1996 “Your life is complicated right now, Eric… you don’t need any more complications… ya know?” You pressed your forehead against mine as we lay there, smiling wistfully and running your fingers through the hair on the back of my head…

1993 …when the phone rang. “Hey, homeboy, it’s Cindy! How are you?” “Cindy! Uhhh, hi! I’m fine!” I said, surprised and happy to hear your voice. It had been too long since we had last spoken. There was something weird in the tone of your voice… a shaking. Nervousness? From you? Super-confident Cindy Mulvey? “I was, umm, I was just wondering if you still wanted to work out together tomorrow morning! What do you say?” I kept listening. You were nervous! And suddenly I wondered if you felt something more for me than you had let on. We made our plans, while I tried not to think about the timbre in your voice. Surely you couldn’t think of me as more than a friend…

1995 …and the little window air conditioning unit strained against the humidity of the August night air and filled the room with freezing, still-humid artificial breezes. I pulled your fish-print sheets up over my body and pressed myself up against you for warmth, while your cats shifted at our feet and your bedroom windows fogged over, cool glass against hot night air. You sighed and pressed back against me in half-sleep, while your now-faint perfume filled my nostrils and my brain and I fell back asleep, so very content to be there with you…

1999 …while the little reflectors separating the lanes flashed past me in clocklike progression, row after row after row of tiny star-like lights that I seemed to fly through. The engine strained as I climbed up the first pass in the San Joachin Hills, the lane reflectors marching past in hypnotic succession. The lights of Newport Beach glistened down below. As I ascended higher into the hills, the green highway signs passed by in slow motion, beckoning me to exit… Newport Coast Road… Laguna Canyon… El Toro. And your voice came to me, asking me to have a seat at your table, as memories of a cool 1992 fall day at Xavier flooded my consciousness. You smiled at me, insisting that I sit with you. And the green highway signs became blurry and difficult to make out through a sudden flash flood of salty water…

1995 …and we each grabbed an end of the futon and lifted it up to avoid scratching your hardwood floor. You beckoned me to lie down and hurried back with the massage oil. “Come on! Take off your shirt!” you exclaimed, impatient with me and pulling it over my head. You spread the scented oil on and began to work my back. As I began to purr, you started giggling. Laying there smiling, I felt both awkward and excited at your forwardness, wondering if our relationship might change that night, and how. The candlelight glowed and flickered off the walls of your small apartment, while Seal played softly on the CD player, and as you ran your fingers over my head, shoulders and back, I became utterly intoxicated with all that was you and your world. I could feel something else flickering, something in my heart…

1996 …as you looked over at me, irritated, from the driver’s seat of my car. “I cannot believe your mom is being like this!” You had that look on your face; the look of disgust. I felt so embarrassed. “I know, I can’t either. I’m sorry! Ummm, come pick me up in an hour or so,” I replied apologetically, “I just want to see my aunt for a few minutes and then I’ll be ready to go. Okay?”You didn’t respond, and I didn’t blame you, and I watched as you stepped on the gas and took off down the street of my childhood…

1997 …and your mom and I pulled into the cemetery. She was so eerily calm. Time slowed as we got out of the car. “She’s over here,” she pointed, closing the car door and slowly, methodically walking across the grass. An Indian summer breeze softly shook the branches of the nearby trees. I walked alongside her in slow motion, up to the patch of mismatched grass. I bent down by the marker with its hastily printed acrylic label that read CYNTHIA A MULVEY. As I stared in disbelief, my brain and eyes became cloudy. I wanted to have some privacy, to talk to you… oh my God, how much I wanted to tell you how I had really felt about you…

1995 …after you called me over to the lens filter rack, I came over and laid a hand on your shoulder. “What do you think of this one?” you asked. “Here, hold it up to the light. See? What do you think?” I honestly couldn’t see what the difference was. “Oh my God, look, it’s a really soft diffuse. See it?” The sales clerk, who we had been joking with, was leaning over the glass counter, smiling at our silliness. You made some comment about me being impossible. Finally he queried, “so, are you guys married?” Shocked and flattered, I started laughing, and you looked down, smiling, and then over at me, exclaiming, “no, to him? Are you kidding?” and turning away with a Talk-to-the-Hand gesture. I gave you a sharp slap on the butt…

1996 …and turning to me, you asked, “Eric, what do you think of this one?” I looked up as you held up the t-shirt. It was Classic You… a primitive Indian design on white. White to go with that blonde hair. You held it up over your chest to see how it went with your khaki hiking shorts. “Looks great!” I told you as you studied your reflection in the mirror. I couldn’t help staring at those legs of yours… oh my, those legs…sooo perfect. I never told you that it was always so fun for me to shop with you. It felt…domestic… and with you, that feeling made me extremely happy. “Okay, I’ll take this one. I like it. Did you want to pick up hiking stuff while you’re here?” you asked. I glanced around the sporting goods store, searching the racks for a daypack and some new socks…

1996 …”uhhh, over here.” “Where?” I exclaimed. “RIGHT HERE!” you shouted, pointing, and then grabbing my arm, screaming and laughing as I slammed on my brakes and did a Star Wars Lane Change to turn onto a side street. Your brothers were not amused as I apologized for the inertia. We drove for a few more minutes in the unfamiliar area of East End. “Damn, I think we’re lost!” you mused as we wandered around the neighborhood. I looked in the mirror at your brothers, who were silently looking at the streetsigns we passed, annoyed, searching for some familiar landmark…

1992 …as I searched for an empty table. There was only one with a power outlet, and you had just gotten up. “Are you leaving?” I asked. You looked at me for a second and said, “no — but you’re welcome to join me.” “Well, no, that’s okay, I don’t want to intrude. I just needed some power for my laptop.” “Don’t be silly,” you retorted, “come sit with me!” I stared at you, thinking, god, she’s so beautiful…

1995 …and you stared back at me across the table, smiling. Candlelight glowed off the single candle, joining the flickering of the lights several hundred feet down the hillside along the river’s edge. For once, you, Cindy Mulvey of the Guarded Heart, was speechless, unsure of what to say. You had a dumbstruck look on your face, as if you had finally, finally figured out that I would never stray… would never deceive you… would never leave you…

And time stopped…

as I pulled into my driveway. I got out, collected my belongings and locked the door, walking across the inclined driveway to my house on the hillside. As I fumbled for my keys in the dark, I looked out in the direction of the Pacific. I couldn’t see it in the vast blackness just past the lights of the beach town below me. I couldn’t hear the distant roar of the surf. But I knew it was there.

I went inside and soon climbed inside the cold sheets of my bed… in hopes of meeting you again…

in my dreams.

%d bloggers like this: