See Jack Hunt

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Chapter 41

An uncomfortable pause later . . .

How Angela’s looking at me right now, I’m not sure if it’s shock or awe, but it’s somewhere in that neighborhood. It takes me a moment to realize I have no shirt on, and she is seeing me half naked for the first time.

“I . . . I just wanted to talk,” she says. She doesn’t have on any make-up, but she’s still just about the loveliest thing I’ve ever seen. Her hair is concealed by a baseball cap from some team I don’t recognize. She’s wearing a grey t-shirt and sweat pants, with white Adidas track shoes.

She’s so cute, this girl. I don’t know if she knows how attractive she is, even when she’s dreadfully sad.

And we just sit there for another long moment, her eyes crossing back and forth across my chest and arms. She’s seeing a different version of me. Her paradigm is shifting, ever so slightly. The knives at the carnival, and now these spooky looking tattoos . . . she is learning me.

“I can explain,” I say. But I quickly realize that maybe I can’t.

She takes a step closer to me, we’re just inches apart, now. She’s still looking at my tattoos. Without a word she slowly brings her hands up, her fingers lightly tracing just above my markings and symbols and protective talisman. Her delicate fingers, they’re like extensions of her curiosity.

With each gentle touch I feel a tingle. Kind of a spark that dissipates into my skin.

All of my words are broken, my brain a perpetual non-sequitur. She makes my heartbeat rapid and fierce. Being this close to her, it’s like I’m happy and scared, all at the same time.

In the space of a breath I remembered all of the things I wanted to say tell her. But then she looks up at me, her eyes dark beneath the bill of her cap, and she blinks twice. And in those two little blinks I forget everything I was about to say.

And we just stare at each other, from this way too close place we find ourselves in. We’re not yet touching, but we might as well be. She smells like I remember the carnival, kind of sweet and warm. Really, I wish I could call Hal and ask him what my next move is.

Do I retreat?

Do I hold her?

I don’t know the rules. I don’t understand what emotion is correct at a time like this. What is permissible? What is taboo? Any direction I go in might hurt her. And I’ve done enough of that, already.

I don’t know how much time has gone by. We’re just standing so close to each other I can feel the heat of her body on mine. Her breath smells minty and cool. I can see this sincerity in her eyes that I don’t think I’ve seen before. This is the real her. This is the Angela that she hides from the world.

And then she closes her eyes, slowly resting her head on my chest. Our bodies gradually come together and we share our warmth, standing the way people do when there are no words for what they’re feeling.

Her arms slowly wrap around my back and she starts to cry. As I hold her in the threshold between the loft and the hallway, the door half open, her warm tears find their way to her cheek and my chest. I’ve never felt this close to anyone.

With Kristen, I felt something that I didn’t understand. I thought it was something real, but obviously I didn’t have all the facts. But this moment right here, right now, with Angela . . . it is the most honest, real experience I have ever had, short of dying.

And I realize that I have to tell her what’s going on.

But I know that I can’t.

This is dying, my new life.

And there is a line I’m straddling right now, that I dare not cross. At this moment I’m numb and dizzy and peaceful. So relaxed that I could fall asleep standing here in the doorway, as her warm tears melt between our bodies. If I could freeze a moment in time, it would be this one. Because, no matter what happens, there will never be anything more pure and clear as this.

We never did say anything to each other. We just held each other for what seemed like hours . . . and then she left.

Not a single word.

And I wouldn’t have wanted it any different.

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