David Shipko is a Los Angeles based scholar and writer.

Fourth

When I surface for breath, she is standing there, at the edge of the pool, looking down at me with emerald eyes. Her hair is like fire. Against the blank white walls of the natatorium, lit by harsh fluorescent light, she is a flood of vibrant color. “What are you doing?” she asks. I drift to the edge of the pool, rest my arms on the concrete edge. “Isn’t it obvious?” I respond, playfully. She laughs; “I suppose it is. Do you want to get out of here?” The pool stretches behind me for hundreds of feet. A few other people swim laps, but otherwise the place is empty. The faint splashing of water echoes off the cavernous ceiling. But suddenly I hear nothing but rivers in my veins, feel nothing but a wildfire in my chest, see nothing but her. She is the most real thing in the universe. I lift myself out of the pool, and she takes my hand. Holding her hand feels right, even though some would say it is wrong. We aren’t related or anything, but, still, a taboo is being violated. But I don’t care. I’ve wanted this for a long time now. Not since we first met. That would be so childish. No, when we first met, it was well within the confines of our socially defined roles, and I had no desire to transgress. But through those roles we came to spend more time together, and as we did, as I came to know her more, to know who she was, well, to glimpse echoes of shadows of who she was, I developed an admiration for her that transformed into attraction, then desire, then longing. And I felt fairly certain that who I imagined her to be was at least somewhat aligned with who she was, since I had no evidence that she was much of an actor. And the more I longed for her, the more beautiful she became, until I could not stand to look at her. And when we would be together in public, I would avoid glancing at her, avoid meeting her gaze, for fear my eyes or expression might betray my desire. And I have wanted her for so long. And now here she is. She has met me at the boundary, and we are crossing it. She leads our way from the pool, out into the night.

The Los Angeles air is temperate and strangely quiet. We walk down a street, hand in hand, not saying much, but occasionally looking over at each other. When our eyes meet, our lips break into big, stupid grins. I get the feeling that she has felt for me as I have felt for her for some time now. Our giddy excitement electrifies the otherwise still and silent air.

We leave the freeway, walking up an exit ramp to an intersection. The light is red. There are no cars, no other pedestrians. But still we stop and sit on the pavement, reposing in each other’s arms. We kiss. The world changes.

Fifth

Third