“I will not violate my covenant
or alter what my lips have uttered…”
But you have rejected, you have spurned…
You have renounced the covenant with your servant…
Psalms 89:34, 38-39 (NIV)
We kissed immediately. It was expected – Ansley and I had just announced a mutual affection for one another, and some next step was required. The first thing I had noticed about her (the third time I had met her) was how she dressed. Southern patterns – floral, block – with a smooth feminine silhouette; boots that came up mid-calf with a small heel that boosted her an extra inch-and-a-half; muted leggings that covered the rest of her legs. This day, as we moved in on one another in the frigid interior of my handed-down golden Camry, she was covered head to toe, knitted cap on top, fluffed mittens, with a sleek pea-coat that landed somewhere around her knees. Her cheeks shown through, rosy with stilled blood underneath, accented by a fleece scarf she had just bought from Rag-a-Rama up the street.
In terms of her personality, she was opinionated and bold. When she spoke, she had something to say – about the rights of gay individuals, the need to educate our children properly. When she listened, she made eye contact that never broke, even as she started to speak. And when she spoke, it was always relevant. She was not one of those people who just stared, waiting for her turn to speak her slightly related nonsense. She touched when listening, her hand on top of mine. She hugged and said “I love you” – no, not too soon, not an “I’m in love with you” “I love you” – no, she just loved others and wanted to let them know. She encouraged.
We moved outside and shuddered underneath a twisted oak tree. Our warmth came from our close proximity; it came from dependence.
More than anything, she wanted kids and to be a mom. When I asked her about her career goals and plans, she mentioned singing and acting, perhaps teaching and nannying, but none of that mattered without a family to go home to and kids to raise, a place to call her own. She still lived at home – yes out of comfort, yes out of a slight fear of the unknown, yes out of fiscal sense – but no, it was her parents, handicapped with Parkinson’s and RA respectively, and so she worried, she worried that if she left, no one would be there, and they would wither as a result. She cared about and cared for. It was just her nature to nurture.
I looked above us at the gnarled branches of the tree above and wanted to climb. Slowly, I disengaged from her and reached for the first branch. She hopped up, discouraging it – yes we had drank alcohol, yes the passion had deadened my senses along with the cold, yes it was rash – but no, I wanted to climb, and fuck if I want to climb then let me climb damn it. I wondered how high I could get before the tree limbs gave way and dropped me.
My throat clenched shut with anxiety. Look at Ansley. Look at the parts, I thought, she has it all – the empathy, the sense, the honesty, the future. Fall in love with those parts. Ansley did not want me to climb the tree and begged me to stop. She said I would hurt myself – it was such a stupid idea. The concern, the hospitality. Fall in love with those parts. She shouted for me to come down, but I told her I wanted to climb. She’s shouting for you, she cares that much. Fall in love with those parts.
I felt more nauseous with each step – yes the height, yes the dizziness of whiskey mixed with movement, yes the shattering cold that crept in – but no, it was the parts. The parts that Ansley did not have that I desired. Why did I desire a man, when a woman was just as good? What was wrong with me that I would kiss Ansley, when I knew that all the parts she had would never equal the desire of the fleeting momentary attention from an unknown man?
Ansley shouted to me again. She noticed my heavy breathing. She sensed the panic and told me one final time to come down. I acquiesced. I took each step carefully as I made my way down the way I had come.
And with both feet back on the ground, I told her that I needed to go home.