by SS Hampton, Sr.

On a warm wintry morning in southern Nevada, south of a legendary sinful city whose body heat and lights drown the night, the glow of the sun just below the eastern horizon began to drive the shadows from the lonely gray desert.
A solitary figure, as stiff and motionless as an ancient cactus, faced the growing purifying sunlight with closed eyes.
The man was of average height, a little on the pudgy side, and his short, once jet-black hair was now heavily streaked with gray. His pock marked brown face, weathered by pitiless time and endless harsh trials of life, was deeply lined.
He remembered a chilly Colorado spring morning one year before when vague, undefined shadows overwhelmed the flickering spark of love that he allowed for the first time in decades.
"I'm a married woman," the small woman with shoulder length auburn hair reminded him as they stood outside on a third story patio, though she left her husband in Indiana years before to live in the Southwest, where he met her. She later moved to Colorado when offered a job, where they met again. "I can't have a relationship with anyone. I can't be a lover until I'm divorced."
He collapsed with agonized, burning tears, unable to believe that her warm caring light was to be eclipsed in the aftermath of his anger at her misplaced words that she tried to, but couldn't, explain days before...
"There's someone else," she started to say, after he called to ask her, when an inner voice whispered suspicions to him.
"I should have known," he whispered harshly as he trembled in shock and leaned against his desk. He thought of the roses he had given her, the times they went to dinner, the countless times they held hands, and their constant hugs. He thought of the early mornings when they talked quietly by telephone. Yet she would never kiss him, though she always let him circle her face with his loving kisses. "What a fool I've been, what a fool I've been."
"No, no, it's not like that," she protested, but he hung up.
Over a period of months they had grown closer than either one expected, especially him. He couldn't believe a cultured and educated woman like her could be attracted to him. He spent a lifetime pushing people away and for 20 years deliberately crushed any semblance of love for anyone. The elation and happiness of love, of caring for another, of wanting to grow old with someone, that so many others took for granted was terrifying to him. To release the tightly embraced goal of being dead by 60 for the enjoyment of life resulted in heavy drinking that often led to blackouts.
But, to be in love - it was incredible, it was wonderful!
It was like a painted tableau he saw shortly before in central Wyoming, after driving through a snowy storm front. The rolling plains were dark and dusted with snow and the clouds were low and gray, save for a single bright shaft of sunlight that drifted across the distant grasslands. As he drove further north the dark clouds began to disappear until the bright world lay serenely under a deep blue sky illuminated by the bright life giving sun.
The tableau of the grasslands, of being in love, was calming, exciting, uplifting, and unlike anything he remembered in the dark chaos of his life...
With the echo of her words in his ears as he hurried away from her, he felt like the butt of a cosmic joke, the favorite jester of the gods. He broke down, collapsed emotionally, and during a 151 proof blackout, begged his youngest son to rescue him. Days later he fled into the Nevada desert to his youngest son's home. He flew into a dazzling city whose night time glow could be seen a hundred miles away, guided by a solitary beacon of light from a black pyramid that sliced upward to disappear into endless space.
In time he rose from his own ashes like a badly wounded, and puzzled, phoenix. He couldn't understand how the loss of the woman could break him and bring him to his knees so that he would take a close look at himself, when a lifetime of bitter disappointments and failures could not.
When he examined himself, he didn't like what he found, and resolved to learn how to live after a lifetime of dying inside each day.
And he wanted answers as to why she left and would she ever return.
Only the world that he once turned his back on, because he was adopted and raised white, might provide any clues.
In a small Montana town in a dark motel room he explained the situation to a chunky man who listened attentively. Afterwards, during a smoky ceremony, he watched sage, sweet grass and cedar burned in a seashell and inhaled the rich, tangy smoke. He listened to the rapid swish of an eagle feather fan that guided the cleansing smoke over him, and to the deep, husky words of the praying Crow medicine man, who assured him the woman would return.
In Colorado, in the hot living room of an urban middle class home, a pair of Navajo from the Native American Church studied burning coals in a metal tray during a nightlong ceremony. When something significant was found, the hand of the Hand Trembler shook as if with epilepsy. They too prayed for him, putting everything in the hands of God and Jesus Christ, though they had a good feeling.
