I went to a reading tonight, the first since I left Fairbanks.
It was only slightly awkward. Before, I knew everyone; they were my classmates and professors. Here, though, I knew the poet reading and, well, ok, a few other people.
It was at the Orr Street Gallery. If you guys haven't been there, go now. Anyway, right behind where the people read was this photo. From far away, you might mistake it for a mountain or mountains, some striated landscape, weathered.
Up close, I realized it was breasts. Very old, sagging breasts. Breasts that were resting on a stomach, tanned and wrinkled. Misshapen and elongated. A drop of ice cream melting down the side of your cone.
I couldn't stop staring at that photo. The photo itself was nicely done, just a torso shot, 3/4 view. Something like that. The woman's inner arm was also in the picture, her left arm, the skin folding and falling just as her breast. It created these great lines, vertical, reaching on and on.
For two hours I looked at the picture (biting my lip trying not to cry during poems, trying to look interested when the novelist read) wondering what I found so magical about it.
It was me. It was Mindy.
I've never been one to go on and on about women or their life-giving bodies. I mean, I have an ex-girlfriend who constantly said how beautiful vaginas were. Listen, I'm not that type of girl. For one, I probably would've used the word vulva, for two, there's no way in hell I would call a vulva beautiful. And I've never once called myself a goddess.
But these breasts were beautiful and haunting. Because, of course, I've got them on the brain right now. Mindy's are growing to feed a baby. Mine are being squeezed to see if there's evil inside me.
This photo was everything, though. I kept looking and thinking, one day I will be old. So will Mindy. In fact, she'll always be older. One day, her breasts will fall to reach her stomach (and I hope we both live to that day). One day, I will make love to an old woman.
And one day after that, I will never make love again.
Death has always been the thing to scare me, not aging. Not until tonight, I guess.
Already at 29 I've noticed my body changing. So far, it hasn't been too bad. I gained an extra ten pounds in my ass and boobs. I finally look like I eat enough. I can fill out a bra on most days. My thighs are ripe and round. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a woman's body. Like I might be sexy and not just cute and awkward. I think I'm just a little past a peak.
I think I'll have more, though. I've always had a thing for older women, but now I'm not sure what that means. An older woman used to be in her 30s. My wife is 35 and of course, I don't consider her an older woman. I don't really know what I'm trying to say.
So here were these breasts, fallen and deflated. But I wanted them. I mean, I want to earn those. At one time, those breasts were firm and round and high. They were cupped and kissed and teased. I wondered at how one would cup them now. How might one touch them? If she were lying on her back, they would spread and fall lightly, easily to either side.
One day that will be me. Or one day mine will be gone, loped off and tossed away, two blinking scars where they once belonged.
And one day I will face Mindy's.
I hope that when I get there, when I see the years on her body, that I know just what to do. That I can still kiss her and say, "You are beautiful."