Of a June Evening
On this June evening the sticky darkness is everywhere present. Mosquitoes fly overhead in great flocks, begging to be swatted. Flittering bats roam the skies, feasting in foggy air. From all around the car come the humming throbs of life—frogs from some unnamed and unnoticed sewage pond, machinery from the forge across the street, the tremors of a quickly passing train, all blending together in a midsummer concert.
The boy is only faintly aware of the external noise—he’s too busy concentrating on what’s happening inside the car. He and the girl are sweating, yes, uncomfortable, yes, but the kissing is making up for everything else. The car, a powder-blue, twenty-one year-old Buick Delta 88 is too big to rock, but there is movement coming from inside. The boy parked his car in the girl’s parents’ driveway about a half hour ago, and what began as a conversation after a night of hanging out has turned into something else quickly enough.
The boy is thinking many things—mainly that he wouldn’t be feeling bad about making out with the girl nearly as much if she hadn’t just broken up with her boyfriend. He has a feeling that she broke up with the kid for him. He’s past guilt now, however, since everything about her is enticing him to keep going.
Now his hands are behind her shirt; now they are under it, creeping up to where her bra strap bridges the gap between shoulder blades. Now his hands are grasping at the bra clasp. He’s by no means an expert at this sort of operation, but he manages to undo the clasp without too much delay. Now he’s pulling up her shirt, pulling the loosened bra away from her sticky skin like it’s wrapping paper and her breasts are presents.
He looks at what he’s done after he’s lifted the lacy bra above her breasts. He looks at them and all guilty thoughts leave his mind. He thinks, my God.
He’s seen breasts before, but not of this quality. These breasts are large to just the right extent, but it’s not their size that makes them perfect, or their symmetry. What makes them perfect is the way they hang, like they heard about gravity and laughed at such a silly thought; like they are two stars, eternally suspended in the ether. This state of affairs is a new development, he’s sure; these breasts have changed since she and him last made out. Such are the perils of going out with a high school girl, he knows. They went out in the autumn, and now, seven months later, her body is completely new.
The revelation that with these breasts alone she has moved past him on the social scale stuns the boy into silence. The girl must not find out how far ahead of him she is, otherwise he’s sure she would end her involvement with him immediately.
He kisses her breasts (the right one first, then the left), he touches them, he moves on; his attention span isn’t that long, even for these breasts. Now he’s getting excited in earnest. His hands wander down, down to the waistband of her jean shorts, underneath to her soft cotton panties. She holds his hand, still kissing him but preventing him from going farther.
The boy looks up, surprise in his eyes, though perhaps he should have been surprised that the girl let him get this far. He looks into the soft brown of her eyes and can hardly meet her gaze.
“Do you love me?” she asks.
“Do I love you?” he answers with a sniff, like she’s said something funny.
“Yes. Do you?”
“Um, I thought we talked about this already,” says the boy. And indeed they have. The girl knows he’s leaving in two months to go to college. He’s leaving his friends, making new ones, cutting ties. She knows all of this in advance, and knows how awkward the previous conversation went, but she still insists on broaching the subject at this moment.
“You’re right,” she says. She lets him kiss her again, she lets him touch her breasts again, move his hand down her softly sloping, smoothly curving belly again.
His hand gets to her thigh and this time he begins his approach by rubbing her leg softly for a while, as if trying to trick her about his intentions: “No ma’am, all’s I wanted to do was rub your thigh for a bit, make sure everything was okay. That’s what my hand was doing down there, honest.” The boy soon forgets his original plan, and his hand lumbers past its innocent charade, moving to her inner thigh. A couple of more inches and he’ll be right where he wants.
All that’s in the car is in his head—the rustling and rubbing of hands on fabric, the little beads of sweat on her mouth and now on his, the faint cigarette smell coming from her hair. The bullfrogs at the sewage pond and the boy in the car have one thing on their mind. Do the lady frogs ever feel like the girl is feeling now?
