My love's hands are deformed. They were deformed at birth. If you see her on the street, or walk up to her at our library's reference desk, you will see that three fingers on her right hand are shortened and webbed, and her thumb is curiously shaped. Her left hand is more affected—all the digits are stubs, so that it looks something like a paw. On its own your face will swing to her hands. You won't notice, or will forget, her tired-looking eyes, always tired looking though green and bright, and though she never acts tired. It will be at later meetings that you will realize her eyes are the centers of galaxies of freckles, or that her lips are full and her mouth is friendly. You won't be able to help yourself. You'll try to look only sideways, in glances, but you'll miss the auburn hair that brushes her shoulders. You might notice her breasts. I did. Her breasts are round, and they stand apart as though competing for your attention. Using only the library's poor reference collection, she solved a research problem for me before I officially started teaching at her school, and I noticed her breasts when I first saw her. But there were her hands too.
I don't think she has any real limitations, but that isn't the point. Of course other children were cruel to her, and adults showed too much concern. With the best of intentions they focused attention on her hands, so she was always an outsider, always the different one. Oh, she developed an engaging way about her and was studious and competent. She even had boyfriends and was once a little wild, I think a little desperate. Everyone liked her, but she didn't believe that any man could ever really love her, because she was a freak. Well, she was wrong.
The library is a quiet place where she can meet people on her own terms, where her competence shows through, and where she can help people. Any library is holy to me, even a small one in a liberal arts college up in the hills. It was an auspicious place for us to meet, on my third day on campus, my office just set up. I was jumping into research as part of the plan to start anew. The need for a reference librarian would give me a chance to learn something more about my new home and to talk with someone. The department was pretty vacant, it being summer, and there was no one in my empty apartment.
She was efficient, but also warm and friendly, and I saw immediately the things she did to take attention off her hands—long, loose sleeves, holding her left arm a little behind her, keeping her right hand partly closed. I had written a book on stigma and the practices of people with stigmas, and I thought: Don't mention the damned book! And don't stare, either at her hands or away from them. We would get to them if we became friends.
I thought: Look at her breasts. They're safe.
We chatted for a bit, and I knew she knew that I was trying to keep her hands from being a focus, and she was resigned to it. I can't just ignore these things when I first encounter them any more than anyone else can. You have to get past that first meeting. But her face and her breasts helped.
She had been reading a copy of Snow Falling on Cedars when I came in, and she had put it down the wrong way, spine up. I asked what she liked most about the book. "Oh, the description of the landscape. I love the details of it, how beautiful and important it is, but I can't get past the irony of how it is finally just a setting for human conflict."
I told her I had read it mainly for the sex, and she laughed, her tired eyes crinkling and her lips opening. She answered, "Then you must have been disappointed, since it was mostly unhappy or unconsummated."
"What? There's some other kind?"
After she laughed again, and looked around quickly to see if any rare summer patrons were offended by the noise. She talked about the issue of love between Japanese and whites in that period, and I said something enormously romantic like, "Today Asian American women have the highest out-marriage rate of any group in the U.S."
We sociologists do have the golden tongue. But there was a spark, by God! I could feel it and, tired as they were, her eyes showed it. I leaned in toward her over the counter to talk. I was already wondering what excuse I could use to come back, but the time wore on, with me looking for any sign that she needed to get back to work, or wanted to, and she showing no sign of either, instead coming up with new topics when we finished old ones. Finally I simply had to leave, and I must have forgotten to be concerned about her hands, because I just stuck out mine to shake hers. Oh shit! She had to shake it, of course, but I could see she was reluctant. Her hand was soft.
It was a dark wood house on a hillside. Deep twilight. The other hills stood out as blue-black shapes against the midsummer sky, and the shapes of trees were easy to make out. Close by, individual leaves were lit eerily green with moonlight. There were a few scattered houses in the distance, lighting the hills like large stars, and more were clustered down in the hollow. Above were the real stars, and one or two feathery clouds framed the moon.
I was glad she was at the party because I didn't know many people yet, and because she was alone. We were both singletons. I'm sure that was planned by our hostess, to have equal numbers of men and women. It was too soon for people to have started trying to set me up with single women, the game I hate. I'd almost rather be alone. She was well-known enough for people to have stopped trying to set her up, so there were no pressures, and I could enjoy being with her.
I circled the veranda, chit-chatting, learning the folklore of the school. She drifted aimlessly over to ask about my research, and pretended to be interested in it. We got drinks and went over to the railing, where we could watch evening mist sift out from the woods and set a backdrop for the fireflies.
