Just got home from poker. I finished third (meaning I didn't win anything), so a bit of an off night for me. But we had our usual good time -- ten of us were there, all men tonight, and there was lots of hilarity and dude-conversation. And then, oddly, the old fellow we call Hippie -- who looks like an old fellow you'd call Hippie -- mentioned seeing a lion in woods abutting his backyard.
"What?!" a couple of us gasped.
"It was a lion!" Hip stated, in his usual stoned defiance. "At least, I thought it was a lion," he clarified. "Aren't there lions in Pennsylvania?"
"Sure," I said, "in the mountainous regions. Nittany lions."
"Penn State and shit," Dane laughed.
"Never heard of one this far down, though," I noted.
"Nah," said Pawlins, who is a regular hunter, "me neither. What'd you do, Hip?"
"Ran away!" said Hippie. "What d'ya think I did?"
"I think," Dane said, "you ran back inside and smoked another bowl."
We all laughed. Hippie did not deny this, which made us laugh more.
The cards were dealt for the next hand. And then the conversation faded, and we played the hand quietly. I folded (I had nothing). I popped my head on my chin and thought about lions. Specifically, the marble lion you and I sat behind down in Old City. That was some kind of moment, kid. Beautiful, cool summer night; and mostly quiet, with few pedestrians and traffic. Philadelphia at its best. And there we were, Charlton and Vicky, sitting next to each other, talking about California flower farms, Ethan Hawke romance movies, and the Redwood forest.
And then the conversation faded, and we sat there quietly. I wanted to kiss you right then. And, honestly, if it hadn't been you sitting there -- if it'd've been any other woman -- I would have. Talk about a scripted movie moment: can you think of a more romantic time that night for a first kiss to have happened?
But something strange happened . . . I got shy again. I'm actually pretty aggressive with women, having conquering the fear of rejection ages ago. But there I was sitting next to you, paralyzed. My muscles locked. My breathing was checked. I was scared.
"Do it, damnit!" my brain screamed at me. And I did not. Because it was you.
Of course, had it not been you there, we would not have had such a great night together, and most certainly wouldn't have jumped the chain and climbed the steps to the lion. So I would have been aggressive, all right, but with the wrong person, at the wrong moment, on the wrong night. And, therefore, it wouldn't have been anything special.
But it was you. So I did not kiss you. I'm sure you felt the tension. "Do it, damnit!" you were probably thinking. And the moment faded, and we got down from the lion quietly.
Eventually, of course, we did have that first kiss -- and it was quite a startlingly good one, if I may say so: the right person, the right night. But the setting wasn't as sweet. My living room pales next to the Old City lion. But Tears for Fears was on the turntable, so we had that going for us.
Eventually I came around to notice the hand had ended, and Carl was raking in his chips. All the guys were staring at me, and Karly the bartender was at my side. "I'm sorry," I coughed, trying to seem manly and not totally just woken up from a romantic dream. "What's happening?"
"Drinks," cackled Dane. He loves to make fun of me. "Something with an umbrella. In a heart-shaped glass, too!"
"Oh, another pint," I said to Karly. "Sorry, I was thinking."
"Thought I smelled smoke!" Dane laughed.
"No," Karly smiled, "I know what he was thinking about." She left the back room to fetch drinks, and said over her shoulder (in a salicious voice), "or who he was thinking about."
"Who's that?" the guys asked -- interrogated, more like.
"Oh," I said, blushing, "I saw a lion recently too. While I was with somebody."
The guys laughed at me some more, but I didn't care.
(c) 2011 Christopher M. Morlock. All rights reserved.