Dick haunts me like no other. His laugh, his smell, his sincerity. The first time I met him I was 8. My father was his plumber. I fell in love with the idea of Dick before I even knew who he was. I fell In love with his house. The bright red front door. The porch perfect for reading. The giant tree in the front yard which held a tire swing. I loved his elegant thin wife, the pictures on the mantle, the perfect Christmas tree. When I first met , he caught me in his basement. He sat at his desk writing. I leaned in closer through the books. I began to breathe with him. I could smell old cigars and pages. I could smell his sweat.
My knee buckled.
Down came the books.
I fell back with my eyes tightly shut. "Oh no." I tried to scurry back but he grabbed my leg. I opened my eyes and there he stood. His belt was undone.
"Does your father know you're in here?"
"No" I stood up.
"What are you doing here?"
"I like your books."
He kept looking at me. I was used to it. I mean, men were always pinching my cheeks or calling me beautiful or saying I'd be trouble but there was something about this particular look I really enjoyed. Richard had these deep blue eyes that I liked looking into. I think it made him uncomfortable so he always looked away.
"How old are you?"
"Eight but I'll be nine next month."
"Do you have a Valentine's?"
"Ewww that stuffs for girls."
I began to pick up the books and he asked me to be his Valentine. I giggled and ran off after saying yes.
The second time I saw him, a pipe in the basement burst and he called my dad. I asked if I could come along.
“Something's different about you."
"I got my period this Summer."
"You know, that's not something you say to men. It's private, it's not ladylike."
"I'm sick of everyone telling me to be a lady. I don't want to be a lady or girl or woman."
He took my small hand in his and walked me in front of a painting. I remember thinking how beautiful and delicate she looked. And I noticed him. I'd never noticed their embrace. How he protects her with a gentle kiss.
We stood in silence. We were, strangely, equals.
"What do you think?"
"Yes. What do you think of it?"
"I think it's beautiful. He loves her. He protects her."
"Can I look closer?"
He pulled up a chair to the frame.
He put his arm around me and kissed me, right in the corner of my lips. I'm pretty sure I still carry that kiss.