I flew across the country from Southern California, to escape the orange haze of smog that drowned my Inland Empire home, just east of Los Angeles. After landing in Albany, New York, my escort took me on the long drive east through winding roads and rolling hills, over a mountain rooted thick and green, until we finally arrived deep in the Berkshires, to an otherworldly place they called the Purple Valley, home to Williams College.
The College is sheltered in the northwest corner of Massachusetts, protected by the majestic Berkshire Mountains to the Southeast, the Taconic Mountains to the West, and the great Green Mountains to the North. Acquiescent peaks and the annual melody of changing seasons breathes life into the area. The colors of fall — of beech trees, sugar maples, and yellow birch — fill the landscape with oranges and yellows, which eventually yield to the white snow and gentle chill of winter, until spring beckons back the song of the ospreys, warblers, and sparrows.
It is an enchanting place. The harmony of gentle hills and thick foliage offers a tranquil escape. The soft sound of water trickling down creeks and gusts of wind strumming leaves is like a lullaby for old souls. Ghosts of Melville, Thoreau, and Hawthorne stroll through its hills and trails.
* * * * *
I was not the only one to receive the invitation for that spring weekend. There were approximately a dozen other high school seniors who’d travelled to Williams, eager to determine whether the Purple Valley was right for them.
The College, in its efforts to convince us, designed the weekend to spoil us. We toured the school, met with current students, slept in dorms, enjoyed the dining halls, and attended parties.
One of the activities included a reception with professors hosted at a dignified building they called the Faculty House. We all attended, dressed in our best formal clothes. Drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and conversation filled the room as the sun radiated through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
As I casually turned to soak in the warm, glimmering sunshine, there she stood—the girl from New Mexico. She’d arrived late, wearing a tank top, shorts, and backpack, a defiant look for the occasion. Her beautiful, sensual skin glowed the color of honey. Her sultry almond eyes betrayed her playful, short hair and…and her unforgettable smile. Her alluring, gorgeous smile radiated in the intimate company of her sweet, lovely dimples.
* * * * *
By the end of our third and last night together, the small group of high school seniors visiting that weekend clung together like grade school friends, drowning in a cacophony of secret crushes and knowing giggles. Later that evening, close to midnight, a group of us, including the girl from New Mexico, headed down to a common room in the basement of one of the freshmen dorms for a game of Truth or Dare.
I was surprised by many things as we played the game. I was surprised by how rapidly a group of strangers can grow familiar with each other. I was surprised by how many chose to be dared versus the safer alternative. I was surprised by how many followed through on the salacious challenges, which are best left censored to the privacy of that windowless room.
But most of all, I was surprised by her.
It was after she finished her turn when she looked to me. I lounged eagerly in a chair about ten paces away, diametrically positioned across from where she lay on the floor.
“Truth or Dare,” she said, resting comfortably on her back. She delivered her challenge with a sly smile tugging at her dimples accompanied by the steady gaze of her sultry almond eyes.
“Dare,” I replied without hesitation. It was the only response worth offering.
And, to my surprise, she gave the tamest command of the evening, “Go to the girl you like the most and kiss her.”
I lingered on the instruction, confused by its simplicity, but only for a brief second. With a magnificent grin on my face, I stood up from where I sat and sauntered along to where she lay.
She remained still, her head nestled on her backpack and her focus fixed on my position. She gave me a mischievous look, fully aware of the game she was playing.
Brimming with confidence, I approached her facetiously and got on my knees, nestling her hips between my legs. I hovered over her for a brief moment as she looked up at me with an embarrassed smile and a soft chuckle.
As I bent forward and lowered my face close to hers, everything around us dissolved out of focus. I slowly closed my eyes as my lips melted into hers, the supple silk of her mouth embracing me with intimate familiarity, the soft touch of heaven slowly caressing my soul.
It was in that moment, in the warmth of her lips touching mine, that I fell in love, that for the first time in my life, I felt loved. In that moment, in the grace of the Purple Valley, I knew she was the one.
* * * * *
“The Purple Valley” was written by Biniam Gebre. Biniam did decide to attend Williams (how could he not?), as did the girl from New Mexico. Nearly twenty years later, they are married and currently live in Washington DC with their two beautiful daughters. Biniam blogs at Choices and Values and can be found on Twitter @biniamgebre.