She stops his hand again, just as it’s clumsily moving in on its target. “Do you love me?” she whispers into his ear.
“Why do you keep asking that?” he whispers back.
“Because I want to know.”
He moves his head back, turning to look out the window. It rained earlier tonight and everything is still wet; it’s going to start raining again, too. They played in the rain earlier.
The boy looks at her parents’ house, situated past a long drive. Her parents can’t hear anything this far out, and even if they did they wouldn’t care. That’s one difference between them—the difference between their parents. Another difference is their age. She’s, what, sixteen? He’s almost nineteen. Worlds apart, he knows. That’s what made them break up the first time—her lying about her age.
He catches a glimpse of himself in the driver’s side mirror. Not anything special, he concludes. Not on her level.
“Why do you want to know so badly?” he asks, turning back to the girl’s melting eyes again.
“Because I want someone to tell me they love me. No one’s ever said that to me.”
He doesn’t believe her, not for a second, even though she says it with conviction. He thinks about the possibility of her telling the truth. Her telling the truth would change everything—it would mean no boy has ever said it to her, it would mean her parents have never said it, it would mean she is a truly lonely soul.
It could be true, but it isn’t. He knows it isn’t true—he must stand on this rock, he must not give one centimeter away of this guiding principle.
“I can’t tell you that,” he says.
“Then we’re done here.” She pulls her shirt down, starts putting her bra back into place.
“I’m just being honest. I can’t lead you on; that would be cruel of me. I thought you wanted someone honest.”
“I also want someone who loves me.”
He looks the other way again. “I might be able to love you in the future.”
Then he gets it, though he’s known it all along—just not explicitly. Loving her means staying here. Without staying here, there is no love. Is she a damsel in a high tower, willing to wait until spinsterhood for her man to come back? This is the new millennium; girls don’t do that anymore. A man has one chance; if he’s lucky, two. This is the boy’s second chance, and the girl is being very kind and letting him know it. Most girls wouldn’t do that. So why doesn’t he feel like she’s being kind? Maybe because of his hard-on and the fact that she’s not doing anything about it.
“I’m not mad at you,” she says. “I understand, in theory. But I still want you to love me. I just want to hear it. You don’t even have to mean it.”
“How could somebody not love you?”
“Why don’t you ask yourself that?” She’s crying, or nearly is. Outside, the rain has started again, and inside, the windows are steaming pretty quickly. Ironic, he thinks. The minute they stop doing stuff the windows start fogging.
Both of their windows are cracked, and a few drops of rain are getting through, landing on their skin. He doesn’t mind. The rain cools him down, giving him new sensations to distract him from the moment at hand.
“I’m sorry,” he says. A weak apology, he knows, but it’s the best he can do.
“If you said you loved me, I’d let you do anything to me.”
A couple seconds pass. Possibilities are weighed. Thousands of retorts come into the boy’s brain. He could think of dozens of ways to communicate his offense, but he won’t. Instead, he’ll lie.
“That’s not what this is about,” he says finally, weakly.
“Oh really?” she asks, clasping her bra behind her back, using both hands. The snap on her skin as she adjusts it is answer enough for him.
He brings his head forward, resting it on the steering wheel, already feeling the blue balls that will put him through so much pain later.
“I can’t say it.”
She smiles and wipes her eyes. “It’s okay. Thanks for the ride home. I’d better go in before they start worrying about me.”
She opens the heavy door and is outside and shuts it before he even looks up. She’s stepping quickly through the wet yard, getting lost in the mist of this rainy night, this memory. The boy waits until he sees the light from the second floor—the sign that she’s made it into her room, then he starts the car.
Maybe he should have said it, he thinks as he backs out of the driveway. He certainly is fond of the girl. But he doesn’t know for sure, and if he doesn’t know, he can’t say it. So he drives through the sad and silent darkness, careful because of the fog shrouding before him, careful because of deer or coons.
He thinks of what he might say ten years down the road. He knows exactly what he’ll say then.