Cedar Mae has a new puppy.
“Well, technically, he’s supposed to be mine. So I guess I’m the one in charge of training him,” she says, peering up at me from the floor where she is sprawled out with the dog. “But he listens so far. I’m not really being formal about it.” Then she leaps up and gives me a giant hug. “I haven’t seen you in like, forever” she says, still holding on.
I glance up at her mother who busily prepares a luscious meal in the kitchen. She smiles at me knowingly, then comes around the counter to give me a big hug proper.
“It’s been so long! Welcome!”
We each rosemary olive oil tofu, zucchini, and rice with spinach, mushrooms, and sheep’s cheese for the main meal. On top of all this we add an herbed raspberry oil to fatten things up a bit (always necessary in the South). For dessert, she offers organic orange slices dipped in homemade raspberry sauce. This is served in “grandmama’s crystal” and Cedar nearly knocks a glass over due to clumsiness with the puppy.
At one point during the meal the family teases me a little about “that new teacher over at the Montessori school” and ask if we’re dating. It seems as though any time two single people within a decent age range are in close proximity to each other, they could be dating. At least, when you live in a county with a population of 1,700 people. Everyone’s got their eye out when someone new comes and those who are already committed, enjoy seeing how things will play out. As much as I trust this family, because of my tenderness I am surprised by their question and try to be honest while also brushing it off. I don’t want to start crying at the dinner table, after all – and I certainly don’t tell them that I’m going to his house afterwards.
His house. The driveway is impassable so I have to hike a quarter mile to get to the front door. Rain pounds down mercilessly and newly formed creeks merge at my feet. I walk briskly, anxiously, through the darkness, feeling my way along the washed out road. Thankfully I can see the lights in his apartment are on just down the river bank so I know all my trapesing will not be useless. Boldly, or perhaps foolishly, or even more likely, stubbornly, I have come looking for answers.
What I learn is what I suspected. A kiss is just a kiss. No matter what it felt like. We finish a beer and I leave. He stands on the opposite side of the counter afraid to touch. I, equally afraid to touch, face him one last time and actually, embarrassingly enough, let out a little whimper of a sigh before turning to leave.
Tears mix with rain. Water blends into mud. Creeks spill over into fields. A salamander squirms to avoid my muddy shoes as I trek back up the hill. Oh such a fool am I, oh such a fool. Roads give way under the weight of Nature’s wrath. Hearts give way under the sway of life’s past.