Susan sat at the bar contemplating her life while drinking a watered-down whiskey sour. Her brown hair and brown eyes denied her of being drop dead gorgeous, but the harder years had aged her well and she was far from being plain.

"Hey beautiful," he said, "Where have you been all my life?"

"I thought I was in hell, but now you're here so I know I am." Susan responded acidly.

He looked at her appraisingly. "You are so charmingly heathen. Your skin is like a teardrop on a popsicle; not quite frozen, but oh so cold. You could be sweet underneath that cold exterior. Can I lick you and find out?"

Susan pretended to ignore his mad ramblings. She had built a shell around her soul over the years, like a pearl, made with layer upon layer of betrayal, fear and pain.

"Hey," he tried again, "They're playing our song."

Susan tilted her head ever so slightly to catch the words...

...they say you are a snuff queen, but I don't think that's true...

Oh great, Susan thought, Why don't we get drunk by Jimmy Buffett. Another loser is loose in the city tonight!

"No." he said, seeing her listening to the jukebox. "Not the bar's tune - the one in my heart. It's singing my soul out for you. Won't you let your soul out to play?"

Now he had her full attention.

"How do you know I have a soul?" she said, struggling to keep the pain out of her voice.

"I saw it in the blueness of your eyes - no one without a soul can have eyes that sad."

Startled from sleep, Susan rolled over and shut off the alarm clock and climbed wearily from the bed to get ready for work. The dream came flooding back the instant she looked in the mirror. Her eyes were blue.

Janet. Sometimes Jane. Whetever you called her, she was mine.

I met her in a Jewish Theme Bar in the small Alpine town of Uphgahaschlagen. I don't know why I went in -- being a dyed in the wool Catholic and all -- but I can't imagine my life now if I hadn't. It would be so much simpler, and so much more empty.

There she was, at the bar, drinking her Matzoh Ball Soup and Gin cocktail and talking to the barkeep with two long curls trailing down the sides of his face. She was all alone, and I swear I caught the faintest hint of a teardrop on her cheek.

I decided to get closer to her. I went up to the bar to order a drink, but they didn't know how to make any of my favorites: Body and Blood of Christ on the Beach, Bailey's Irish Republican Cream, The Father, The Son and Spirits. I finally had to settle for a Nine Commandments and a twist of lime.

I sat there nursing my drink for nearly half an hour before I worked up the courage to talk to her.

We hit it off straight off the bat. I can't remember what we talked about but the conversation started the minute our eyes locked and didn't end until a month and a half later.

When she lost the ability to speak.

The doctors never figured out what it was. It started on her hair, turning it grey, moving to her vocal cord and finally it got to her skin, right before she died.

I held her in my arms as she lay dying, caressing her cool white hands. I could hardly bear to look at them -- their color only seemed to accentuate her beauty, and how the showed how what she had inside was going away... So charmingly heathen, your skin is like a teardrop on a popsicle -- melting it away, killing it and at the same time, beautiful.

He-College professor, tall and balding
She-lithe gothgirl, all black save her alabaster skin and lipstick the color of a deep flesh wound

Met in Comparitive Lit and found themselves both in love and with nothing in common.

He-found himself sweating profusely in the winter semester, hiding out in his office listening to Cole Porter records on his turntable while she turned around on his lap.

She-sat absent-mindedly on the leaf covered bench, listening to NIN while reading Checkov, waiting for his Intro class to end.

She -sent him drawings, poems, and photographs of places they had been together (excluding the two of them, for fear of evidence).

He -sent her nothing. Bought her nothing and seemed destined to give her nothing.

Until, three days before Christmas break..

She-found a typewritten note in her USED copy of War and Peace-

So charmingly heathen,
your skin is like a teardrop on a popsicle

Once, in the olden days when the sky was still blue, there was a foodstuff known as a popsicle. Unfortunately, the origins and meaning of this word are lost in the mists of time, but it was obviously very popular as many works of the period referred to it in very glowing terms, for example this one. Please note that the language used is very outdated, and the translation shown may be slightly inaccurate or misleading.

The woman stood there, dressed to kill.
"So how am I?" she asked her partner.
"Like a popsicle," came the reply, "on a summer morning, covered with dew."
"With dew?" she incredulously exclaimed, "What is that supposed to mean?"
"That I love you and will do so as long as I live."
"I love you too, you old romantic," she said, and a tear ran down her cheek.

"Is that a teardrop I see, my little popsicle?"
She tried to change the subject. "I still think we shouldn't have a church wedding. After all, nobody I know is Christian or religious in the least."
"Except me," he retorted. "You know I'm Christian, yet you still choose to ignore the fact. I find it charming."
"How charming am I, then?" she said, taking off her thin top. She knew he loved the tone of her skin, and she always showed it off when she needed him to surrender to her.

