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He shows up. Four thirty-ish, like he said. I see him enter the coffee shop from my preferred corner seat by the window. He orders a coffee and comes over with a surprised look on his face. “Were we supposed to meet today? Here you are, like we were, but I wasn’t sure, just dropped in for a coffee, and here you are!” “Yes. We were. But perhaps, I didn’t really confirm… just thought we had a date,” I smiled back. “Can’t believe it, almost didn’t stop, but did. You look great! I can stay to chat a little bit.”
His voice on the phone sounded like one I wanted to meet. With seductive intensity carried by a pure sound, he quickly convinced me why I should hire him. The next day I saw him face to face. I remember I was wearing a yellow bandana in my dark shoulder length hair and therefore, it must have been summer. He was tall, taller than my husband, and he looked fit. Before the end of the week he had started working as a waiter at our small French dinner house restaurant. Husband reigned in the kitchen and I on the floor.
Dave Brubeck was playing Take Five as we were moving south along the California coast line in his Porsche. I don't know who I thought carried me the most: the moving music or the moving car. This is how to feel thrilled, I thought, with all my juices flowing. Without a care in the world as to what would or could happen to me, I turned towards him and said: “I feel like I know you from another time or place – perhaps, you simply remind me of my father.” “Or perhaps we did meet in a previous lifetime,” he replied.
The secret beach tucked in between a ritzy neighborhood and the Pacific Ocean. We are the only people this foggy summer morning. A first date. Approaching each other lightly, through words, thoughts, and smiles. He brought a book: 'Letters to a Young Poet' by Rainer Maria Rilke. For me. As we walk the short beach the fog lifts and the sun brightens our minds as well as our hearts. We listen to the time and place and to each other. I have not felt such poetry before. It feels like all of space is inside me. He walks beside me.
He was our server. Having dinner at a small quaint restaurant with our dear friends, I am surprised to hear the voice and see the face of an old employee of ours. The best server we ever had. I'm elated unlike my husband. I'm happy to see him, years after. He seems happy, too. He takes good care of us. All through the meal my husband is on edge. Natural, I guess. Here I am, though, in my marriage, and not with him. Wonder why my husband feels so threatened. I know I have chosen. Had to, to keep sane.
I never see him at the grocery store, but that one evening I did. On my way to the cash register, I saw him in line. He was talking loudly to a friend. I got that sinking feeling: ‘now what?’ I want to walk right up to him and say hello, but my husband is with me and he will flip. I turn around and make my way to the produce department. My husband doesn't see him and shortly after, he's gone. I'm mad with myself. Why do I behave like this? What am I trying to protect? My marriage?
He is practicing the dance sequence for ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ and I'm there to take pictures. I want to see him dance and feel him dance and take that home with me. His lean body, his graceful movements, and his silent sounds are there, in the studio, but not on the printed paper. The fleeting moments of movement dissipate along with their creation in one perpetual dance effort. I am seduced. I am blinded. I want my camera to see but the elusive dance forms and shapes are frozen in deadly stillness, incapable of representing the spirit of dance.
We sit outside, in the courtyard. His right corduroy thigh is touching my left knitted leg. I am aroused. We look at the menu and settle for pale ale and an ‘Odyssey’ pizza. He's visiting me and not the other way around. I enjoy that. He's on my turf. The restaurant fills up and a live band rocks the air. His voice disappears in the din. I simply look at him. He's wearing glasses tonight. His hair is longer than normal, almost touching the collar of his polo shirt. His long fingers hold the half pint easily. Here we are.
The pond by his pad was reflecting the evergreen trees in its mirror-like surface. We were looking from one end of the pond to the other where the difference between the actual trees and the reflected trees in the pond was nil. “Makes you wonder what reality is, doesn't it?” He said and continued: “for instance, how I reflect upon you, how you see me, how close to the real me is it?” “Do you know what the real you is?” I replied. “It depends. It all depends. Who am I with, where am I, and what am I doing?”
I took the job. Had not imagined to work again in a restaurant but the circumstances called for it. As a hostess I would be working with him. The restaurant was coveted with one Michelin star. I had let go of my PhD studies and sought my prior identity. Felt like old times. Familiar. I was happy. Looked forward to going to work. We were together again. I noticed his joking around, his desire to make money, and his light touch with one open hand on my back, anew. But most of all, his way of opening me up naturally.
