By Mark Juric
Mickey brushed away the lock of hair that clumped, sweat-soaked against Darla’s temple. He traced it back in place — once, twice — and still wet on his hand, smelled the richness of her each time. Dark and musky, her scent was earthy — like soil — and fertile, an ancient fragrance, older than either of them. Her breath had slowed and he placed his head to her chest where the balance of her blouse was unbuttoned, still coy, still clinging to her shoulders.
“Where did you. . .” She hesitated, afraid of accusing, afraid of a lie, afraid of the truth. “I thought you said you’d never done this before.”
“I haven’t.” He pretended some irritation just below his nose, and raised his hand to scratch it. This ruse to breathe her in once more hid the hitch in his chest, and capped the waves of shock on which unforgettable memories rode to the forge.
“But, how did you know?”
“Know what?” he asked.
“The way you. . . touched me. There. Like. . .” she paused, and Mickey felt a rush of heat where his skin touched hers and a skip where her heart had been. “You touch me like I touch myself.”
He smiled with the pride of an artist, at a composition executed with expertise and grace. But there was confession here too, and when the full import of her words had settled, he felt himself humbled and flushed with admiration, filled with the rawness of her revelation. He had fumbled in darkness with no guide but her tiny gasps and his own imagination, yet somehow he had proven himself worthy – and emboldened – she had found courage to share a secret light.
“I want to feel what it’s like inside you,” he said.
She pushed him back and his face was suddenly cold in the absence of her. Darkness, distorted by orange light filtering through steamed windows painted her face in shadow. “Mickey, we agreed.”
“No, not like that.” He smiled and rested his head back against her chest. “I mean, I want to see things through your eyes. I want to be a part of you.”
Under his cheek she relaxed, and Mickey felt his heart decode the layers of her scent as she stroked his hair. There was soap and a sweet perfume — young, inexpensive, girlish, yet reaching for adulthood. There was deodorant too, and underneath it, undisguisable yet unnamable, the sharp tang of sweat, and the bite of its rope that bound him to her.
“I think about you,” he said. “I think about what it’s like to move through the world as you. How does it feel when you sit? When you sweat, or sneeze, or laugh? I wonder what your skin feels like from the inside. When I touch you.” Mickey turned and kissed her chest. “When I touch you there.”
She stroked his hair a little longer, then stopped. “Do you love me, Mickey?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I hope so.”