Cold rain falls in the river, flows down to the sea, gets into the skyline, circles endlessly. Same old rain on the wind, same old pain in my soul.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Visitor

How many times had he walked this path? Daily and for the few years his legs had known.
Just a dirt trail along the riverbank that led from house to town and back again. Sometimes it was to go to the store for his mother. Sometimes to visit a friend. Sometimes to fish or just sit upon the rock. But always, it was plain and uneventful.
A few others knew the path, but no one he looked forward to running into.
All that changed on July 17, 1972.
It was hot, as usual and the bugs flooding the weeds screamed out in anguished rituals of mating. A fish could be heard jumping occasionally beyond the cattails lining the shore. And the smell, the ever-present smell that rivers in July give off permeated the way.
He swiped along the dirt with the stick he had picked up and occasionally picked up a large rock and heaved it over the cattails just to hear the splash. When he rounded the bend where the boulder offered faithful rest, he glanced up and stopped mid stride in shock. There, sitting upon the rock, his rock, with one knee cocked up in all it’s sunburned glory, was a girl. Not just any girl, but a pretty girl. Young and strange and beautiful.
There, sitting upon his rock.
She was wearing only her underwear and they clung to her, obviously wet as her pants and shirt splayed the rock to soak up the hot sunlight.
The choices available to him were immediately taken away as she sensed his presence and turned to meet his gaze. He felt embarrassed and trapped, but she only smiled and turned back to the river.
“What’s the matter?” the words carried out over the water. “Haven’t you ever seen a girl before?”
He didn’t answer . He wasn’t sure how to.
She turned her head and lay it on her arm, which rested across her knee.
“It’s OK, I don’t bite”
He moved a little closer, but still didn’t speak.
Even in his youthful unknowing, he couldn’t help but study her. She was about his age, maybe a little older. Long dark hair that knew no certain direction, and her body had shape. He was amazed that she wasn’t embarrassed to be found this way and that she hadn’t shrieked and raced to cover up as he would have expected.
She looked him up and down in a way that made him feel naked even though he was fully clothed. It seemed she looked right through him to someone else on the other side. Her eyes sparkled in the sunlight and she again spoke.
“What’s your name? Mine’s Miriam.”
“Jeff,” was all he could muster, and was even surprised to hear that come out.
“Jeff is nice,” she offered. “You live close by?”
He turned and pointed to where he had come from. “Yeah, bout a mile that way.”
“Well, pull up a rock, Jeff, plenty of room for two.” She moved her jeans over a little and patted the rock.
Jeff knew the girls from school. He knew the girls from his church, from his neighborhood and from stories both told and read. But he knew nothing of a girl like Miriam. She was from Bloomington and was staying at her aunts for a month while her parents went to Europe.
She talked. Slow, easy and plain. When she smiled, her breath fell on his face like buttercups in a spring time pasture. Some times her arm brushed his own and he shivered from the connection.
She talked- he listened. She talked of the city, of rivers, of dreams. Of growing up in Bloomington. He too, cocked a knee up and his eyes, too, began to sparkle, as the rhythm of her spirit caressed his youthful heart.
By mid afternoon, he too, stripped to his underwear and they waded the soft mud and swam to gentle eddies.
Several nights later, they swam under a full moon while even their underwear kept to the rock.
Miriam taught Jeff how not to fear. She taught him how to kiss without worry of failure. She taught him how to grow, how to dream. She taught him of passion without shame. She taught him of love and of leaving.
By the end of summer, Miriam was gone. Back to Bloomington. The rock was barren once more, though he put his nose close to find just a trace of her scent, a scarce trace letting him know she was real.
He didn’t heave large rocks over the cattails anymore, but rather skipped small stones and he wondered why. And he thought of Bloomington, and of damp white underwear, and love upon the sand.