The Lock

22 Sep

Day 12 of the 90 in 90 blog challenge.

I am 18, and I am a college freshman. I have just settled in, arranged my room with big pink everythings and waved goodbye to my crying mother and my exhausted father.

Let’s go to this thing, says a girl on our floor.

I have no friends so I say okay yeah let’s go.

Its one of those things that makes you feel pressured to be someone you aren’t. There is loud music and there are bodies and you can feel the heightened expectations slinking through the fake fog on the dance floor. We stop and stare at everyone else trying to have a good time by bumping against a stranger’s bones and muscle and skin. The music is loud. It hurts my chest. We are inhaling each others’ needs and exhaling our own.

I’ve never been the type to stand still so I move a little. Sway my hips a little. My blood is begging to be pumped harder by a nervous heart.

I want to dance I say let’s go dance. They all shift their weight and scratch their elbows.

One of the girls says something to another and they glance at me. She’s weird she says. She thinks I can’t hear.

Someone moves their head and I see his face through the crowd. It’s like a movie but its not because this is my life and I stare. More ponytails and foreheads between us and then he’s back in my vision like a beacon of what-could-be. We both simultaneously move towards the other like magnets. I will look back on this moment later and appreciate that neither of us made the first move, it honestly was mutual.

Hey he says.


Let’s dance he says.


We dance and it’s like a shaking key fumbling to find a lock. I know we would fit together nicely if we could just calm down. I think of things like this sometimes, think in metaphors on a dance floor. I wonder in this case who is the key. I wonder who is the lock.

We walk outside and August is dying. I am sweaty from the dancing and the girls whispered behind their half curled hands when I left.

It’s warm he says.

I know I say I can’t keep still I feel alive.

Then let’s walk he says.

There is a fountain. I take off my heels and dip my feet inside. He watches my toes contract and asks how anyone does it. I tell him with all beauty there must be pain. He says he thinks I’m poetic. Maybe I am. He asks me about everything and my blood is still racing my hands are still sweating my cheeks are still flushing and it’s all so new so I tell him the true answers to everything he asks. The truth comes out easier when you’re with a stranger who makes life worth living for a few moments. I ask him my questions too and his lips are wet dancing partners of velvet. People walk by and look at us but we don’t care, at least I don’t. I am hot so I lay on the cool cement and he laughs and joins me. His arm does not brush against mine. We look at the stars and hear the fountain water and he says after a while You’re not like other girls.

I think of the ones I came with and how they said she’s weird and say I know.

I like it he says.

Soon people stop walking by and I look at my phone. It’s 3 in the morning.

I’ll walk you back he offers.

I know I say. He likes that.

We get to my dorm and we stop. We both know this is where the magic should end but we feel it spreading out in front of us like a red carpet we just kicked and it just keeps rolling. A crimson path beckoning us to follow. He stands in front of me and I see his arm muscles moving under his skin.

Aren’t you cold he asks.

A little I say.

I don’t have a jacket or I’d give it to you he says and I believe him.

We’re dancing again, an awkward dance of mutual uncertainty. I feel like we are two chess pieces suspended above a board of endless opportunities, lost in the lingering hands of an indecisive player. I wonder who is black. I wonder if I’m a white pawn who can only go one step at a time, or the Queen herself, a million directions and opportunities available at all times. He’d be a bishop I decide, diagonal yet direct. Here we go with the metaphors I think.

I’ll call you. He says the statement like a question.

I’d like that I say Goodnight.

I start to walk away and feel the heat return to my limbs and I suddenly realize that I miss him.

Wait he calls.

I walk back to him and he slowly leans down and gently hesitates. Our lips are touching but he is still hesitating. Velvet asking flesh is this okay is this alright? Flesh flushing fully it’s fine it’s nice. I feel fireworks and butterflies and a million and twelve cliches swirling around in my gut and I squirm. I pull away and his eyes are still closed.

I can work with that, I say when they open again. Velvet parts to show rows of white.

