Tag Archives: Love

The Moment

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FullSizeRender (7)Who is that girl, Luke wondered as he stared at the woman twirling her straw. She was sitting at a table three down from his sipping on a soft drink in a place that sold mostly coffee. Seated across from her was a woman he worked with – Ella White. The sun spread across their table, across the girl, and in that moment she looked so sweet and guileless that Luke couldn’t look away. She was lovely – there was no question of that – but her beauty wasn’t what drew his attention to her. It was her vulnerability; he could actually see it right under her surface! Something raw and painful – so devastating it had almost ripped her apart. Luke didn’t think that particular ache had been a part of the girl forever. No, she sat too upright, was too focused to have always been wounded. There was even a slight smile illuminating her face as she listened to her friend. Yes, there was an inner strength in her, still – he could tell – even if it didn’t burn as brightly as it had before.

Before what, he wondered.

Luke tried to decide if she reminded him of his first, true love. The girl’s face didn’t resemble the woman he was thinking of but there was something similar about the two of them. He didn’t know if they walked with the same, gliding ease, or if the girl pushed her long bangs from her face as seductively as his first love had. But, there! – was that the same tilt of the head? The same long, graceful fingers?

It was an exceedingly rare occurrence to find Luke at the coffee shop because a) he was alone, and b) he was eating lunch. His typical modus operandi was to double-team everything he did, including lunch. He’d devour an apple as fast as he could while speed-walking to a meeting; he’d gulp down half a sandwich while conferring with a colleague. Was it fate that caused him to be alone and in the coffee shop at exactly the same time as the girl? To have the moment even to notice her?

He thought he’d stop at Ella White’s table when he left, introduce himself and see if the girl was, indeed, as fragile as he thought. He was curious to see how she affected him up close. He’d need to be careful, though. He knew that a wounded bird such as the girl would instinctively be wary of new people, guarded against any further torment. But it felt vitally important to meet her. It felt like – hell, how frickin’ corny, he thought – his destiny.

Luke smiled at himself but just then, before he could make his move, Ella White and the girl rose from their table and walked towards the exit of the coffee shop. He watched as they moved through the door and around the corner, and as quickly as a hummingbird flaps its wings, the moment was gone.

Lost. For always.

The Dreamer

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BeThat Helen – she was quite the dreamer, and quite frankly, there wasn’t a much more for her to do. She was settled in the world, her goals in life fulfilled long ago. She was old and yet mostly content except for when her back acted up, and on those days she stretched and touched her toes until she felt the aches and pains tremble and release. She lived comfortably in the old farmhouse on the hill, warm in the winter and cool in the spring. No, Helen wasn’t a dreamer in the sense that she desired more out of life. She was a champion dreamer in her sleep.

It was true. While most of Helen’s friends had trouble remembering even one dream per week, each night Helen had four or five – in living color, as they say – vivid and real. At one point years ago she set a pad of paper and a pen on her small nightstand intent on writing each one down but it became bothersome quickly and she soon gave up. Instead, over her morning Earl Grey, Helen would sift through each night’s dream, cataloging them in the genre in which they seemed to fit: insecurity dreams, dream-visits, and the love dream. Oh, there were others; others that were indefinable and muddled – the dreams that made no sense at all to Helen no matter how long she struggled over them. Those dreams were like the paintings by Picasso or a Tim Burton film – confusing, annoying and somewhat disturbing. She pushed them away easily and with her force – a pin to their balloon – they deflated.

Mostly she had the other three type of dreams these days. She thought it was funny she would still have insecurity dreams – those where you find yourself at school in your underwear or discover that you’d been fired from your job. Helen figured that those types of dreams should be long gone. She hadn’t been in any type of school for over 60 years, and as for a job, her days at the checkout counter at the grocery store had ended when she turned 70. Her supervisor had said it wasn’t about her age but if she was honest with herself, she’d have to admit that she had slowed down by then. The new cashiers seemed to race their customers through the lines like NASCAR drivers but Helen’s scanner beeped at a slower, more unhurried pace. She was the Barry Manilow to the new cashier’s Red Hot Chili Peppers – and yes, she knew who they were thankyouverymuch. She preferred the slower melody but she knew from the looks of some of her customers, ‘they didn’t. “Will you hurry up!’ was right on the tip of their tongues. When Mr. Marshall installed the automatic checkouts to further speed up the tempo – poof – she was no longer needed.

