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Extreme Programming

Not Swimming

for Christiane Cassel

Once again it is that afternoon at Bakers Beach. You stop the car, and lead us across the hot sand to a quieter spot. Nobody is swimming much. On the shore the cold Pacific breakers pound.

We strip to swimsuits, lay out towels and then our flesh to grill. Beside me your thin delicious body on the beach: we talk. I keep my gaze from your grey eyes.

You’re being frank. You talk about two husbands and your work, and then the many boyfriends who turned into something less. Your quiet voice makes the obscenity authentic, but it’s spoiled by your gay smile: explaining to a child.

It’s too hot. We stroll along the wave-cooled sand and back. We are almost playing silly games but it’s very hot. Back to towels, more talk and still the heat. A seagull mews above us and you dare me to a splash.

I decline, saying I am too lazy, meaning old to try rebirth in a cold sea. Much older, you stand up. I watch.

Coming back from the splash, you are covered in cold drops, skin chilled, eyes sparkling. You consider wetting me, pick up your towel instead, and rub.

Late afternoon at your apartment. I mix drinks and prowl your bookshelves: you rest in your room. In the bathroom your wet swimsuit drips into the tub.

That evening we dined in Sausalito. In a restaurant by the pier we ate fried fish and sourdough bread, laughed over the waiter who wouldn’t bring fish before salad, and afterwards circled each the other’s waist and walked beside moored boats. Time seemed to bring us closer. I thought about a second kiss, then we declined one party on three boats and turned towards the car.

The Bay lights glowed softly as we crossed the Bridge, black water underneath. You would have offered coffee but were flying East next morning. We drove past your apartment, back to where I stayed with other friends, and stopped.

Black water underneath the heart: I cast off on the sidewalk with a kiss, and waved. Already your love was slipping out of reach, and I not swimming after it.

© 2003-2020 Stephen Taylor
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