Adorned with silken blonde hair, a smile that proved her beauty and the svelte, athletic body that drove men insane, she had very briefly been your lover. Collapsing the time since, as if the torrid affair had never ended and the twenty years never passed, she spoke with the languid intonation a man so rarely hears, that lilting falsetto a woman lets slip only after a man has given himself to her completely, before pretense returns and erect its fences.
Thanks to pepperoni grease and bile burning back up into your trachea, the scene faded and eyes fluttering open, register the still dark room and broken dream.
There was more tomato sauce than poontang of the reverie’s retention. After he’d joined the Navy at 17, the divide between conscious and unconscious had become a chasm. He felt around in the side pocket and latched onto the plastic bottle of antacid he kept in his beat-up leather briefcase he’d tracked down on the dining room chair. Most likely this dream would have been forgotten like all the rest but for the indigestion that ripped him from it in media res. He only wished he could remember more than the note of surrender in her tone, but also what had been said.
“Fun Girls Night Out, hun?” he’d asked his wife the night before as she placed the to-go box beside him on his desk.
“Not really,” she answered, turning away after delivering the gastro-intestinal time bomb. “Margo flashed the bartender again.”
“Jesus, does she think she’s still thirty?”
But she’d already left the room and was galumphing down the hall toward the budoir.
He knows that she knows his digestive limitations are directly linked to the foods he loves best, and often brings home leftovers that will initially bring him the most pleasure but, also, the maximum pain. Ignoring the fact pizza is her favorite food, too, this sophisticated husband takes it as another riposte in the perpetual battle of the sexes. Opening the box as he takes a break from struggling with the blinking cursor on the blank monitor, he is at once exhilarated and appalled. Not yet knowing it will be a happy accident, he impulsively consumes that which he knows from experience will not go unrevenged.
From the start it was lust that never had a chance to transform into something lasting. Two weeks of constant fucking and then, to be shut out completely by someone who’d given themselves to you completely, his mini psychotic break would have been grounds for a temporary insanity plea.
“She said this is yours,” the police officer said, handing him the pepsi of peace which he’d left on her doorstep, hoping it would be the catalyst to their sweet reunion.
“Next time she said she is going to press charges,” continued the officer, taking a step back from the open car window.
“Wha-at?” he said, holding the can up as if he was in a pepsi advert. “Charges for what?”
“There are stalking laws…”
“Excessive solicitation of unwanted attention…”
Let off with a stern warning, he drove back to the tiny apartment on Agua Fria Road slugging back pepsi like an indignant cowboy in a saloon of syphilitic whores.
Looking back on the situation he saw where knocking on the front door for 10 minutes, then proceeding to circle the small adobe casita out on the empty mesa, knocking on all the windows whilst asking loudly for her to let him in could be construed as ‘excessive and unwanted.’ But still, the incongruity of the relative simultaneity of the ultimate intimacy with the freezingest cold shoulder was a recipe for rendering a red blooded, blue-balled man absolutely crazy. All he’d needed to hear from her was the least bit of recognition, a scream from within her besieged home demanding that he go away before she called the cops would have been dandy, not the total shunning silence that had made him ask himself if he’d been the victim of a violent trauma who had blocked it all out because it was too terrible to remember and now didn’t realize he’d become a ghost.
Yelling through her windows was the only time he’d raised his voice with her. In fact there were hardly any lengthy conversations that were not the empty banter that was prelude to their sexual interplay at all. He didn’t remember the sound of her voice. The acquaintance was so short there was no time to get to know personal likes and pet peeves until the very end. What he learned, in retrospect, is it’s damn near impossible for a man to accept how a woman who recently opened herself up to him like a flower can shut him out as if he’d never been.
It started fast, after some beers at her place after work they took it far as you can go. He even chivalrously went off to sleep alone in her spare bed, but in a few minutes she had gotten in beside him. Modesty and self-restraint went out the window when she physically answered his unspoken prayer. It was the start of a week of out-of-mind debauchery. The second night he raised his head up from between her legs bawling that he’d sprained his tongue. How fondly he remembered her laughing then, and reaching out to tug his head to let him know it was time to crawl up and meet her face-to-face.
The sense memory of her skin is so vivid. Her torso, between her pubic hair and belly button, was tight as a drum. She told him she had been a body builder since leaving home at 16. Judging how the relationship just ended, he assumed she had deeper wounds that never healed.
But what a difference looking back on it from the perspective of 20 years, knowing the unfulfilled dreams of youth and the youthful dreams of age. Last night was the latter, and no regrets connected it from then to now, at least not enough to trigger the discomfiting anxiety such memories sometimes bring. Her afterimage was tinged with the sweet melancholy of deferred longing.
With it, the mystery of it, the what if some other word had been spoken or different action taken, perhaps, how different the fiuture would have been. How pleasant it was to speak to her again, a person you’d nearly forgotten, even though he cannot remember how they spoke back then, just to be in the presence of her once-remembered beauty, knowing that age had changed her sure as it changed him, but remaining in his dreams the way that he’d last seen her, forever young.
Some faces never leave, but always come back again, smudged by time but not forgotten. A fleeting moment can be the linch pin for the road already taken. More or less. And again he wondered if there was a reason beyond the mui est macho uno to explain the fact that over the course of his more than several penetrations, he never once came; neither inside her or across her rock-hard belly, not once. Who’s to say that was not at least partially why she ended it so abruptly? He remembered her shaking in his arms after one of their sessions, and was fairly certain she had got hers; proud that he had not been futiley pounding away to no end.
Going back even further, there was that despair in California preceded by an ectopic pregnancy that drove him, the coward, to abandon the object of his previous desire. Counselling her to get an abortion before she decided to keep her baby, he ran away from what should have been his number 1 priority. Michele, a name he’d always remember. Michele with one ‘l’, my belle. His everything until she wasn’t.
The tears of the world, his world , have been flattened out and daubed over by days’ inevitable accumulation. It is impossible to feel the seismic intensity of the jagged mountains of pain pushed up on mostly uniform plains of an overall existence. The peaks from the last major upheaval are barely discernable on the horizon when looked back at over the multiplicity of years. Even when they finally sink out of site they will still be there, their memory dwarfing all the hills and depressions that have since come in between.
Too, it seems odd that he has not dreamed of Michele, or at least not remembered doing so, for as long as he can remember. That is to say, not at all. To him it is a good sign, that she is still out there in the world. And, perhaps, the woman from Santa Fe has died … surrounded by family or barren and alone. But it’s a vain thought to prognosticate an old lover’s death just to elegantly explain a personal anomaly of space-time.
Regardless, he thinks that two people, man and woman, who have become one in the most intimate sense are bound by the marriage of those parts that differentiates them most and, fittingly, make them most whole. Even if nothing else is exchanged between them in the duration of the transaction a debt is incurred that eventually gets paid on some unknowable, ethereal plane.
“Are you taking Doug to school tomorrow?” asked his wife as he tried to crawl into bed without waking her.
“I’ll wake him up before I shower.”
Neither of us had thought we wanted children. Only after the first one was born did we realize their creation was an absolute need.
Lying there, the ceiling claiming a cream-colored indifference to the dark’s luminous negation, he saw the act of love as so much more than making love. The greatest love may be the one that seemed to end, but still endured over a lifetime.
Her skin is no longer taut, the wrinkles run from the corners of her eyes like satellite images of the Nile delta. Her beauty has sunken into the past, orbiting back to rise again in the future with hazy glimpses of me. Please God hear my prayer that I only wish the best for all the women I have known. I am guilty of ascribing to them all the worst inentions when, in fact, just like me, they were terrified of ending up alone.