He texts me first and I feel like I’ve won something. It’s not a game but I still feel like I’m winning. We drink beer in his dorm room when I know I shouldn’t. We go to this party and leave early to be alone and just talk. We’re laying in his bed and we talk about God and what it all means. I feel grown up. He gives me his jacket to wear to class when it starts getting cold and my friends raise their eyebrows. I feel so stupid and young. I come home to a rose on my bed and a note that says “These past few weeks have been nothing short of amazing. The dinners, the talks. Thank God I took that dance.” I feel like I’m constantly wrapped in a blanket and I never want to put my feet back on the cold hardwood floor.

We don’t have sex. I like that. I like that so much. I want him and he wants me but we don’t and that’s good. I feel grown up. I feel in control. Weeks and weeks go by and we don’t and I respect myself, respect him, respect us together. I catch myself starting to think of the two of us as an “us.” This scares me but I figure it’s one of those things that you should just let happen.

We’re in his room, sprawled out together and his kisses become quicker with less time in between. Questions and answers all in a trail along my neck and I think this is good. Yes I think in a blurry haze Oh, yes. I feel wanted and happy and safe and secure and I like him. Gosh, I like him so much. I kiss him harder and he is on his back and I kiss his neck I kiss his collar bone and he is silent and I kiss his stomach. Pulses racing, breathing jagged, and fingers searching there are no metaphors in my head now because there is no room, there is only muscle. There is only breath. There are only his eyes locked in mine when I gaze up at him. People say “the heat of the moment” and this must be it, has to be with all of this fire and friction and sudden decisions and satisfied need. I just like him so much.

I do respect you he says later I really do. Like I need to be reminded or something.

Thank you I say.

Don’t thank me for that It’s how it should be.

He goes home for the weekend and I keep myself busy. I don’t like it but I know he wants to. I go running. I do my homework. I wait by my phone but he doesn’t text. That’s okay I tell myself he’s just busy at home. He comes back and something isn’t the same. His eyes look someplace behind me when I talk to him and they are veiled with a secret.

I can’t be serious with anyone he tells me This is great but I’m only a freshman I’m just starting out I don’t want to be tied down because I have to concentrate on school he says Concentrate on God and we moved too fast I need to concentrate on what really matters and what I really want.

What he really wants.

I think back to the “heat of the moment,” to the skin and bones and what he really wanted then. And now I realize maybe I only thought I knew. I feel like I was used but I don’t know why. I feel betrayed and I act like I’m not. I feel cheap and conquered but how can I feel that way when we never had sex?

I decide that he is the lock.

Years go by. A message here, a text there, a phone call, a short dinner to say Hi how are have you been Oh I’ve been great Really Yes Yes I’m fine and you Oh I’m fine too you know just hanging in there. The timing is always off, I’m always with someone else when he is ready or he is busy trying to save someone from themselves while I wait patiently in the darkened wings. I dye my hair black. He gets a tattoo. I don’t like it but what can I say. He buys me a candle that crackles and I listen to it in the afternoon when I skip class for a nap with the window open to let the sound of the rain storm in. The flame flickers and I stare into it as I doze, watching it dance like we did. Bright little blip of passion dancing on the end of a weak and fraying thread.

I am 23, and I am a college graduate. Everything changes. I’m old and young and tired and rejuvenated and ready to start and desperate to rewind. We haven’t spoken and I have forgotten him because I have loved others too deeply, more deeply still. My heart is full and empty with the loss of one life and the gain of another and I get a message.

When do you move he asks Can I see you before you move?

He arrives and I forgot how he sways when he walks. I forgot how his T-shirt clings to his back when he bends over to pick something up. I realize I forgot what he smelled like. We have the whole empty day just begging to be filled with activities. We stand awkwardly between our two cars with the space of four years of experiences stretched out between us.

You drive I tell him I like it when the guy drives. He smiles.

We go to lunch at this restaurant on the river. It looks out over the skyline and he tells me good call. We’re in the shade and it’s perfect because we’re not hot.

Do you want a beer he asks I’m going to get one.