But that was 12 years ago and as time went by her dreams about work had mostly disappeared.

Helen savored what she defined as her visit-dreams. She could never quite be sure if she was completely sleeping when they occurred or if perhaps, a loved one had descended from heaven to visit her in the night. She didn’t much care one way or another. She was just happy to see her family again. Many of these dream-visits were from her beloved father who would appear to her in his work boots outside the old tract home where she was born. He had been dead more than 30 years but each time she saw him in a visit-dream she would gasp with joy, so happy to see his familiar face, that square jaw, that sparkle in his still stunning blue eyes. Her mother visited her less often in her dreams and Helen figured it was because she was so young when her mother had died – only five – and the impression made on her in life wasn’t as significant. She’d had step-mother from the age of seven until mid-life but she found she never dreamed of Stella. Stella had been a perfectly fine step-mother and Helen wasn’t sure why she didn’t dream of her but figured it had to do with a sense of guilt she’d feel if she dreamed of her step-mother more than her own mother. At 82-years-old, Helen didn’t ponder this too much. It would have just been a waste of time and what would have been the point?

Some of her favorite dreams were the wonderful visit-dreams from the twins. Jimmy and Ron, eight years older than her and inseparable, had taught her how to fix cars and swing a baseball bat and smoke a cigar. She thought they must have truly wished she had been born a boy and had spent the first ten years of her life trying to convert her to one. She didn’t mind. She had the great fun with them every day and it was clear they adored her. Jimmy and Ron were her best friends and she missed them so vastly sometimes that she felt her heart cave into her chest and didn’t know if she’d ever be able to rescue it again. They had lived well into old age and had been gone for only two years – Ron dying a mere three months before Jimmy. Since then Helen had awoken each morning with a dull ache in her chest and had to remind herself that neither brother would be visiting her that day. Once she was up and had brewed her tea, though, she always made sure to flip a cheery salute to the heavens, calling out ‘Good Morning!’ to each brother.

Last night Helen had her singular dream about love, or rather about a long-lost love, that is. Her visitor in this dream had been her one true soul mate in her life. She could say that now with certainty and also without guilt or shame. At 82 she understood life almost better than she wanted to and one of the things she understood was that love was love. It was grand, it was messy, it was epic, and if it was in your heart, there really wasn’t a good way to get rid of it. Besides, who wants to eliminate love? It seemed to be the only thing that made sense in the world.

Helen had lost her husband long ago. He was a wonderful man and together they had created their own love and a good life. She had been one of the lucky ones, and she knew it, but even so, he wasn’t the one she dreamed of when she dreamed of love. It was Joseph Randolph, the man she had met in her twenties when she was too young or too torn apart or too-something to realize he was the one. She hadn’t seen him since before 9-11, randomly running into him at an old folks’ card party at the town hall back in 2000. They had chatted for a moment but Joseph had been called over to a table and she’d left soon after. When he came to her in her dreams, now, she felt giddy and young. Something lifted from her soul in those dreams; something heavy that had been with her forever, and when that happened, she could breathe in a way she never could before. Whenever she woke from that dream her first moment was tinged with sadness and regret for not following the path with Joseph, but soon the happiness of being with him, even in dreamland, spun through her and the rest of the day was peaceful and light.

And so it goes each night when Helen switches off the cigar lamp next to her bed, and the old farmhouse where she’s lived forever becomes still, she knows not what she’lldream of. But like an ongoing overture both fresh and familiar, she’s sure she’ll drift somewhere interesting, living life in her dreams, wherever it takes her, whoever guides her there, softly and surely like the melody of a sweet song.

Hungry

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orangesJordan peeled the orange slowly, savoring its fresh, citrusy smell. She was in the stacks of the library, her books and papers spread over the desk like peanut butter on toast. She had made sure to arrive at the graduate library early enough to secure one of the small study rooms lined up in a row on the third floor. There were only eight of the pantry-size rooms so she was lucky to find one empty, even this early. The quiet within one was complete and Jordan’s mind automatically shifted into scholar mode whenever she sat at the desk. She usually stayed for hours, churning through the work. But for some reason, today was different.

