Waiting is a game best left to the protagonists. They are methodical in their introspection, which of course is fascinating. But only in small doses for those in the world stripped of will and purpose.
The good guys can tolerate the doldrums of time wasted. For the rest of us, the ambling majority, the true posture of patience is pretty much impossible.
But give us something sweet to suck on while we wait, and that is a whole different story.
I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last. It started with a ride on a bus. I sat two rows behind them, sweating and cursing under my breath when the bus overheated one Wednesday in August.
Her laugh gave me something to absorb besides the sweltering heat. I was drawn in by her luscious disregard for her surroundings, and I listened as he told a story about punching a brute at the top of a hill, one summer day just like that one, then watching him stumble down the rocky face, crying for his mommy.
I could almost hear the little bully’s wails in between her giggles and sighs.
And that first drink led me to follow them off the bus. All the way to her home.
He kissed her against an elm tree growing thick and full next to her front steps. The branches cradled their shoulders, hiding their lips from view. But I watched from a tree away as her leg wrapped around his, drawing him closer and closer until there was nothing between them but heat.
Guilt and embarrassment took me right past them at a pace that left me breathless when I turned the corner.
But weeks, then months passed, and I found myself there. Again and again. Waiting for another sip, another taste. One more glimpse of someone else’s delicious world.
I stood at the gate to the tiny alley that ran beside her building, the angry bite of late autumn making my cheeks and fingers red and raw, and I watched. He scraped a thick layer of frost from her windshield while she teetered on the stoop, sucking on one of those horrid skinny cigarettes and touching her bare throat.
She never dressed appropriately for the weather. But I suppose some people just carry too much heat inside their beautiful bodies to be bothered by the chill in the air.
They did this often, and despite my every attempt to give up this deplorable addiction, I continued to ogle them nearly every morning. My alarm went off at 5 and I was perched in my spot at the edge of the alley by 6:20.
Unless I’d fallen asleep in her back garden.
He would finish with the scraper and slide it into his back pocket. She’d toss her filter in the street. He’d bend to pluck it out of the gutter, shaking his index finger at her until she stepped off the curb and stuck her tongue out at him. Giggling. Cheeks rosy from more than just the temperature.
She was as predictable as ever. But not him.
He shook his head this time and stooped down so that his eyes were level with hers. He whispered to her, I could never hear what he said, even as the depth of his voice rumbled through my belly, but she cupped her hands in front of her and lowered her eyes. So obedient.
His gaze skimmed the street, forcing me back into the shadow of the alley, as he slipped the butt into her palms, drawing them together and lifting them into the air above her lowered head.
Like a magician’s assistant in a turn-of-the-century sideshow, holding up an invisible apple for the blade or bullets first strike. Trembling with something I felt in the pit of my own belly.
I imagined what he might be saying into her ear. “Don’t drop it again, little girl.” I didn’t need to see his face. It was branded into the backs of my eyelids. I could never be free from it.
His long, slender fingers played in her hair while he slipped his other hand beneath the hem of her skirt.
I’d never seen her protest, but there was a first time for everything. She whimpered and said something that brought his eyes back to hers, as his fingers tightened in her hair, tugging her head up to meet his glare.
My own thighs trembled and I used every ounce of my willpower to hold back a groan.
I knew it was wrong, this sick fascination with him. And her. I’m not insane, after all. Just a lonely voyeur with too much time on my hands.
But I had gotten more brazen, watching their windows and sitting on her back stoop to listen to them make love as I touched myself in the dark. I could envision the actions that went with each sound, I could imagine his expression in the amber light they always left on, as his fingers squeezed the sides of her throat and his body pressed against, inside, and around her.
I could even feel his fingers just then, as I watched them in this stolen moment, half a dozen yards in front of me.
He bent forward and kissed her on the cheek as he pulled her arms down and plucked the cigarette from her palm.
The look on her face made me whimper.
“Have a good morning, Lil. Don’t be late for work.”
He always was so fucking frustrating with his exit.
She saw me that morning. I’m sure she had a thousand times, but that day, she locked eyes with me. And I felt something inside me break.
I tried to turn and go, but I was frozen. Locked in the gaze of this woman I wanted to be. Coveting everything about her, down to the smooth, olive skin she got to live inside of. She stared at me long enough that I thought she might scream, or call to him. But she only stood there.
It was the first time I’d ever seen him turn back to her after saying goodbye. His exit was final, always. But this time he turned, walked back to her, and dropped his forehead to hers. And I heard him as if his head was bent to my own.
“I need you.”
Her eyes found mine again as that tiny, mischievous smile played on her lips. She slipped her fingers into his beard, kissed him in a performance worthy of an ‘R’ rating, then broke away breathless.
“Let’s call in sick.”
And from that day on, that wicked woman became my dealer in a drug that I’m not sure I’ll ever be strong enough to kick.
I’d never hurt either of them. After all, if they were gone, what would I wish for?
Nothing is quite as colorful and vibrant and real as someone else’s bubble. Even if you have everything you could ever want, there’s someone, somewhere, with more.