Sure I’ll have a beer.

We are both legal now. I think it’s weird to be a grown up with someone who you’ve never really been grown up with before.

We talk and talk and talk and talk and we get more beers. We both get food and we eat and drink and he looks at me in the eyes a lot. I feel uncomfortable when he looks at me like that. It’s like he’s reaching over and touching my face with the tips of his fingers and whispering something poisonous but he’s not, he’s just looking at me in my eyes. I blush and look down at my hands a lot. We drink more.

I go to the bathroom because I have to pee and the alcohol is making everything warm and my eyelids are plush and heavy. I look under the stalls and my two feet are the only ones. I look at myself in the mirror. I ask my reflection out loud What are you feeling? Do you think you’re feeling anything? I notice that I can’t taste my mouth when I’m washing my hands.

We leave and go to a park. There’s a fountain hidden in some trees and it’s my favorite spot so I take him to it. He talks about his family and a fly lands on his knee. He doesn’t brush it away because he’s still looking at me that way and doesn’t feel it. I pick up a pebble in the fountain and rub it between my fingers. It’s smooth and wet and I toss it over my shoulder. I don’t know why I do that.

Let’s lay down I say I’m sick of sitting on this rock.

Backs in the the itchy grass and I’m trying to keep my dress pulled down in a modest way. He doesn’t look at my legs but just keeps looking in my eyes. He hasn’t touched me yet. Arms haven’t brushed together, hasn’t put his hand on my lower back as we go through a doorway. I like the way he’s looking and not touching. I always liked that. I’m remembering slowly what I always liked as we lay in the grass under the magnolia tree with the fountain gurgling its encouragement from the shade and us not touching. I realize we are laying on our backs by a fountain like the night we met and I decide not to mention that.

We go play mini golf. He says it’s the date we never got to have before. It’s one of those very cool places where teenagers feel older and parents feel younger. It’s all indoors, black light golf with glowing balls. He pays for everything. We go in and I’m not horrible at it. He wins. At hole number 13 he wraps his arms around me from behind and “helps” me line up my shot. He rocks us back and forth like a pendulum and says it’s all in the hips and I laugh.

We leave and it’s dinner time and he asks Are you hungry?

I could eat.

I could too.

He opens the car door for me. Boys don’t do that anymore and I know it’s a silly gesture but it’s not an empty one. At least I think he means it. We go to Olive Garden. He offers to get some wine but I don’t want any. Are you sure he asks and I look in his eyes and smile. I always feel guilty when I know the guy is paying and I can’t help that. We have a quiet dinner together. We make fun of the couple beside us.

They’re on a first date he says It’s the awkward silence of a first date.

No they’ve been dating for a while, they’re just fighting right now See how her foot is crossed and is touching his leg under the table without them even noticing anymore?

You’re good at this he says And we never had any awkward silences did we We talked so easily the first night I met you Four hours worth he says four hours!

It’s getting later and I don’t know what he plans to do. He could drive home tonight or I could offer him a place to stay. His home is hours away and it’s late and he’s paid for everything. He’s made me laugh and I keep looking at him when he takes a bite and isn’t looking back.

My friend has an apartment we could stay at I say Its late and if you’re tired I don’t want you driving.

I brought an extra shirt he says and grins as if he shouldn’t be grinning I didn’t know but I hoped he says I hoped.

We leave and he leaves a big tip. I like that. He puts his hand on my shoulder blades while we leave and his fingers are confident. We buy a bottle of wine on the way home. I grab two chairs and two blankets and we go on the porch.

The crickets are chanting together a strange rhythm and the lake is so still it’s almost spooky. It’s not water at all but a sheet of dark blue glass meant for reflecting the moon and evergreen branches. I drape my legs over his and wrap up in one of the blankets.

It’s beautiful I say the lake it’s nice This whole day was nice I say.

We sit there and I feel content. I am happy to sit here and listen to the crickets and have my legs draped over him and us just being quiet and just listening to the world as if we are not in it. Years happened between us but here we are again and this is just nice.

