Saturday, July 2, 2011

Friday, October 29, 2010

Soon I Will be a Real Latvian Boy

There are some rules that I never seem to understand. In Latvia, there are lots of little things like the four kinds of police officers; I never understand which ones can do what. When you go to McDonald’s in eastern or central Europe, you must wait until they are done with filling your order before you pay. Or that a line in a shop should always curl back on itself as to impede the progress of others in the line most efficiently. I can almost remember now that refills are full price. Just another crime committed against the people.

However, there is something important to remember that I never seem to. Cream in Rīga is not free. Huh? Yeah, I agree that is stupid. This seems especially hard when your best friend likes one finger of cream in the cup when you make her coffee. She is right, and usually is about such things. The idea of paying 1.85Ls (3.50usd) for coffee in the first place seems a bit tough to take if it is not a super-grande mochacino with real Nigerian fat-free, lactose-free, reduced-calcium goat milk and decaffeinated coffee beans from Juan Valdez’s personal garden roasted and ground by his grandmother. So when I forget how many creams and sugars I used, because it does not seem important in the grand scheme of things I should be flagellated. Maybe the risk of corporal punishment in the Latvian Republic is not as scary as the kiss I will receive when I answer the question “Skalka cream you using with my coffee?”

The proper response would make Elsie collapse from dehydration. However, I can get a “Szanks!” a kiss and a huge smile when I pull another four or five creams and sugars from my pocket. Hey I really did not expect to be charged for them. It is great when she puts three more creams in her coffee, then puts her feet up on me and says “One day you be my real Latvian boy.”

I know a real compliment when I hear it.

Birthday Boy Bingo

Standing in RIX my sixth trip to Latvīja, I was waiting. In Rīga, sadly I am used to waiting. For the several weeks I have lived in Rīga I am sure that I spent the vast majority of my time alone. It is kind of soothing in a way. Soothing is how I know Rīga, but it is not always how I think of it. In August, the weather is not yet winter, but summer is far from memory. The trees were still green and they went well with the maroon and white flags in the circle by the airport entrance.

Natasha did not understand why I would spend the money to stay in a hotel. She does not understand why a “normal” flat is so unappealing to me. It is difficult to explain to her anyway. Why bother making her feel bad. Maybe twice or three times did she ever even meet me at my hotel room. As a matter of fact when I look back on the whole time we spent together, more of it is spent alone wringing my hands with angst wondering when she would arrive.

She did know how to make a cup of coffee. I despise the stuff, but she knew how to mix just the right amount of thickened cream and four spoons of sugar. I am not sure when she orders ribs and green onions. She never eats the green onions, because she says “They make my breath smell bad” lighting another Winston cigarette. Natasha has taught me that coffee must make everything taste better after it is mixed with nicotine.

We ate together many times. Normally her only requirement when selecting a restaurant was “I want meat.” She ate many things I know, but usually the meals revolved around meat. She did eat an omelet once in Jurmala. It was cold that day and we were on the beach there. Usually, we ate at bistros. Sometimes we ate in different kinds of places. Usually we sat and drank coffee that is what you do in Latvīja. I do not think that I ever saw her eat any vegetables, except mushrooms and olives. She loved olives. Every time we could get an extra helping of olives and would eat all of them first.

On my birthday, we had dinner at the Lido, and then off to the “Melnais Kakis.” She and I had three or four cups of her coffee. Not really coffee, but Natasha’s Rīga mix. After a few cups of coffee, she said the worst thing I ever heard. Looking me dead in the eye, she said that she loved me like people not as a man. At the time, I let it go, what else was there to do. Things like that are better left drop.

Later, after I my lovely birthday present, she said she wanted to show me something that is relaxing. We rode across town in Ginta’s Mazda. Dancing is my favorite activity followed closely by gambling. She knew of a special place to go where she likes to go and relax. We parked in the back near the garbage cans. I thought it was a difficult place to park for someone just relearning to drive.

We walked into the casino, and then across to a table in the middle of the room where we could see the board. At first, I guessed her to be a high-rolling poker player or a crap shooter straight out of Vegas. One Lat per sheet and the next thing I knew, she was working hard at explaining the numbers to me. I guess growing up as a Russian in Latvīja had hurt her feelings. She was doing her best to be happy inside, even though it was clear that she was falling apart. Buyer’s remorse I guess, she knew that what she had said was the end, but there were pangs of guilt. We were having a great time and she did not want it to end anymore than I did. We must have spent fifty Lats on bingo pages, but we did not win a single time. Sitting there with her was fun. Honestly it was fun, and nothing will take that away from me.

