Dusty sunlight filters through the kitchen door's windowpanes, suggesting possibility. I amble up the stairs to find my jeans, slide off my pajamas. I brush my graying hair, pull it back with some care but not too much. Tug on a t-shirt, a nice sweater over top. Purple. A good color on me. I take up my post on the small couch with my big book.
I called Danny this morning. I use my dreams about him as reminders to keep the connection, no matter how tenuous it stretches. We'd tried once, twice, years ago, and for a few months it seemed like lust. Those days at the beach. Sun, sand. The rocky New England shore. We stretched out a blanket and his warm skin with the waves pushing in. It seemed like love. From afar, I'm sure it looked that way.
The trip we took to Montreal. No money for a hotel so we just wandered the streets until morning and we drove home again, blurry-eyed and leaning into each other. Leaning, leaning, like we'd crawl right inside if we could.
But everyone is messed up. And we were never in synch that way. Oh, maybe years later when we met up again. Then we were ready, but by then we were both attached. We hugged. Kissed once or twice. Almost. Almost. That one night at the bonfire when no one else was around. But we didn't. And so this slow simmer. This ready conversation between us that we build up and tear down.
Danny shows up almost on time. He brings a bottle of wine. Flowers. A new book he's recommending. He looks groomed and a little creaky. Scruffy in a way that makes me want to fix his hair so I do. Push it to the right and left, enjoying the touch, the familiarity after all these years. We settle in on the couch, curled toward each other nearly nose to nose. His jacket smells of the cigarettes he's never really kicked.
"Hello Sandy," he says. "What's kicking these days?" And I close my eyes, open them, smile. Try not to let everything out at once. "You still make me swoon after all these years," he says. Kidding. He pats my head, my shoulder. "Tell me one of your stories. I've been waiting to hear something incredible from you." He stretches out his legs, crosses his ankles.
He's happily married. This is a show we do. We rekindle something that never ignited. It keeps us young, this kind of flirttation and no one's counting.
So I tell him about the 24 year old I took home a few nights before. How the light in the bar was just right. How I supposed I looked 30 if I didn't smile and show the laugh lines. I side-step, talking about tai chi and how I'm fit these days. See? I show a muscle. We both laugh. I'm not fit, but I'm better.
"And then?" he says, getting me back on track.
"Sure," I say. "I take the boy home. Drunk, drunk, drunk. And we sit in the back yard on my bench. From there you can see the stars. Let's sit out there later, okay? With the wine you brought? I have nice glasses," I say.
"Go on," Danny says, knowing there's always more if I've gotten this far.
So I tell him how the boy and I sat out there for a while and he held my hand. "And it was so sweet, so simple, you know?" I tell him how after that everything kicked loose and soon we made our way into the house, to the bedroom, onto the bed. He slid off his glasses, and then mine and in that blur there came a slow rounding up, a slow, slow coming to terms.
"I was sick. Sick for days," I tell Danny.
I haven't told anyone else this story. The boy left. Maybe he scribbled a phone number on the inside cover of a book somewhere. But he disappeared quietly, and I crawled back to bed. "You know too much about me," I say.
Danny taps my hand, raises an eyebrow. "That's probably true," he says. He strokes the top of my fingers. Pulls out his pack of cigarettes, a lighter, leans toward the back door, ready to head outside to smoke.
I don't tell Danny that after the boy took off my glasses, it was him that I saw leaning above me, pulling me on top. What I don't say is when I dream about him, he's real. The dream itself is the life I didn't live. I dream Danny here to this couch. In my dreams it's obvious and easy, what's between us, and then he disappears right before my eyes. He turns a corner and disappears. No matter how hard I look. I suck in all the sorrow I can find in the dream, because it comes at me like a storm, the sidewalks curling and the buildings leaning in under its weight. And then I'm awake and panting, touching the pillow, my own hair. The boy is gone, and after a time I feel the heartache unlatch and set me free in this world again.