In the shadow of Shiprock in northern New Mexico, accompanied by two friends, he sat in the smoky, cramped laundry room of a standardized government built house, with an old, skinny Navajo Crystal Gazer and a brazier of glowing coals. The old Navajo examined a small glass of water in order to add additional answers to the complex jigsaw puzzle, then prayed for him and afterwards assured him that now she was turning toward him, though there were those who spoke against him, against them. The Crystal Gazer offered to turn the negative, the hurtful energy from others about him and the woman he loved, back upon the senders.
Each time, there were puzzling comments and hints of mystery and shadows regarding the woman he loved.
But, he believed in her. He put her on a pedestal, he worshipped her as an honest, ethical person, someone who was better than he, someone whose heart he would be lucky and fortunate to win.
Finally, after a tearful event of spiritual recognition and acceptance, he prayed, trembled with fear, and decided to offer his love again. After months of silent separation her response was simple.
Yes, she would talk to him, and yes, she would meet him in a dirty cowboy town in central New Mexico, though she lived in eastern Arizona.
"You asked at a really bad time," a new friend, a senior military officer, told him. "I opened the Bible, read a passage, and I realized that helping you would be the right thing to do," the broad shouldered man smiled as he slid money across the table to help fund the journey.
Another friend hugged him and she gave him a pair of long stemmed flowers to keep on the dashboard of his old car as he set out on the journey across Colorado and New Mexico.
"Good luck, we believe in you," a friend of his wrote in a note, when she and her husband loaned him money that the husband delivered to him beside the busy interstate that led south.
"You're putting your heart on your sleeve," another long time friend cautioned him from southern Colorado, as she greeted him with a strong, caring hug, when he visited her on his way to the small, dusty cowboy town. "But you're learning how to dance."
"I'll pray for you and light cedar and sage right now," a good friend, a woman from Cheyenne Country whose shoulder he cried on many times, promised when he called from the dusty town. The small motel room was wreathed in clouds of cigarette smoke, so much that he even had to leave the door open for a while, and the McDonald's meal tasted bland and rubbery.
"I will pray for you, and ask that God and Jesus Christ answer your prayers, if that is their will," a local Catholic priest promised him the next morning as the motel room digital clock ticked unemotionally toward the appointed hour.
He made a quick trip to a Navajo owned flower shop to purchase several lilies for the woman, who was flying back to Oklahoma for a funeral. They were meant for her to carry and, in a solitary moment, to reflect on happy memories of the one who passed away and, at the spot of reflection, to leave a lily in remembrance.
He wore one of his good suits when he met the auburn haired beauty in a beauty parlor on the edge of the Navajo Reservation. She cheerfully embraced him as if past bitter words and actions were only a bad dream. She was more beautiful than he remembered, and her famous smile was brighter than ever. When they had lunch and walked to a store, they held hands, they put their arms around one another, and she leaned against him as if she had never disappeared and as if she always belonged next to him.
Though he was cautious, he was happy. Being with her, holding her hand, and putting his arms around her felt good, felt right, and felt proper.
In the parking lot, outside of the store that bright fall afternoon next to the busy black interstate that beckoned travelers to the east, a serious look clouded her face as she told him, "I can't have a relationship with anyone. I'm still not divorced." He stammered a reply, then she hugged him, and with a flash of her ever-present smile, she raced onto the interstate, bound for Albuquerque to catch her flight to Oklahoma.
He returned to Colorado as confused as before.
Months later after moving to Nevada, he drove with patient and desperate determination through a daylong winter storm of snow, sleet and ice, to visit her. There had been a cool, misty drizzle when he left home before dawn, and the weather worsened the farther east he traveled. He took his time and over and over in his mind tried to imagine how the visit might go.
Again, they met at a beauty parlor on the edge of the reservation. He was surprised and pleased when she put his hand on her knee below the protective gown as she sat patiently while conditioner soaked into her hair. Later, he was even more startled when she put his hand on her lower thigh.
Late in the snowy afternoon they drove to her home deep on the reservation past snowy sandstone columns and bluffs, like so many watchful sentries. She insisted he leave his small green truck in a neighboring town so he could drive over the icy, snowy roads with her. The inn, she assured him, would not complain of leaving his green truck in their parking lot.
It was in the warmth of her Hogan, crowded with Native American artifacts and art collections, that they first truly kissed. It happened so quickly that he was unsure of who made the first move. She tempted him during the confusing wintry night with her desperate, moist kisses, her groping hands, her eager tongue and her engulfing hot mouth. One part of him enjoyed her passion, one part of him remained a stunned onlooker. Yet, for hours in the living room and the kitchen, except for her bare breasts, his hands were denied and his tongue was exiled from her intimate flesh. Only her excited friction of her nylon pants against his pants and flesh was allowed.