And he replied, "So charmingly heathen, your skin is like a teardrop on a popsicle."


We sat on a raft in a crystal lake, the summer sun baking us to a marshmallow's golden brown. Trails of sweat trickled down the planes and curves of flesh to hide in the shadow of outstretched limbs.

"Sounds like a real shitheel." I can empathize. The fact that I want her more than Saddam wanted Kuwait means little. Anyone who's ever been hurt can empathize.

She rolls over on her stomach, cupping face in palms, and regards me with troubled eyes. "He wasn't, that's the problem."

I snort. "Gal, you walked in on him nailing another woman, on YOUR BED! How much more of an indicator do you need?"

She waves a hand, as though to dismiss a triviality. "That's not what I'm talking about." I snort again. "No, seriously, before that he was the sweetest guy I'd ever met. He visited me at work, he got along with my parents, he....."

I let her ramble on, mentally shaking my head at the refusal of some people to face facts. The man in question really never was a nice guy, and I wasn't the only one to try to point that out. But she's not the the type to listen when she decides what is. Even now, watching her speak without hearing the words, I can see a determination, a stubbornness I mirror, and adore.

Seeing her look deteriorate from stubborn to confused, I tune back in just in time to hear "...and now all I want to do is cut his balls off."

I laugh. "So charmingly heathen. Your skin is like a teardrop on a popsicle." My finger trails across her stomach, caressing the sweat-beaded flesh. "It glistens......" Her eyes meet mine, a look of uncertainty.

With a resigned mental sigh, not yet, I remove my hand and casually shove her into the water. A moment later she comes up, shivering and spluttering, her glare meeeting my grin. ".....and it's very, very cold."
When the buds opened up for springtime, all the men and women threw off their shirts to play frisbee on the university quad. All the trees were weeping petals, the air warmed up enough at night I didn't need a jacket, just a pair of children's gloves, or perhaps a pair of warming hands.
You know what they say, though cold hands, warm heart. For what I had inside me, I couldn't touch him anymore without we both would shiver, without he would recoil, run and hide under layers of blanket, and he did.
We hadn't had a lot of use for words, ever, even though we'd used them to keep each other warm, and the ghosts of those words hung over us like clouds now, the kind your breath makes in winter, and now, apparently, entirely worthless.
We parted in favor of our respective cells and suffered our respective depressions and broken hearts, alone this time, with few words for each other, if any at all. The ones we got were worked around a clock (in my nightmares my whole life shapes up like this), bitter and insincere. We couldn't come any closer to touching than that, those sloppy sarcastic exchanges that have since been supplanted by silence.
I was thinking about the summer we found a shlef of limesicles, priced, by some ridiculous fluke, at 15 cents a pop. They became a daily rite for us, and nearly as good as swimming in the skivvies or thieving fruit at midnight. Messy all those summers before this, hot and wet and strictly pagan, for the weather was too hot for church anyways, and we had a sun god to see - til the grocery store caught itself and jacked up the price, leaving us to buy generic or attempt a couple of gacky and desperate attempts at homemade popsicles, most of which we forgot before they even froze.
I found a whole tray full of them the other day, concentrate made tougher and burned in my old freezer. I cracked the tray and took it on the lawn, sucking every bitter cube in the sunshine, swiping at my tears with sticky, red, juice-covered hands. I meant to bring you over this time, I meant to hold your hand, so charmingly heathen, your skin is like a teardrop on a popsicle. I meant to give you everything, even if and when you didn't want it.
"Some things belong to God," he convinced himself quietly, as he watched her board the airplane. "And some things do not."

The bishop would have called him a heretic, and perhaps bade him to see counseling. That was his way... the old man knew his time was running out, and wanted no more challenges to his faith. "I've been a priest for 48 years," Bishop McLaughlin gruffly muttered over dinner one winter night, "and if there's one thing I've learned, it's that the Church is bigger than me. I'm no Augustine, no Aquinas. If He wanted me to be a thinker, He would have given me answers, not questions. I was made to lead the flock, not to instill fear in them. Truth is decided by men greater than us, and their messages come directly from the mind of God. It is our duty to believe and to serve, not to think."

What other things would the bishop call him if he knew? His most trustworthy assistant, ending Mass early to run away to the airport! He didn't have to look down to know that his hands were shaking, that his legs were buckling. Why was he here? He wasn't going anywhere, and she hadn't even seen him. He had always thought that when she left, that somehow, some way, he would go with her. Now she was gone, and he would remain, left with only his Jesus and his old, muttering bishop.

