A Crystalline Memory

Info LorenzoAbajos
14 Feb. '16

Jesse was alone in the motel room. On a road trip into the past, along old Route 66. Sitting and thinking back on the time when he had lived just a few miles from this very town. On this Friday evening he was studying nostalgia.

He'd been only nine years old. And his world had shattered and then been put back together as something completely different. It wasn't his fault, but he had paid the cost. He still remembered the sense of loss and pain as he sat here in the room, listening to, but not hearing, the news reporting the odd weather forecast.

His parents had fought for years. They had married young. He had been the reason. He was a surprise to a young couple just dating, not meaning to be serious. He came to that conclusion many years later, but at the time he had just figured he was somehow the cause of the breakup. It all came to a head and they had left, he and his mother. They had gone "home" to his mother's parents' farm back in Missouri. He had never been there. All of his young memories were centered on their desert life.

At school he'd told only a few people. Somehow he'd been ashamed and also rather lost. It hadn't been his fault but he would pay. He hadn't felt that anyone would understand. Maybe they wouldn't even care. But he had told his teacher, a man who had always treated him like a son. He was a good student. All his teachers had liked him and would continue to in the future. He hadn't realized that then. 

It had been a source of pride that he'd been given a leading role in the annual Christmas musical that was being put on. He had a solo to sing and they'd been practicing for weeks. The musical had gone on that Friday night. But that was the night of the day he and his mother left. The animosity between his parents had grown to the point where his mother would not stay any longer.

His parents took him out of that school to be on the train that was leaving. They would be spending Christmas at his grandparents' farm. So he hadn't been there to sing his part. He still carried a little guilt about that, even today, as a young man of twenty-eight.

That school had been good to him. Jesse had been there for first and second grade. When he left he was in third grade and it was December. He couldn't even finish the year there. He would be in a new school for the final months of third grade. He had been lost among new people, new faces, new customs he didn't understand. A place that had caused him fear, and a loss of the esteem and friendship he'd developed at his real school.

Now Jesse rested from his journey, sipped his evening coffee, and remembered even more. He had gone for a long walk out into the desert the evening before he and his mother were leaving. He had loved the desert. He still did.

As he had driven here this day he had relished the smell of the creosote bushes and the sage brush that covered the landscape. It was a land of discovery for him. He recalled how that final winter they had even had snow out on the desert. So very rare. The landscape had been carpeted with a light dusting of snow.

He'd never thought of it as boring or lifeless and barren. Even now in the season of desert winter it filled him with possibilities remembering that magical snow fall.

He'd been fascinated by the animals he found there. The tortoises he would find ambling slowly on their way to unknown reptilian destinations. The jack rabbits jumping out from behind a bush and scrambling and hopping away from the intruder. The horned lizards he saw making a dinner of the red ants scattered about their little hills of sand and debris. It had been home to him.

And when young he often found things there that made a boy dream of magical things. During that last long walk, before the sun had set in the west, he had found a stone alongside a trail through the shrubs and rocky outcrops. It was a rather nondescript looking rock. It was small, fitting into his palm, and was smooth and sort of round. He had picked it up, tried to make out what it was, then stuck it into his pocket. Jesse had returned home then.

After dinner that last full day Jesse had studied that stone he'd found. He'd gone to his small collection of books. He had field guides for plants and animals. And he had one for rocks and minerals, too. Looking into the guide he finally decided that he had a geode. That was special. He knew that inside geodes there were crystals. Usually just quartz. But they could be really pretty.

Going out to the garage he'd placed the geode on the concrete slab and struck it with a hammer. It didn't break so he hit it harder. This time it had shattered, pieces scattering under the car. At first he thought he'd destroyed it, but at last he had found two rather large pieces with sparkling green crystals in them. He put both on his nightstand before bed. The shiny green crystals reminded him of someone's eyes.

The last day Jesse's teacher had announced to all his friends that he was leaving and not coming back. His classmates hadn't really understand. But some of the girls did decide to give him a send off. They had gathered together and giggled among themselves as they planned something.

