by Debora Black
That was the summer Liam took two long steps toward me and put his hands on my hips and brought his mouth down on mine, and it was the best kiss I had ever had—vast, and full of him, and important. He was married. I decided not to care. That was the way the entire summer moved. In these long, slow strides where years happened in an instant. Like the way I had been thinking about leaving the mountains and moving to Paris. How, in my head, I had it all worked out—the job, the apartment, the bicycle and baguettes. Only I didn’t go because one day on the trail my white dog sprang high from all fours and landed in the tall grass with the vole caught between her front paws, and while she ate the creature down, I listened to the crunching bones and watched the crimson ooze and realized we couldn’t move to Paris. All of it was brutal. I loved Paris. I loved Paris for her cobbled streets, her white stucco buildings and black iron balconies. I loved the exquisite sauces—all those sooty, complicated flavors—and the mellow sway of Bordeaux wines. I loved the Eiffel Tower, standing in miniature down below, looking up at that violent height, and marveling over that stark elegance. I loved strolling the entire length of the Champs Élysées, Io and me, stopping for cakes and flowers, chasing pigeons and cats. I loved Paris for Coco Chanel in the twenties. For weeping starlets in films noir. I loved how everything in Paris began with espresso. I loved how everything ended in the changing light of the next morning and how everything inside me became unmoored. Mostly I loved Paris because I had never been.
That summer I sat down next to Liam and the red of my lace underwear appeared. I said, Oh my underwear is showing and hiked up my jeans and that might have been flirting and that might have instigated the kiss that came later. But maybe I was just hiking up my jeans because I knew Liam better than that. Liam and I had been friends for a few summers, and I ran his art gallery. In our small town, we all hung out in loose ways together. It was normal to head out your door solo and run into friends skiing the mountain or hiking the trails. It was normal on a Friday to finish at a bar with your friends from the day or to go it alone and soon some friend would show. It maybe wasn’t normal that Liam’s wife was never with him. But we all knew Liam mostly as Liam.
That summer Io and I walked to The Market On The Mountain in the early mornings when the air was quiet and cool and said anything could happen, and my coffee and Io’s biscuit tasted of that. One morning Liam’s old Range Rover went by and then stopped. Liam’s dog Katrina was in the front. Io and I jumped in the back. I didn’t know in that easy decision that Liam would take those enormous strides toward me. I didn’t know that vast kiss would mean he would pace up and down the river, that he would scratch out the D on my garage door opener and scratch in L, or that would mean he and Katrina were moved into my condo, and that would wreak lots of havoc. I knew that Liam gave me this mantra: Liam loves me, Liam cares about me. Somehow, Paris had found me.
Debora Black lives in the mountains of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. She skis and hikes and mountain bikes, and her writing is often immersed in this landscape. She is a blogger and a regular contributor to the website Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour, a literary gathering space for readers, writers, and everyone else. Debora has been a finalist in the River Styx International Poetry Contest and a finalist in The Journal Alumni Prose Contest, and is at work on a collection of essays and a collection of poems. Debora holds the MA in Creative Writing from Antioch of Yellow Springs, Ohio. She finally did make a first trip to Paris and plans to return this summer.