“It’s only warm here two weeks out of the year,” she claims, her orange sundress fluttering softly against a backdrop of water and daisies.
“What was it Mark Twain said?” I shift in my seat, uncomfortably aware of a bead of sweat threatening to form on my brow. “Ah, yeah, the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
Behind her, heavy light filters through a sloped array of gentle trees, falling upon patches of flowers strewn about, quivering, seeming like they might at once suddenly sprout into stained glass, color refracting brilliantly, brilliantly, everywhere. Slightly further beyond, one can catch the ruffle of lazy sails set at bay as, between, cars whistle by.
I breathe in, tasting the live scent of spring, and arch my back slightly and search her eyes, two reflective obsidian orbs in focus, slowly, suddenly, wide and intelligent and sharp.
“Do you want to stay here forever?” I ask — a half-second too early, her eyes tightening almost imperceptibly slightly. A half second matters urgently, I think to myself. It is, perhaps, the difference between a life spent floating through perpetually unfamiliar houses and one spent in a well-lit condo, artwork calming mood scattered gracefully, everywhere.
I wish I could convey this moment to her. This understanding of unrepentant urgency and permanence — actors taking our parts, characters in a painting. But I don’t have the words, the poetic stripping and beauty painfully out of focus.
Unobserved, she answers eagerly and earnestly, “No, I think I’d like to move to Los Angeles.”
I’m aware of the vast chasm of experience separating us. I berate myself for being so judgmental, but I know — suddenly, clearly: we might as well speak different languages; we only share a glimmer in our shared unconsciousness, an uncomfortable heat and slight sense of befuddlement. Touch and gaze are what keeps most of us humans together.
I, slightly embarrassed, wipe away a streak of sweat and tiltingly respond, “I don’t envy you in the slightest,” and we share a laugh.
Later, the worst of the midday heat has subsided and I am staring into space, feeling vast and self-conscious. Sensitive to a paralyzing hollowness, I feel every mote of sun and wind, a line from a Dunn poem floats through, temporary, fleeting, painful — somewhere a philosopher is erasing \ “time’s empty passing” because he’s seen \ a woman in a ravishing dress. \ In a different hour he’ll put it back.