Djibouti to Pape'ete and beyond (a love story)

by James Lloyd Davis

       He went to sea. 
       She married someone else. 
       Maybe he merely used these facts to remain unmarried for so long, but there it is. There were exotic women on the edges of far continents, conch shells on their front porches, large flowers in lieu of jewelry in strategic places on their bodies, arranged for the purpose of fashion… in those places. Maybe high heels and tinted hair work well enough for effect in places like Boston, Baltimore, Birmingham, but in the really faraway places where the rain falls like sugar-drop candies on the flesh of young women, a strategically located orchid works quite as well, better sometimes, produces similar responses. 
       He could tell you, but he won't. 
       You had to be there. 
       You were not. 
       You were here.
       He would think about her, though, for the greater part of his life. She would become even more lovely over time, a spectral image, a remembrance more lovely than she might have been if he'd stayed with her, if he'd had the nerve to tell her what he never did but should have. What triggered this decades-long phenomenon happened when he spoke to her one day about nothing of importance and looked in her eyes one second longer than necessary.
       Something happened.
       He always wondered if what he experienced was something she also felt. He'll never know. I did mention her eyes, didn't I?  Eyes of a young woman, flush with whatever it is that young women carry with them just fractions below the surface, a fire beneath the cool skin, a trembling something that enraptured a young man and pretty much warps his mind for long decades thereafter. You look in the eyes just once, the eyes of one who's ripe and brimming with this searing quality and you are forever burned with the mark of her for wanting.
       What's the word for what she had? 
       What she possessed that day?
       It's not beauty.