(c) Dana Macy, 2017
She said it would be fun if we took turns with each other. The game was to kiss on the lips and feel each other–down there. We were in ninth grade and bunked in the same cabin at camp. The year we were all together in third grade, we’d found a patch of moss in the woods. It was Emma’s idea that time too. The game was to take off our shorts and sit on the moss and tell what it felt like. We giggled and said things like—“wet, soft, green, icky.” Our camp counselor had told us that two hundred years ago, Indian girls sat on moss when they came into their moon time. That’s how Emma got the idea.
The night she hatched the kissing plan, Emma whispered, “Doran … come to my bunk last.” The crickets were so loud I knew we wouldn’t hear if our cabin monitor checked in. It made me nervous. Emma said it was too early and not to worry. The night was hot but we hid under our blankets anyway. Emma and I kissed, lips closed, bodies pressed together as if it meant something. She said my skin felt soft and damp like the moss and guided my hand between her thighs. Our fingers interlaced, we touched her soft, wavy hairs. Then I touched my lips to the place where her tanned skin met the white of curved flesh. We hid under the covers till morning.
We hid like that for years. I transferred from one college to another, running from trouble until I decided to set my life right. Signing up for Army ROTC made me feel special. At least useful. After all there was a war going on.
It was a cool Sunday on a deserted campus. Bright red and gold leaves drifted from buckeye trees. I gathered buckeyes, cool like moss and smooth like Emma’s skin. I remembered how we were all those years ago, her fingers tracing my lips, the feel of her hair on my body. It was then I saw her, just her back but I knew her walk, how her hair swung with each step. I saw that she walked with a man.
I ran toward her. Not thinking, just running. She turned, her green eyes stone cold. She held up a white-gloved hand as if to say Stop! I saw she was dressed for church going, her man in dress uniform with a bar of medals across his chest. I looked down at my shoes, ashamed of my outfit, made up of bell-bottom jeans, scruffy clogs, and a sloppy army jacket. This was all wrong. So wrong!
“Doran … meet Charles, my fiancé. Charles … meet Doran.” She flashed her fiancé a sidelong glance. “We haven’t seen each other in years.”
Emma looked me in the eye, her gaze still cold. Charles gave a nod and managed a faint smile. For a moment no one spoke.
Emma broke the silence. “We’ve a lunch engagement. I’m afraid we’ve got to hurry on. You take care, Doran.” Her eyes softened a little before she turned and walked away.
I saw my father not long ago. He told me that he was ready to meet his maker. Then he said, “Doran, I’ve failed you. God means for us to marry, to procreate, to prosper and take dominion over the Earth.” He grimaced. “What did I do wrong?”
I thought of Emma and how I could never tell him. This moment should be honest I thought, but telling would send him to the grave broken and hurting. In the end I didn’t tell.
Outside, the air was crisp with fresh snow. I wandered through a wooded area where a sliver of sun divided light and dark, like the tan line on Emma’s back. I lay in the snow looking up at the clouds, remembering how she touched me, how she formed me. She thought of me too. I knew she did.
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Dana Macy lives in Ojai, California with her partner, their sweet Rottweiler, and a monster of a cat. Fragments of a Fragmented Life is her first book.
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