Jesse's memory of that day was still vivid. As they were all walking out in line from the classroom for the end of the day three of the girls held back. As he passed they took his hand and drew him aside. Each girl gave him a kiss on his cheek. It was the very first time any girl, except his mother, had kissed him. He remembered liking it a lot. He was very glad it had happened. Especially because Becky had been the last to kiss him. Becky, with the sparkling green eyes.

She had been special in his mind for all of that truncated third grade year. He'd been smitten with her curly red hair. She was new to their small, desert community. No other girls had red hair. And she smiled at him every time she saw him, with her green eyes crinkling up. Which was often. Some of the guys even teased him about being her boyfriend. But he had angrily denied that. Boys couldn't actually let anyone know they liked a girl. It wasn't done. Now she had kissed him. 

So they all went their separate ways. Some went to climb into the buses. Some simply walked home. He was a walker and so was Becky. But she was heading home with a girlfriend. His house was just a few sandy blocks away from the school. Maybe ten minutes at the most. He was still thinking about the kisses. Especially hers. It had made this a much better day.

As she started to take a different path, heading to her house and leaving her friend, Jesse ran up to her. She smiled. He had been so awkward. He remembered this vividly, the feeling that his face was as red as her hair. But he'd stuck his hand into a pocket, pulled out one of the fragments of geode, and slipped it into her hand. Then he ran off, not looking back. He'd always been a shy person.

Jesse remembered arriving home to find that his father had the car all packed and ready to drive into town. His father had been an engineer on the Santa Fe railroad. That meant they could ride the train for free. He and his mother were going to catch the train at the station in the big town about twenty minutes away. The place his father went to when he was working. He didn't work everyday. He would go out on the train for days at a time and then maybe be home for days after that.

So, anyway, they had boarded the train with the help of a porter. All porters were black men back then. He'd hardly ever seen a black man. There were none in his little town and few in the larger town. This was going to be an interesting ride. They found their car and their seats and his father gave him a hug and then he was gone.

The train had moved out and started rattling down the line on the tracks. It swayed back and forth, too, but not a lot. The winter sun, low in the sky, was going down behind them, in the west, as they crossed the desert and then went over a bridge that spanned the Colorado river, heading east. He could still make out vestiges of the snow that had blanketed the landscape. Slowly melting away.

Then it was so dark he could see nothing except the occasional yard light of a ranch house in the distance. He walked through the car down a corridor passing along beside the windows that became mirrors after dark. He watched himself slowly walking towards the dining car. He had vowed to never wash his cheek again. He still remembered the feeling of the kiss Becky had given to him.

That long ago train trip had taken three days. They had arrived in Kansas City and then took another train south to where his grandparents lived. When they arrived in the town with a station closest to his relatives they were met, and he hugged his grandma and grandpa. They gathered up the luggage, packed it in the car, and drove for forty-five minutes to the farm.

Jesse's mind drifted, thinking of that red haired girl, Becky. His hand was idly rubbing the fragment of geode that he still carried with him at all times. He had never really forgotten Becky. In fact, it had been difficult for him to form any relationship with any girl who wasn't a ginger. It had remained his only true fetish, but it never changed. Every girl he dated from that point on had red hair. There hadn't been many. Even during college he dated only two girls.

It had been years since he had any strong ties with a girl. He left college with a degree in English and then went into the service. No true career had appealed to him so he went into the Navy. He was just cruising through life, both in reality and in his mind. And he had saved his money during that tour.

Now, at twenty-eight, he was a free man again. He had driven across the country, following Route 66, with nostalgia as his guide. Searching for something. But not sure what it was. He had enough funds for a long trip, and now he was here, so close to that long ago desert home. Nostalgia is a deep, abiding sense in most people's hearts. He felt it as he finished up his coffee and arose from the bed.

Jesse had checked into the motel at four o'clock in the afternoon. As he did he noticed that snow flakes were starting to drift down from the skies. Even in December this was so strange. He could see children running out into the streets as he passed through town.

After taking a shower to feel better he got dressed and set out for the nearest restaurant. It happened to be rather empty at this time of day. Just a scattering of people. He took a booth that looked out to the street. The snow had stopped, but it had covered the ground, and some of the desert plants, including the Joshua trees and the desert holly bushes. That was the only holly they'd had for Christmas in his youth. He smiled and glanced around the restaurant.

