No one could make her more furious than he could, no one could push her beyond all her boundaries the way he did when they argued. Their arguments were both frequent and drawn-out; they were both strong and had opinions on everything, most of which were diametrically opposed. Any time they spent together was liable at some point to rise into disagreements over almost any topic, from politics to housework.
And yet, they sought each other like rain to parched earth. Their relationship was like a gravitational force, drawing them together to drink deeply of each other. It was as if they had to explore everything, nothing had bars, nothing could be held back. It created an unusual dynamic for each of them, to test their own limitations, both good and bad. Their relationship was fiery, tempestuous, and easily ignited into arguments that eventually melted into a cauterising, healing passion, which they could neither deny nor escape. They knew that while they were angry they couldn't see that they were at the same place but with different ways of achieving their viewpoints. Their opposing thought patterns were consistent in their inconsistencies. What they did know was that they wound up with intense and insatiable longings for each other. So close, they couldn't see how alike they were yet realizing their differences without understanding them. It would be a small thing for them to be on the same page, if they could ever allow themselves to see each other for who they were.
With each mile she put between them that night, she missed him more, becoming acutely aware of the distance, knowing he felt the same way. The evening had started out calmly enough. They'd each finished long working days, and were looking forward to what promised to be a quiet, romantic evening. Things had been (for them) almost placid, and she wondered how long it would last. The first stirrings of their emotional volcano began rumbled as they sipped a particularly good white wine after dinner. They'd been discussing the rising cost of providing health care for employees. Their comments began to veer to the conservative and liberal views on subsidized health care. Inwardly, she sighed, knowing where they were heading, yet feeling her anger sparked by his lack of compassion for those who had no health care. And so it had begun.
She knew the intensity he felt by the grip his large hand had on the wine glass' stem, the tightening of his jaw, and felt the same surge of anticipation to debate her views, even as she longed to avoid it and snuggle deep into his massive arms. "Ah, well," she thought as the conversation heated even more, "time enough for that later." But their tempers flared, then boiled over with a suddenness that startled her. This fight was different, more intense & more personal. There were no pauses, no backing away to be playful as a reassurance, before each scuffled into the issue again. Finally, she'd had enough and realized it had gone too far this time. Neither seemed able to pull back and she felt herself becoming panicked to just get away from their words—and from him. As she got up, her wine glass banged jarringly on the table, and he reached out for her meaning to grab her and pull her to him, knowing that even for them, it had gone beyond what was acceptable. But his hand closed over thin air, and she didn't see the reconciliatory gesture as she headed for the bedroom. He picked up the wine glasses, taking them to the kitchen to rinse them out and give him time to think. As he turned off the water, he intended to go to her when he heard the door slam, and by the time he got to the door, he heard the car's engine rounding the corner.
As she pulled into the hotel parking lot, tired and feeling defeated, yet still hurt and harshly angry, she regretted leaving. But there she was, and at the thought of their argument, she felt her own raw anger burning hot again, and checked in for the weekend. She called him from the room, and despite the hours that had passed and the regret they both felt, their tempers again flared. She finally told him where she was and that she'd be there for the weekend before she got off the line in case the whole thing erupted again, leaving him to his own thoughts.
That night, she slept fitfully, waking in an unfamiliar place to reach for him, but his scent was nowhere in the room. Finally, she got up, taking her bag to the shower, grimacing as she realized that she'd be stuck with the shorts she'd worn the night before. After a shower, she changed what clothes she could, and set out in search of breakfast.
Later, sustained with a large bottle of water and a map added to her large canvas bag, she headed out to the nearby lake. As she neared the end of town, she noticed a small art supply shop and stopped, buying a sketch book, some watercolours, and charcoal, along with an artist's sketch pencil, settling them on the seat, glancing with a vague awareness that it had been too long since she'd had time to paint. The last painting was of him as he slept, in muted shades of blue and grey, the colours playing around his features in repose. The sky emerged through the long night behind her, bright and warm for late spring, with no hint of clouds. Following directions to the lake, she began try to understand their relationship. Sitting by the water, she pulled the sketchpad onto her knees, testing the pencils with her thumbs. She pictured his face, brushing her fingertips over the paper, feeling her way across the page with the touch of one accustomed to feeling for roughness and gauge, porosity and give. It suddenly reminded her of his cheek, just before he shaved.
As he worked in the yard, peering down the street, his eyes seeking her car as if looking for a ship on the horizon, and he suddenly had the feeling of her fingers on his cheek, and then it was gone. Moments later, the sensation returned again, as if she were softly stroking his face. He closed his eyes with an ache, before brushing the feeling aside with a shrug of irritation, returning to weeding the flowerbeds. By the lake, she pulled her sweater off, catching her T-shirt in her fingers as it rode up with the sweater. His face fixated in her mind, and she began to sketch an outline of his features, roughly hewn and tender. She recalled his face from memory, from touch, from scent and taste and everything between, his eyes slightly smiling, watchful. She drew his eyes first, in such a way that they seemed to gaze back at her as she worked, craggy eyebrows that could lift sardonically, for emphasis.
She smoothed her fingers down the image of his nose, slowly smudging the lead to form a shadow, as if seen by the dim light of the reading lamp on her side of the bed. As she drew with the artist's pencil, the images somehow reversed, transposed, and he began to think in degrees of colour, remembering past times, the smell of her, the texture of her skin. As she began to apply washes with the soft wash brush, layering colour one coat at a time, he began to focus more in black and white, the things that are concrete, thoughts he could handle thinking about, the things he knew for sure, his love for her, his admiration, his need for her.
At first, he thought a trickle of sweat was running down his nose, absently brushing his fingers over his skin before returning to weeding the flowerbed. "It's just sweat," he thought to himself, mid-weed-tug paused. He closed his eyes to concentrate, and a sensation of the familiar feel of her fingertips brushed over his lower lip. He closed his eyes to shake the uneasy feeling of dependence, adamantly refusing to admit even the word into his consciousness.
As the weather warmed up, she peeled off her thick socks, burying her toes in the grass as she sketched his mouth. On the paper, full lips emerged, smooth, slightly darker than his face, rubbing a touch of charcoal over her fingertip, and she began to create the rounded sensuality of his lower lip, having the sudden sensation that she was touching his lips, and found herself slowing her movements. Short, sure rubs, the paper feeling more and more like his skin, a sense of three-dimensional breath.
As he worked in the yard, he looked down the street again, thinking he'd heard something. Unsure he returned to work, wiping the sweat off a dry cheek for the third time, frustrating himself. Then he remembered her touch, briefly, wistfully, and tried to brush it off, thinking crossly, "I have work to do, no time for this." Yet, in that fleeting moment, he saw her form in the moon light as she removed her silk, her fragrance was the same as his lilacs blooming in the garden. Suddenly, his mind's eye held an image of her removing her sweater by a lake.
This isn't sweat, he thought to himself, mid-weed-tug paused. He closed his eyes to concentrate, and a sensation of the familiar feel of her fingertips brushed over his lower lip, the touch of a lover. Sitting back on his haunches, he welcomed the feeling, lips slightly parted in a silent sigh. He missed her, no matter how infuriating she was to him. The feel of her finger slowed, becoming firmer, more deliberate, more exploratory. Dropping the weed in his hands, he concentrated on her touch, and knew something impossible, yet very real was happening. Yard work forgotten, he went into the house, lying on the bed to focus on her, just as the sensation stopped. Breathing deeply, after a long night without her and the warm sun beating over his shoulders while he worked in the garden, he drifted fitfully off.