Tick, Tock

By Karin Kallmaker


Sometimes, life with you can slip inside an instant and play out after tick but before tock. And I am suspended.

A thousand moments with you shape my thoughts. You are always at the window, sometimes your face crimsoned by sunrise. I’d watch you every morning for the rest of my life if I could. You know I would. I want to live in this instant for years, when you’re aware that I am standing here, loving you, and you’ve not yet turned to greet my morning kiss. That you love me is the miracle of my life.

Tonight, as every night, you are cast in silver moonlight. I’d want to live in this instant too. The cold breeze from the window lifts the white curtains, which dance and swirl with your long pale gown. I’d watch the rise of night in the glow of your eyes and know, when you look at me, that I am made whole.

I didn’t know what complete was until your touch. Other lovers were good to me, but you were the missing piece of my life.

Do you remember when we met? I thought you were cold and you thought I was stuck up. It makes me laugh, recalling how we sniped at each other all through that double date. Our friends finally gave us leave to go, remember? We walked out of the restaurant at the same time and stood talking next to your car for two hours.

When you finally said yes and admitted you liked it when I begged, we stayed in bed for two whole days. Remember when you came back from the kitchen with the hand mixer and said you’d heard it was the latest in sex toys? I nearly believed you and called you my kind of pervert.

I’m so glad that we called in sick that day in the spring and drove up the coast to the Headlands. The beach was long and deserted, and we sat in the sun while the wind tried to tear the coats off our backs. We stood gazing, later, at the brilliance of the Golden Gate as if we’d never seen it before. I felt new. We kissed shyly. The beauty of the day was only more so for your eyes gazing at me.

We stopped at that deli and got sandwiches and ate them in the car with the ocean crashing only feet away. The sharp wind was too chilly for either of us to bear for long, but an hour with you in the car was all the happiness of a lifetime.

I think about that trip all the time. Remember the bed-and-breakfast we stayed at when we headed on up to Bodega Bay? How we were pretty certain that nobody at breakfast would look at us because of the noise we’d made the previous night? I still say we weren’t that noisy, but it’s always been true that when you come, most of the neighbors know.

I know, yes, there was that woman who complained before we moved here, then called the cops. How funny that one of them was a dyke, and when we explained you were trying to become a professional yodeler she wanted so bad to laugh. You showed your badge, said it wouldn’t happen again and that was that. A few months later we moved anyway. Nobody in this building has ever complained and more often than not we heard them at night. You’re right, I think. There’s something in the water.

I remember everything we ever did in bed. The taste of you, the texture of the small of your back, the way your eyes change color when you want me the most—I think about those things all the time. Your lovely blue eyes go purple as we make love and we laugh.

That night, in the Band B, if the other guests heard anything, it was us laughing. What I like about laughter is you can do it in public and it feels good. I remember a thousand shared laughs with you. I can hear them all in my head. I could live happily in any of those moments and never want another thing.

On the way home, the next day, I remember we went wine tasting, and you got tipsy. So adorable, and you giggled so infectiously other people couldn’t help themselves. You made me pull over on that back road, remember? Under the tree? You said it would be quick so we got in the back seat. But you were tipsy so you couldn’t quite come, and we were there for nearly an hour, ducking down when cars passed, which only made you giggle more.

Eventually you sobered and made me get off the freeway on the drive home. Quick, hard, fast, behind a ubiquitous gas station. You came, we switched places, and I did too, and we both spent the rest of the drive with sodden pants.

I wish I could remember what exit we’d taken for that gas station. I’ve driven it, trying to remember, but no place seems right. It was such a good time, and I’d like to be clear. Take a picture of the place and add it to the scrapbook of Us.

Tonight, I want to stay between tick and tock. Look at you in the moonlight, where you are so real these days. The light shimmers at the window, and I swear there is a mist that could be your face. You are there, waiting. I feel you, guarding me, keeping me safe—even from me. You protected the weak, rescued the defenseless, stared down the bogeymen. Sometimes I look at the bottle of sedatives the doctor prescribed and yet I never take more than one because you are there in the moonlight, the sunrise, in my every thought.

Am I crazy that I think that cat burglar gave up on this building because you are guarding it, keeping watch from our window? That even on a night like tonight, with the raucous crowd outside in the street, nothing evil will happen nearby? You won’t allow it. You keep me safe, the way you always have. You wanted to keep the world safe. I’ve made myself forget the name of the little girl who is alive because you’re not. I can’t think about that right now. I can only think about you, wrapped in moments when we were happy.

I remember every minute. I remember every laugh, every word, every tiff and every make up kiss.

But I can’t remember the damned gas station where we made love for the last time. It’s driving me crazy, honey. I wish you could help me remember.

I wish you could help me. I know you’d hate me this way, but I don’t want to move. I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t want to eat or sleep. Wrap me in cold arms and lavish me with vapor kisses. I don’t care as long as it’s you, and it is you, no matter how crazy that sounds.

I just want to remember you, at sunset, at sunrise, in the moonlight. I want to remember you any way I can, except the last way I saw you, going out the door to another night of patrol.

You’re not a statistic, you’re the woman I love. I remember everything so vividly that you’re real, and standing right there, at the window. You’re turning now, because you know I’m here.

Look at me.

I love you. I won’t stop.

You can come back. Please.

If I sleep you’ll go away. So I won’t sleep tonight, and we’ll be together. We can stay here between tick and tock, forever.


(c) 2006

This story originally appeared in Karin’s collection of erotic short stories 18th & Castro, and it appears here with the permission of Bella Books. Print and ebook are available from BellaBooks.com.

Karin’s list of novels is here: http://bit.ly/KKBiblio

Look for her latest release, which features short stories inspired by her romance novels: Frosting on the Cake 2: Second Helpings. http://BellaBooks.com for print and ebook.

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