The kiss is the first to go
On a hot summer day Samhari sat on the banks of the River and watched the Willow King swim in it’s current. Samhari’s feet soaked in the cold mountain water, her toes digging into the sand and gravel. She waved to the Willow King as he floated by. He pulled himself out and sat next to her. “I think we are moving to fast,” Samhari said finally expressing a thought she had been thinking for days. He dried his face on her skirt and suggested that they move to the sunny side of the river, out from beneath the shadow of the palisades, to continue the conversation. She touched the gooseflesh on his upper arm and looked into his eyes. When he spoke of the other side of the river his eyes twinkled. He was charming. She preferred the shade of the palisades but knew she would acquiesce to his desires. “I think we are moving to fast,” she repeated.
They sat for a moment in the shade wrapped in a wool blanket and ate crisp apples and drank red wine from the bottle. The Willow King began to gather their belongings into his river bag. He corked the wine and threw his apple core into the current where it bobbed slowly and drifted down stream. Wordlessly he began to cross the river. Samhari followed. On the sunny side of the river the Willow King spread the blanket onto the flat top of a large granite boulder that damned the flow of water into a deep pool where fat rainbow trout lurked and slurped winged caddisflies from the surface or slurped them deep below as larva.
Samhari was growing anxious that he had not responded to her concerns for the velocity in which their relationship was developing. “What are you thinking about?” she asked. The Willow King stretched in the sun and rested his cheek on the warm granite rock. He reached up to move a stray lock of hair from Samhari’s face to behind her ear. Small birds sang lilting ditties from the braches of the overhanging cottonwood trees. The Willow King smiled and let out a breath. “When I sit by the river I imagine throwing my brain into its currents allowing the cold water and abrasive grit to round off the calcified edges of my weak thoughts.” Samhari followed his gaze to a white-capped rapid that was churning and churning the water over a submerged granite boulder reducing it ever so slowly. “Like what kind of weak thoughts?” Samhari asked. “Mostly thoughts of being unlovable,” he said. “feelings of being unworthy.” She could not imagine the Willow King feeling inadequate in anyway. She never knew he was vulnerable. Warmth grew inside of her chest. The sun shined lovingly upon them.
Samhari lay down next to him. He smelled of earth and labor. His skin was warm and sun-kissed. She pushed his hair behind his ear. “Your eyes look green now,” she said., “they were more brown when we were on the other side of the river.” He pushed himself up and took Samhari’s hands in his. “What are you afraid?” He asked.
Her mind twisted and swirled like the eddy of water behind the river boulder. I fear so many things my love. So many things. Her voice did not come. She could not find the words to explain the pain in her chest. In her mind she stood on the edge of a great abyss and could not see the next step. She could not reach for his hand. She thought of the rainbow trout deep in the cold pool below content to slurp bugs and procreate. She knew with her continued silence the Willow King would slip back into the river and flow on. She couldn’t form the words to tell him not to.
The Willow King drew symbols with river water on the warm rock. The symbols became prayers sent skyward as the water evaporated into the sky. He drew a symbol for Samhari and as it evaporated he prayed for her well-being. As he drew a symbol for the Willow King he observed the disquieted look on Samhari’s face. She was searching for the words to express that she is petrified of disappointing him, of being truly loved, of being rejected, of being vulnerable. The symbols evaporated from the rock to the sky merging far above in the belly of a cloud. Samhari and the Willow King carried off of this earth of decay and rebirth, reformed in the torrential elements of cloud world, where they will blend and fall back down as rain.
The sun began to dip behind the horizon of the palisades. The stored heat from the granite boulder was slowly absorbed by the growing coolness of the late afternoon air. Samhari was alone on the riverbank. The Willow King kissed her cheek and slipped into the current when the sun was still high above them. “I need your words,” he had said before leaving. “Without them I fill in the silence with my imagination which is heavily influenced by my own self-doubt. Your words are your freedom and mine.” Samhari stood before him dumbfounded. Her mind was filled with colorful and articulate thoughts, but like a bubblegum machine with a quarter stuck in it, not one of them would drop. She wanted to say I need to be alone! I’m still in love! I don’t want to ever have my heart broken again! I don’t trust you! I don’t trust me! I love you!
The words did not come because none of them had the temerity to hold form long enough to travel from her heart to her head and finally escape her mouth. They dissolved somewhere along the way. The only thing escaping from between her soft lips was her slow, warm breath that smelled of apples and wine. A smell that intoxicated the Willow King to the point that he wanted nothing more than to pull Samhari in and kiss her so deeply that the tips or her toes turned pink and tingled with joy. Kisses they used to share, until she pulled away. Kisses he knew only existed in their past. From experience he knew the kiss is the first to go. After the kiss loses it’s luster, the words soon dry up and distance is created. If he were to kiss her now he would only feel the distance. So instead he slipped back into the current of the river and left Samhari with the blanket, the wine and the river bag.