When introducing herself to the universe, she threw out her name like sparks from a flame: dancing, challenging, inviting.
We dance together, she and I. Sadie possesses the power to make everything good. Unlike me. I am the dark child, the tortured soul. She is a luminary, a child of the sun, grace personified. I can’t imagine what the world must look like from her point of view. So free, so unencumbered…she never says anything, never makes me feel bad. It’s part of her charm. But secretly I’m always waiting for her to leave me, to realize she’s too good for me, to get tired of my slow starts and spiraling moods and self-deprecation.
We take to the beach like children, careless and carefree at once, the greatest night of our lives. Certainly the greatest night I’ve had in a while. Her eyes are alive and speaking to me of things I cannot understand, glinting at me, luring me out of my darkness.
“Come on! Come on!”
We run along the beach, our toes digging into the soft wet sand, the waves lapping like eager puppies. She runs ahead of me. Sadie, in her long white dress and her long dark hair, catching the light and turning it into honey. What I wouldn’t give for one caress, for one taste of that sweetness. What I wouldn’t give for it to transform me, to melt the fog away.
I catch up to her now and we lie back on the sand. But we don’t go where it is dry, we stay where the water can reach us. The day is pristine, clear and blue. I stare up at the fathomless sky, just the right amount of cloud, as the waves surround us, the shimmering membrane of water touching our skin, seeping into our clothes. For a moment I forget myself. If I listen closely I can hear the age-old secrets of the universe as told by Mother Moon, reverberating in my eardrums like the gentle rush of a stream.
Sadie is lying beside me, her fingers so close. Every so often her fingertips graze mine and I wonder what she’s thinking. She once told me she was born in the wrong time. Displacement. She was supposed to exist in the Sixties, back when the “really important stuff” was happening. I like the way she talks. I like her enthusiasm, that elusive quality. As if there’s nothing more relevant in the world than displacement, and living other lives, and how to express your soul’s deepest needs, and all sorts of lofty ideas.
Sometimes she feels like a flower in my palm, something like a daisy, with long, dainty, delicate petals, and if I’m not careful I’ll close my hand the wrong way, hold on too tight and crush the life out of her. It’s a constant fear.
Right here, right now, it doesn’t matter. She is soaking up the sun, its ancient, timeless power imbuing her with strength and light.
“What do you want to be?” she asks, breaking the silent. I can feel her fingers entwining mine as I close my eyes, a tear dripping down. Such weight in a single drop of water. It slides down slow, the air cooling its trail, salty like the sea. “When you grow up, I mean. What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I wrinkle my nose. She thinks I’m too serious sometimes, I can tell. She asks me a lot of childish questions. I don’t mind. It’s a nice break from things.
“I don’t know,” I say. And it’s not a lie; I really don’t know. I don’t think much about these sorts of things. It feels too close and starts to suffocate me when I think about the future. Either that or an endless, gaping maw. Sadie thinks the biggest problem with the modern world is that nobody spends too much time thinking about the “really important stuff”.
I study the sky, hoping to find the answer there. Nothing but wisps of cloud and that deep, deep blue.
Finally I say, “How about you?” I look over at her and my heart catches in my throat a little. The thing I love about her is her openness, the way she projects. A person can look at her face and see exactly what’s going on. It’s just one more crazy, beautiful thing about her, one more difference between us. I focus instead on the beauty.
Right now I can see that she’s thinking. But it’s not any sort of deep, hard thinking. It’s more the kind that accompanies making a basic decision, like what kind of milk to buy or when to go to bed. “Hmm,” she intones. I like when she makes that sound. It’s as if something soft and delicious is melting slowly on her tongue. I want to kiss her but I wait for her to finish as seawater soaks my jeans slowly. I wriggle my toes in the warm, gentle breeze and then stick them deep into the sand, praying for this moment to last indefinitely.
“I’d want to be a dragonfly,” is her final response.
I snicker in spite of myself. I can’t help it. It’s so very Sadie, this response. “A dragonfly? What kind of answer is that?” I snicker again.
“I’d just be this beautiful little ball of light.” It was like she didn’t noticed my teasing. She’s getting good at sidestepping it. “And I could just fly around, lighting up the night.”
See? See why I love her?
I don’t bother correcting her, telling her that she actually means a firefly. I just put my arm out and kind of grab onto her, lightly, and pull her close to me. Her body is warm and soft. She is round, not angular, not thin, and her body bounces softly, gently, whenever she moves. Her skin is like caramel, and her freckles are only a small shade darker, and she smells like oranges, a deep, sweet, intoxicating smell. I can’t stop smelling her. It chases my blues and keeps the paranoia at bay.
She rests her head on my shoulder and puts her hand under my shirt, rests it on my tummy. I get goosebumps from her touch.
“I’m still waiting,” she murmurs.
I almost forget what she’s talking about: the unanswered question. My adult occupation of choice. Never mind that we are both in our thirties and the likelihood that either one of us will ever grow up is slim to nonexistent.
“I think I’d like to be a rock star,” I say after a moment.
“A rock star?”
“Yeah.” I clear my throat, run my hand slowly along the back of her arm. “You know – playing music all the time, traveling the world, making a lot of money, having a nice house, nice things, millions of adoring fans, a viper named Rocco. All the really important stuff.”
Her brow furrows. Little wrinkles form around her nose. “You’re making fun of me.”
I smile. Her scent is luring me in. I’m trying to play it cool, trying not to expose my raw nerves. What I really want to do is roll her onto her back and rip that flimsy dress from her body and make love to her right there on the beach. Her hand on my stomach is warm and soft, driving me out of my mind. In a perfect world, every day would be like this. I wouldn’t have to worry about losing my mind and dignity, or my partner. We could run on the beach and make love and talk about things that will never happen and feel our bodies cradled by the Earth.
“I’m not,” I say. “I’m being serious. I really do want to be a rock star. That way I’ll never have to grow up, and I can spend my life making music.”
She pokes a fingertip into my bellybutton and I laugh, surprising myself. Up above the sky watches, surrounding us, me and my firefly.