Part three: Amalfi
It was five thousand miles and five centuries from home. Mountains and sea, steep streets and red tile roofs. Beaches bracketed by rocky headlands and brightly colored fishing boats tossing in the dark blue sea. Beach walks, art work and antiquity and long, lazy mornings drinking coffee. I hired a boat and rowed out of the harbour to explore the coves and small secret beaches. It was the vacation of a lifetime and I was rested and relaxed and oddly restless.
The last of the sunset had faded to dark velvet and the wind carried the beat of the sea against the sea wall below the town. The air was still warm and the smell of the hills and the sea was a rich and musky perfume. I heard the music and instead of walking past the club, stopped and, on a whim, decided to go in. Whoever was doing DJ duty had caught the mood of the night. My Italian can get me a meal and an espresso but it isn’t up to small talk and flirting. But, I thought, a bottle of wine would be nice and I could watch the dancers. It was that kind of evening, sensuous and enticing, and I gave into it, walking through the door with a smile.
I saw her immediately. You couldn’t miss her. Red silk dress and moving like the music flowed through her. And though we’d said we would meet, the time we’d shared seemed so long ago and muted, as if perhaps it had happened to someone else and I had only heard the story.
I felt hungry for her in a way I hadn’t been hungry for a woman in a long time. Too long. The DJ took a break and in the sudden silence, she stopped to catch her breath and turned as if she felt my eyes on her. The room seemed to narrow as though it were a hall and only the two of us were in it. She smiled and took a step toward me. I wondered for a moment if she’d seen someone behind me she knew or if I reminded her of someone familiar. Surely she could not be alone?
She walked up to the small table that held my bottle and glass and I stood up as if I’d been expecting her. And, in a way, I had. As if longing had the power to bend the universe, as if the gravity of love and passion could fold the fabric of time and space to reunite those who truly love.
“A glass of wine?” I asked.
She smiled. “You’ve been watching me,” she said.
Something in the air or in her eyes — it was hard to tell if they were green or hazel — made it easy to smile and simply say yes. I poured her a glass. “To the music and the night,” I started.
“And to smiles across the room,” she finished.
“Not so far now.”
“No. Not so far now.”
The music started again, and she stood as if it called her and without looking back at me held out her hand for me to take, and I followed. It was a slow song, luckily for me; and she felt as natural and comfortable in my arms as if we had practiced this dance a thousand times before.
Later, arm in arm, we swayed down the cobbled street, revellers drifting past us laughing, enjoying the night. At the edge of the sea wall we paused. We leaned against the ancient stone still warm from the sun and watched the full moon silver the harbor. Below us, the boats moved gently on the swell. And we, transported by wonder, fell silent, perched here at the end of land and the beginning of time, together against all odds and probability.
We are familiar strangers, intoxicated by the moment and connected in ways we do not fully understand. But we know at a level beyond understanding that it is our time, that somehow the universe has conspired; we are complicit and yet innocent. Free, even if we both know what is to come. I smile, knowing this feeling, the prelude, prolonging the wait, fueling the fire.
We find a little restaurant in a side lane and enter to find it full of delicious aromas. We both realize that we are ravenous, needing sustenance and the sensuous pleasure of the oysters and seafood so beautifully prepared in this seaside village. A fine wine, matching the colour of my dress, so smooth and delicious to complement our meal, which stretches into dessert and yet more wine until we are both mellow and can’t stop touching each other from time to time…you tuck my hair behind my ear, trail the backs of your fingers down my cheek and across my bottom lip, while I can’t resist touching your neck in the hollow just above your collar where the pulse beats. Your hand moves under the table and I feel you slowly begin to raise my skirt, little by little, until you are touching the bare skin of my thigh, and you feel me shiver.
Somehow every sensation is magnified, the cool, silky-smooth creaminess of the semifreddo, the salty slip of the oysters,
the sparkle of moonlight on the water,
in your eyes,
the rippling sound of music,
the clattering of a laughing couple running for the thrill of movement,
the bold cherry red of your dress,
the brightness of your eyes against the tan on your cheeks,
all of it heightened by the feeling of calling and answering, the feeling the moth must experience when it feels the call of the flame.
Now the clatter of the kitchen slows. The waiters eye us, glancing at the clock. I feel the wine, strong in my blood. I watch your eyes as I slide your skirt up slowly, slowly, until my hand rests on the warm silk of your thigh. I feel you shiver and see the shift in your eyes. We lean towards one another across the table and kiss. I can taste the sweetness of the wine and chocolate on your lips, feel the tip of your tongue teasing my lips, and I feel a smile stretching your lips and a throaty laugh when my hand rises to touch your neck.
Suddenly I cannot wait for the formality of the check and and the details of the tip and change. I leave enough to make the kitchen and waiter happy and take your hand and walk out into the night.
As we walk down the worn stones of the ancient streets I feel the sway of your hips against me. We stop to look out over the harbor, lean against the worn stone rail and look out over the long silver trail the moon has laid down on the sea. I step back and see you framed against the moonlit sea. You are as beautiful and suddenly mysterious as the statues in the square. You fit yourself into me and we stand there, my hands on your hips and then running along your thighs. You are warm against me and I bring a hand up to cup your breast while the other hand tilts your head back to kiss you again. I want this night to last, I never want to let it go, never want to let you go.
There are other lovers gathered to watch the moonlight dancing on the rippling waves… but none could possibly be feeling the intensity that exists between us. As you hold me pressed so close, I feel the extent of your desire against me through the thin silk of my dress. How fortunate we are to know that building a fire slowly intensifies and heightens our pleasure, but even so I cannot resist lightly brushing my fingers against you, feeling you move, your hand pausing at my breast as you gasp against my mouth.