She was sitting over in a corner. Alone, with books strewn about her. A pot of coffee was on her table, but she didn't seem to be eating a meal. Her auburn hair curled about her head. She was wearing glasses and seemed to be studying intently.

Jesse was dumbstruck for a moment. Her bright tresses drew him, as well as the scattering of freckles across her cheeks. He was taken aback, and immediately fascinated. Who was she? He rose and walked slowly towards her.

"Becky? Could that be you? Remember me? Jesse. I'm Jesse."

"What?" She pushed her glasses up on the bridge of her nose. "Who? I'm Rebecca. I haven't been called Becky in centuries. Who are you?"

"Jesse. I mean, I'm Jesse, the kid you knew back in third grade. You have to remember, please." He was begging. This had to be something magical. It just had to be.

"Sorry, man. Don't remember any Jesse. I mean, did you go to school in Connecticut? That's where I was in grade school. At least until I was in junior high. But that would be totally weird. Jesse? Yeah, totally weird. Sorry. Don't know you."

His frown was intense and she couldn't help feeling sorry for him. It wouldn't hurt to talk to him for awhile. She had studying to do. But she could spare a few minutes. Poor sap.

"Hey, come on and sit for a few. It's cool. I've got end of semester finals, but I can chat. It's cool. Sit down."

He was despondent, but he slowly sat down, running his hand through his curly brown hair. He hadn't been waited on yet, so he smiled and waited for the waitress, so he could order some coffee. "You don't mind? Thanks. I was sure you were Becky. Sorry. Rebecca was it? Yeah, sorry."

When the waitress came he went ahead and ordered some food. But Rebecca had an almost full pot of coffee, so he got a cup, and they shared what was left in the pot as he ate a burger. She had soon let him know she was a grad student at a college out of town. It wasn't prestigious or anything. But it was inexpensive. And since she had lived here with her parents it was also conveniently close.

She became aware of his history. And she admired his looks and quick intelligence. They quickly went over the basics and she learned that he loved the same books as she.

Both were enamored of the 19th century. The novelists and the history. It was good to talk to someone who shared interests. Both of them were soon laughing at obscure references to Oscar Wilde and Christina Rossetti.

And Rebecca seemed to share his love of the desert southwest. She had moved here when she was just turning thirteen and, like Jesse, she had grown to love the desert environment surrounding her.

Rebecca was twenty-four years old. She had completed a BA, and was now working on a Master's. Her focus was dry land ecology. She was home for the weekend, to return to her college on Sunday. It was only about four hours away and she loved to be at home when she could.

"Okay, Jesse. This has been fun. But I have to get some studying done. You have to move it along, my friend."

"I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this, Rebecca. I mean, really enjoyed it. Oh well. I get it. I did the college thing, too. Not the Master's part. But, you know. Anyway. I'm gonna be here at least for a couple of weeks. So, here's my cell number. If you get time let's eat or something. Okay? I'll see you, I hope."

With that he rose up, smiled, and walked up to the cash register. He paid for both of them, waved goodbye, and walked out. He kicked some of the snow with his feet. They weren't prepared for this so they hadn't cleared it off, yet. But he could see that the snow was already disappearing as the temperature rose. They wouldn't have a white Christmas, it seemed.

It was two weeks later. He had rented his room at the motel on a week to week basis. Cheaper that way. So he was still here in town. Rebecca sent him a text.

"Hey, man. Gonna be in town. Christmas eve? Respond."

Something magically wonderful might be approaching. Maybe. Maybe not. Damn! He did respond.

"Cheers. Our restaurant. 8 o'clock. Xmas eve."

The snow had completely cleared by now. It was Christmas break at her college. He knew that. He knew she was finished and was on break. She knew he was still here in town, and he knew he wanted to see her. Badly.

"So, the fool decided that Christmas is a good time to break up. You know? Oh, hell. I should have seen it coming. I'm an idiot. I was someone he locked onto after his last great love. Damn, Jesse. Losers. Losers. I pick losers."

