Today, we look at another beautiful selection from Robert Goolrick‘s greatly anticipated new novel Heading Out to Wonderful, which will be hitting bookstores in just days. In case you missed them, you can click here and here to read the two previous excerpts, as well as the essay about the novel’s inspiration.
While you’re at it, fill out the form at the bottom for the chance to win one of 25 autographed copies (SORRY, THE WINNERS HAVE ALREADY BEEN CHOSEN.), and check back in the coming days as we feature more from Heading Out to Wonderful.
From Heading Out to Wonderful…
This is here, he thinks. This is the only thing. This. This violence in the mind, this gentleness in his strong hands, moving slowly over her body, the kindness in her skin, the gratitude in his heart. That she would let him touch her, would open herself for him. Only this, the tremor in his skin, like wind across a pond, silver-scaled, a shimmering of nerve, a reddening of flesh, a slickness everywhere spreading from his shoulders, gathering in the small of his back, where her hands lie, still as a child’s.
Sixty years ago this bed, this place, this hour with the sun going down, cresting to redness and fading to lavender and then to blue, but here and now, never changing, never forgotten, never to be recreated. Always a making of something wholly new, always a loss of something valued, built up, kept to be given, a giving beyond money or work, a taking beyond greed or theft.
This chenille bedspread, these pillows beneath her head, encased in flowered cotton, her blonde hair fanning out like golden angels’ wings in a white garden, the down on her earlobes, her crimson lipstick smearing his mouth, his shoulder, his chest. Only this, and nothing else.
This secret coupling. These secret hearts and bodies, the child waiting in the truck, with the brindled beagle named Jackie Robinson. That would be the photograph of this moment in time, sixty years ago, if one had been taken, if one existed.
Nothing else. Only this stopping of hearts, and its opposite, that, too, the speed of the having, so waited for, so unexpected when it comes, then this rushing, rushing everywhere. He cannot have enough of her, cannot take enough of her skin at one kiss. His tongue tastes her perfume and her own skin beneath, washed clean, over and over, by his kiss, as she twists and churns beneath him like water, her breath sweet in his ear, choking him with desire, with the urgency of telling her everything, everything about his life and his heart and his memory, telling her not with words but with his body, with every inch of his skin, offered up to her with such hopefulness, with what he hopes is kindness but knows to be a kind of selfishness. Because she is, at this minute, in the chill, the only one, the only woman who ever lived, the only one he has ever touched, has ever told with his body all the secrets that were alive in his heart every day, the things he remembers, the things he has long since forgotten.
But this is here, this is now. This is the only thing, and she is not the first but she is the only, the only one, and every taste of her flesh is something new in his mouth, and every breath from her mouth a kindness he never expected and does not deserve. Right here, in this bed, on this chenille, in this sunset, these flowered pillows and her blonde, blonde body, the wilderness of his general desire becomes specific, the path becoming clear until it leads only to her, to here, to the two of them, wholly wanted and wholly belonging only here and only now.
He is beautiful, now, like an animal in the wild. She is beautiful and wholly known and wholly foreign, and her voice is a new voice, and her breath is a strong wind that could blow him over, and her mouth is a new thing, her lipstick gone. How her eyes look into his eyes, dark as deep pools, the blue gone black, the depth unknowable, to ask, is this all right? Is this what you want?
Because her desire, her wanting, has waited, too. Because she is what she has always been, since she was a little child in a shack out in that valley, she is what she has been since before she was a woman. She is ready. For this, for him, for her movie star to come riding in the sunset, to her, to here, the smell of his sweat as sweet as rainwater, his hands smelling of blood, the sheen of his skin lit by the red of the sun and by his own blood rushing just under the surface, her Montgomery Clift, her Gable.
Now his arms are around her, his hands on her, his legs pinning her legs and she is Hayworth, she is Grable, the face and body a million boys took to war and dreamed about. She knows who she is, finally, because he knew from the first glance who she was and what he wanted her to be, and so she becomes that thing, here, his hands, his tongue, creating her out of whole cloth, the way Claudie’s deft hands made a dress from the flat of the fabric, she becomes something flared and ruffled and flounced and shimmering and feathered and winged, something silken that he can cool his skin against, that trails out behind her like the train of a bridal gown she has never worn, something made only for him and only for now.
All she can say is now, and now again and again, until he comes back from where he was and hears her, and finally allows himself to take what she offers, to take it shyly, to take it with a force that causes no pain, to take it with the kindness and the gratitude he feels in his heart that any woman so beautiful would let him come near her. Each has become for the other, Charlie to Sylvan and Sylvan to Charlie, both the only thing there is and nothing at all. They are joined, they are alone, each needing the other to create that solitude they have lived to find, each needing the war of the other’s body to create that wholeness that seems the only place it is possible to live, for now, and now, and for the moment after that.
Every moment would last forever. Every moment would end in a split second. In the end, they wake with a flash to find that they are still who they had always been, that even this now comes to an end, and even this here has a boundary they cross at breakneck speed, cross with regret, cross with gratitude because the body knows even after the mind forgets that there are some countries in which you cannot live forever, some countries that would kill you if you stayed too long.
But in the dying, both know for the first time that each will be a citizen in the other’s country until the last breath is drawn. The women he had known before her lived in another country, far off. The feeling of being at home in them had been, every time, a lie and a heartbreak, even though he remembered every face, every detail of every body. But this, she, her, here, now, this is the truth he had imagined as a boy, something that, once known, can never be lost.
And for her, for Sylvan, he is Hollywood.