Salt

Salt

I guess it's the sun making me crazy. It's just, I feel like I want tell you how much I hate you, when actually I don't. See, you're the most beautiful person I ever knew; silver-screen or otherwise. Not in that flashy, Hollywood, deliberately well-placed way but in your own awkward, shy, clever kind of way and boy, do you know it. You don't care about fashion, I know, but you're always the epitome of cool. You have an easy kind of charm that makes people feel include, you make them feel wanted. Just about everyone you meet is hooked on you, guys are immediately your mate, girls immediately want a piece. I don't know how you picked me out from the crowd. I never asked. I am afraid of what you might say. These people, they care what you think of them. They care enough that they want to be your friend. They want your respect, your regard. But you, you don't care about what people think - you just live your life. You don't care what people think, but people think you're... amazing. Me included. It can't be helped and it can't be undone.

The sun is hot and it beats down on me like a drum. I feel the heat in every pore. My brain is marinating slowly in its own juices and my skin glistens with sweat. We're outside, of course, at the café. All of the tables inside under the lightly waving fans are taken. Mostly filled with middle-aged women gossiping about, well, I don't know. I've never been a middle-aged woman. In any case, you and I are sitting in the sun, the hot January sun, and we're sweating the swan river here. Just the scantiest amount of shade reaches our table. We're both leaning like bananas into it. Trying to shield our faces at least. My legs are slick and it feels like I'm sitting in a puddle. Not a great feeling, I assure you. Probably you're the same. If anything, more. You sweat like you drink. I wriggle a little in the uncomfortable plastic chair but that's a bad move because now my knickers are riding up. God. Why do I save my most uncouth moments for when I'm with you? Your shirt clings to your chest and stomach in a most endearing way. Mine looks like I accidently fell on it last week and it just stuck. Very attractive, I know.

You're not saying much at the moment, but you never really do. I guess, if you want to put a label on it, you're the strong but silent type. But labels don't really suit you, they don't hang well. I talk a little, but I feel silly when I am. Mostly I just sneak looks at you over iced coffee when I think you won't notice. There's a tiny smile on your perfect face, just a little quirk to the side of your mouth which makes me think you do. I can't see your eyes, hidden behind sunglasses as they are. Mine match, mirrored lenses are the latest fashion. Are you frustrated that you can't read them? Probably you don't even need my eyes to know what I'm thinking. You've never had any trouble before; I've always been an open book to you.

'Why are you unhappy?' You say. I look away and I try not to think about that girl I saw you with last week. I try not to think about your hand up her skirt. I try not to picture your mouth on hers and her legs wrapped around your waist. Your body pushing her up against a wall. You are looking at me, expecting an answer, I know, because I would never ignore you. No one would ever ignore you.

'I'm not sad,' I say. 'I'm distracted.' Yeah, by you feeling up some other girl. She was pretty though, I'll give you that. Beautiful even. 'By what?' You persist. I like the way your lips move only a little. Like you're conserving energy. Your adams apple bobs in your throat and I think about what it's like to kiss you there on the soft skin, or under your jaw when you've forgotten to shave and it's stubbly, that's when it's best. That bead of sweat on your upper lip shines when the sun catches it. I know that if I kissed you now, you would taste salty but so, so sweet. 'It's not a big deal, K. I swear, just, um, I was think about us.' 'Us?' 'Yeah, about you and me.' 'What about us?' 'Nothing, nothing...'

You lean forward and grab my hand. Your warm, tanned skin against mine makes me feel faint like the heat can't even contemplate. Heat I am used to. The feeling of your skin on mine is something I never will be. The callouses on your palms from where you help your dad building rich peoples houses on weekends rub against my softer skin... I pull away. You don't know how weak you make me. Or maybe you do.

I won't ever push you away, though, or confront you. Not about that girl. Not ever. You're too perfect. No, not perfect, I guess no one's perfect, but I am blind to your faults. Or not blind even, I suppose I just close my eyes to them. It is a deliberate, stupid choice. Like now, I want to tell you I hate you for hurting me and touching her. But instead my hands twist in my lap and I try to force her from my mind, even though I know she'll always be there laughing at me and running her fingers through your hair. I know she'll always be there, watching me over your shoulder when I'm close to you. I know she'll always be there, mocking me. I wonder if there are any more of them waiting in the shadows, grinning maliciously.

I force my mind away. It's Saturday but the air smells like Wednesday afternoon; stuffy, tired, like angry cigarette smoke from frustrated office workers who smoke with a grudge, like the world owes them one, and heat. The heat has it's own scent; salt, body odour, perfume and the beach. This Wednesday afternoon smell, though, it smells like my life now that you're in it, except without that touch of sweetness that you bring. That bit of happiness, the thrill of life that you make me feel. The air around me feels heavy with expectation and misery and the oppressiveness of inner-city heat. Inside my head that girl laughs and steals my happiness making me feel tired and alone, surrounded by people.

'Are you okay?' 'Definitely.' 'Are you sure?' 'Yes, K. I'm fine.'

Fine, I tell myself, but really, I'm ashamed.