After a few hours of “talking”, she knew she had to work the next day. I almost felt like I was turning into pumpkin. The last thing I remember was the 25 point turn as she tried to get the car out of the parking lot. Actually, the last thing was her kissing me on the cheek when she did not get out of the car when I left that Monday. That day was the beginning of the end of things.

Can You Put Conversational Natasha on Your Resume?

Sometimes communicating with someone is harder than it first meets the eye. On my second or third trip to Rīga, I realized that Natasha really did not understand the words that were coming out of my mouth. That was not the worst part; the worst part was the fact that she felt trapped by not understanding me. I never wanted to make her feel bad or to do anything but be her friend. Ok, I will admit it, I wanted to be her angel, I see that will probably never happen, so the least I can do is to try and understand her a little bit.

Like all couples we had our own language. Ours was kind of out of necessity, because our relationship did not feel empowered by the language barrier. Here are some of the phrases we use when speaking “Natasha”:

  • “aga” – this is the compliment to “ugu”, see below.
  • “Allo!” – Russian for Hello!
  • “Good weather” – it is not raining and probably will not be where we are going.
  • “Hi! My boy!” – probably the sexiest thing that can be said to you at an airport
  • “I am normal.” – Yet another Russian feeling. More like I do not feel bad, but I am trapped, and I do not understand how to make you understand how to help me.
  • “I’m cafe and cig” – the breakfast of champions, coffee and a Winston 100 cigarette.
  • “Send me message!” – it is the equivalent of “smsička” in “V”
  • “So, so” – This is a general feeling of blasé. It conveys a certain unable to change anything-ness that can only be felt in a Russian heart.
  • “ugu!” – It took me a long time to figure this one out. I was told it was short for “Дa!” Can you get shorter than that? It actually means “um-hmm” or “uh-huh”.
  • “Wake Up!” – This does not mean what it says. On the contrary, it means “give me attention please”
  • “Szanks!” –when accompanied by a smile is very clear. Without the smile, it could mean anything, seems untranslatable.

A Cherry in Riga

I woke up early that morning. I could not believe that I was here. It was a gray morning; it was still early so I can not say that it was the sky. My Europe seems to revolve around CNN, however sad that is. My excitement was getting to me, as soon as it seemed light enough to walk around; I stumbled in to take a shower.

My hotel had the worst shower. I guess I could imagine it being worse. It was clean, but how much does a company save buying only half of a shower curtain. Maybe, this hotel has a happy hour rate, and so the bathroom voyeur set demands such a thing. Natasha told me that she would meet me at two o’clock. So I guess I have almost eight hours to kill.

Showering was an interesting experience trying to use the low water pressure shower head and half of a shower curtain. If a dry floor is the measure of success, I was a miserable failure. I remember my dad used to yell at my brother and me when we used to leave the floor all wet in the bathroom. I guess that he was correct; he showed us time and again that the water did wreak havoc in his room. I guess I will get grounded if he ever finds out.

I got dressed and left my hotel room. I walked down the stairs, there was an interesting stained glass mural in the hall way. I think it is of sunflowers or maybe it is lilies. It is quite pretty especially as the light shines through the prisms around the edges of the window. As dark as it was outside it still seemed to beam through the window and down the stairwell. I dropped my key off at the desk. They were watching Latvījan TV2. It was a concert of some sort, but it was in Russian so I had no real chance of understanding what ever it was.

I tried to figure out what the name of the street I was on. It was simple; it was Valdemars Iela, the same as the name of the hotel. All in all I must have spent ten or fifteen minutes trying to figure out what a Rīgan street sign looked like. I am sure that the whole thing would have taken two minutes had I brought the card with me like Natasha had said. Yeah right, I was too smart for that, and look where it got me. I hope when I try this again, I will just take good advice and bring the card. At least someone could tell me that way and point in Russian until I found the place.

