She said she wanted me to go to Portland with her. She said that she really wanted me to come.
She barely knew me, and we’d hardly ever spoken. She said that she was going in April, and until four days ago she’d been going alone, ’til some woman from work wanted to come, some woman who was thirty and a mother and acted it, and she’d felt too bad for her to say no, so she hadn’t, but she’d wanted to, and if she’d still been going alone when I got to her house, she was gonna ask me.
She said she wasn’t going for anything that had to do with hipsters. She swore that she was going purely on a whim, and she said it so convincingly I believed her. She said she could often be convincing, and that she could convince me to do anything she wanted me to. I think now that if she’d asked me, I’d’ve said yes. I think I would’ve.
She said she was gonna take the Greyhound out there. She said you just head west for ten or eleven or twelve or so hours, but she said it’d go by so much faster if I was there with her. I said she probably says that to any boy she can, and she didn’t shake her head, she just smiled, but I hope she doesn’t. I really hope she doesn’t.
She was a small-town girl, so much so that in high school she dated the son of the guy her mother’d dated at her age. She thought she had a big-city heart, though I still can’t decide whether or not this is true. It somehow seems like it both is and isn’t.
She certainly didn’t look like anyone else who lived where she lived. She was proud of her body, as she should have been, in a way that everyone should be. She spoke of it bluntly and honestly, but not self-deprecatingly. She spoke of its strengths and of its weaknesses, ’cause there were certainly both, and she knew it, and they made her feel proud, and not at all ashamed it was hers and she owned it. She pierced it and she poked it and when she was a kid she used to draw on herself with permanent markers. She had tattoos, too, a buncha them, and she chose each one simply because she thought that they looked beautiful, and they made so much sense on her that they made me think that I might want one, too.
She owned her pussy, too, by fucking recklessly and fucking often. She fucked virgins just to slay ’em, and so that she’d always be remembered. She fucked ’cause she was a feminist and she fucked ’cause she liked to have fun. She swore that she could keep her fucking separate from love, and she usually did. Sometimes the two mixed together. Sometimes it can’t be stopped. I know it, and I could tell it in the way her body got tense, like she’d been tickled, when I kissed her on the forehead and she got so suddenly shy.
She was Samantha, though she only ever went by Sam. It’s such a common name, but she’s so unlike anybody else that I feel like it’s only hers. She figured I’d like a Greyhound ride West since I was already taking one to where she was. I wasn’t headed West to see her, though. Not necessarily, and not even a little bit. I was headed West to see her sister, Erin, who I’d met in college a few years earlier, in a writing class, and who, over time, I’d fallen in love with, though not at all in any romantic way. I went West because my heart ached and I was lonely and I was lost, and I needed to be with someone who could understand why I was broken. I went West to see Erin. I didn’t even think about Sam.
I met her once, briefly, when she came to visit campus, and though I’m sure we exchanged words, I can’t remember what I said. I felt like I somehow knew her, though, since Erin wrote about her so often, and with the kinda vivid clarity and restraint that really gives some insight, if you know how to look for it. She’d tried to capture Sam, tried to truly reproduce her, in nearly everything she’d ever written, but she never fully managed to, not completely. I thought she did but I know now she didn’t. Erin’s a good writer, and Sam’s a good person to write about, because it’s nearly impossible to ever get her quite right, no matter how hard you try, though I didn’t know it then.
Sam was waiting by the front window for me to get there, though I didn’t know that yet either. I’d learn both of these things later.
On Saturday night we went to a bar, in the city, her and I and Erin and their friends. She told me that she wanted to fuck me. She just walked right up to me and shouted it in my ear. I was wearing a collared shirt, untucked and unbuttoned and with the sleeves rolled, ’cause earlier in the night she’d said that it looked good. She’d fixed my hair for me, too. I felt like a rock ’n’ roll star, in a way I’d so desperately chased when I’d played in bands in high school, though it never felt as effortless and genuine as it did that night. I think I felt, for the first time ever, probably, that I was being me, pure and unrestrained and totally me, whoever that is, at the very bottom of everything. There was not anything stopping me in any way from anything at all. I felt powerful and passionate and naked and free, and I felt that I was gonna live forever. I really believed that I could. I felt young and I felt happy and my eyes were shining, really brightly, like the headlights of my car would shine at night and help me see the way on those dark and twisted country roads as I drove home late, from her house to mine, if only the path of my life somehow wound its way closer toward hers. I felt drunk, and I felt good. She told me that she wanted to fuck me, she told me straight in my ear. I told her to go on.
