She always thought that, if she could go back in time, she would never go back to any time before she was 32. The teens and twenties were rough for her. But, then, so were her thirties. And the forties were shaping up to involve just as many hard-fought battles with her thoughts and emotions. Only now, she had coping skills and resilience tools. Neither term did she fully understand. She just knew that she had years of therapy under her belt, hours of meditation in her spirit and a stocked liquor cabinet in the kitchen.
In contrast to preceding decades, she approved of herself now and didn’t care much for the approval of others. She wouldn’t necessarily consider it confidence. Confidence shows up with brushed hair, high heels and painted lips. Or, these days, maybe with grey hair, a pleasantly rounded belly and joyously laughing lips. So it wasn’t confidence. It was more like self-comfort or self-ok-ness. If not for her long-held belief that self-esteem was a negative word (gratitude to the high-school classmates who had declared themselves possessors of high self-esteem), she would probably consider it self-esteem.
Her teens and twenties tended towards self-destruction. Evidenced by the scars deeply cut into her arms. Created by shards of broken Walmart dinner plates and Goodwill wine glasses thrown against the wall when no other outlet presented itself. What were once angry red valleys had eroded with time. Now only ghostly marks, done with precision, not a total hack job, whispered back at her when she happened to glance down at her arm.
When she thinks of that time, she can think of very few people or things that are memorable. Nothing or no one she would necessarily want to revisit. Mostly, she can’t even think of singular people or events from that time. She sees and feels a blur of almost total darkness. It makes perfectly ridiculous sense that it is a boy who keeps her past existence from disappearing into blinding nothingness. And, only because of this boy would she make preparations for a fanciful journey back to that acceptably forgotten time.
She often reasoned, if she had to go back to her teens or twenties, she would take her current self-ok-ness, her sense of self-worth, with her. With her 40 year-old wisdom, she would know to stay away from certain boys. She would pick a different college, a different major or maybe skip formal schooling all together. She would stand up to intolerant bullies, mean bosses, and disapproving parents.
But, for a return trip to see him, she would leave her current set of hard-earned values behind. In present time. When she visited him, shyness would overflow her baggage. Because with him, somehow, her timidity served his tenderness. And vice versa. It was a slow, dreamy waltz between timidity and tenderness. Without her shyness, she wonders, would things have seemed less honest? Would time have moved much faster?
With him. Time. breath. was. breath. so. breath. slow.
There was time for a deliberately picked peony from a neighbor’s bush. Time to put it behind her ear, carefully brushing her hair out of the way. Or maybe he just twirled the stem between his fingers, not sure what to do with it once he picked it for her. He probably, with uncharacteristic shyness, handed it to her. With his kind, honest smile that showed on his lips and in his eyes. Everything on his face. Everything about his movements. Honesty.
There was time for music. Time for music, music and more music. Time, late at night, for trespassing on playgrounds, just to talk and to hold hands, their fingers woven together as tightly as possible. Time to recline car seats, looking up out of the sunroof, on the side of the road. Life zooming by. Who cares. Beastie Boys. Music and talk. And held hands. Time to sit in his father’s tiny living room. Van Morrison. Music and talk. And held hands.
She always wanted to hold his hand. When the music hit his soul and he paced the room, moving his hands to the beat. Face twisted in thought. Fully lost in the music. She watched from the couch and yearned for him to sit down and slowing re-weave his fingers into hers. The intimate motion of hand-holding, rather non-motion, still brought her an intense thrill. With him, it was the first time that she had felt that closeness. Protective, she was a virgin. And, with him, she had time to be a virgin. Time to remain a virgin. Because there was never a time that he pressed to make her anything more than a virgin.
And if she went back and saw him. She would take her virginity. She wouldn’t even want to know the feelings of greater intimacy than desperately held hands. She would only want to know that there was a mysterious something further along the continuum of sexual intimacy. And she would be perfectly content at her current position on that continuum. Maybe the continuum was wrong anyway. Sex was complicated. Too many moving parts. Too many roving emotions. How could that be considered the championship game of intimacy?
In her mind, nothing was ever more intimate than when she held his hand and listened to music. Time passed and no one noticed. There were no real jobs to get to. There were no children to raise. There were no houses to clean. There was no need to make a difference in the world. There was no need for make-up to hide the lines and pallor of a half-lived life. There was no need to not be a virgin. There was no need to not be shy. There was no need to be anything more or less than who she was. Who they were. What they were doing. It was as slow and as thoughtful and as intense and as real as life would ever get for her.
And if she went back and saw him. She would be filled with the most bittersweet emotions she had ever felt. She would shed a tear and feel it intensely. Time to return. She would place her cup of (now) cold coffee back on the table. She would run her fingers through her greying hair. Brushing the daydream out from underneath. Interlace her fingers of her no longer smooth hands in front of her chest. Namaste whatever the fuck that means. Look at the clock. She’d put on some Beastie Boys. No, Van Morrison. Look at the clock. Time to wake the children. Time to make breakfast. Time to get dressed. Time to put on her makeup. Time to draw dark lines that frustratingly fork and bleed into crow’s feet. Satisfied enough. Time to take one last glance. Look at the clock. Time to go to work.