I walked down Valdemars Iela to what looked like a big park. From what I remembered the night before this was where the art museum was. I figured what the heck, taking my life in my hands; I jaywalked across the street catty-corner. I guess a little of Czech experience is rubbing off, or if I ever get back to the United States I am just pre-signing my death warrant. Strangely, there were very few cars, except of course when you needed to cross the street at a light. Crossing the street seemed an interesting challenge. Almost as if death were not enough payment for getting creamed by the slow and lumbering on coming traffic.

I think I wandered several kilometers in each direction. I went to the famous meeting clock and the freedom memorial. The guards stood silently in constant vigilance over the memorial that probably stood more for freedom here than any of ten memorials do in America. I guess to think that these people were stripped of everything that they held dear and were then held hostage for fifty years. It seems sometimes the one thing that we stand for we have lost. I think it is greed or maybe not greed but a loss of fear. It has been too long since we knew anyone who had lived under oppression. I guess in many ways it was inspiring.

It was getting cold so I stopped in the international American haven. The steakhouse never lets you down. No matter where in the world you go, the golden arches always have hot fries and coke. Just what the doctor ordered for a chilled Florida boy. I had never been this far north before. It is kind of strange to consider that I am as close to the pole as I ever was to the equator. I sat and considered how close Latvījan was to Czech, then considering that I did not understand either with any proficiency. It was getting to be time to find some roses for Natasha then head back to the hotel.

As I left McDonald’s I wondered where I would find flowers, and how do I get back to my hotel. I got about two hundred feet into my journey when the weather went full-Seattle. Thirty-five degrees and pissing down rain, all I could think was that I had seen worse. It was early in the day when I had that thought. I bundled up put on my baseball cap and started walking looking for a flower shop. What is the Latvījan word for flower? It is certainly not “kvetina”, I must have walked for half of an hour until I saw roses in the window of a small shop. I bought a bunch of roses being careful to make sure that I had an odd number.

I have been told by those people in the know, that you do not give an even number of flowers to a Slavic woman. In the Slavic countries they give even numbers of flowers to the dead at funerals. So, I deftly avoided the obvious faux pas that stared me in the face. They were lovely I thought they still had not opened. I like to watch flowers blossom. I hope she did as well.

I got back to my room with a few minutes to spare. I got to my room and took off my wet jacket and back down to the lobby. I should have figured she was not exactly an on time person, but it was much worse. The shaved man in the lobby was telling me not to wait for her, to go out and find another. I told them that she was going to show. She was not like most of the other girls around. When I saw her my day brightened, her smile was lovely. She was wearing a white jacket and a striped golf hat. Her black hair falling around her collar, made her seem idyllic. She really is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen.

I kissed her on the cheek, and she said “Allo”. Her accent was sexy, kind of deep but very feminine, just like I had remembered it. When you do not see someone for a long time, you tend to build in your head what they would be like in a given situation. She came up to my room and I gave her, her flowers. She smiled and said “voda, them need voda.” I smiled and looked to find a glass or something to put them in. She was watching the television when I came back from the bathroom trying not to get pricked by the thorns. Why do they leave the thorns on roses? Some things I will never understand.

She told me she was hungry, that she had not had breakfast. I smiled and said “Wake up!” She asked where I would like to eat, as if I knew one restaurant from any other. We walked hopping over the puddles, and just resting on each other. We were like kids walking arm in arm. I think we were smiling like dopes. I was certainly happier than I could really imagine. She explained each building and told me about every nook and cranny that we passed. She certainly was quite well informed about “her town”. This was one thing that I was certain of, Rīga was her town. As far as I am concerned she is the boss in her town. I could not believe the face I got when she heard that she was the boss. I was just a little American boy in strange Russian town.

After being elected boss of the group she smiled moved the hair back into place and put my hat on, “Then you should take your hat, if I am the boss.”

“All I could say is yes ma’am.” And softly smile.

I think the kind of restaurant she took me to is called a “Lido”. It means people. The food was traditional Latvījan cuisine. Our kabobs and rice were tasty. I did not dare have any sauce, but she seemed to like it. We looked all over the dining room of the lido. Finally, we found a free table. We smiled and I uttered my best Czech “Dobrou chut’!”

Removing her hat, she smiled and said “Bon Appetito!” I patted her knee and we started to eat. Soon we were joined by a mother and her several year old. Our new guests spoke Russian and it seemed to bother or at least take away from Natasha’s concentration. The little boy was eating French fries and sharing mom’s pork. I told Natasha to speak to me with her eyes. It is better sometimes, you can say many things if you just look at each other. She nodded and played with her food. Her hand rested on my knee and we looked into each other’s eyes. She nodded to the little boy, telling me that she thought he was a cute little boy without saying a word.

