“Mum, have you ever had a one-night stand?”
Possum-in-the-headlights I considered my options.
Deny all knowledge of the concept. A one night stand? I know not of which you speak? Colliding with the prepared response and the words that wandered through my disturbed mind, the images of dark hands, a full moon, feeling a kiss that takes all breath away..
“Ummm”. I stalled vocally.
Consider the ramifications. Is this a question regarding the validity of this lifestyle choice? Does she want to know what her Mum did, or whether her Mum couldn’t argue against her doing it?
His hands were surprisingly deferential. He smiled at my inability to pronounce his name correctly. He was an Anglo Indian, a gynaecology student. He had a beautiful Cambridge accent. I was a Kiwi backpacker who was finding her way by getting lost. We met under the full moon at Coff’s Harbour in a never-ending Australian summer.
I couldn’t tell my daughter, I never had. I prize myself on honesty. What to do when honesty doesn’t reflect desired behaviour.
“Do as I say, not as I did?” But oh how I wish, she would. To save her the pain of experience.
“Well yes, I have” I said cautiously. “But it’s not something you want to do when you’re young. No one wants to be seen as the town bike.”
You don’t need your heart stomped on Dark Princess. It’s too easy to be demolished.
My Dark Princess’ eyes are grey, beautiful pools, the depths of which have yet to be discovered. She teeters at the tightrope junction between innocence and hope, and deferrence and cynicism. I believe she is a romantic still. I pray she remains so for some time yet.
He was cautious. Kind. I pretended to be worldy, but I wasn’t. I guess he knew that. I was simply a short young woman trying to find myself after ‘he’ had stolen my heart. God had allowed him to, that first boyfriend, with my consent. He had been young too, and damaged. I never did ask about the scars that crisscrossed his spine. When he’d said we should part, my 20 year old heart had broken – not cleanly in half – but into splinters. I went backpacking to find myself. I travelled around Australia and up into Asia, alone for over a year. My destination was not as relevant as my internal journey.
I hoped God would find me on the way. And perhaps love would find me too..
I was surprised when, after a night dancing, my dark coffee skinned lover came up behind me and sucked in the skin and whisper curls at the nape of my neck. I was surprised so much could be said in one kiss. The moon was high in the sky, and I was intoxicated with it. I thought then lust was a spell that I could control. I had never felt so powerful. So young, so misguided.
My daughter, now fifteen is waiting for my explanation. She is patient.
He wasn’t. We stumbled back to the hostel and into the bunkroom. Hand over neck over bra strap over top over trousers, laughing into the shallow bunk bed. His mouth on mine was insistent. I had to confess my naiivete. He was kind. He was respectful. But he was a man.
How do I tell my daughter that there are boundaries, rules, ways to guard your heart? How do I tell her that sometimes life catches you, tests you and leaves you with a lesson branded on your soul? How do I confess that sometimes the best lessons are learnt in the mistakes? I want to save her the pain of the mistakes.
I only have sensual memories of that night. The next day however is a shadow memory. The disregard, the blanking and forgetting.. the pain when I realised that I’d been tossed aside.. those memories no longer hurt. They are instead, bitter sweet. They are the lessons I want to teach my daughter, so she need not learn them herself.
I turn to her and explain as best I can.
“Yes, I have. But it’s like playing with fire. It feels exciting and fun and oh so passionate at the time. But afterwards you can feel like charred embers tossed aside. That’s not so much fun.”
I think she understands. But do we really listen to the generation that’s gone before?
As she walks smiling from the room, to bed later that night, I’m haunted by memories of a hot night, the moon in full, and the Devil’s warm fingers on the nape of my neck.
Image: Flickr CC