There was a time when I would have gone on about my research until I had bored her completely. Times change. The moon lit her face while she told me about a grand sexual scandal that had led to the departure of a president a decade past. It was a great story, but I could see individual eyelashes. Even individual freckles showed, but not on her throat. That was pure cream. I had an idle thought about what she would do if I bent to kiss it on the line between shadow and light. I thought: Sweet cream lady, I could eat you with a spoon. What would you do if I said that out loud? Instead I asked, "You think Puck is down in those woods?"
"Robin Goodfellow? Oh heavens no! I'm sure he's off on some errand involving a changeling. Oberon and Titania summer down there, though. It's a little known fact. And nights like this are reserved for passion, surrounded by all their court of fairies."
"In a group no less! You know, I always lusted for Titania. And in these woods!"
"Hand in hand, with fairy grace, will we sing and bless this place."
My, she knew her Shakespeare, or at least that play. A lucky choice on my part. Or was it? By coincidence or not someone started a CD of Mendelsohn's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," those otherworldly, opening strings, sounding like Tinkerbell wings in the night air, and we both suddenly had chill bumps. We had to laugh. Had someone been listening to us? It would be too eerie otherwise, but the night had now gone mystical. When we laughed we leaned into each other, and I kept the contact as long as I could without being crude.
She asked, "You don't think that's an omen, do you?" Her pupils were large now.
"Maybe a summons. Maybe we should go down there to seek enchantment."
But instead we were called in to play "Trivial Pursuit." We resisted leaving the night, but it was okay, because we were teamed together, squeezed against each other on the floor around a tiled coffee table. We were a very good team, too.
We were especially good because of our unique strengths—she knew the answers and I cheated. In the middle of the game I told her to watch me, then I picked up a piece of pie and put it in our token right in front of everyone, and nobody noticed. We almost couldn't continue because she was laughing so much. I did it again. Folks were wondering what was so funny with us. We were wiping tears and we leaned our heads together conspiratorially, and then we kissed.
It was just a quick kiss, not much more than a peck, but we looked at each other for a second, maybe two, before going back to the game. I 'fessed up to everyone about my conniving and put back the pie pieces.
Sometimes coincidence deepens into magic. Things happen for some easily explained reason or no particular reason, and the world transmogrifies, changing itself into an enchanted garden where everything has special meaning and nothing merely exists. It happened. For her next question my freckled librarian was asked the role Mickey Rooney played in the 1930s version of "Midsummer's Night Dream." We had to stop to stare at each other. No one would believe it. We hardly believed it either, but it happened just like that, and I felt my hair stand on my neck for the first time in years.
She shivered and gasped and I put an arm around her and said, "Maybe we're already under a spell."
We walked under the moon. It wasn't too late yet—the party wouldn't wind down for awhile. We talked about nothing in particular, just wanting to be in the magic. We put arms carelessly around each other's waists and walked touching hip to hip, chatting. I didn't feel nervous with her. A gravel path led down through a meadow and into some trees. Toward the bottom we passed some other people who were out there, said hello, and went through the trees. On the other side a wooden bridge crossed a little stream, from which the mist rose especially high. We walked to the center of the bridge, to where we were in the mist, infused with the sweet night smell of it, and we paused. She leaned back against the bridge rail and then I stepped in and kissed her again.
This kiss didn't just happen. Everything was progressing so quickly, because of the night or the fairies or just the time, and it simply seemed right to kiss, so before I stepped to her I knew I was going to do it, and she was already waiting. We kissed long and sweetly. I caressed her cheek with my hand while we moved our mouths softly over each other's, so softly we barely touched. We pulled back to look, eyes into eyes, then went back to kissing. Her breasts were soft bumpers against my chest.
I put my hand back to her face and used my thumb to feel how soft her mouth was, and she bit it gently, held it in her mouth with her teeth while she licked it, and then she sucked it completely inside. I used that hand to lift her head, and I kissed her neck like I had wanted to do earlier. I went further, down to the indentation where her neck meets her chest. Her chest rose and fell like the swells of the sea—deeply. I could feel her heart beating. By then my hand was out of her mouth and she bent to lick my ear slowly, circling to its center. When we rose we returned to kissing again. We moved our tongues together, back and forth, sucking each other in turn, breathing into each other's mouth.
I was completely aroused, caught in the night magic, in her magic. Her breasts moved against me and I wanted to kiss them and caress them and then move down to her hidden magic, between her legs. Oberon whispered to me to do it. I almost did. I should have. Instead I thought: this is going too fast, don't push things, don't scare her. So I played safe. I took her hands instead.
As fast as lightening flashes the enchantment was gone. It was the same scene, but everything was different. She stiffened when I took her hands, jerked them away, held them just behind her back for a moment before bringing them out to her sides. She looked both sheepish and frightened.