I was hurting. Could not sleep. I was obsessed. Needed action over thought. So, I left. Simply took my bike and rode down the hill into his arms. “If you leave, it is over!” my husband cried, “don't even try to come back!” I didn't answer. I just left. The ride felt good. The town was dark and deserted, just past midnight. I didn't think, only acted. It was a new sensation: following what my whole body cried out for, knowing what I was leaving but not what I was encountering. It didn't matter. Something had to give. I did.
“Is that you?” I texted him. He had emailed to ask if I wanted to be his writing partner. I didn't know what to believe, because I had received fake mails from him before, mails that weren't actually from him. So, I texted him. “ Yes, it is me,” he texted back. I still didn't know what to believe. Why now? Why me? “I'm serious about my writing and need your eyes and knowledge to make it better,” he said. I was happy. Reading and discussing each other’s writing meant being together again, meant sharing intimacy, meant having chosen commitment.
“This is not wrong, is it?” I asked him. We were headed back from our outing that had lasted eight hours instead of five. “You mean that we are spending time together?” “Yes, because we don't have sex, so we're more like friends having a good time,” I said, “and that is not wrong.” “Whether we have sex or not, we are still cheating on him, because we could have sex. Talking about it makes it real. Simply being together is betrayal.” I sighed. And wanted to understand. Feeling no remorse, no wrong. On the contrary, I felt at peace.
He was already in the shower. “Are you coming in?” he yelled. I hesitated. But I wanted to. I wanted to let go, hop in and enjoy his naked and wet body. Totally. But I hesitated, why? “In a minute,” I yelled back. I would go but I had lost the initial surge of joy, joining him in the shower. I had hesitated. I know why. An act of transgression, betraying what I had always considered sanctified between my husband and I: sharing showers. I carried that with me and would have had to break it, had I acted spontaneously.
He is writing about his childhood. Growing up with a lot of freedom, among a bunch of boys, in heartland country. How he perceived play, experienced boyhood, and interacted with adults. “The core of me is to be found there, on the plains, in the dirt, and face to face with the adults,” he said, “it's like digging up my child self and forgetting all the stuff in between and re-connecting with that youthful perspective.” “I've always seen you as a Peter Pan,” I smiled. “Yeah, who wants to grow up? Don’t want to miss the fighting and the loving!”
We were meeting some people at the finest restaurant in town and he was there. I had no idea that he was working there. My husband spotted him first. “So, this is why you were happy to come here tonight,” he said, “ you knew he was here?” “Honestly, I had no idea, how would I know?” “Well, you're in contact with him, aren't you?” “No, not for a long time, I promise.” “I don't believe you,” he said and looked annoyed. My heart sank. What does it matter to build up trust that keeps getting lost? I felt sad.
Instead of a coffee date we had a lunch date. We met at a small Japanese restaurant and he had soft shell crab. He ate it with relish. Then we talked or rather, then he talked. It had been a while since we had met face to face and he had a lot to say. About himself, his AA routine, his spirituality, his writing and his desire for women. I left unfulfilled. I had wanted to connect but was overwhelmed by his excessive talk. I had wanted to share as well. That day, I realized, that he needed me more.
I've almost been to his home and he to mine. But we don't go there. On one hand, I'm relieved and on the other hand, I'm disappointed. I imagine our relationship blossoming even more but at the same time, I'm scared of the consequences. I know my marriage is not perfect (does one exist?) and I harbor much anger and resentment towards that union, but it's what I know and anything else I don't know. Comfort versus passion. My constant wish is to break away and be on my own. But I need some kind of structure to hold me.
I met his two boys. We went along a riverbed and hopscotched on rocks in the water and the boys picked up pebbles to throw in. The mood was languid and I enjoyed myself. No expectations, no cause and effect; just being. Later we had pizza and talked about school and boy stuff: sports and games. He had divorced their mom years before but they all lived in the same area. I liked that he cared about his boys. I was happy that he wanted me to meet them. However, I was not ready to add to my maternal responsibilities.
“Do you want to come for a walk with me?” I ask him. Our days off together are over and something is broken. I hope to heal it with a walk, but he says no. I've lost him, I know. The feeling of dread is strong and I hurry out to clear my mind but instead, I cry and I cry. Why? What happened? He's letting me go. I did something wrong? He won't say. I know, I haven't left my husband. We have an affair. Nothing more or less, if you can measure that – how can you measure love?
