He tosses his head back. I catch a gleam of mischief in his eyes. You should really work out, he says. I shrug and feel my cheeks blush. He turns his attention back down the road stretched before us. The low rumble of the engine drowns out the sound and the dust from the road obscures the landscape. Thankfully, it conceals the stupid grin on my face as well.
For some reason, my mind races back to the time when I said yes to tagging along for the ride. I couldn’t remember, but it hardly matters. He looks at me again, how far are we going down the road? I smile, just until the hills. I point towards them, emerald outcrops with houses stacked on its face like Santorini, but less white than it is a very dull gray. Wait, a drab brown… The colors change in the light of the setting sun.
I observe his shoulder as he negotiates a turn along the road. Of all days, he had to wear a wife-beater. I contain the urge to nuzzle at his shoulder, it would not be appropriate, especially since he’s driving. I see how the light auburn scattering of hair on his shoulder burn bronze under the shifting daylight against the lightness of his skin. He looks at me again and I avert my eyes from his gaze, refusing to meet them. I do not trust myself around this person.
So, why did you come with me?
I put on sunglasses to hide the desire in my eyes. I don’t know, I tell him, it just sounded like fun. The place I live in and the life I lead is just so drab and boring, when you asked me if I wanted to go with you, I figured it wouldn’t hurt. He smiles sheepishly: well I can’t say it won’t hurt a little. He winks at me. I swat his knee with the back of my left hand. Watch the road, I tell him.
So, tell me about being a bear, he presses, as a Seafoam Green Cadillac passes us headed in the opposite direction. It’s chrome trim flashes in the slowly setting sun. Am I a bear?
I look at him as if appraising him, and reassure him that he is. Taking care to mention how I like the way he’s put together. Tall, stocky and slightly out of proportion in that he looked broad around the shoulder and slightly short on the legs which most bears consider as the “Golden Mean”. He laughs and says that I have answered the previous question with that statement, that it was the reason why I came aboard on this road-trip. I knew you liked me, he says, as I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.
The wind started to change and the smell of the sea is upon us. He stops the car and pulls out a smoke. I got out of the car and joined him. We lit up and stood by the car in silence. Behind us the wheat field swayed with the gentle breeze.
I will be in Singapore in January, he says. He asks if I would be there at the same time.
I took a long drag from the smoldering cigarette in my hand, the remnants of the rapidly diminishing sunlight reflect off the polish of my sunglasses. I exhale… the billowing smoke casts a glow which frames his face in my peripheral vision. I could be… I say softly.
He smiles, his handsome face beaming, and pulls himself closer to me as I stood there unmoving. I felt his torso press against the outside of my crossed arms as the last embers of the cigarette fell to the wind. I look at him, his face mere inches away from mine. I feel his hand close around my left hand, letting the cigarette fall as if forgotten on the pavement. His hands, so strong and so rough, holds on tight.
I would like to see you there then, he says, gently, almost quietly, like a cherished secret. I am intoxicated. I let myself fall. I rest my head on the crook of his arm and I look out into the broad expanse of the sea as the sun dips below the horizon.
I would like to see you there too, I say. But by this point, I could already see the harsh sliver of light which burns through the horizon like a white-hot poker, and I knew that this was not real. I try to reach up and hold on to those broad shoulders, to keep a stranglehold on the last moment. But in the end, everything fades away in ripples of lapis and jade. And the rays of sunshine over the cradle of the sea ravaged my consciousness as they burned through the back of my eyes and destroyed the dream.