by Kara Noel
His hand slid under my shirt as the sirens sounded over the streets of Iraq. The flicker of the television was the only light left in my living room. We had watched the scene unfold before us on the news as the afternoon sun slipped into darkness.
"Turn on the television," James said when he first walked into my apartment that cold March day. "Are we at war yet? Have you watched the news? Do you know if we're at war?"
I turned off my jazz CD and turned on my Sony TV.
"Turn it up," he said as I pressed on the remote control. "I can't hear it." I cranked up the television louder, louder, louder until President Bush's voice blared through my home, dripped through the hardwood floors, spilled out the windows onto the street.
Together, James and I sunk into my cream-colored loveseat and listened to Peter Jennings describe the day's events: The war has begun. Sirens are sounding over Iraq. Bombs are dropping in the night.
James's hand rested on my left leg, as if it was disconnected from the rest of his body, and he began softly stroking my knee. We sat in silence watching the televised streets of Iraq blaze with bursts of light. No commentary for several long seconds. No Donald Rumsfeld. No Colin Powell. Just boom...boom...boom. Fireworks over empty streets. Gray-green darkness filled with a deathly glow. Stillness interrupted with blasts of destruction.
We watched the President's address to the nation, recorded earlier that day. We watched the up-to-the-minute ticker tape scroll across the bottom of the screen like numbers in the stock market. We watched our country in war.
James pulled a Ziploc baggie from his outside coat pocket and took out a smattering of marijuana. I watched as he cut the dried-up buds into tiny pieces, then dropped them into a thin white rolling paper. Then he lit the end on fire.
I hadn't smoked pot in fifteen years. It's too mind blowing for me. All those colors and images and confusion and mixed up senses and loss of control. But that night, I had nowhere to be. I had nothing to do. James's arm felt solid as it brushed against mine. I took the joint from his fingers and brought it to my lips.
Time disappeared. The gray-green Iraqi sky disappeared. I said how sad I was. James said he'd hoped for a peaceful resolution. Peter Jennings said, "If you're just tuning in..." James's hand landed on my inner thigh. President Bush's face melted into my living room wall.
James kept speaking as his fingers advanced towards the button on my pants. His words became cartoon-like -- he was Charlie Brown's teacher spouting "wa wa wa wa wa." Words were coming from his mouth but what was he saying? What was the topic again? I was lost at the end of his sentence trying to figure out how he had gotten there from where he had started.
I turned to look at him. He was soft eyes and blond hair and a dark-blue flannel shirt. He was curved muscles and cigarette smoke. His warm fingers pressed forward up the inside of my shirt toward my breasts. My head fell back against the pillow. His body turned towards mine and covered me, blocking me from the television screen.
We became two shapes merging, bodies intertwined, warm skin and muted voices and shrill sirens and the sound of President Bush's voice and my unzipped jeans and blasts and booms and lips on my breasts and President Bush's voice and explosions and my cheek on his stomach and warm flesh and blasts and fingers inside me and sirens and his smile looking down on me and his face in a haze of smoke and blasts and darkness and a flicker of light on the ceiling and moaning and President Bush's voice and sirens and his moans and my moans and explosion after explosion after explosion.
James wrapped his arm around me and we faced the television again -- me nestled on his chest, our legs crossed over each other's on top of the ottoman. The ticker tape rolled past, the darkness filled the screen. President Bush was everywhere. I closed my eyes. I reached out for James's hand and held on lightly to our fleeting moment of peace.