I never forgot you he says quietly with his hands twirling the knotted hair in the back of my neck. I concentrate on that feeling. I always had you in the back of my mind he says You aren’t like other girls I told you that at the beginning and I meant it I’ve been with other people and so have you but I always thought of you I was so stupid I liked you so much but I was young and I ran when I should of held onto you I like holding you he says.

His hands are moving. I don’t know how it happens but it doesn’t happen the way it did before. There is no question, no hesitation this time as he puts my face between his hands and kisses me fully and deeply and greedily. His mouth grabs for mine too hard. I want the hesitation, the uncertainty but that is no longer here. Not now that I guess he knows what he wants.

What he really wants.

I wait for the fireworks and the feeling of my blood being pumped faster like it did before but that does not happen. I kiss back and I wait but nothing happens. His hands move harder and grab and feel and explore, as if they have been wearing frozen wool gloves for four years and are only now remembering the feel of sun warmed silk. His breath and tongue and hands and muscle and I kiss back and wait and his spine shaking under my fingertips and his little noises that escape his throat and I’m silent and I wait and I wait and nothing happens. His hands touch the strip of skin exposed in the back of my dress and he’s feeling my legs and I’m glad I shaved but I wait and I wait and still there is only waiting.

I want you he says in between kissing me and feeling me. He is smiling and pulling me down and I’m confused. The day has been wonderful and I looked in the mirror and I asked myself what am I feeling. I remembered everything it is about him that I liked. But this is forceful, and different, and needed but needed for who?

He was always the lock, the one who needed a gentle pry of encouragement. The one who clamped up suddenly got jammed and refused to open. But now I feel him reaching for parts of me that I know I don’t want to share with him but I don’t understand why not. I cannot tell who is the lock and who is the key and our chess board has been overturned because someone changed the rules of this game and black becomes white and white becomes gray and I’m caught somewhere in the in between. He is moving every direction but that’s not right I think he can’t be the Queen because I  thought I was and if I’m not that must mean I am a pawn and I am no pawn. No, I think suddenly. I am no pawn.

Would you have sex with me if I wanted I ask quietly because I am wondering and I am confused Right now would you?

Yes he murmurs without a moment of hesitation Oh, yes.

He is so passionate and greedy and I cannot return these advances so we we kiss a little but then I become little spoon.  He calms down and nuzzles his nose in my hair and I stare at a notch in the paint on the wall and I fall asleep after he does.

The sun comes through the windows and I open my eyes and he says can I ask you something.


Why do I never hear from you?

I say I don’t know. I say it’s because I’m moving. The truth is getting harder and harder to tell him now and I hate that feeling.

Can we talk more he asks can I come visit again before you move I’d like that he says.

When we say goodbye he lingers. I hate goodbyes and he is putting his hands on my arms and rubbing his fingers there and looking into my eyes. I let him kiss me goodbye again and his tongue works into my mouth. I do not understand why I cannot let my head loll back and drink in the feeling.

And then he pulls away and I am left on the sidewalk waving goodbye. I go back inside and I see the mess of wine glasses and tangled blankets and it smells of him but I don’t bother with that yet. I go out on the porch and breathe.

I try to think about other things but all I can do is replay the night before… Yes I hear him murmur in my memory Oh, yes.

The landscape blurs and I don’t know why but I’m crying. Stop crying this is stupid but there it is, I am. I realize I don’t care who is the lock and who is the key anymore. I don’t care if we were good together and I don’t care if deep down I always wondered what if. Now I see that people can change and you can never go back, and sometimes that hurts more than never having a second chance. The sun is too bright and it’s humid and I’m sweating.

So I watch the geese land on the waves of dirty green water that seemed so calm and so smooth last night.


2 Responses to “The Lock”

  1. Janelle September 27, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    love this, carolyn! these posts always get to me! life is so crazy and weird! you express all of it so well! 🙂

    • Carolyn September 28, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

      Thank you Janelle! I miss you like woah, and I’m glad you’re still reading!

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