"I'm sorry. You're sensitive. I wasn't thinking." What could I say? You can't apologize your way back into the magic. We both tried. She said, "Oh no. I was just so silly."
She put her arms around my waist and we hugged, but something was wrong. We kissed, a little kiss. We weren't comfortable together. The moon was just the moon and the night mist was just water. After a few moments she said that she really had to get home, and I walked her back up the hill to the party. I did kiss her good-night.
It is a family curse that I often don't sleep, so in that one way the night was like all other nights. Those events. They were a puzzle, something just beyond my grasp. How had I been so suddenly taken with a woman, and so powerfully? I had been infatuated several times, and in love. I knew them well. This was familiar, it was like infatuation, but not. What was it? I recalled dropping acid in college, and how the experience was something like smoking very good marijuana, though no one would ever confuse the two. This was like that. I wouldn't confuse it with infatuation. Perhaps I really was charmed? That would be okay. The heart has its reasons that Reason knows nothing of. I didn't need to know the reason.
I kept remembering the whole evening, one part in detail, then another. It always ended with the crashing end, where we had both suddenly awakened to ourselves. Ah damn. Damn.
Outdoors, then, to walk around the campus. Two a.m. A lovely campus, a lovely night, but no magic. Ending at the library. Don't do this, idiot! So, across the Commons, past the Union, along residential streets.
A still night. I had seen one car and no people. A few windows had lights behind them. I came to a lake and walked all the way around it on a bike path, listening to my footsteps, some crickets, and one or two night birds. There were only the night creatures and me. I thought, here you are, alone again, your natural place in the world. The lake was covered by a low, flat mist. In places I could run my hand through it. It came away just a little damp.
Finally back to my apartment. I found my old Shakespeare, turned to the plays. There was the line she had quoted, by the fairies. I read the whole play, then went to the sonnets, the ones that explore regret.
The sky was starting to brighten, just a little. I thought I might get on the Web and go to a porn site, to get some pleasure at least. It might help, but I just didn't have the heart for it. Oh to sleep, perchance to dream. What was that? Hamlet? I slept.
Everyone tells me it is common for people to have that experience, to have been open and free with a special one, then the next time to be shy. We were like that, remembering the kissing and the caressing and the moonlight, but caught in the fluorescent lights and Formica-topped library tables. Surrounded by the knowledge of nations, neither could think of much to say. Saying and thinking were different things, though. I kept wondering what she looked like naked. I knew this game my mind played with me, knew it made talking harder and that I should concentrate. But no. Thoughts slipped in, asking myself what sounds she made when she fucked, wondering if she would like the things I liked, while we hemmed and hawed about office hours and some professor I'd have to meet. We said nothing about the kissing. Finally, in desperation, she invited me to dinner.
It was the same there at first, even in her ancient little house so rich with history that it had a plaque on the front porch. Even with a yard that had been converted mostly to shade gardens, which made it a much better candidate for fairies than the house last night had been. The house gave her something to talk about, and the cooking gave her something to do. Me? She let me open the wine.
She had decorated the house to fit its age, and it had that aura, like the old and spooky house of my grandmother, that I had loved as a child. I sipped Cabernet and leaned on the kitchen counter while she prepared the salad and checked the pasta and told me about all the families who had owned it before it became hers. I appreciated the house, and I liked her histories. It was nice to watch her be domestic, wearing an apron and puttering in the kitchen.
Could she go on like that if I were to play with her body? I had quick flash images of fucking her on the dinner table, of smearing the butter all over her body and licking every bit of it off. My mind was playing games with me again. When she showed me through the house, and we got to the bedroom, I saw us doing spoons naked under the comforter, the window open on a chill autumn morning, watching leaves fall like snow.
She had candles everywhere. We ate in a room lit by candles in antique lamps while something other-worldly played, something by Arvo Pärt. Finally, with the second bottle of wine, the evening began to shine for us and conversation became natural. The candlelight flickered on her skin. When she moved quickly I almost saw ghost images following her.
At some point I made up a little haiku about her house and its atmosphere. I did it off the top of my head. Haikus are so easy. All you have to do is count the syllables, and it impresses people. It impressed her, but she snapped back with a naughty limerick.
"Whoa! Poetic one-upwomanship."
I almost went with something from Andrew Marvel's "To His Coy Mistress," but I couldn't remember enough of it, and before I could stop myself I had done the limerick about the man from Nantucket. As punishment she made me wash the dishes.
Later we sat on her quaint porch swing and held hands, her right and my left, while we talked and joked. The time came to get up, and I hesitated, not sure. Should I be aggressive? But she took over matters.
"Men! Do we womenfolk have to do everything for you?" She wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me down to kiss.
