cyle talley

An Imperceptible Line*

“Do you see them?” He leaned easily on the bow of the ship as the wind whipped the hood of his rain jacket. A light rain bounced off of the brass railing and dripped down the sign that notified its passengers of the potential dangers.

“See what?” She looked at him. Through him.

“Over there,” he stretched his arm for effect and the rain jacket stretched to show the outline of his slender shoulder. His sandy hair blew across his forehead. Rain gathered at the brim of his hood and came off in droplets. “They look like a couple of rocks.”

She stared intently off in the direction she thought he was pointing. God, there was so much to see. How could he expect her to make out a couple of rocks in the majesty of a place like this? She hated this game and had since she was young. ‘Look over there, Sweetheart,’ her parents smiled kindly as they pointed through the windshield on long car rides. And she did. She looked, but she was never able to see. Never. At some point, she simply began pretending to see whatever it was that everyone else saw. ‘Oh!’ she’d gasp noncommittally. ‘Wow!’ she’d say.

And now he was playing this stupid game with her.

She looked at him. Through him. The sound of the sea was overpowered by the whip of the wind. Still pointing, he returned her gaze and smiled, his boyish dimples showing through the stubble of his days old beard. She swept her bangs back, fighting the wind and adjusted the hood of her own rain jacket as though the hair and the hood were somehow obstructing her view.

“Where?” She traced his arm with her eyes, bony shoulder to skeletal fingertip. He was much skinnier than she typically preferred. Toned, certainly, but even calling him lithe was something of a kind exaggeration. Clearly a runner. She agreed to go out with him initially because of the way he had glanced at her when she passed him running on the trail. He looked as though he was squinting into the horizon. Most men looked at her salaciously, licking their chops and sniffing the air for blood. He, however, seemed simply to appreciate the view. “Not because of your body,” he would admit on their first date, “though you’re certainly lacking for nothing,” and they both blushed at the admission. It was quiet for a moment before he looked up at her again, as if staring and squinting into the horizon- all at once taken by its beauty, but unable to make out exactly what he was looking at.

“It was because you passed me.”

He smiled at her now as she glanced around. Despite convincing her to come along on this travel assignment, despite that they were camping together and being a real couple on a real trip overseas, he knew that he was still chasing her. She had passed him running once and he had chased her imperceptible line since.

“Here,” he said and stepped behind her. His long torso leaned over hers and, with his body as a wind breaker, it was suddenly warm. She could feel his smile radiating through the gray morning and she tried not to flinch too noticeably. However exciting this traveling with him was- sleeping in the same tent and whispering to each other in the dark and waking up to him already outside and boiling water for coffee- this closeness was still very new and very raw to her.

“If you look dead ahead,” the ship’s loudspeaker came on, amplifying the captain and his lilting Kiwi accent.

“Look,” he said, pointing his long arm for her eyes to follow, as though there wasn’t anyone else on the ship but them. The captain’s voice and the bustle of their fellow tourists wandering around the ship’s deck taking pictures and drinking complementary coffee or tea seemed to recede into the distance, their voices becoming hollow, as though she were just about to fall asleep. “Right there.”

She followed his finger as he pointed out into the sea a few hundred yards from where they stood on the bow. The sea rippled cold and gray, and the rain continued to come down lightly. The wind died down and the sound of the ship slicing through the waves became something of a heartbeat.

She suddenly felt the fear of disappointing him. She scanned the sea feverishly, her eyes darting about, looking for something solid to set them on.

“There,” he had pulled the side of her hood back slightly and whispered warm into her ear. “Just a touch up from where you’re looking.” He waited for what he was certain she would see. She bit the inside of her lip. The rain fell in droplets off of their hoods.

“Oh,” she said. “Wow.”

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