I winked at her. She cocked her head slightly and winked, I think. It was so cute; she can not wink with just one eye. She blinks both eyes. Could winking be hard? You almost want to kiss her when she tries to wink. Could it be possible that they do not wink in Latvīja? Who knows, but what a terrible thing for a culture to miss?

I know that I looked at her a thousand times at dinner, just to see her alabaster skin. Her skin is delicate and translucent; touching it is almost as tender as a baby’s. Her lips carefully tinted, but wore no other make up. She certainly was beautiful. No, I do not just mean physically, but something inside of her was happy and that made her that much attractive. We spoke about my morning and she did not understand why I did not sleep late. I told her I had, how could I sleep more than ten or fifteen minutes in a new place. My curiosity was killing me all morning; I had to see her town as best I could.

We finished and she said we could go for coffee to wait for the rain to stop. We walked as quickly as we could to the coffee shop. She smiled and continued my guided tour of Rīga at a sprinter’s pace. Her self-consciousness about English began to fade. I like it when she stops caring so much, and she just tries to speak. I know there were many mistakes, but that is not important. Her willingness to communicate with me was touching. Topics began to flow between us; she really has a great mind. Architecture, History, and Science it did not matter, she spoke about them all, little by little even in a foreign language I began to understand Natasha. No longer did she seem trapped in a foreign language, almost as if “Natasha-speak” became a new language. A little later we decided to go back to the hotel where it was warmer and we could talk more privately.

We walked more slowly than before. I think now it was about being together. I thought about many things, but I think we were silent. Many sideways glances and smiles filled our walk like delicate jewels in time. Up the stairs and down the long hall to my room we strolled. Stopping to appreciate the two stained glass windows on our way upstairs, we meandered up to my room. We got entered and shut the door.

She smiled and turned on the television. Immediately, she hogged the corner, taking the lion’s share of the bed. I lay down next to her, my head on her belly. We were watching cartoons and she laughed. Not a small snicker, she had relaxed and deep belly laughs followed. I really like it when she laughs. Is it really to much to think that I like it when she is happy? I kissed her belly through her shirt as she stroked my head. I slid up her body so that my head was on her shoulder.

We watched many cartoons and then music videos. I do not think she likes kissing. I think she is the second person I ever met who did not like kissing. She stroked my chest softly. My hand softly caressed her belly. Flat and firm, dancing certainly keeps her fit. I touched her skin for the first time, she shuddered. Circling her belly button softly trying to just feel its shape, she giggled when I found her navel piercing. She relaxed as I pushed her shirt a little higher and softly pressing my face into her neck.

She looked down at me and kissed my face. Her kisses were like a thousand little butterflies flying passed my skin. I think she must be the most desirable woman I have met. Her kisses fluttered across my face and down my neck. She stopped and rested taking her respite on my chest. Her arms around my body and her legs around mine, we lie there for what seemed like hours. She just smiled and occasionally would rub against me to make sure I was awake, or maybe kiss my chest.

Maybe sometimes it is better to be together in a small way. She tried to tell me things with her eyes, but I think her little smiles spoke more loudly. I know she is happy now. Her boy was with her, and I know that that was the best thing she could hope for. Someone to depend on, someone who would never let her down no matter how far apart we had been or might be in the future. This was a huge realization for a pair of hearts yearning to find a way to be happy, truly happy for a little while.

Rīga is a great town, and I do suggest visiting there. It really is the most western of the Baltic capitals. You can learn so much there about the way things were during the occupations.

Ligo, Leafy Hats and Latvījan Beer

Ligo is half of the biggest holiday in Latvīja . Jana and Ligo represent the two halves of the year and on the solstice they party. Almost everyone has the day off on Jana and Ligo. Natasha sent me a sms telling me that she had a surprise for me. In best Natasha fashion, I spent most of the morning waiting for her downtown. At least, in the summer it was not so inhospitable to sit outside in the beer tent. There were several beer gardens setup in the main squares of Old Rīga so in my best Czech way; I decided to kill time and a few brain cells.