They were sitting in a corner booth. Jesse hadn't really known about Rebecca's boyfriend. He was sort of glad he hadn't been told about him. Besides, it was great to hear the twit was out now. Gone. Finito. That's what Rebecca was letting him know. Jeez, this was perfect. Maybe.

He was holding her hand. It was sweaty, even though the weather had turned cool outside. But he found that Rebecca always seemed warm. Her palms were damp and he didn't care. He liked the feeling. And he was glad she didn't pull her little hand away when he took it, listening to her tale of woe.

"More fool he. Of course. You know that, Rebecca. More fool he. Anyway, you got done with your finals before he gave you the goodbye. That's good. Won't affect your grades. Right? It's better all around if he wasn't the one. You know?"

"Yes, yes. I know. Oh, damn. I mean, what was wrong with me. Oh, hell. You're right. More fool he. Yeah!"

"So, we're done here. Let's walk. It's nice out. A full moon. On Christmas eve. That has to be cool, right, Rebecca? Has to be a good sign. Come on."

"Oh, okay. Here's my share of the bill. Let's go."

He hadn't wanted her to pay for her part, but she was a strong minded woman. Anyway, he didn't mind. He liked strong women. Especially red heads. He chuckled to himself as they passed out of the glass door and into the cool, desert evening. Looking up they both saw the full moon. He slipped his hand into hers. She didn't object.

As he held her hand they walked slowly into the parking lot. They were going towards her car. He was about to say goodnight, and he didn't want that at all. His other hand was in his jacket pocket, holding the geode crystals. He saw clouds begin to obscure the moon above. He wondered if wishing upon the moon worked as well as stars.

"So, that's my motel down there on main street. I can see it from here," he informed her.

"Yep, I know that, sport. You told me the first time we met. Got something on your mind?" and she giggled.

Now he could feel himself blushing. That was his response to embarrassment, every time. He was still a shy man, essentially.

"No, no. I mean, I hate to say goodnight. To you. Rebecca. I like you. I think you know that. Right? We could talk in my room and you could head home when you're tired. I've got some beers in the room fridge. It's only eight o'clock, as it is. I don't feel like going to a club or something. Can't talk there."

"Of course. Here, let's take my car down the hill and relax in your room. I'm a big girl. I can fight you off if I need too, silly boy. Come on."

With that they got into her car and they quickly arrived down at his motel, parking in front of his room. They entered and he turned on some music from the room clock/radio, and they relaxed in the two chairs there. He had opened a couple of beers and they listened to some soft rock.

After talking for an hour, and flirting as they did, she finally arose and moved to pick up her light jacket. It hadn't been really cold out, but a bit chilly. Rebecca gave Jesse a kiss on the cheek and opened the door to his room. A slight breeze blew some snowflakes into the room. She laughed.

"It snowed again! Great. Nothing like snow in the desert. Oh, Jesse. Look out across the road. There's snow all over the desert. Isn't it cool?" She laughed and took his hand. He smiled and could see exactly what she meant as the full moon shone across the landscape.

"Oh, my. A blizzard, for certain. Guess I'll have to stay here tonight." She was giggling as if joking.

"Rebecca, you're full of fun, and silly as hell. But you don't want to tease me. Not sure I can take it, girl."

"Ah, Jesse. It's okay. Here let me kiss those rosy red cheeks." He was blushing, of course. She stood on tiptoes and left some more red lipstick on his cheek. He turned his head, and their lips met. Then his hand closed the door.

Silently he picked her up, taking her into her arms, as she wrapped her arms about his neck. She was only about five feet tall after all. He was close to six feet and she was like a little pixie to him. He sat her on the edge of the bed. He knelt before her. He slipped her top off, then gently removed her skirt. All the while she was touching his face and hands, not objecting at all.

Removing her bra was her contribution. It slipped off as he was pulling her panties down and over her tiny feet. Then Jesse stood up. She looked up and smiled, letting him doff his shirt and pants, and discard his jockey shorts. She reached out, touched his sex, and watched it arise.

