Earlier, we texted, as we’ve done for the last three nights in a row:
He’s almost asleep.
not the worst. my kid is
sure sounds good.
wear somethin warm
He’s sleeping. Praise god.
haha good job mom. its
Dammit. Circumstances have forced both of us into single parenthood, as in the only parent, as in, his daughter’s mother and my father’s son are not fit to see– and make no effort to see– their children. As such, I live with my parents, and he lives with his father, in the upstairs apartment of the duplex next door to my house, which has been there since before I was born, and which I have never once set foot inside, instead watching a steady stream of people move in and move out throughout my chidhood. For a while, a bachelor named Bart lived there, who owned a giant German shepherd named Bear, which bit my best friend Andrea as she walked from our house to hers, a few short blocks away. We were in kindergarten, but it was the 80s, a time when no one thought much of a five-year old girl in ringlet pigtails tied with lavender bows walking home alone, She-Ra lunch box in hand.
The duplex sits next to a spacious green yard, which backs up to my father’s prized oasis of cherry trees and orchids, tomato plants and koi ponds, and the in-ground pool he put in back in 2004, the summer I moved to California. The first night, we hung out there. Earlier, I’d texted with my ex, my perpetual on-again-off-again boyfriend of the better part of two decades:
I think I’m kinda sweet on the tattooed hipster down the street.
Great. He’s more conveniently located than the Wawa.
This is of course logistically true, but also tantalizingly painful, since while it allows for a (so far, anyway) indeed quite convenient proximity to the latest person I like to kiss, it’s also a rather unfortunate embodiment of the old “So close, yet so far away” paradox– I’m totally ok with necking in backyards and playhouses and Little League dugouts and the backstreets of the my hometown, but my days of public sexual escapades are most definitely over, and live on only in a series of saucy poems, having ended raucously enough behind the front desk of a Parisian hostel at 5 am with a ridiculously hot Nova Scotian called “Ells MacNeil.” As such, the tattooed neighbor seems out of reach, even as he hoists himself, in his skintight jean shorts, off of the plastic basin and faucet of the playhouse kitchen sink, where he’s been sitting, and onto his knees, my arms snaking round his neck, his mouth on mine, his hand feeling urgently beneath my threadbare t-shirt with its advertisement for moonshine, for my braless breast.
“You should have worn a skirt,” he says, taking little nips at my lips– it seems like we haven’t stopped kissing since I got here, at least an hour ago– (You’re a good kisser, I said; You too, he said; then, Isn’t it weird when people aren’t? You have to like, teach them, like wait, move your face this way, what’s going on? I countered this with my own curiosities about the possibility, which I’ve written about previously on this rag, that maybe some people just kiss “alike,” or are somehow suited to kiss one another; maybe there are people out there who think I’m a real drag of a kisser, right? Maybe there are; but the tattooed neighbor is not one of these folks, and so I kiss him again, and again, and I kiss him some more–)
“I had one on! But you texted me to wear something warm, so I put on jeans–”
“Bah! That sucks.” He has a tiny lisp, which somehow only makes me want to kiss him more, but of course, this is only the third time we’ve hung out– I’m old enough to know now that not every little peccadillo will remain endlessly sexy and charming. His hands feel around for the buttons on my jeans, and I groan and half-heartedly tell him to stop. Of course, I don’t want him to stop, but we are, after all, housed beneath the hot pink plastic roof of his daughter’s playhouse, and I am, after all, employed by a college. Part of my job is to teach feminism. To act on behalf of feminism at the college. This probably doesn’t fall under that banner. But does it really conflict? He is exactly who I want to be kissing, exactly when I want to be kissing him. I pull up his t-shirt, eye the shadowy designs inked on his chest, trace my fingers along what I can see. I rest my forehead against them, and we’re still for a minute. Somehow, his daughter comes up–
“You love her so much,” I say. “It’s like– oozing out of you. It’s so clear in everything you do.” This is the first thing I noticed about him– the two of them would walk down the street together when they first moved in, in the winter, sometimes hand in hand, thick as proverbial thieves– both in oversized sunglasses, sporting trendy haircuts. Unbearably cool. I felt like a nerd just watching them. “Nice sunglasses,” I said one day, finally getting up the nerve to talk to him.
“Which ones?” he said back, smiling. I’d like to report that I said, “Hers,” sassily, and went about my business, with some kind of flirtatious wink, but I think the question threw me and I stammered “–uh– both of them– I mean– well, I meant hers, but yours are cool, too–”
In any case, he kept walking.
Back in the playhouse, sheltered from the spring rain, he says “I just like hanging out with her. She’s so cool. I came home late from work the other night, and she was sleeping, and I was like, ‘Damn, I really wanted to hang out and watch cartoons.'” His desire to be with and protect his daughter warms me almost as much as his hands spread flat against my back beneath my t-shirt. “I like you,” I say.
“I like you, too,” he says back. “I like your mouth.” I don’t know if he means the way I kiss, or the way I talk, or both, but the truth is, I like his mouth, too. He’s delicious. Which I tell him: desire contained in me, contained again in a tiny little house, a simulacrum of a life I was taught to want, but have never been any good at wanting, a life I’d rather play at– pretend to be trapped with a painted-up boy, and kiss him again, and kiss him again some more.