The day former President Richard Milhous Nixon died, I was lying on a shelf of black volcanic rock three feet above sea level in Taormina, Sicily, and 15 feet away from the most incredible girl I had ever seen.
From the top of her head to the tips of her toes she was utterly perfect, and she reclined on a crisp, white rectangle of cotton like the regal princess of some long-forgotten land. The muscle tone of her daylight-long limbs was just a suggestion beneath her flawless, coffee-colored skin, and a mane of perfect, ebony locks spilled over her shoulders like water from a midnight waterfall, shimmering in the distant flames of the sun, all of it framing a face more beautiful than I can ever hope to describe. She was a goddess, she was beyond words, and she wore the smallest black bikini I had ever seen.
It occurred to me that this was the kind of moment people find themselves in purely by accident or when they are just about to die, and I looked about me in awe, straining to memorize each detail of my surroundings.
The walls of our tiny cove had been mined from a quarry of angular shadows with uneven tools, and shaped by careless, colossal craftsmen into horseshoe-shaped cliffs. They encircled us like the arms of a craggy giantess beneath an endless, clear blue sky, which merged into the heaving sea and came running back again to lap hungrily at the jagged black rocks near our feet with showers of delighted jewels.
I squinted at the sunlight, still fresh from its journey as it impacted sharply across the surface of the water, reflecting and exploding violently across my eyelids in warm, red patterns like brief maps of chaos, while savoring a cool and weary breeze. One lonely gust of wind banished from the ocean battled a legion of jagged skeletons. Heat waves rose up like souls from the rock, each as silent as the next, while beads of moisture ran down her skin, like seraphim racing pearls in a celestial soapbox derby.
Leaning up on one elbow and smiling at her for the first time presently caused her to do the same, and in addition to her expectant gaze, I swear a thin smile crossed her lips! This was obviously a sign to act, and so in the moment before I spoke, I took a breath to savor her expression, and to entertain a vision of great things to come. I wondered what her favorite movies were, and what she liked to eat, what books she had read, where she lived, and what the inside of her bedroom looked like. Did I look okay? Would she want me to meet her family?
No more questions! I saw our relationship unfolding carefully, like the petals of rare flowers I didnít want to bruise. Here was a chance to reinvent myself and become the man I was born to be. She didnít have to know the terrible things Iíve done in my life, and looking at her, I knew she was the one woman capable of giving me the kind of forgiveness I truly needed. Maybe she just saw in me a kindred soul, a friend who would listen to what she had to say, and a man who would love and appreciate her for what she was. I swore silently to try to be each of them if she would only give me a chance, and gave only fleeting thought to the words whispered in native tongues while rumpling the sheets in our struggle with the language barrier.
This blushing sweet story of sign language and laughter by the sea would be the tale we told our friends when they asked us how we met; two people, split by language and geography, bound by fate and destiny, against all odds of life and happenstance arrived one day at a singularity in their mutual destiny, and built a moment so magnificently balanced that the Architect of the Universe paid attention; ears cocked and finger on the "pause" button, the machinery of the planets slowed their languid pace, prolonging and protecting this blessed event horizon in the sun, because of us, because of now, and all I had to do was say hello.
I was never more focused in my entire life, and I sat up slowly, playing the part of the confident lover while anxiously anticipating the song of her voice and the first words she would say to me. In fact, I remember thinking, "I'll bet her name translates to something completely wonderful..." right before she opened her mouth to speak to her six-foot, 200-pound, muscle-bound boyfriend.
He and two large companions made their approach down the jagged path behind me, laughing and greeting her excitedly in Sicilian, and completely oblivious to the tragic wasteland of unrequited love before them. It was he that she had smiled for, and it was him that she stood before and freely gave away our first-and-never kiss.
I tried hard not to stare as I watched his hands pollute her, and fought to ignore their gentle exchange while idly wondering what fruit her kisses tasted like.
I would never know.
Having narrowly survived a wild ride in the Barrel of Stupidity, down the River of Embarrassment, and over the Waterfall of Heartbreak, I slipped my headphones back into my ears and contemplated the vacuum of black beyond the bright blue sky, with a heavy Sigh of Acceptance as the Flywheels of Time resumed their greedy speed.