One part of him responded uselessly to her frantic friction and one part of him, with continued disbelief, watched and enjoyed the way her mouth hung open, and the way her eyes were squeezed shut in the throes of her excitement. They stopped to catch their breath, to talk quietly, then one would reach for the other and the unfulfilled passionate dance began again.
Later, in the quiet of the snowy, foggy night, after she went to her bedroom and he was left with the couch, he smoked outside of the hogan and considered leaving before dawn.
In the shadowy early morning, after he put coffee on and still wrestled with whether to stay or leave, she came to him with a strange look on her face. She unfastened her red bathrobe so he could put his arms around her, around her warm, fleshy body. After she pushed him to the floor, after she kissed him passionately, she rose and walked toward her bedroom. She let the robe drop and he saw, for the first time, the pale flesh of her bare shoulders and back, and the way her beautiful cheeks moved with each stride.
She looked over her shoulder at him without a smile.
In her bedroom, in her bed, a shrine long denied to him, she hesitated again, and she protested weakly as he embraced her and moved his body closer to hers, though this time his fingers were not denied. This time his fingers probed a wet, scented treasure in the realization of a long sought miracle that he prayed for during painful months. Again, one part of him ached with passion for her while another watched in awe as her fleshy legs slowly parted at his aching, moist approach. Finally, she slid under him and she opened her legs and arms wide to embrace him, to accept him, even as she continued to shake her head "no."
He trembled as the fleshy, protecting gates opened reluctantly, allowed him entrance until her rhythms seized him and possessed him with her own desire. On the shrine, into the woman that he worshipped, he finally offered his thick milky white gift, a gift of love rather than one of simple animal or physical or psychological satisfaction. His gift in exchange for the wonderful, sacred gift that she gave him.
The sacred gift of herself.
Then, it was over.
He lay exhausted, gasping, disbelieving, next to her in her bed, in her home. His heart thundered not from sweaty exertion and physical release, but from the realization, the fulfillment, of a quest for a woman he loved. In only a few definitive moments, after a night of confusion, he had crossed the invisible line from a hopeful suitor and hopeful lover to a man who now had the intimate knowledge and memory of a woman that he loved for over a year.
The morning passed too quickly, and he delayed his departure because he couldn't bear the thought of leaving her. He wanted to stay with her, he wanted to hold her, kiss her, and hug her as they had done months before in Colorado. He wanted to make love to her.
They parted at a gas station that cold, snowy afternoon in the reservation border town. She smiled at him sadly, reflectively, from her vehicle. She wouldn't kiss him good-bye, though she did touch two of her beautiful fingers to her lips, and turned them toward him.
Even without a good-bye kiss, he was still special.
That day he told her for the first of many times, "I've loved you for over a year, and I'll love you forever. I want to take care of you, and I want to grow old with you."
Weeks later, early one Nevada morning, in the desert out of sight of the highway, he sat on a boulder while she sat on his lap and took her shirt off. He reveled in her smile and the glitter in her eyes as he admired her. He held her and in the warming sunlight caressed her stiffened nipples with his tongue and kissed her soft breasts. He worshipped her fleshy breasts that he had come to know so intimately, so gratefully, after a year of being denied by her stated moral and ethical position.
This woman finally returned his love. She was his lover, she was with him, and they would be lovers forever. They would grow old together. Whereas he once resolved never to live past 60, he was now willing to risk all of the ailments of old age, whether crippling arthritis, blindness or deafness, or taking baby steps while bent at the back and leaning on a cane, because he would grow old with her.
So was the guy that no one knew of that she had been fucking for years in the secret other world darkness of Albuquerque, or in her hogan, when she couldn't have a relationship with anyone, with him, because she was a married woman.
The sun broke free of the mountainous eastern horizon and the desert blazed brightly, unforgivingly, hurting his unseeing eyes.
He felt tears on his cheeks, a mocking hot wind across his face like a burning slap, and the deep rake of bloody fingernails across his ages old scarred heart.
He returned to his green truck and drove out of the baking desert back to the house where the woman he had loved for over a year, waited for him.
ALBUQUERQUE by SS Hampton, Sr. © 2002-2003. All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce or distribute without the expressed written consent of the author.
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