I was sitting at my grandmother’s dining room table, relaxed and laughing. The little house was jam-packed full of family, ringing with the sounds of a dozen different conversations.
“We need to go out and do something together, all of us,” I said to my stepmom.
She smiled and showed me a sheaf of tickets, waved them out like a fan. “We’ve got plans for this afternoon. It’s a dance class.” What she meant, she further explained, was that it was a pole dancing class and we would each have our own room and our own instructor.
But before I really had a chance to process that, you called. You called and everything changed. We were going out instead.
I raced to the back bedroom to get ready, but there really wasn’t much to do. I was already dressed, already painted and straightened. I smiled at myself in the mirror a lot, lost in thoughts I no longer remember well.
Time must have sped up because my sister was suddenly at the door, saying you were already there, waiting on the living room couch. That’s when the nerves finally showed up, mixing with the excitement, and I could hear my heartbeat pulsing loudly over the din of my family, still everywhere, still talking. I had to force myself to walk slowly and, rather than turn right and go straight to the living room through the side entrance, go around the long way. I wanted to look at you straight on; I wanted you to see me coming toward you. I just wanted.
They were everywhere – spilling out of the kitchen and into the dining room, taking up so much space. Of course it would make sense that they would be in the living room too, scattered in the armchairs and sitting on the couch, bothering you and asking questions because that’s what they do. But when I turned the corner, I didn’t see anyone but you.
You sat in the exact middle of my grandmother’s faded old yellow couch. The tiny, many colored flowers dotting its cushions looked vivid against your jeans. There was a jacket covering your head and it made me grin and laugh. You were hiding, being funny, and I knew that underneath the folds, you were smiling too. I walked toward you and gently lifted it from your head, tossed it to the side.
Looking at you smiling at me, the nerves left as quickly as they’d come. You didn’t say a word, just held out your arms. It didn’t for a moment bother me that you hadn’t gotten up, that I’d have to climb onto your lap to get to those arms. I put one knee on either side of your body, straddling your lap, chest to chest, wrapping my arms around you at the same time you wrapped yours around me. And my god, it felt good.
For a long time we sat that way – my head nestled in the crook of your shoulder and your face buried in my neck. I could have stayed that way all afternoon, but you finally pulled away. I was a little surprised when you pressed your lips to mine. I wanted it, but I hadn’t expected it. The kiss was long and slow and soft, your facial hair tickling my skin.
When we drew apart again, the sounds of the house finally started to register. “I’ll just go get my coat”, I said, climbing from your lap and hurrying out of the room.
Everything seemed to speed up and everyone suddenly wanted to talk to me. I kept racing from room to room looking for things – my purse, my jacket, my lipstick. It was irritating, but typical. It’s what always happens when I’m trying to go somewhere; I’m unorganized.
Each time I hurried past, in search of one thing or another, I could see you standing impatiently by the door. I wanted to go to you, but I just had to do one more thing, and one more thing, and one more thing.
“Alyson”, you finally said, “let’s go already.”
“I can’t believe you’re skipping our family outing”, my stepmom said from behind me.
I was flustered, but I finally managed to take your hand and walk outside. We made it halfway to the car and I pulled you to a stop. “I forgot my jacket!”
You sighed and gave an exasperated little laugh while the dog jumped around our legs and faces peered out from windows. “Go start the car”, I said, “I’ll be right back.” I watched you get into a red car that looked vaguely like a station wagon before running back inside.
When I returned, you were parking some sort of recreational vehicle with a trailer attached to it down the street. I smiled as I watched you walk back up the sidewalk, getting closer. And then…
I came to, face down in a pile of pillows. Disoriented, it took me a moment to realize what was going on. It was all just a dream.
But somehow I could still feel the imprint of your arms around me and the press of your lips.
I smiled and turned over on my side, rubbing my eyes. I replayed all of the weird elements, of course: my stepfamily being in my grandmother’s house, the pole dancing class, the trailer, the crush of people and the impromptu moment of intimacy in front of them all. But what I kept coming back to, the part that was somehow, against all odds, more vivid than everything…was you. Your lips, your face, your arms, your presence. You were the most unlikely piece of the puzzle – “one of these things is not like the other” – yet you were the part that felt exactly right.
I looked at my bedside clock. It read 7:02am. I would normally never get out of the bed so early on a Saturday, but I was already pushing off the covers and throwing my legs over the side of the bed. I wanted to write it all down before I forgot, before even the silliest details became too fuzzy to remember. I wanted to write it all down so I would remember what it felt like to be wanted, to be with you. And in my head, I’d already picked out the title.
The Itch - a story
4 days ago