Lifting her by her underarms, Jesse picked her up, then slowly laid her back onto the bed, and sank down upon her. His arms surrounded her, and his mouth sought her red lips. He could feel the heat of her body, her breasts pressing against his chest, his hardness against her curliness, and he knew it was good, as he kissed her softly and thoroughly.

She moaned as he moved his body downward, and then up, causing his manhood to enter her slickness. She was as ready as he was, and his rhythmic humping began, as his mouth continued to play with her lips and neck. His hips curved in and then out, pacing himself and pausing now and then, to make it last. Making the precious joining last. And her hips moved to join the tune he was playing. Both bodies completing the musical movement.

"This is it, Becky. This is what I need. Do you need it, too?

"Oh, yes. Yes. Yes. Now my boy. Now. Finish it for me. Oh, god, it's so good, Jesse. Magic, baby, magic."

They reached the crescendo and filled the winter night with cries of passion. Christmas was coming early tonight. It wasn't midnight yet, but the snow drifted across the landscape as both completed the musical movement, and shuddered with the final completion.

As Jesse held her head against his shoulder he stroked her auburn hair, and then kissed her forehead. He arose.

"Got to do something now." She grinned at him as he went to the bathroom and closed the door.

Rebecca got up, went to her purse, and opened it to get her lipstick out. Her one weakness was a little vanity. She applied some lipstick and smiled to herself. Then, as Jesse opened the bathroom door, she turned and her purse slipped from her fingers. Everything fell out. She laughed.

"Butterfingers. Here, let me help," Jesse said, bending down and starting to gather items from the carpeted floor. His hand picked up one thing, raised it to his vision, and he frowned.

"What's this? Rebecca, where'd you get this?" He held up the crystalline fragment. The green crystals glittered in the room's overhead light. He stared at her as he went to his own trousers, took out his almost identical piece of mineral, and grimly stared at her, exhibiting both separate hands.

Her forehead wrinkled with sudden comprehension. Her mouth opened as she started to reply and then she gently began to cry.

"Jesse, Jesse. Oh, damn. I didn't know. I didn't understand. Now I see it. Now I get it, Jesse. I didn't know."

"What do you mean? Where'd you get this, Rebecca?"

"It was hers. It was Becky's. But I didn't know you were talking about her. How was I supposed to know. You didn't tell me you knew her here. I didn't know you were talking about the same Becky."

"Just tell me. Tell me what's happening," Jesse implored.

"I was in school with her. She was a red head, and so was I. It was so silly, really, but sad, too. I mean, she got sick. Leukemia. She was really sick. We kids didn't know how bad it was. She was out of school a lot in her senior year. I was a frosh. Finally, one day, when she was in school, she called me aside. I didn't know her much. I mean, she was a senior.

"She took me down to the end of the school building, around the the back, and she showed me the crystal. She told me some guy gave it to her when she was young. She always remembered him. Always. Now she wanted me, another girl with red hair, to keep it for her.

"Becky knew she was dying and she knew the boy would come back. She said it had been a magical moment in her life. It was a time that made her passing now easier, somehow. She didn't understand why, but it made it easier. And she would be even happier to have another Becky keep the crystals. Those green crystals that matched her eyes. And mine.

"I don't know. I just felt sorry for her. I took it, and I've always kept it with me. It seemed important, like it was destiny or something. I don't really know. It just seemed right.

"And it was right, wasn't it, Jesse? Wasn't it right? This is right, I think. I believe. I think this is perfect. Or as perfect as life can ever be. I don't really know. I just know this feels good, and right. For us, Jesse. You and me."

He was weeping now. Softly and quietly. She approached him, reached up her delicate hands, and gently wiped the tears away. Taking each crystalline fragment from his hands she placed them on the bedside table. Then she sat down, pulling Jesse along with her.

They embraced. Holding each other tightly. Firmly.

The moon passed slowly down the sky, illuminating the fallen snow, until it disappeared. Leaving a transient carpet of white on the desert as Jesse and Rebecca slept. Holding each other through the magical, wintry night.


Copyright © 2016 Lorenzo Abajos.  All rights reserved.  This written or audio or visual work may not be reproduced or distributed or published in any form without the express permission of the author.  Send requests to lorenzoabajos@gmail.com