The best way to kill an hour of Latvījan lateness is to drown it in Latvījan lager. I am not sure that in the USA a beer with a golden fish on the logo would do well. In “golden fish” beer is a close call over Vanagas. Alūs, beer, brewing skills are certainly well honed in Latvīja. Maybe, they do not drink as much as they do in Czech, but they do drink their fair share.

I was watching the ducks in the canal when I heard Natasha come up behind me. She looked great; she was wearing tan pants, dark t-shirt with a beige vest and her wrap around sunglasses. Natasha sat next to me and did not say a word. I think she got the hint that I was more than a little upset at her timeliness. Not a little late, but about an hour beyond leaving the restaurant late. The weather was nice and I had a book, what else did I have to do? She sat close to me on the bench, pulling up to my arm, and said “I have something nice for you. It is big surprise.”

Surprises abound in Rīga that is certain. Ginta and Diana, Natasha’s favorite partners in crime, were sitting on a near by bench. We quickly loaded into Ginta’s Mazda and were off to “mein schwester’s Haus.” I like German with a Russian accent; it has a twang that Germans fail at miserably. German is a lovely spoken language, but I guess some of my respect for Germans has been lost by living in Prague. Ginta has many sisters, I think four she said, and we were off to her oldest sister’s house on the outskirts of Rīga.

The girls told me that they were not a rich family. That did not much matter to me, but I was surprised at what I saw. I do not wish to hurt their feelings; Ginta’s sister’s family was kind and hospitable. The whole vista was just more information about life there. None of this information I could have hoped to have realized until it hit me in the face. They had a cool yard though, with a cow. Their cow was traditionally painted for Ligo. On our way, we stopped at the grocery store. It is surprising in some ways compared to the unplanned existence in Czech, in Latvīja too much feels planned. Sometimes even the minutia feels planned.

We bought some big tubs of chicken, beer and several other fixings for the party. Most of the time, Natasha and Ginta went shopping. So I was left pushing the cart around the store with Diana. She would throw out her hand to tell me which way to go. We meandered randomly through the store. Some how we gravitated back to the candy aisle several times, even though she knew that her mom would never let her have that much candy. I think it was a case of wishful thinking.

Diana is spoiled. Her moms and grandmother spoil her rotten, and sometimes it shows. I have been on many occasions with her and she is all but uncontrollable, unless she gets her way. I think maybe it is time for her to get some discipline. I am not talking about a spanking or the like, but discipline comes in many forms. Sometimes it is good for a parent or parental figure to step in and say “That is enough little man!” If it is applied correctly, the fear of death is always more inspiring than the death itself. Nonetheless, in order to sate the demon, Natasha and I were off to search high and low for a Kinder Bueno. I have tried them, and hazelnut filling is not my first choice, but Diana loves the goo.  The backseat of Ginta’s 626 on the other hand was not so keen on four year olds eating Kinder Buenos either.

Once again we were off to “mein Schwesters Haus”. We must have gone clear across Rīga, because I have never seen that part before. It was much more run down than I had seen. Panelaks you can get used to, but dilapidated wooden buildings seem to cry to you when you approach. They just need a little help, and some care. Fifty years of no money and no maintenance will make the stateliest mansion sag under its own weight.

I helped unload the car as we were greeted by Jana, Ginta’s mom. She is a driving instructor in town, and is a pretty successful business woman by Rīgan standards. I was told to sit in the garden. The cow was cool, and was obviously arguing with Natasha about who got to eat the green apples hanging on the tree. It seems that Natasha had been swiping the tastiest apples from the low-hanging parts of the tree, and the cow was not happy with that. That pesky opposable thumb of hers made that a lot easier than it was for the cow. She loved green apples. She must have gone back four or five times and between the two of them they had mostly stripped the tree bare in one afternoon.

Natasha is great at a lot of things, but bad at building a fire. I was useful for something. A few minutes later I was scolded for not putting the chicken on the skewers correctly. Tipping back cups of beer seemed to be the task for which I had been slated. In Latvīja that is a coveted job, so it pays to be the one in the group with a good liver.

What do I remember about the rest of the afternoon and evening? Since Ligo is the solstice it is a bit of a long day above the 75th parallel. June 21st is a long day for sure. I remember that I was quite quickly rebuffed when I asked for water to drink; my glass was quickly filled with beer. This reaction seemed almost Czech. When I sat down there was beer. When I walked away from the table there was beer. When I was standing by myself someone was handing me beer.

