26 Aug I Was Twenty-Three & On the Prowl
by Ted Box
I was twenty-three and on the prowl. An early morning drive around the loop at Seward Park, a peninsular that juts into Lake Washington brought me to the grassy mound that bordered the beach. All alone, and right in the middle of that mound, like a perfectly placed nipple, was a girl in a yellow bikini. I parked. Exotic beauty adds a degree of difficulty to the task of summoning the courage to make a pass. There’s more to lose. The rejection burns like branding, and burn wounds take longest to heal. The damage is real and can drop the bar on who to approach.
When I was done being a coward, I remembered I had my Tatay classical guitar in the trunk. Yes. I loved that guitar. I saw it in a window in a music store down town, put it in layaway and paid for it over six months. I could play the shit out of that guitar. Classical improvisations inspired by Montoya and Segovia.
I walked over to her, sat down, not saying a word, and let my fingers go. She was mixed-race Native American and Irish. I had to look off in the distance as her beauty unnerved me, but as I played, I found my male fire in the music, and I imagined the sound touching her, penetrating, caressing.
When it was over, she looked at me with a promise that turned the moment back on me. “Do you always seduce women with your guitar?”
“Only when I’m tongue-tied.”
“Want to go for a ride?”
I looked at her Fiat Spider convertible and nodded.
“Put that thing away,” she said. I locked the guitar in the trunk and slouched into the passenger seat.
Six hours later, after visiting the zoo, the public market, and the waterfront, we were back at Seward Park. “I have a boyfriend, and I don’t cheat.”
“Break-up with him then.”
“Give me a few days.”
“Can I write you?”
She gave me her address, telling me I could stuff my letters in her mailbox. She had a way with words. Those few days were torment. My desire, bunched and excited, ready to pounce, the maddening determination of the chasse, the singed wings of a moth tempting the flame, hunger a bile that I could neither swallow nor ignore. The uncertainty unhinged me. I wanted her from my balls to the stars. What if I’m kidding myself, what if she stays with him?
I wish I had kept those letters, and often wonder if she did – the ink must have smoked on the page.
A week later, after skinny-dipping in the lake, we kissed. My lips had tasted love before, I had held love in my arms, touched love in wonder, stood grinning and dripping in love’s nectar, but always as a guardian, as the careful gardener, never allowing the inner stallion the freedom to run. But her kiss was an invitation for exactly that. There’s a language that lips speak when they meet, and the vocabulary of that kiss burned my tongue.
We got to her apartment. “Have you ever ridden a horse down a mountain?”
“No.” She slipped off her mini-dress. Naked, her eyes pouring aphrodisia, I felt my restraint, the male restraint we learn in order to constrain our ravenous wants, dissolve. Our rampage lasted two-and a half years. All that time we were land-locked.
She never knew me on the sea. When it was over, I went back to the sea.
The humid air warped the Tatay. I gave it away and never played again, but sometimes, at odd moments, I hear the distant sounds of a guitar mingled with the echo of hooves, and I drink of her.
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