Charlie Brown's Run
Imagine if, at the end of that autumn run, the leaves crunching under each mad hopeful step, Lucy doesn't lift the ball, Charlie Brown kicks it!, and it tumbles up, up into the crisp air.
Corey Richards, the girl I chased all through high school, followed to college and beyond, e-mailed me. Let's get together, Matthew. Maybe you'll kick it this time.
And I leave my wife, my kids, and run toward it, imagining nothing else but the feel of that contact, the lift-off, that explosion into space, find her in the middle of nowhere, at the Curve Inn, putting quarters into the juke box.
"Hey," Corey says. "Look how cute you still are." She twirls. "So what do you think?"
Ah, what do I think? I think of your life among pine trees up in God's Country, right, some state forest or something, winding, narrow, unpaved, pebble-covered roads. An elk herd, of all things. A lake. Somewhere. Sleeping Beauty's hovel, hidden away from a curse.
I think of the cover of your CD. The hazel eyes. Flat, empty. The brown hair pulled back. No attempt made to hide the bones that protrude in your cheeks, shoulders. All edges.
I think of your whisper. The lake, desire, bottomless, clear, crystal cold.
I say instead, "You know Camus dreamed of Sisyphus, wondered what he thought about on his way down the hill, back to the rock. His answer, so simple: the rock. He imagined him happy, each roll a push against the meaninglessness the gods would impose upon him."
"Happy," Corey says. "It's how I always imagine you, Matthew."
She sways. "We have lines, now," she says. "Yours circle your eyes."
Her desperate hug, as if I were a rock and she was being swept out to sea. Her lips press against the hollow of my dimple. "Hanging on," she says. "As always."
Think of all the Peanuts cartoons, millions of them. Is Charlie ever more alive as when he dashes toward Lucy's inevitable lift?
So she'll let go.