Some people stay in your life. Some people stay in the town or area, in which they grew up. They know their childhood friends throughout their lives. Some people move away and still stay connected with childhood friends. I moved from Europe to the States and lost all contact with my childhood friends. I have met new friends in my adult life, mostly within the last twenty years, at a mature age. We do not share childhood, culture, nor my native language and the memories. I have family, husband, siblings, mother with whom I share these memories. But he stays.
We had sex on the jetty. It was a warm evening that wrapped us both in a light breeze. I was straddling on top of him, totally unaware of anything but the pleasure of giving myself to him, here, on the jetty, by the pond, surrounded by evergreens and oak trees. We were alone in the world. This is easy, I thought, afterwards, lying down on the jetty, next to him. Life like this is easy. But it's not to be; life demands more of us than this. I felt tears on my cheeks and practiced the difficult letting go.
I went to see him dance in two performances: The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Nutcracker. He does this every year and it makes him happy. I can tell. He probably would like to dance all the time, but he didn't make it as a professional dancer, for many reasons, I'm sure. I feel the same way about my art: painting and writing. I don't make a living from that and I wish I would. The thing is that commitment to art requires full attention and also sacrifice. It's like love. Giving more than receiving. Because you must, through pain.
“It is like a moth getting too close to the flame,” he pointed out, “the fascination with the light or the heat or both is irresistible to the moth. Why?” “I don't know,” I said, “I have never thought of that.” “Aren't people drawn to light and heat, too? And is that a good thing? Because as we know, fire will burn you, when you are too close,” he continued. “So wanting what feels good can be dangerous?” I asked. “Exactly! What we are attracted to is not always what is best for us.” “Burn or not, it is painful.”
One thing that is funny about my relationship with him is that he has become such a large part of my life that he feels as close to me as my husband, if not in body, then in spirit. I carry him with me wherever I go and I find that his presence defies gravity. Perhaps, this is how we connect, through channels that are not visible and by unknown and unexplainable strings of consciousness. I like to think that. He won't go away and I won't either. Something insists on our connection. And I'm happy it is like that.
His small place on top of the garage felt spacious. With high ceiling and windows open to the sky we were bathed in starlight and pink sunrise. From his bed we watched him dance a contemporary pas de deux on TV. First I thought his place was messy but then I didn't care; in fact, I welcomed it. I relaxed into it. Since childhood I had been asked to tidy up and keep my siblings organized and it had festered long enough and become a curse. Now I was free. Nobody knew I was here and I pushed my boundaries.
“Do you want some champagne?” he smiled at me, unable to contain his excitement that was ready to burst. “That sounds lovely,” I said, watching him bring out a bottle of Veuve Cliquot from behind the bar. He was working at the restaurant and had asked me to come by, so we could leave together to his place. “It's hard to find my home, and I don't want you to get lost,” he had said. I was happy to see him in action. I felt good. No worries or guilt haunted me. It felt just right to be with him.
His touch is gentle. Whether he puts his arms around me from behind or he spoons me in bed, I feel cradled by him. His body calms me and his sensitive demeanor intrigues me. One time, while we were working together at the one star Michelin restaurant, he called for a moment of silence after a girl in the pastry department was killed on the road. He had me completely. No doubt, his feminine side is strong, but also, he loves sports, especially baseball. Me, I gravitate towards people of mixed gender; people who know the immense depth of themselves.
Sometimes I go for a drink with a girlfriend to see him in action. The restaurant is always busy and he has little time to talk. I haven't gone for a while. I haven't made much money and I've seen him at our coffee shop meetings. Here we talk for at least an hour. It's been a good year. I've seen more of him this year than the last few years combined. I will never be able to explain why he is important in my life. Besides the fact that his presence opens me up and I must ask questions.
“What does your husband say, now that you are working with me?” he wanted to know. “I think he's okay,” I said. “Bless his heart,” he said. That comment stayed with me. Bless his heart. True, how my husband had had to adjust to my wants and wishes and had had to discard old beliefs that didn't hold up anymore, but nothing is set in stone, unless you force it to be. And for me, when expectations are met, life becomes stale. I prefer a little bit of chaos within which I find my eye of calm. Bless my heart.
I have written 100 words each day during the month of December on my relationship with a person who takes up much space with me. Why is that? I can only think that in order for me to feel closer to complete, his presence is vital. When we first met I wanted to leave my marriage. And in fact, I did, by moving into my own room to attend college. He was part of that, of that transition, and my husband and I had a break for a few years. This was necessary for my personal development to take place.
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