Welcome back, readers!
Well, as promised in my post from August 26, we’ll be taking a break from the poetry for the time being and focusing on a different kind of work that I’ve experimented with once upon a time—namely, short stories. This particular piece should fit the bill nicely considering the fact that it is the first of a small handful of short stories I’d ever had the chance to write back in the day. As a matter of fact, I’d chanced to write this story back on September 24, 1999, as part of a writing assignment for my first ever college English course. I’ll be brutally honest; being a roughly inexperienced teenager at the time, I suppose I could have done a better job in terms of developing and expanding on certain thoughts and ideas that I’d managed to present throughout the course of this narrative, among other things. Even so, being that this particular story is short, sweet, and to the point and came straight from the heart during the time I wrote it, I’d be lying if I were to say that I wasn’t proud of it. As such, I hope you people enjoy reading this next piece, The Meaning of Love, as much as I enjoyed writing it.
The Meaning of Love
by Dustin M. Weber
September 24, 1999
What is love, anyway? As simple as this question may seem, a surprisingly large percentage of people aren’t able to answer it as accurately as they would like to. Then again, who can blame them? Love, as is true with similarly abstract topics, has so many definitions and interpretations that no two individuals can ever reach the exact same conclusion about it no matter how parallel their views are. Personally, I especially have a rather different perception of love as compared to those of others based on my past experiences regarding the issue. The one that taught me the most about it, however, was a brief yet influential moment that I had not too long ago with a girl named Ashley Studebaker, the first and only woman I’ve ever had an intense feeling of admiration for. In fact, the more I reminisce about the event, the more I realize that no other date in time will stick out in my mind like that one instant when I first locked lips with an angel.
We first met when we attended the same middle school during the sixth grade. A close friend of mine, who had previously been one of her classmates in elementary school, introduced us to one another during the second month of classes. Even back then, I could see the sparkle of her bright emerald-green eyes and quartzite smile and the golden shine of her long blond hair as it gently sloped down to the back of her narrow shoulders. Her face had a nice rosy hue to it–a deliciously pinkish magenta that remained uncorrupted by even the slightest hint of blush or mascara. Her slim, limber torso and legs gave her an admirably athletic carriage, reminding me of a graceful ballerina in a musical production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Heck, I’ll go as far as to admit that the soft, rich moistness of her full crimson lips had intrigued me, too. Truth be told, it felt as though I had just met my future wife right there on the spot.
That’s not to say, of course, that her material beauty was the only thing that had struck a cord within my heart; her character had managed to win me over as well. Truth be told, I actually found her cheerful optimism and straight-forward respect towards me and, quite frankly, towards people in general to be two of her most appealing traits. It needn’t have mattered when we two would meet, as we’d always have this effervescent feeling of warmth and comfort flickering between us, burning within our very souls like a well-managed campfire on a cool October evening. Likewise, I can’t even honestly recall a single argument that had ever occurred amongst us–almost as if we were incapable of showing any sign of anger toward each other. In short, we both enjoyed each other’s company to the utmost possible extent, and that–as anyone can determine–is the prime element of any long-lasting relationship, friendship or otherwise.
As the passage of time pressed on, Ashley and I continued to grow closer together with every blissful moment. More or less, we’d go out of our way to spend every instant with our respective significant other: attending the same parties, hanging out at the mall, studying…just the usual in terms of teenager-related activities. Then again, none of those experiences were quite as memorable for us as our strolls through the woods every Sunday afternoon. During these little trips, all our personal feelings, beliefs, and values would pour out between us like individual drops of water during a summer rainstorm. We’d generally become more open towards each other, but not because we felt it necessary; we did so simply because we were really starting to enjoy the sacred bond of loyalty that was gradually growing stronger between us with every passing minute. In other words, our small jaunts through the forest helped us build a greater understanding of our growing interpersonal connection and allowed us to dive head-first into our relationship without thinking about where precisely it would lead us.
On our last “friendship walk,” however–late in the April of 1996, as I recall–I felt some strange power within the air influence me to pull one of the most impulsive stunts in all my adolescent life. I couldn’t see for certain what it was that promoted such a brash, random action. Did the crisp, gentle spring breeze put me into some sort of odd romantic trance that I wasn’t aware of? Had I allowed myself to become too mesmerized by the tranquil silence that enclosed upon my shivering frame? Was it merely the fact that I was all alone with the most elegant, compassionate girl I’ve ever met in my material existence on this planet?
Well, whatever the case may have been, I tried to reign in my ambitiously primitive urges to the best of my ability, reminding myself over and over again that what I was feeling wasn’t exactly love, but rather lust–not that I knew what love really was, I admit, as I’d never designed any serious commitment to any girl before then. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but to merely glance at Ashley’s forlorn face every once in a while and still manage to drink in every detail with my avaricious, wolfish eyes.
She looked quite stunning then with her smooth, clear skin glowing with a ghostly luminescence against the cool fall shade and her sunny mane glistening like a halo around her head. Her lips, I also noticed, were dry and parted as if she had something to say but couldn’t find the right words to help illustrate her thoughts. Her expression displayed so much frustration and regret that it just killed me to see her in such a state of lost hopelessness. Surely there was some way I could help her regain her usual self-confidence. If only I could have reached out to her and eased her aching soul…
I stopped dead in my tracks and asked her what it was that was bothering her. She paused as well, but instead of saying anything, she simply lifted her head shyly, like a juvenile box turtle peeking out of its shell, and focused her somber gaze upon me. Soon enough, the two of us found ourselves paralyzed by each other’s stares with our tongues frozen within our slightly gaping mouths and our hearts thudding heavily against our sternums. We could see the fireworks exploding in one another’s irises, exposing the spark of three years’ worth of friendship that was about to ignite into something greater than either of us had ever expected.