Enough! We move away, arms around each other, listening to the murmur of the others, young honeymooners mostly. I don’t even know where we are going, we have hardly spoken a word since the restaurant, just letting the overwhelming desire lead us. You stop in a secluded place and press me back against a stone wall, hands roaming free, your mouth passionately ravaging mine until I can barely stand not to have you right here; but a small, still functioning part of my brain insists not here, not yet, and the laughter of people moving along the street halts us — but they are used to the sight of lovers, it is Italy, after all.
You take my hand again and with a sense of urgency lead me on… where are we going, to the hotel where I am staying, or on to where you are staying? Where is that? I have not asked you yet, just followed where you lead, trusting it will be somewhere where we can indulge ourselves freely and privately, without interruption, in a bed with crisp snowy white sheets looking out over the ocean, and SOON…
And then you begin to descend the steps leading to the beach. If I am going to walk on the beach I will need to take off my sandals and my stockings. You help me, nestling my feet in your lap while you slowly untie the ankle straps and even more slowly reach under my dress to ease off my stockings, your hand pausing to caress me as you find their tops halfway up my thighs, your eyes on mine as it moves even higher to touch me lightly, and you move forward to kiss me, your tongue playing at my lips, smiling against me.
“Come,” you say, “we have a way to go,” and you lift me and carry me over the rocks down to the sand where the waves are gently lapping, so warm in the night yet enough to cool us a little as we walk…
We walk through the foam along the water’s edge and the phosphorescence gleams along the crests of the incoming waves. I tuck your sandals into the pocket of my jacket and your stockings into a side pocket. You take my arm and we walk past the groups clustered around small beach fires following the long curve of the beach to where the rocky headland looms dark as the walls of some rough castle. The dark brings us closer as though we walk through an intimate and private universe made specially for us and only us.
“Ruby,” I begin, “I don’t know why I’m here. I didn’t plan to be here. There was nothing on the calendar that said trip to Amalfi coast with the days ticked off before it. I just came. And then tonight, why this town, why that club, but I walked through the door and saw you and suddenly it was–”
“It was right,” you whisper.
“Yes, like the reason was suddenly clear,” I am thinking aloud, “like that was what I had been getting ready for all along, only I didn’t know it. After that night, I can’t count the times I thought of you and remembered it so clearly that it hurt, so clearly that ordinary, regular, day-to-day reality seemed to suddenly pale and–”
“Yes.” You stop and touch the side of my face and I know you understand, know you felt it too. And I know your fingers can feel the smile spreading wide across my face.
We face the waves. “I love the sea,” you say.
And suddenly there is something I want to tell you, something so you will know me.
“It’s so peaceful now, but you can’t trust the sea to be anything but honest and true to its deeper nature. The rising waves are the small reflections of deeper action, wide and spreading forces that we feel only as small echoes splashing against our feet. I’ve been lost at sea, lost in the sea where the spray freezes hard where it lands, lost in a wilder world, stranded in a geography that dwarfed our boat and threatened to swallow us, brave or not. I don’t love the sea and I don’t fear the sea but I know I can’t live without it. It is a wild and reckless ride and I love the thrill of danger and the sweet relief of coming home once more.”
I am not sure if I am talking to you or the dark swells that stir the sand at our feet, caress and stir and then retreat only to rise and rush forward once again. I hope I haven’t said too much, but I want the desire I feel so strongly for you to reach out with words as well as with touch. I want the restless and wild passion we had; but I want more.
We round a group of rocks black against the paler dark of the sand, and are in a small, sand floored room walled with the dark rock still warm from the day’s long sun. I brush back your hair and trace the whorled shell of your ear, feel the strength of your neck and pull you close to kiss you. I catch your lower lip with my teeth and feel your arms come hard around me. My tongue plays lightly between your lips and teeth and presses in more strongly. I smell your hair, sweet floral perfume and musk woven through with the salt tang of the sea, and savor the taste of your lips, strong and smooth against mine.
When your lips leave mine I whisper to you, “Adam, I don’t know any more than you how we came to be here, only that it feels right. I missed you so much, and even though I didn’t know you, there was a void that I knew only you could fill. It seems that the fire was lit then, and it feels like it will never go out, only die down to embers when we are apart, to be banked again when we are together.”
Your fingers, meanwhile, have been busy, slowly and sensuously undoing the tiny buttons at the front of my dress, and you brush it aside, enough so that you can move your lips down to the swell of my breast, just kissing me above the lace… so right, so familiar your touch. My legs tremble with the weakness of desire, your arms around my waist, pulling me close against you, supporting me. All else seems to have disappeared; I can no longer hear the waves, or the laughter or the wind, just your heartbeat and the sounds you make as you caress me.
The wildness of the passion we shared before was exciting beyond belief and I know without doubt that we are to experience that again tonight, but you have such control — or is it knowing how high to take me before settling me again, postponing the inevitable, increasing the depth of my wanting more and more?
“I want, oh god, I need…” I say, as you run your finger beneath the lace, pushing it down enough to free my nipple, your tongue teasing it out pink and hard. I feel a flush rising from my breasts up my neck, the heat so intense it feels as though you have fire in your mouth.
“A little longer,” your husky voice filled with the heat of passion rises to me, “we have only a little way to go.”
You slowly redo the buttons of my dress, your eyes looking into mine all the while; but before we go on, you slide my dress up to my hips and in a movement so quick that it makes me laugh with surprise, you take off my panties and put them in your pocket with my stockings, leaving me naked under my dress, the cool breeze rustling my skirt, rising up underneath… cooling me, but I don’t want to be cool… I want the heat of your body on mine, in mine, over me, under me… my patience is fast disappearing and the savagery of lust is replacing it. We need. I need.
“I know,” you say.
Stay tuned, A String of Pearls: Amalfi will continue…
Read the prelude here: