the senseless challenge, week 5: touch (Raine)

For my final piece in the Senseless Challenge, week 5, I’m sharing the very first chapter of my upcoming Nine Nights with the Studly Buddha, in its entirety. Which is possible because it’s a very short chapter at just about 1000 words. 😉

This is Corbin’s first girlfriend, Raine.

Mololla, Oregon. 1993.

They both lie on their backs on top of the sheets. She was naked. He was naked. It was July, the summer after high school graduation, in that mid-summer heat that made skin perpetually sticky and slick. Her room smelled musky, the scent of pot, sweat, and condoms. Raine had a joint in one hand and the other traced absently down Corbin’s long torso, lean and chiseled hard. She’d never been with a virgin before him, wondering if it would even make a difference in a man. It did, but only the first few times. She’d never dated a younger guy before him either, but he’d been worth the exception for five beautiful months.

He had her long, wheaty hair in his fingers, picking it up and watching it drop. It looked heavy. Her head felt heavy, rolling to the side, his eyes, chocolaty brown eyes, stoned and dream-like. If only his eyes would stay that way. If she had to leave him — and she did, she really did — she wanted it to feel ethereal. She didn’t want to hurt him, but in three weeks she would no longer be a girl, or even in between, that hazy existence between high school and adulthood. She’d be in college. She’d be on her own. She’d be a woman. She looked forward to it with every ounce of her existence.

She put the joint to his lips until he inhaled. Then she said, “I want you to know my love for you is undefined.”

“It’s what?”

She put the joint to her own lips and took a drag, puffed it out slowly. The room pulsed, warm and sunlit. Her fingers drifted through the space in front of her. She wanted to touch everything all at once, sheets, skin, air. She wanted to touch the light. “It’s like, this thing,” she said. She held her hands above his face, the joint tucked between her fingers still, her hands cupped around an imaginary ball of air filling with a thin trail of smoke. “Love is the air. You know? Love is like this thing you can’t see, can’t touch, can’t even hold. But it’s there. I don’t want you to say you love me.”

“You don’t?” He perched himself up on his elbows, biceps flexing. She lifted herself too and touched him there, traced the length of his arm, over his stomach, where she stopped. He wasn’t going to say it anyway, but she wanted to make sure he didn’t try, that he didn’t go there. It would be too sad.

She shook her head. “Next year, I’ll be in New York, and you’ll be here, and our love will be this thing–” She tapped his chest, then his temple, then held a hand over her heart. “You don’t love me. You just love. Today your love is here with me, and tomorrow your love will go somewhere else.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” he said. His eyebrows made the most finite movements, a pinch, a tiny furrow. He never became very outraged, very extreme. He was always so controlled. So concentrated.

Her closets were already packed, her CDs, her guitar. “You knew I had to go.”

“But…” He bit his bottom lip. “I thought we would keep in touch.”

“Oh, Corbin. Oh…” She tilted her head at him. “That’s so sweet.” She reached out to his cheek, and he picked off her hand and set it down on the bed. She frowned at him. “I’m sorry, love. No. But I’ll think of you.”

Her eyes started to tear a little, and why? It wasn’t quite sadness. Empathy, she wanted to say, the pain of having to cause so much pain. They wouldn’t keep in touch, and she knew it. She wanted it that way. Though she did love him, in her way. But she needed to be free. Right now, she needed to be free. She needed to feel the air and the light and the breeze on her skin, with people. Yes, with other people. She needed to experience, to run, to dance, to love, to fuck. She couldn’t explain it to him. How she cared about him, how full she felt for him, but how it wasn’t quite enough.

He looked confused, but it was so simple. She would be in New York, and he would be here finishing his senior year of high school. She had a full life of experiences to live and her heart was wide open.

She fell back to the sheets again, hazy eyes drifting into sleep. He was already dressing. “These damned earthly bodies,” she said to him. “You know we transcend this. You know we do.”

She wasn’t sure if she was trying to convince him, or herself.

Her eyes were partially closed, but she listened for him to say something. He didn’t. He didn’t yell or shout or call her a bitch. She honestly wondered if he even thought it. She couldn’t imagine him calling anyone a bitch, but he should. Sometimes he should. He should have said it now, because she felt like a bitch. There was just the rustle of his jeans slipping on. A single tear fell down her cheek and she swiped it away with the back of her hand. She took a long, deep drag, and a long, slow exhale until her chest was empty. Her head felt so heavy, and she let it fall toward the door where he was leaving, bare-chested still, holding his shirt in his hands. The door opened, it closed, and a breeze fluttered over her naked skin, a cool breath in the hot room.

She wanted to think he gave her that breeze like it was a final kiss goodbye.