She told me that she’d always thought about me, and always wished, without knowing why, that I lived closer to her. She said that she would sometimes daydream about afternoons spent with me, and that even though she didn’t know me she somehow knew we’d like spending time together. Then she spoke bluntly, as bluntly as she spoke about her body, and she looked me straight in the eye and said, “You are hot and I want to fuck you.”
And then I kissed her. I leaned in and I kissed her, and I touched her tongue with mine, and I put my hand on her bare side where her shirt didn’t cover, and I kissed her long and I kissed her hard and I’d kissed her like that again before I’d realized what I was doing. I waited for the guilt I’d expected to come to come, but I soon realized that it wasn’t gonna, not at all, ’cause there was no reason for it to and so I would not let it, and instead I felt exactly the opposite. I kissed her, and then I put my forehead against hers and I pushed her backward toward the dancefloor. And then I kissed her again, and we danced. And we kissed and we danced and we kissed and we danced and we kissed and we danced and we kissed and we danced. The others left, and as they started to tell us that they were going she interrupted them and said that she and I weren’t, and I got kinda turned on by the fact that she was deciding for me that we weren’t quite finished with each other yet. We stayed out, kissing and dancing, and I held her body close and tight to mine, while she pulled on my shirt and pulled on my hair and licked my ear and bit my neck. When someone tried to dance with her I told him to fuck off, and he said he wanted to fight me, and I said that I would and I meant it, for the first time in my life I truly meant it, and I might’ve till she pulled me away and stopped it. I felt very drunk and I felt so very good.
We only left the bar when they closed it. We walked out into the street and neither of us wanted to go back to the hotel room that a bunch of us had rented, so we walked down to the riverbank instead. I could see all the lights and lives in the buildings on the other side, and it looked so close, close enough that I almost thought that I could swim it if I’d wanted, but I know it wasn’t. I would’ve loved to sit beside her on a bench and let her lean her head on my shoulder, and look at those lights across from us, and try to guess what might be going on there. Or I’d’ve liked to lay down with her on that riverbank, on top of her, and tell her jokes while our noses touched, until she’d laugh too hard and I’d have to get off her ’cause I’d start to feel too heavy and it would hurt, but not in any way she’d feel threatened by, ’cause I know that she’d never feel threatened that way with me, ever, and I know I never would with her. But it was snowing and it was cold, so we walked back, and I held her hand as we did, and she looked at me kinda confused, like she was wondering why I was adding romance to something that’s supposed to stay distant and disconnected and detached, and I knew that it’s best to leave it that way but I couldn’t resist, so I looked at her and I smiled and said, “Call me old-fashioned,” and she smiled back and she held my hand tighter.
When we got back she asked if I wanted to sit in the lobby and talk, so we did. She asked me about the girl I’d just broken up with two months before, the girl I’d been with since I was sixteen, the only girl I’d ever kissed or held or loved. She couldn’t believe that. She thought that I was lying and I promised her I wasn’t. She asked me what kinda girls I usually like, and I wanted to be as sincerely true as I could, so I looked at her and I told her “Ones that are nothing like you.” Then she jumped on me. She pushed me down on the couch in the hotel lobby and climbed on top and started kissing me, fast and deep, and my eyes were closed but I opened them when the bellboy started yelling at us to leave, so we ran over to the elevators, hand in hand, and pushed the button, and the door opened right away so we stepped right in, and even though I’m scared of them I pushed her into the corner and pushed my body up against hers and prayed that we’d get stuck.
