She sat in a wicker chair. The heat was like the incoming tide -- flowing, pulsing, patient, inevitable. Still air buzzed with insect sounds. He sat upon the porch railing, watching her. The twilight glow was filtered through lush leaves and hanging moss. The complex smell of flowers and decaying vegetation was almost too sweet to stand.
She felt no need to acknowledge the man. He wondered if she would show an awareness of his attention.
She was content to be watched. He was content to watch.
Only the lightest of short dresses was tolerable this evening. What would have been nearly transparent in daylight was nearly opaque in the fading light. Damp cloth clung to her upper thighs, molded itself to her torso, rose and fell with her breath. Bare feet at the end of long legs rested on the weathered floor. He made no move except to let his gaze travel over her. The fading light revealed form, not detail, but his mind saw more than his eyes. Her skin reminded him of butterscotch, and his mouth began to anticipate her taste.
A drop of sweat gathered at her neck and began a slow descent. She imagined it to be a caress of exquisite delicacy. She imagined it to be his caress. A light from within the house came on and made her skin glisten. He was caught by the subtle changes that followed her unhurried breath. Shadows crept across her and receded.
The pearl of perspiration hung briefly in the hollow of her throat, then continued to move slowly down, gently pulled over her chest. Now it clung to the top of her left breast, as if seeking her heartbeat. His eyes followed the movement of her breath, noting how each inhalation pushed out the thin cloth and outlined her nipples. Each exhalation was like a sigh, a prayer, a surrender to the gathering night.
Another drop collected at her brow, proceeded to slide down the bridge of her nose, and rested briefly on her upper lip. Her tongue touched it and drew it into her mouth, the salt taste barely present. At the movement of her lips his eyes shifted to her face. He felt as if he were about to drown, willed it to be so.
Without a conscious choice her smile began. It is every woman's dream, she thought, to be the object of such desire. Although I am a fool to believe in it, still I cannot wish to wake. The air was so moist, so still. He could not move except to shift his eyes to her body, with a soft focus that took in her whole being.
Shall I yield to this feeling, to this man, to this night? If I refuse this chance, will I forgive myself when I am old? He wondered what her smile was for. Did she understand the power she had, just sitting as if posing for a painter? Did she find it amusing or arousing to be so regarded?
So strange, that I can be so ready for him, yet be so powerless to move. Another drop of sweet salty sweat moved down her face, and another into the space between her breasts. He remained rooted, and his eyes noticed her softly rounded belly moving in and out, like the warm water lapping at the pier.
As the minutes passed she became less solid and more liquid. The top of her dress became damper, the shape of her breasts became more distinct. She could feel her pulse at the base of her throat, against her ribs, and below her belly. Maddened by desire, dashed against the rocks, the song is ancient, but it always works. He wanted it to happen all at once, and to take forever.
She imagined the most intimate worship. He is staring at my breasts. What might he do to them? Would I rather he be gentle or rough? Small dark circles marked her nipples under her dress. As he looked at her they grew sharper. His blood warmed and flowed in the old, old dance.
I could do nothing, and prolong this waiting. I could take off this dress, and dare him to act. I could move closer. I could touch her hand. I could breathe the air she breathes.
Her hand rose up, moving as if marking the hours. She touched the top button on her dress and gave it a slight twist. The fabric parted as if water. Slowly he stood and began his first step, as if approaching a deer, hoping to stroke its flank. He watched closely, carefully, missing nothing.
The next button took twice as long. The cicada voices grew louder. She began to turn her head towards him, a movement both lazy and fluid, like the sun crossing the sky. Another step closer and his eyes prepared to meet hers. First they grazed her hair, then the lobe of her ear, then the edge of her cheek. Each feature was given hours of attention.
She began to stand, without hesitation and without haste. Before she is finished a willow tree has been born, grown to full height, and faded away. He prepared to take another step, shifting his balance. He looked at one corner of one of her eyes.
As she rose up from her chair her hand touched the next button. Each opening took an age. As it was revealed her skin glowed polished bronze. He started forward. The sound of the cicadas became almost unbearable.
Her luminous body gradually took shape, like clouds forming, like the moon rising, like a cluster of stars being born. His gaze finally met hers. The spell held them both, locked in an understanding.
Her dress fell open, taking an entire autumn to expose the bare branches of her body. On this night it was perfect as never before, enchanted, haunting, compelling. Another step began. His hand started to lift, to reach out. His fingers tried to bridge the gap. The distance between them was only half of what it was when the world began.
My arms start to open. My heart ascends toward my mouth and his. My lips begin to part. I am struggling in her web. I am walking the road home. I am falling through the sky. I am drinking from eternity.