When Ginta and Natasha returned from the store with more, you guessed it, beer. They had brought several Latvījan delicacies, including something that at first glance is exactly what you expect. Yes, dried fish on a stick tastes just like you think. It tastes like a fish that has sat in the sun for several days under a jacket of salt and spices until it is fish leather. I guess it was kind of sexy in some way, to see Ginta and Natasha strip the first of two fish clean in only a few minutes. After a few hours of Ginta’s family pouring beer into me, I bet almost anything would have been sexy. They offered me some of the fish, and with a good mouthful of beer, it did not taste worse than I expected. As usual, Natasha was correct, it did need beer. A piece of fish leather sans pivo proved less appealing than I hoped.

I think it is the same in all families, munchkins and kids eat first. Not that there were so many kids nor that I had not been picking much to the chagrin of many at the table. At that point I do not think I cared about too much. By the time dinner was served I was three sheets to the wind singing “Ligo, Ligo, Ligo” with Jana wearing the wreath of oak leaves on my head. I bet that is a great picture for when I run for president. Yes, I do remember the ice cream and beer float. It was pretty good, what ever kind of beer I was drinking was too bitter and the vanilla helped it. Relations seemed better and I was accepted a lot more the next day after getting pretty ripped with them. Jana seemed all too happy to keep pouring beer in my cup. The faster I drank it the faster she poured. I hoped that she would run out, but Natasha and Ginta would not stand by and let that happen either.

It was a lot of fun and by the time I made it home to my couch in Kengarags, I was ready to take a bath. Given my state in the morning, I must have missed the hole in the stairs and not stepped in too much cat pee on my way up. Visku Iela is not a bad place to be with a hangover on Ligo. At least one gas station was open by the lumber store on the highway. Having pre-explored the area on previous trips turned out to be a good thing. Beware, I did get some sort of kefired milk drink with fruit in what I thought was fruit juice. That alone was enough to almost make me sick. I sure am glad I got the fizzy water too.

Ligo can be a lot of fun. It is a shame that Latvījans do not tell anyone else about it. Probably, it is better that they do not, since it is still a Latvījan tradition. Make sure you are nice to the painted cow, at least share some of your green apples with him or her. After all I am not sure he became the washed cow for weeks afterwards.

Lidos are traditional Latvījan restaurants. They are quite famous due to the efforts of a local Rīgan entrepreneur who has opened a chain of them throughout town. There are at least five of them in downtown alone. When you are in Rīga, you really should eat at a Lido. Traditional Latvījan food is usually braised and is normally chicken or fish based. I have not really found anything that I did not like. Some of the sauces do require some skill to match with a given entree. Each of the lidos is different and several are special for historical or locale reasons.

The lido on the bank of the Dagauva is surrounded by a large kids-only amusement park. It is filled with colorful characters and the decorations and rides change seasonally. Inside of the main log cabin is the restaurant. There are tens of entrees available cafeteria-style and it is reasonably priced even for family or large groups. Watch the coffee; they short you on a cup of coffee. Oh, and they do charge you per sugar and per cream. I did not say that they had not mastered the concepts of capitalism, but they did miss the need for customer service. The lido on Čaku Iela has great pork ribs. When you are looking for a taste of real Latvījan cuisine try the bread soup. It is not what you expect; it is awesome with currants and whipped cream.


As the sun went down over the Bay of Rīga, she stood on the shore in her new black bikini. It was her favorite color. Not to think she looked badly in any color. The last rays of the sun gleamed off of her snowy skin; her smile glowed as brightly as the new moon on a clear night. Her voice was surprising exotic, not at all what I thought of when I saw her.

She knew how to make you smile, no matter how sad you felt inside. Surely, a woman like this only came around once in a while. At least I am smart enough to hold on to her with both hands. Slowly she walked up from the water, shaking her hips as she does. Softly, but her small frame spoke volumes as she stepped across the sand. When she got to me she pressed my head to her thighs as I kissed her knees, holding onto any part of her I could. She laid her hands on my head and pressed me to her.

I guess we were like that until she said “sunset”. She loved to watch the sunset, from our blanket she pulled a second over us. She lay down between legs and I held her close to me. We shared the warmth of skin on skin. Unknowingly she began to kiss my neck. I held her tight as the orange and reds shot across the sky.