I met him on one of those rainy days where the sky is so murky, the color almost seems artificial. It was a shade I so often tried to create with acrylic paints and always failed to capture on canvas. It felt surreal outside, my head succumbing to a dream-like state. The ambiance of the charcoal clouds matched everything I repressed, and everything I kept a secret inside. For some that Saturday the weather ruined, for me it felt like tranquility. Here came the visit of the beauty I longed for and craved to bask in each sunny day.
What book would I curl up to? A new read from my to-read list, an old favorite? Bolting through the library doors, I knew where I was headed, aisle Fiction M-P, Nabokov.
And there he stood. At least a whole foot taller than me. All I saw was hair like the hue of that day – charcoal black, grey here and there, flashes of white lightning piercing through sporadically – and long, slender, elegant fingers tracing the spine of Lolita. I imagined it was my own his fingertips were grazing.
“Excuse me” never sounded so small coming from my mouth. I stepped in front of the shelf as he stepped back, hoping there was another copy, but mostly hoping the heat in my face wouldn’t give me away. I actually sighed, partly in disappointment he had gotten the only copy, but mostly because his scent awakened something in my core. Sandalwood and citrus.
(Always sandalwood and citrus.)
“Looks like I have what you’re looking for,” he arched one thick brow, and holy fuck, did he have no idea. He extended the book towards me, offering it to me.
“It’s okay,” I said, “it would be my fourth time spending a weekend with that one.” He held my gaze, and in a split second I could see something flash and then smoldering in his eyes. He insisted and I refused again. Limbs no longer solid, I smiled and walked away looking for something new.
It must have been about 20 minutes until I settled on my picks, walking outside, my body sensed him before I saw him. He was standing under the overhang, avoiding the rain that now fell, all exuding power, all dominance, and all my favorite three letter word, sex. His green locked with my brown and my breath faltered, and I knew, just knew, he was waiting for me.
What was it about this stranger? Was it his height, the danger lurking behind his eyes, his scent, the fact that I couldn’t tell how much older than me he was, or the fact that he grabbed exactly what I had come to find?
“Coffee.” It wasn’t a question. If I wanted to hesitate I couldn’t because the way he said that one common word didn’t give me room to.
Pulling his jacket over our heads he led the way to his car. I could have vanished, he could have killed me, but my body didn’t care, my body climbed in the passenger seat riding shotgun to peril.
I didn’t notice his eyes were actually a pale jade until he hovered above me that night, pinning my wrists above my head, asking me, no, demanding that I look at him when he took and when he gave. And there were etched the lines that separated us by years, by how many I wasn’t sure. And there were the questions I wanted to ask and the answers I wasn’t sure I wanted to get.
I forgot them if only for a moment, my back arched, head back, almost there, fist suddenly around my throat. Without words there laid his command: look at me.
And there I was, walking into a green sea, becoming submerged in ecstasy, getting caught in his undertow.
Later, wrapped only around a fur blanket in front of his fireplace, 20 dollar pizza and a bottle of Château Margaux on the floor with us, he asked me if I reread books often and why I did so.
I explained to him that it wasn’t just about seeing things differently the second, third, or fourth time around. It wasn’t just about discovering something new in something you knew so intimately. It wasn’t just seeing a new speck of color you hadn’t seen before in a painting you often came to visit in an art museum. I gave him the answer I wasn’t even aware of until then: I found comfort in it because I already knew the ending. When I was spiraling, when I felt trapped, like a figure mid-walk crossing the street to an unseen place in some photograph, when I didn’t know if I would wake up being able to breathe the next day, it brought me a sense of control, some kind of omniscient power to relive something I was so acquainted with. In a way, it made me feel less alone.
He didn’t say a word. He took me again on the rug, wine I could never afford spilling around us. Glasses clinking, crashing, broken into pieces beneath our weight. Crashing, spilling, breaking, just like my body. A shard cutting me open on my shoulder blade. I didn’t care.
I sunk deeper into his green ocean.
And deeper when we woke up that morning. And the next night. And each time he made me open my eyes and look at him.
After waking up for the first time together, limbs a tangled mess, there was an unspoken bond, an attachment, an invisible chain tethering us to each other. His weeks in the city were numbered. As I left, he asked me to come back later that day.
And I did, again, and again.
We agreed not to think about the past or the future, and only savor the moment, to be each other’s when we were together. I selfishly wanted him to be mine, not just in those moments, but in the hours we spent apart. I wanted to keep him as long as I could, and only to myself. For seven weeks I never told anyone about him. Even the poetry he spawned in me, I shared with only him.
He, in fact, asked me to share everything new I wrote with him. We’d lay around, more often in front of his fireplace than in his bed, always naked. I was wrong if I thought I couldn’t be any more bare. I’d open my notebook because he’d ask and I’d read aloud my most private of thoughts, desires, feelings, and sins to him. It was the most exposed I had ever felt.
He told me my being was a swirl of the color of the sky the day he met me and the color of that midnight he first slipped under my skin. He called me Raven. He said he could still see my little sunlight peeking through my blacks and greys, and my little starry specks amongst the dark violets and blues.
“My little Raven,” he’d always say, sandalwood and citrus engulfing all my senses. Me in a button up of his that fell down to my knees, nothing beneath, curled up with my notebook and pen. Sinatra, Miles Davis, or our mutual love The Doors, always playing through his speakers.
He knew me probably better than anyone who had ever come into my life, even though we never exchanged backstories, places, names, or origins.
We just were who we were when we were together.
He taught me a little bit about wine and about the stock market. We discussed Nabokov after he finally got through the book I didn’t get to check out that day. Like me, he had a love for literature. He, however, wasn’t acquainted with poetry. He showed me what it was like to be ravaged by a man and I showed him Bukowski, Neruda, E.E. Cummings, and Octavio Paz.
I lived in the moment with him, always lost in a cloud of sandalwood and citrus. Always sinking deeper into his green sea.
I knew I was falling when I no longer found comfort in knowing just how our story would end. I dreaded it. I didn’t want to turn the page. I didn’t know where he was leaving to or where he was going back to. Or who he was going back to.
We never spoke specifics or exchanged stories, but I had read to him my poetry. I had nothing of his except the moment, except who he was when he was with me. It wasn’t until after our last dinner that I wondered what it would feel like to have it all. It wasn’t love, I don’t know what it was, but there was a feeling. Some kind of falling. Some kind of sinking.
That night he took me for the last time on his balcony under the midnight sky. His apartment stripped of everything except of the scent of sandalwood and citrus, and the rug and blanket we laid on during our seven weeks. We laid there after. I pretended to fall asleep. I knew I’d miss him when I heard the words my little raven escape from his mouth as he planted a kiss on my face.
At dawn I left, leaving only a canvas full of swirls of blacks, greys, violets, blues, and subtle silvers and golds in front of the fireplace.
I wonder, is it raining where he is? Does he ever look outside at midnight and remember me? Can he smell me when it rains? Did he hang my painting in some home he shares with someone, in his bachelor’s pad, in an office or his study?
It stormed two days ago here. I went to the library. As I read Lolita for the fourth time, I swear I could smell sandalwood and citrus coming off of the page.
I could almost feel his arms around me. I swear I can smell him every time it rains.