Fifteen years he had known Maria. Teaching her theology back at the high school, he had lusted for her so badly, but lust was something he had learned to deal with long before. More troubling to him was her intelligence, her creativity, the beauty which she hid from the eyes of teenage boys but which he could see. And when Tommy Williams took her out for popsicles on that summer evening and forced her at gunpoint to fuck him, did that stupid kid realize he was destroying more beauty than he could even see? They locked Tommy away for what turned out to be the rest of his life, but Maria... she refused to be anyone's or anything's prisoner.

At that time, he was the school's youngest priest, and they had made him counselor, in addition to theology teacher. So when the school made her see someone about the rape, it was he who had to face his demons head-on and reach out to her. Of all the kids who saw him in his office during his teaching years, Maria was the strongest. The violation cast a long shadow over her life, but her confidence and sense of self-worth were such that no problem could ever defeat her. The young priest and the much younger girl (but only twelve years difference, he repeatedly told himself) became fast friends.

She hated the Church and didn't believe in Jesus, and she wasn't afraid to tell him that. He gave up on converting her a few weeks into their appointments. At the same time, unknown to him, she had decided to stop burdening him with what she felt were her problems. They talked about God and people and love, and he fell in love with her ideas, as dangerous as they were. He had resigned himself to never questioning anything, but simultaneously had a neverending fascination with those who did. What she did for him was clear, but he never quite knew what she saw in him. She would have answered if he would have asked, but he was never ready to confront his own feelings enough to do so. They maintained a kind of distant closeness, a sterile kind of love devoid of physical closeness and honesty, the two things which frightened him the most.

They stayed in touch as she ascended through the educational and professional worlds. The friendship allowed them to meet perhaps twice a month for a meal or a discussion. He knew he loved her. He doubted she loved him. A single hint from her and he might have dropped everything... or was that just a lie he belived to give his life some semblance of adventure? He always had Christ to turn to, always had the Body and Blood to fill him up. He never needed a woman, and on the day he found out she was going to Europe for the job he had smiled inwardly at her good fortune. Only as her departure neared and he began to sense her imminent absence did his mind start reeling. He had sped to the airport for what? To give himself one last chance? What would he really miss: the possibility or the fantasy?

Somehow he knew he would die without ever seeing Europe. Or holding her.

Now he was on his knees in the terminal, terrified of something he couldn't quite put his finger on. "Father! Are you okay?" implored a bystander, but he was already collapsing, his head spinning, closing off the outside world piece by piece.

i lost sight of falling leaves and there is
a sweltering heat that should have
left me feeling so cold inside as
memory would arise from within
the confines of a skeptical but
soothing rain-like thought, and the tears on 
your face are similar to those that
would fall on a small child's popsicle
after a charmingly heathen playmate
might hurt them with childish insults and
the idiocy of thickening weak skin,
destroying the inner shelter 
that seems to fade so fast as
the years pass, leave us behind, and the words
sting more and more until everything 
you stood for means... 

A chill rippled across my skin.

The orange-yellow sun hovered over the horizon, straining to break free. Above me, streaks of the dawning sun stretched to dance among the clouds that marked the surface of the still black sky.

It was beautiful. It was everything we had hoped. Everything we had come so far to find.

This was the moment that we had hoped for. Planned for. Dreamed. A picnic, a laughing race across the meadows, a stroll beneath the moons' light.

I turned away from the vista, and walked back the way I had come. The frost-crusted grass crackled beneath my feet.

I was tired. I was alone.

A pall reached up from where the ship had crashed.

The equipment I had managed to salvage lay to one side, just beyond the scorched scarring that we... I... had left in the wake of the attempted landing.

The one unit I had saved was still running. I had not yet been honest enough with myself to disconnect the battery unit. Perhaps it was malfunctioning, and all the zeros and inactive lights were an error...

I wish I knew that you had not believed that this world would be your heaven. That you had faith in a hereafter. You were always so charmingly heathen.

I will never get to hold you again. We had promised each other, hadn't we? Eager, filled with hope. Our plans...

Tears formed as I peered through the glass, and stared. If I leave you like this you will never change. Even in death you would remain this perfect. Your soft almond eyes, the delicate smile, the gentle shimmer of your skin - like a teardrop on a popsicle...

Almost before I knew what I had done, the humming eased to silence.

The pack of supplies falls heavily to my back.

I turn back toward the vista, and walk. The frost-crusted grass crackling beneath my feet.

I am tired. And so alone.

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