This piece was included in the Public Displays of Affection featured at the Allegory Project, an art space and exhibition co-sponsored by the Art Matters Artist Coop and the Rockford Area Arts Council.
I’ll admit it, the first time my friends and I saw him, we mocked. Tall and ridiculously good looking, he shot hoops like his life depended on it. With eyes narrowed and tongue peeking through pursed lips, we could see him counting his steps to the lay-up. We were relieved he didn’t have to focus that hard on breathing. We began going to the rec center hoping to see him. None of us would admit that, we of the honors dorm floor, but suddenly, catching a glimpse of him in his black nylon butt-hugging shorts, was as addictive as Diet Coke, as essential as studying.
Cupid we called him—Cute and Stupid.
Late one afternoon, Patty and I snuck off to the gym. It was the week before finals; the pressure was getting to us. “We need a distraction,” Patty said, and we’d both giggled, knowing what that meant. I was struck dumb when she darted across the track, straight up to him and gushed, “She calls you Cupid!” Her accusing finger pointing, I stepped to the side and looked behind me even as the red creeped up my neck. E tu Patte’?
With wide eyes and flaming cheeks, I watched as the corners of his mouth curled and his eyes flashed. He hugged the basketball with his left hand and extended his right. “Hi,” he said.
His grip was quick and gentle; his fingers reaching down around my wrist sent a tingle through my whole body. His unruly curls were so golden they almost glowed. Long lashes lined deep brown eyes. His full lips were slightly parted and still held a smile. I could smell his soap and sweat and I wanted to roll in it.
“Hi,” he said again and I felt Patty shoulder bump me, hard.
“Would you look at the time,” she said with an exaggerated sigh and a watchless-wrist gaze. “Guess I should get back to studying.”
He handed the ball off to one of his buddies and they resumed play as if this sort of interruption happened all the time. Maybe it did, have I mentioned he was very attractive?
His grin slid over to the side revealing the most delightful dimple. Then he leaned down, way down, and kissed me. Just like that, his mouth pressed mine. Lips soft, wet but not sloppy, slightly minty, with enough pressure that my knees weakened and my toes curled.
After his shadow lifted, my eyes remained closed in the glare of the caged fluorescent lights. Paralyzed, I thought I must be dreaming and feared waking. I felt his fingertips brush along my neck as he put his arm around my shoulders and guided me off the court.
That was the beginning of my end, that kiss on the rec center floor. I should have known better.
Cupid we called him. Who’s stupid now?