At opposite ends of the counter, we worked in tandem. The sun shining brilliantly in through the window over the sink seemed to rest between us, not with division but with unity drawing us by its warmth. We munched and chatted our way through the preparations for lunch. He moved about as though he knew the kitchen well and was at peace there. In jeans and fleece pullover, he suddenly stood still, confident, casual, comfortable with himself. He shared space with me as if I belonged.
I looked across the distance at him, looking through the particles of dust dancing in the rays of light. I saw the look in his eyes, the note of recognition and of knowing. The smile on his lips confirmed what his eyes were saying. We stood there, held captive in that prolonged glance, silently noting, confirming and affirming. The particles continued to dance between us. The silence was not painful nor awkward but like unto a holy hush.
I heard the screen door open and footsteps came near. I turned toward the counter, my back to the door. His children appeared, but not unexpectedly so. Heat began to creep up my neck from my chest and I felt the flush overtake my face, as if I had been caught doing something I should not have been doing. They are beautiful children, in manner and in physicality. Well adjusted they have grown, beyond many adults who have tasted the bitterness of life. It was not they who were flustered to find me in their kitchen, nor was my presence there the cause for my discomfort. I knew that he saw that tell-tale flash of heat; he did not attempt to hide his amusement. With the ease of grace that so becomes him, he chatted with them briefly, allowing me to regain my composure. I soon turned and gave them my undivided attention.
We’ve never formally dated, their dad and I. We have known each other for a while as acquaintances and friends. There has always been an acceptance among us all, no battle of wills, superiority, competition, nor violation of boundaries. What transpired just now was different though. The heat between us had nothing to do with the bearing down of the sun.
The sounds from the backyard replaced the previous hush that lingered in the air. We gathered the bowls and dishes of festive food and joined the others outside who were here for fellowship and BBQ. Across the lawn the younger children played and across the deck the men hovered about the grill and the ice chest, as rowdy as the children if not more so. The women sat huddled in groups and pairs, each in turn sharing secrets of recipes and frustrations of middle age. The light breeze did wonders to bring me back to a hint of sensibility though he stood close by my side.
The heat was no longer between us. With his arm around me, the heat enveloped and bounded back and forth until there was fusion as one. My arms went around him as I accepted the reality that we were no longer just friends and my head leaned back into his shoulder. He leaned down then and kissed the top of my head. The shiver down my spine seemed to travel down to my toes, pinning me immobile to the spot on which I stood. Tears moistened my eyes; my vision cleared with a clarity beyond what I could see.
I swiped at that wetness with the back of my hand, then swiped my hand across my jeans, size 8 short. Until this morning, they had been hidden in the back of the closet, not having been seen nor worn for such a long time. In fact, they are so old, the tag of care instructions is faded and quite unreadable.