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Chapter 54: A Toe in the Water

I’m going to KPCC to see Stephan.”

“Are you certain?” Brielle’s voice filled with genuine concern—not for my absence, but because I was going to take the next step.

“No, but I’m going anyway.” I looked at her dolefully and said, “Oh, come on. Haven't you ever had a strong crush on someone you shouldn't have anything to do with because he’s off limits? It's quite the twisted situation. There is no future, no reason and no solution.” Then, trying to shrug off any objections and hide my anticipation, I said, “Well, nothing’s going to happen anyway.

I picked up Stephan at his barracks and we drove to Wat Sovan Kire, a pagoda perched on the rocky outcrop on top of Phnom Pros. Like its twin mountain, Phnom Srey, it stood like a watchtower guarding the road into KPCC. Stephan wanted to try marijuana, a youthful indiscretion forbidden by Poland’s Russian masters, and I had a bit left to share with him.

He inhaled timidly at first and then inhaled again―this time in a dramatically exaggerated way. As big as he was, the joint barely relaxed him, but the night was fresh and intoxicating in its own way.

The moon soaked the pagoda’s stone balcony in soft light. Sitting close enough to feel the heat and tension given off by our bodies, we stared up at dense and glowing stars. The tropical night, breezy and fragrant with perfume, also bristled with energy and a sense of contradiction. There was a mismatch between purpose and pretense.

Despite his size, Stephan‘s voice was soft―a low murmur, scented with laughter. The sound was soothing and warm, like the feel of his hands when they accidentally touched mine. We didn’t talk any more about his repression under the Russian occupation, his wife or children. Instead, we shared ideas about books and poetry as if they were gifts or surrogates for physical pleasure.

Stephan whispered into my ear. “Istnieją pewne pocałunek pragniemy z całego naszego życia, dotyk ducha na ciele. Nasuwa się wodą morską perły złamać jego powłokę.”

I knew it was poetry, perhaps a love poem. I smiled as I asked, “What are you reciting?”

“Rumi. You know it, of course.”

“Maybe in English. Give me a hint.”

“Kisses . . . we want for our life. Ach, I am sorry, my dear CJ. I cannot say all in your language.”

I laughed, touched his cheek and then recited Rumi’s poem in English. “There is some kiss we want with our whole lives, the touch of spirit on the body. Seawater begs the pearl to break its shell.”

“Yes,” he said. “Yes,” I replied.

When our bodies touched, we stiffened and moved apart, only to be pulled back together as if a magnet were drawing us to one another. Stephan was both frustrated and relieved that communication difficulties created a barrier between us. After all, I was trying to seduce him. Shared language or not, I assumed he understood this and wasn’t quite ready to commit.

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