While I lie on the sand, my eyes drooping toward an early-afternoon doze, the warmth of the sun barely manages to pierce the cover of gray clouds—clouds that I would, finally, decide were the exact color of your eyes—and waves from the vast Atlantic roll toward Cape Cod, so far from their gale-driven origin that they break at last, puny, weak, on this spit of sand the Pilgrims named Provincetown, continually advancing and then retreating a little less each time (tide coming in!), chasing the sea birds up the beach and making way for them again, back and forth, the gulls screaming in celebration as they pluck small crabs from the wet sand, and I, of course, resting on my blanket above the high tide mark, recognize the genial breath of fall rustling the gray hair on my chest just as it would, later in the season, shiver the ash leaves at home (the breeze through my body hair reminding me of the years when I could carry it off, the legal nakedness, whereas today, at this age, I would never have the confidence to try, but opt instead for running shorts and a now-doffed T-shirt that shows, despite my best attempts at regular exercise, that I possess every attribute of the Buddha except his posture and divinity) and then aware, suddenly, of you standing there, announced only by the fact of your shadow falling across my closed lids, nothing but a silhouette at first with the sun and clouds behind you, and confusingly out of place in your dark suit (until I make out the four gold stripes on your sleeve and realize you’ve arrived early for the airline pilots’ convention the coming weekend), you saying, “I seem to be overdressed,” asking if you can borrow a corner of my blanket, and moving, without waiting for an answer, to take off your jacket and place it neatly on an un-sanded patch, to reach down and slip off your black leather shoes, to undo your tie and the buttons of your white shirt, and I, made speechless by this turn of events, can only watch with mouth agape and damn the sun in my eyes (would it be rude to put on my sunglasses?) as each button gives way and your shirt falls open to reveal the hairless swell of your chest, the furrowed rows of your stomach (sweat from confinement in the wool coat, glistening) until the whole shirt is finally free, tails out, and as you turn away to shrug it from your shoulders my breath leaves me, I choke, amazed, at first sight of the tattoo that completely covers your back—so exquisite a rendering in sepia and charcoal and olive and gray inks that each individually articulated and shaded feather appears to flutter in the ocean breeze, as though the wings they comprise will unfurl at any moment and carry you away (whether to heaven or hell I cannot judge, though it was, I think, Malthus who argued that physical and moral perfection are indivisible), but instead you add your shirt to the pile on the blanket, and begin to unfasten your slacks, and when they slip below your buttocks (lovely in their own right, inspiring poetry) you snatch at them to prevent their collapse onto the sand, though not quickly enough that your black briefs and their woven waistband aren’t momently revealed, the waistband reading, simply, “GUARDIAN,” and I burst out laughing at what seems to have become low comedy, and cry out—my first words to you—“That’s a good one,” at which point you turn to me (carefully folding and stowing the last item of your uniform), a quizzical look on your face, the word play then forgotten as I catch my first full look at you, the black briefs, your short dark hair against the pale, milk-white purity of the un-figured areas of your skin, all of this somehow more seductive than nakedness would be (though doubtless your nakedness would be perfect, too): the way your cock and balls are gathered, the way they thrust forward in a wad against the thin, dark cotton—a sight from which, I must admit, I cannot look away—and you, seeing my stare, ask, “Do you want to touch it?” and I, my mouth dry all at once, timid in the face of such a brazen invitation, cannot reply, but as I move to reach across the space between us my hand is suddenly feeble, my arm (terrible timing!) powerless, trembling so I cannot even lift it; embarrassed, I look into your eyes and confess—the first time I’ve done so—“I’m dying,” and you hold my gaze, take my weakened hand and press it to your groin, and answer, “We’re all dying, some of us are just going about it faster than others,” and while you keep my nervous hand trapped in yours I can feel the confusion of parts beneath my palm slowly shifting to the rhythm of my pounding heart, organizing themselves for their intended purpose.
Have I fainted, or have I slept? You are gone when I look for you, though I only turned away for a moment; your corner of my blanket empty, except…. Is it a black sock I see half-buried in the sand? I don’t investigate, not because I lack curiosity but because—even if I were sure it’s yours—I don’t need a glass slipper to remember your embrace.
Bio: Jim Brega earned his BA from San Diego State University and an MFA in design from the University of Illinois. His fiction and essays have appeared in a number of journals, including Lunch Ticket, Lime Hawk, Hippocampus Magazine, the Hamilton Stone Review, Red Savina Review, and Plenitude, and in the anthologies Songs of Ourselves and A Year in Ink 5. He lives near San Diego. You can find more of Jim’s work on his blog, jimbrega.com.