Red Hot Heart
by S. J. Perkins

Love Souvenir

Do you recognize this piece of broken plastic?
Red jagged-edged hunk of dashboard plastic
It scraped against my hand tonight
As I hurriedly vacuumed my car at the self-serve car wash 
You know the car wash with the big curly-hosed vacuums?
For a buck you get the thrill of racing front seat to back
Wrestling the giant winding hose, trying to keep your pants clean
Trying not to suck up your new pack of breath mints
Or the ten-dollar bill that fell under the seat last week

Its sharp broken edge snipped at me tonight
As I hurried through my task 
Cursing under my breath, aggravated that such a mundane chore
Should interrupt my busy life
But I paused as I reached for the little section of plastic 
That had worked its way out from years spent hiding 
Under the loose carpet on the passenger side of my car
A sweet memory rinsed away my impatience
Replaced my grimace with a sly grin as I sat in the car wash tonight
Twisty python hose whining to itself now
In the backseat, ignored...unimportant
I ran my finger over the jagged edge and remembered the night...

Weíve been dating for weeks 
Talking on the phone, spending time alone
Iíve taken my time with you, though
Never pushed you or rushed you
Discovering early on that you are not a woman to be pushed or rushed
Nor a woman to part with words or kisses casually
I mind my manners impeccably seeing that you are different somehow
Feeling humbled in your presence
Amazed that it occurs to you to spend time with a jockish rogue like me
But tonight ends differently...finally

Any other night I know what to expect
I pull to the curb; you reach for the door handle 
Those downcast eyes that have captivated my soul for nearly two years
Will briefly turn in my direction, and in that split second my heart will liquefy
You will allow me to kiss your splendid cheek and you will blush deeply
I will see your color rise in the spare dashboard light, your skin is that fair
You will bid me a good night in your sweetly accented voice
You will bounce up the porch steps and disappear behind the swinging screen door
I will turn my car towards home and once there be unable to sleep 
My head will be filled with you...

But tonight youíve had a certain light in your eye all along
Youíve allowed your magnificent eyes to rest dreamily on mine
Let your hand linger on my shoulder as we laugh
Youíve held a secret all night, but itís slipping out...I can feel it
Now we are parked under a tree, across the street from the elementary school
Down the block from your sisterís house in the middle of the night
I did pull up in front of the dark house
 To let you slip away from me like so many other lonely nights
But your eyes met mine and with a shy smile 
You said you didnít want to go home yet
My mind was yelling, "Speed for your apartment, dummy!"
My heart recalled your innocence and inexperience...
My heart won the battle and I circled the block 
Elated simply that you wanted to stay with me a bit longer
At last you feel at ease to show me your heart

We talked for awhile and the radio softly played
You asked me what I wanted from you...and why...
I think my past scared you, you didnít want to be the next to fall
It was in that moment that I truly fell in love with you
Your determined self-respect and desire to know my heart
Revealed the depth of your integrity 
I turned old-fashioned suddenly; you did that to me
I asked you to be my girlfriend...heart racing
You asked for how long..."no mas un ratito?"  Just a little while?
My then-rusty Spanish failed me mightily 
I thought you had called me a rat...
Oh perfect, I thought, this is not going well
But we communicated that night...finally

Needless to say you accepted my proposition
You became my girlfriend that warm spring night
You invited me to hold you close then and taste your sweet lips
You trusted me with your heart and knew I wouldnít crack it open
My fire for you was hard to fight and I climbed right over the stick shift
In my favorite Gap jeans that wonít fit on my ass anymore
(You sweetly remind me that I was too skinny back then anyway from a lack of love...thank you, darling)
And the black Tony Lama boots that have since had their toes chewed off
By sharp little puppy teeth... 
Puppies you were crazy to get when we bought our cute little house
I got in that seat with you that night and let my passion for you grow
My boot got caught on the way over; my long leg got stuck 
And ripped this little red chunk out from underneath the dashboard
We laughed about it and made out for hours underneath the tree
Across the street from the elementary school...
Down the block from your sisterís house in the middle of the night

Now six years later our love is stronger than ever
We made a wise decision; we have a beautiful love
I hold this piece of jagged plastic out to you and you smile
And yes, you still blush, mi amor...
You blush and take the little broken piece in your hand
It has become a treasure for you now
You say you will save smile and caress your swollen belly
Our child will know the story, one day...
Of the night that our love bloomed...the love that gave her life.

©S. J. Perkins


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