The long gravel drive is over run by tree roots, riddled with dips and bumps. It winds deep into the woods. We find the abandoned church with the broken sign out front. It reads, “Saint Florian’s Slovak Catholic Church. We_come.”
I take your hand and tell you everything is wonderful, you’re wonderful and so pretty in the moonlight.
We call the game “Make Out Patrol” or M.O.P’ing for short. Some of the guys call it “Slut Hunting” but I’ve never called it that.
I would never call it that.
I pull you through the woods, beyond the crumbling headstones. We have to hurry. The guys will find us soon. I think, for a moment, maybe against a headstone? I’ve done it before but I reconsider when I see the look on your face.
Besides, when the guys come screaming down the lane in that rusted red pick up truck, I don’t want to be caught in the headlights, again, bare-ass against a glowing white headstone.
The church is in ruin, the doors pried apart long ago. Vines wrap around ornate pew legs, creep down the aisles and through the nave. In Krylon True Blue, someone has written in loopy cursive: An intelligent person does not need the promise of heaven to see the merit in good deeds. Beneath it, in Burgundy Satin: Fuck off.
You linger beneath a portrait of the Immaculate Heart, hands twisting together. You say, “Saint Florian was the patron saint of chimney sweeps and soap makers. Did you know that?”
I smile and guide you backwards into a white stone pillar.
“Firefighters, too,” you whisper against my lips.
“I didn’t know that.”
“He was burned at the stake.” You look up at the crumbling ceiling. I kiss your chin, your collarbone. “This place is amazing. Beautiful,” you say. “Thank you for bringing me here.”
“Yes,” I say. “Beautiful.”
You’re talking too much. Girls always talk too much. It’s why I never win the game. The guys always find us before I finish. I lead you deeper into the sanctuary where it is darker, hidden. I brush the hair off your cheek and run my hands down your back.
I can see headlights through the broken windows, small bouncing orbs cut through the trees like will-o-wisps. When I kiss you, I taste the ash of menthol on your tongue. I wrap my fingers around belt loops and zippers. Disrobe you. Pull your shirt up under your arms. Your shivering skin glows in the moonlight. Goose flesh. I push my way inside you, past your crossing, clear through to your immaculately beating heart.
I love you, I don’t say. I love you. I love you.
I can hear the crunch of tires sneaking on gravel and I love you.
There are whispers outside and I love you.
I don’t say, no one will ever love you as much as I do right now.
After, when we walk out the wide open front doors, I expect the guys to yell and laugh. I know we have been caught, I heard the crack of footfalls in the woods. But, my hand is on your back and the night hushes around us.
Old rain water drips from the porch overhang, collecting in the holy water stoup. Soggy brown leaves and dead pine needles rest on the bottom of the bowl. The water has a sweet, earthy rotting smell. I dip my fingers in. The grit of decaying asphalt shingles is sugar in the basin.
We’ve brought the mosquitoes out, you and me, we’ve brought all the bugs out with our sweetness. They are eager for us as we walk back down the gravel road, past the rusted red pick up truck and crushed beer cans.
The guys are frozen in time – laughing, stumbling cherubim caught mid-jump, topsy-turvey from the bed of the truck. They are drunk, silly statues. Small, plump, winged boys who cannot see us. Who cannot stop us.
I do not hold your hand.
You are wonderful, I tell you, and so pretty in the moonlight.