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“All at once you look across a crowded room to see the way that light attaches to a girl…”
Counting Crows, A Long December

Maybe it’s the cold weather that makes me want to hold her tighter, the air whipping her hair into a flurry as she makes a mess out of mine with her fingers. We walk with our dinner inside a brown to-go bag as the crimson sun abandons this ocean town. She bundles up in my arms to keep warm, and we eat at the end of the pier, next to a wired Christmas tree that lights up the evening.

Conversations buzz around us, but her silent smile hums. I speak to her without using words. My hand over hers says more than enough. The misty night blurs the scene but I have a clear vision of the places I’d like to take her, a clear idea of why her body makes a fine impression in December bed sheets, the small of her back pressed into mine, her hair in my mouth but that doesn’t matter. How could it ever matter?

At this point she know’s she’s got me. I don’t try to hide it. Mixed signals are meant for broken traffic lights and there’s nothing broken about the times she speeds through all of me, not needing a green to tear my shirt off or a yellow to know when the mood calls for modesty.

We watch the fisherman cast their hopes into the ocean below. She stares at them intently, like they might reel in something special that could part her lips into a smile: capsized treasures or trinkets folded in casings of seaweed; the perfect sentence to define the way the purple sky tiptoes the horizon.

I ask if she wants my sweater even though I know she’ll say no. I add a touch of affection to a kiss, not enough to send her running but enough to let her know I care. Maybe I’ve missed the mark but she can do what she wants with the impression I’ve left on her lips.

The mist turns into fog that confuses the night. But the highlights the girl gives me bounce right back into my windshield as we drive home through the black hills. She puts her arm through mine and rests her head on my shoulder. The drive is long, and the darkness shadows her until a passing car sends gold over her face. She tells me to kiss her, and makes sure my eyes are on her even though I’m driving. I don’t wait for the straights in the road. I lean over to give her what she wants until she breaks away. I always let her break away first. It’s a habit of mine.

We’re the only ones on this two-lane road. I wouldn’t have it any other way. We think we might have taken a wrong turn but find ourselves again under the neon lights of a closed gas station. And as the black settles more firmly into the night, her cell phone begins to light up her body in the wild darkness, turning her lips blue, snaking over her clothes like imperfect touch lost in the excitement of its cotton march.

I think about our spontaneous beach day, the butterflies in the reserve and how we laughed when we tried to capture them in a photo, those insignificant black flecks set against a sky of red and yellow. We took pictures then, on the dunes near the waves. She told me she hates the sand, and I watched her zig zag her way around, careful to toe the right places, the sun coloring her cheeks and her pretty eyes. I suppose it was in that moment, with her back to the beach, the combination of sun and stars on the shoreline that made me see her more vividly, more pronounced. Or maybe it was in the candy store where we ate chocolate worms and crickets, the convincing sentence from the guy working the cash register that finally made her give in, yes, it could have been that moment that made me realize that ordinary would never attach itself to her.

It’s been some time since a great day has lent itself to my life. A bit sentimental, I know. Maybe too honest and sappy but I could care less. Because there’s something to be said about the way my car buckles her into the passenger seat, like the center console is the only barrier I have to cross to get a taste of that illusive good feeling.

I know you’re reading this now, maybe curled in your bed, waiting to snap chat a photo of your dog who is laying in some adorable way. Sleep might be holding your eyelids hostage, weighing them down so my writing goes blurry into the night. Know that it wasn’t easy documenting this day, wondering if I’ve exposed myself too much. But it was worth it, writing of you this way. Worth the midnight hours. Worth the indecision. Worth the hesitation because you have found your way into my writing. And that makes all the difference.

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4 thoughts on “Pismo Beach

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