finished some business in Albania. She was beautiful, of course, just the same as when we saw each other nearly thirteen years ago. She was as thin as she was then, her Italian descent skin still a hint of light year-round tan, those deep brown eyes. Yeah – still gorgeous.
The last time we parted we were at the crux of our lives – myself leaving for a job way before entering the service, she going to school for the first degree she dropped out of early. She finished school, I got a raise, and we never saw each other again after that. There was a short time when we spent more intimate moments together than we ever intended to. We let things go a little too far, but our decisions back then were allowed to be reckless. Not as rule bound as we are at this point in our lives.
“It’s still early. Do you have anywhere you need to be?” I ask.
She gives a surprised look that I asked, though looking as if she really didn’t want me to. “Yeah, um” she lets out, still a smile on her face, “I have time.”
We walk a ways and talk about the town, our jobs, our past, and some of our present. We keep talking, but not saying much. The air between us was thick and oppressive. We don’t talk about that time of our personal past, though I got a sense she was avoiding it. We finally make our way to the hotel I was staying in and we head to the lounge for a drink. I order a tall one, she a small. She kept the conversation light, the subjects distant, and the feelings nonexistent. Still, she was beautiful and really was glad to see me.
“What if we link up tomorrow before you have to leave?” I finally ask. She gets quiet, looks down while messing with something in her purse.
“Clay” she says in a long breath, “things are…different now.” Her wedding ring said enough. How could I ignore it? It had been burning its own image into my eyes and mind all evening.
“I know” I said, though I didn’t want it to be true. Deep down inside I was hoping it was her grandmother’s ring or something along those lines. I would continue this nasty habit of lying to myself even if it drove me crazy with jealousy and resentment. We dismiss the awkward moment and move on. She couldn’t blame me, after all, nor would she feel vilified if I didn’t even try.
“What about walking me back?” She says. I was more than happy to spend additional time with her, so we took a long walk to the apartment she was in for her short stay. It really was a long walk, though it felt like it took only minutes. Every step closer I took was unwelcome. We stand outside of her place for a bit. She looks up to the open window above a few times, so taking the hint, I wish her good night and tell her to stay in touch. A friendly hug, friendly smiles, and the beginning of the long road home.
“…Clay” she says, gesturing to the apartment. “You should come get a bottle of water, or, something, before you go.” I did my best, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t the least bit hopeful. So why at the same time did I feel terrible? Again – lying to oneself is a nasty business.
Inside I do just as she wanted, grabbing some water and refilling it before I set out to leave. She says nice things in a nervous tone of voice. She keeps pacing back and forth a bit between spots, so I don’t give her any additional reason to be nervous. Staying in the kitchen – and away from her – is the best way to do the right thing, the respectable thing, and Gentleman thing.
“Clay, I…” she begins, messing with her hands, “I’m glad to have seen you. I…” She seems distracted while a little at odds with herself. “I can’t, ya know?” she says, deep breaths, still pacing.
“Becky” I say calmly, “you can’t. I understand.”
“I’ve got this…” she begins, her left hand swinging above her head, “and then there’s…” she continues, making a waist height gesture with the other. Her hands now in her hair, she was exhausted – the wrestling with herself was too much to watch. This isn’t what I wanted when I saw her today.
I move toward the door, not insinuating anything, though I can hear her take a couple steps.
“Clay,” she says. I turn to look at her like a friend would, no pathetic looks of empathy. “This never happened” she says in a hesitant voice as she takes quick steps toward me. A light jump into my arms, she wraps hers around my neck, pulling me to her in a deep kiss. There was no denying it now. Neither of us wanted to let go, so we held onto each other as if was the last time we would ever do so again – which was true. Making quick work of clothes with more effort than their design intended, working our way awkwardly to her room, there was nothing else to say.
This usually isn’t the way you see things happening during a reunion like this. But there we were, like teenagers those years ago. As these things go – this one doesn’t count. There has to be a redo of sorts after a severely uncoordinated event like this. This wasn’t passion, but necessity. In the darkness of her room we let our greed take over, our hot and pent up emotions assume control. As far as memories go – this wouldn’t be the one. This one doesn’t count.
Lying there in the small hours of the night, I could feel her skin next to me. The thin sheet the only thing needed in the hot summer night, her arm and cheek on my back as I slept. She would run her fingers through my hair as it was tussled about. I was asleep – half asleep – she was sure I was, but I thought I heard her say that she had always loved me.
Lying there, she was still beautiful. Having made coffee for our late morning, I let her sleep a bit, navigating my way around her disastrously organized kitchen. Returning with two filled cups I see her there – now awake – her body thinly veiled by the sheet. The sun peering through the drapes, shining orange-yellow across her and the room. Her hair a mess, she extends her arms towards me as she gives an easy smile, hands gesturing by opening and closing. I make my way to her, a light kiss on her lips. I let her warmth permeate me. One hand on her face, the other pulling away the sheet, still in need to see her body as the night before. It was a natural feeling as she wrapped a leg around me, tossed my shirt aside, and slid herself lower. Her arms around my chest, her hands roaming along my back, the feel of her pulling me closer as I took my time traveling between her cheek and neck.
The summer heat was coming on– warming the room more than it already was, warming the air between us more than it normally would. The sound of her voice without words will haunt me forever, her motions below me a feeling that can never be replicated, the taste of her lips and neck that turns a sense into a memory will lead to addiction. The morning drags on, the two of us oblivious to the world – taking full advantage of each other, taking advantage of our past.
This is the memory that would persist, the moment will remain in my mind for the rest of my life. This is the one that matters – the one that counts.
It should have been her that walked by that day, but it wasn’t. The beautiful brunette in the shop should have recognized me, but she didn’t. She would have been surprised to see me when I said her name, but she never was. The walk to her place would have been long and wanting, but it wasn’t. Knowing her, she would have kicked me out based on principle than from the lack of want, but she never had the opportunity. Seeing her during that time would have made the trip, but it never did. Sitting at the café for the sixth day in a row, enjoying the last moments away, I take in the sight.
Time away was amazing as it should have been. Other things should have occurred, they could have, but as you already know…
…….this never happened.