We motioned slowly to each other, pulling together as though some electromagnetic force was uniting us at its own scientifically indomitable will. I clutched her shoulders and surely, though cautiously, summoned her delicate form toward me with my trembling hands. As I did so, I could detect the hairs on the back of my neck prickle like porcupine quills as she stretched her long, thin fingers along my trapezium. Her hot, sultry breath swept into my sinuses in one long stream of cinnamon-scented air, leaving me even more drugged than I was before. Her controlled, rhythmic breathing added to the hypnosis and made me want to just melt there right on the spot like a block of wax on a radiator.
Finally, in one smoothly calculated execution, the inferno within us raged forth.
Our lips touched lightly at first, then fastened firmly around each other as they connected. I soon found all of my organic systems increasing at a rate I’ve never experienced before, endangering my emotional stability and setting my mind so off balance that I couldn’t think or act with full clarity. I knew that I should have stopped right at that very instant, but the sweet taste of Ashley’s nectar had overpowered my brain’s pleasure zone and weakened my capacity for reason to such a degree that I felt my self-control slithering out of my grasp like earthworms from a child’s muddy little hands. My adrenaline raced like brushfire, speeding the flow of blood through my veins as I inhaled the luxurious aroma of her natural metabolic perfume, yet depraved myself of the oxygen that my lungs so desperately craved. Her arms, too, had a dangerously delightful sensuality about them as they wrapped around my torso like twin boa constrictors and encompassed me in a vice of fatal affection.
My conscience panicked as well, telling me to stop the madness at once before I ended up hurting not only myself, but Ashley as well, and send whatever faith we had in one another to the brink of oblivion. Neither one of us deserved to put ourselves–or each other, for that matter–through such reckless chaos and force our mutually hard-earned trust to coincide with something it wasn’t quite ready for. The pressure we were undergoing was senseless, foolish, insane–just plain wrong! Then again, how many teenagers stop and think about the consequences of their decisions before acting upon them? Besides, I, for one, had become so addicted to her that redeeming myself for my weasel-like greed had gotten less and less possible with every passing nanosecond. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that she had felt the exact same way that I did.
Luckily for us, though, we were able to break out of our embrace before we could cause any greater damage.
Holding Ashley at arms’ length, I could see that she was just as frightened as I was, if not even more so. Her eyes, losing their usual crystalline glimmer, bulged out of their sockets while her jaw dropped so far down that if it wasn’t properly hinged, it might as well have fallen off into the dirt. I also noticed that she had adopted a stance that made her look like she was ready to flee from me at any given moment like a rabbit after spotting a hungry fox. Of course, I wouldn’t have blamed her if she did, as I might as well have done the same thing–had I not been so busy trying to catch my breath and clear my thoughts, of course.
As soon as we shoved ourselves apart, however, we had both managed to talk about the episode with a shocking amount of rationality. The pair of us agreed that our little scenario, unnerving as it had been, was merely a fluke of nature that would have occurred between any couple of really close friends (albeit those of the opposite gender, in most cases) and that we had no need to feel ashamed of our actions. In fact, she told me that I was a rather adept kisser and that she was glad to have had her first kiss with me instead of some arrogant jock or self-centered preppy. I couldn’t help blushing when I heard her say that; it simply sounded so ridiculous that such a gorgeous, soft-hearted creature as herself would fall for a hideously embittered goon like me. It had to have been something about my personality that had lured her to me—some intangible trait of mine that I never knew I had the ability to acquire until that one magical incident.
Suddenly, I could identify right then and there my own personal definition of love and what power it could hold over two people with a strong, long-lasting interpersonal connection. The sensation of actually being able to define such an abstract concept in my own terms gave me the shivers at first, as I didn’t quite know how to apply such knowledge to the rest of my future experiences. On the other hand, I actually enjoyed making such a breakthrough discovery about the reality that had just occurred between the two of us–long-time friends who had finally unearthed our most powerful and life-altering secret after an intense instant of truth. Overall, I had developed a stronger notion of commitment to Ashley than I had ever made to anyone or anything else in my entire metaphysical state of existence. Nothing could tear me away from her, not even many years’ worth of departure from her, for that was exactly how mighty my emotions had developed from that moment on.
Three more years have passed since that episode–long, dismal ones at that, too–during which personal obligations have forced Ashley and me to take our separate journeys. We still find the time to keep in touch, however, despite the heavy demands of our respective life schedules. Within the letters we send one another, we express our continuous mutual devotion and the desire we each hold to meet again one day to fulfill our sacred destiny. All right, so maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I refuse to deny the fact that our first kiss taught us precisely what we needed to know about romance and the ideals of true love and that only the coldest, most insensitive person on the face of the earth would dare defy its institutional message to the masses. In other words, love maintains its title as the strongest natural power of all and will continue to stay that way even as the world fades away into nothingness.
And that should do it for today—probably for the entirety of this season, in fact. September is just around the bend, after all, and I still have every intention of publishing my latest novel, UWWX: The Underground Women’s Wrestling Xperiment, sometime that month. If things change and I have to push the date back, I will let everyone know, but so far—even though things have taken much longer than I’d hoped they would in terms of editing the doggone book—things are looking okay. In the meantime, let me know what you think about this particular story (including any constructive criticisms you might have for consideration in future short story submissions) and whether or not it touched a nerve with any of you. Feel free, too, to let me know if any of you would be interested in reading a novel with themes similar to those presented here. Granted, I have a different type of novel in the works, but even with that in mind, I am always willing to try out a new genre and/or style of writing.
Otherwise, thank you all once again for reading, and as always, check out my author page at Smashwords.com to see what I have available for your reading pleasure, and don’t forget to follow my on Twitter @DustinMWeber. Until we meet again, then, happy reading!
Dustin M. Weber