When we got to our floor, we stepped out into the hallway and found our room but we stopped outside the door. She looked at me and I looked at her and then we kissed again, slowly, in case it was the last. I pushed her against the wall because I didn’t want to stop yet. I couldn’t. I was not done with her and she was not done with me. We kissed each other everywhere we could, and her hands moved all around my body and mine moved all around hers, and at one point she even let me take her shirt off. I kissed her coyly, pulling away like a striptease, the way I used to do with my old girlfriend, though that night it seemed she liked it better than anyone else ever had.
Finally, near five a.m., we decided to sleep. I climbed into bed beside her. Everyone else was silent or snoring. I rubbed her hair and her hand and her cheek. She touched my birthmarks and my jagged bones and she ran her fingers down my throat. She said she found my imperfections perfect, and I believed her, and so I know she wouldn’t mind that I can sometimes be a dickhead, and so selfish, and too smug, and I’d finally stop regretting all the mistakes I so masochistically cling to, because she liked my freckles and she liked the way I swore and she thought that I was interesting and funny and cool, and especially, most of all, because she felt so safe in my arms. Nothing mattered more. When she closed her eyes, I didn’t close mine. There was enough of the city light shining through the cracks in the curtains that I could see her face. She looked so pretty. Though I knew I shouldn’t, I started thinking about her. I started thinking about all the boys she’d spent nights with, and how all the things she’d said to them were probably all the things she’d said to me. I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe I made her feel different, if only just a bit. Maybe I made her feel a way that no boy ever had before. I started to think that maybe we could just fuck off together, go driving across the country, like bandits, and at night we would lie in the backseat of my car, smoking cigarettes and staring at the stars. I wanted to run away with her, I wanted to do something impulsive and irresponsible and beautiful. Maybe we’d even get married, and we could have a family, and our kids would read often, and carefully, and she could teach them to have the balls I never had to be whoever they wanted to be. Maybe. Maybe not. She is far away, and I don’t see a way she won’t be for a while, and I think we both need somebody too much to wait. But the way our bodies feel so close when they’re pressed together cannot be faked or forced, so maybe. Maybe.
I stared at her while she slept and I thought about what she’d become to me. No matter what happens with her life and no matter what happens with mine, I will never forget her. I can’t. Because of her, I can no longer say there is only one person I have kissed and held and loved.
I kissed her one last time, on the forehead, and I leaned in close, and into her ear I whispered “Thank you.” I don’t know if she heard me, and I don’t know that she’d understand why I said it if she had. I sure hope she has.
The next night, Erin drove me to the bus station. Sam came along, too. We didn’t talk about what had happened the night before with anyone, not even each other. We didn’t have a chance to, though I’m not sure we would have if we’d had. I’m not sure we ever will, and I’m not even sure we should.
I sat in the backseat, looking out the window, but everything kept passing by too quickly, so I started sleeping. I don’t know what exactly they were discussing, but suddenly, I heard her tell Erin that she didn’t care or feel any need to ever write anything great herself, even though she wasn’t a bad writer, and barely even tried. I started to listen close, and I heard her say that even though she didn’t ever need to write anything great herself, she did hope that someday someone great would write something great about her. She said she wanted to be somebody’s muse, and I think she might’ve been joking, but I decided then and there that I wanted her to be mine. When I got home, I picked up my guitar and I tried to write her a song. It was gonna be called “Disposable Camera,” and its chorus was gonna go like this:
I wanna take pictures with you on a disposable camera
I don’t wanna know how all this will turn out till it ends
I wanna blindly capture all the fleeting moments
That entangle your life endlessly with mine
I liked it, but not much. It didn’t have enough of her in it, and that’s what I really wanted. I scribbled it all out, and then I started writing this. I wrote it frantically, till I was dizzy. It was nothing but frustrating fragments. I tried to fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle, but no matter how hard I tried, nothing seemed quite right. This is close, but it is not finished. It’s imperfect. But I think that’s exactly how she’d want it.
RYAN A. GAIO is a twenty-three-year-old writer born and raised in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. He writes about drifters, heartbreak and rock ’n’ roll, and so he mostly writes about himself. He can be found at his website and followed on Twitter @ryanagaio.