Lying naked in her bed, eating her softly, filled with the taste of a woman again after a long time gone, watching her undulate by candlelight.
She had made this so easy. After we'd kissed we had simply walked to her bedroom together, not talking, just looking at each other, back to our route, then again to each other. When she'd let me strip her, I had been careful of her hands. It was an odd thing but I didn't care. I would have recited the catechism to her if it would have paved the way. When she had stripped me, she had used her right hand and her teeth on my buttons, my fly, and my belt. Oh, it was good. She had shifted herself so her right side was more to me. It hadn't mattered but I'd noticed it.
Her head was back and her eyes were closed. I played with her breasts while I ate her. The word "luscious" came to my mind, but whether I meant her breasts or her pudendum I don't know today. Both were a little plump, a little over-ripe, perfect. She was a quiet lover, showing her passion mainly in sighs, only occasionally with little growls. Her right hand lay on my head, her left was beside her head, under the pillow.
I watched her move as I sexed her, watching her body respond to her pleasure, knowing what she must be feeling to move like that. She came right to the crest, and I slowed down, just breathing on her sex, to let her slide back into a trough so I could prolong this and make her high again. I love watching a woman inflamed.
She pulled at my head and made a sound of impatience. I took her sex in my mouth entirely, sucking her and licking her clitoris. In only a moment her sighs turning to those growls that began softly and became louder. Her body went rigid and she started to buck against me, and then her right arm started flicking up and down almost spastically. I was buried in her, my face pushed into tightly curled hair, but I watched and I saw everything: her face, her twitching arm, her closed eyes.
Afterwards she lay spent for a bit. I moved up to her head and stroked her hair and gave her butterfly kisses. My prick was like a dog waiting to pounce, sitting pretty but wanting the treat. The dog won't wait forever. Her breathing finally slowed and became normal. She opened her eyes to look at me and got a puzzled look that turned to a smile. She pulled a couple of pubic hairs off my face.
"Oh my poor dear," she said, "I hope I didn't give you splinters."
"I just needed more fiber in my diet."
"You said a mouthful."
There was more, equally inane, bedroom banter. We thought we were being cute and creative, and basically I think you had to be there to appreciate it, and I'm glad no one was.
She ended the conversation by rising half up and pushing me down to my back, then moving to crouch over my hips where she could look straight down at my penis. I knew she was going to take me in her mouth. Yes! She knelt right at it and held the head up to her mouth, red mouth and bright red cock, then looked me in the face and said, "Oh my love is like a red, red rose."
For a second I thought I was supposed to return an appreciative chuckle, though what I wanted more than anything else was for her to move down and swallow me. Which she did right then. She was on my left side, kneeling, and her hair fell across her face as she started sucking me. She grabbed my prick with her right hand and pumped it up to her mouth while she moved her head downward. Her left hand was folded somewhere under her. I wanted to see my prick in her mouth while I was feeling it, so I brushed her hair back.
She was sucking and doing something with her tongue that brought me up awfully fast, so I used both hands, one to grab my penis, the other to stop her head.
"Wait, wait." I was panting. "Stop. I'm almost coming."
"I know, darling."
"But you don't have to..."
"I know. Now lie back down like a good boy."
Of course I lay back down. I didn't have to be gentlemanly for her, so could just experience what she was doing to me. She stopped for a moment, breathing on me, a lot like I had on her, pumping me very slowly, and then she started again. I held her hair back again to watch her suck me. I wanted to feel where my dick went into her, so I reached my right hand out to where my penis met her lips. Deep in her mouth she was wet and hot and I could feel her flesh moving over me. It was happening. Soon I forgot to watch, and my hand fell away from her hair, but I kept my other hand right at her lips, where I could feel myself slide in and out of her mouth, and I felt her mouth with both my penis and my hand as she brought me up and over. When I started to come she sucked and pumped until I was milked completely dry.
In the shower I soaped her first. I stood behind her to soap her, and reached around to feel her slippery breasts move rubber-like through my hands, her nipples big against my palms. When it was her turn she worked my prick with soapy hands, and Lordy if it didn't start to grow. I washed her underarms, her pussy, the tight crack of her ass, then she did me, returning to my penis after everything else was soaped.
It was time. I said,
"I want to wash all of you."
I held her forearms, pulled both hands out, and kissed her left hand. I tried not to show that up close I suddenly found it grotesque. I hadn't expected that. Just for a second I wondered how long it would be before I could become accustomed to it. She didn't like any of this at all, and averted her head. She didn't jerk her hands away this time, but it wasn't good. One step too far, I thought, but I decided to brazen it out.
"I want all of you."
She spoke without looking at me. "Please. It's awfully hard for me. I don't want you to see it. Or to touch it." She nodded toward her left hand.