Jordan had set her alarm for 7:00 a.m. and had trudged the mile from her rental through the campus and past the dorms and the fraternities that morning. It was Sunday and all around was quiet and still. She could smell the bread and bagels baking at the Donut Hole, the only hub of real activity so early on a weekend. Most undergrads were sleeping off their night of partying or just sleeping in, period. The others Jordan saw walking on campus that morning were likely graduate students like her, and their party days and undergrad classes were years ago. It was serious business – getting a PhD. The competition was high and the courses tough and the idea of college as fun was all over. Graduate school was a job; a brutal, exhausting, do-or-die job.

She walked up the steps of library and waved at an acquaintance from her gross anatomy lab but didn’t stop to chat. She had much to do to be ready for the exam the next day. Still, once Jordan unloaded her bag and sat down at the desk in the small study rom, she couldn’t focus. After 15 minutes of shuffling and moving her books and notes and pens around, she began to peel the orange, its heady smell enveloping her completely.

And then she thought of him.

Jordan had met Charlie before but years ago and nothing special had clicked between them. Perhaps she had been in a relationship at the time, or he had been hanging with the guys. This time, however, as she and Meg walked down the cool sand towards the bonfire last night, she spotted him immediately. He was at a nearby table whipping together what turned out be an amazing crab dish. She watched him slice and fry and throw spices and vegetables and things she didn’t recognize into a big black pot. His hands moved so quickly; it was like a musician coaxing the sweetest song he could from an instrument. After just a few moments, Jordan was completely enthralled and continued to watch Charlie as he finished up the prep of the food and then placed the pot on the grate over the fire. He finished it off with a spritz of orange.

Jordan shouldn’t have even gone to the beach last night, but Meg had insisted, telling her that her head would explode if she studied anymore. Besides, Meg said, Jordan was getting too skinny and there would be a guy who was in culinary school at the bonfire who was cooking for the gang. Normally she could brush Meg off like a crumb on her lapel but her defenses were down and before she knew it she’d said yes.

It was late September and while the sun was out over the water, the breeze was chilly that night. Jordan had brought a bulky sweater but soon her shoes and sweater were tossed to the side and she was diving in the sand for the volleyball and drinking ginger beer on the sidelines. She had forgotten how good it felt to relax, to laugh, to be among friends. Her life over the last year had been all about school but now, in the midst of beach and the smell of good food, she realized how starved she had been for life.

Charlie was playing on her side during the volleyball game and she swore she could feel his warmth next to her. But that was silly, wasn’t it? Still, she felt his nearness and he smelled delicious, like the spices he cooked with. Was it bay leaves? Rosemary? Corriander?

Later sitting next to him on one of the three picnic tables the gang had pushed together, she felt happy and light. She was noshing on the crab and saffron rice and jambalaya Charlie had whipped up and thought she had never tasted anything so wonderful. The flavors were both subtle and dramatic; specific tastes were highlighted at first and then others came to the forefront as you chewed and swallowed the food. It was orgasmic.

Jordan laughed and drank and ate way too much at the bonfire. She hadn’t felt that full in a year; not since she and Meg had celebrated the end of their first year classes and threw together a Mexican feast to die for.

Jordan shook her head slightly, trying to release herself from the memory of last night. She plopped a slice of orange in her mouth and bit down releasing the sweet juice. It was time to think about anatomy, she knew, and Jordan opened her notebook and stared at her notes for a few minutes watching the words move around the page like a blender combining separate ingredients into a meaningful something. She knew it was kind of hopeless, though – she was still so full of him, of his food, of his magic – but her mind told her to keep studying. There’s no way she could blow off an entire Sunday just to see him again; to head to the concert downtown where he’d be; to relish in the street food of Octoberfest… brats, pretzels, beer. To relish in him. Her stomach growled and her chest tightened as she thought of him.

Jordan chewed on another slice of orange. There was a light knock on the door and it startled her. Her head was swimming and for a fleeting moment she thought with certainty that Charlie was at the door. But of course that would be crazy. She only told him she was studying today, not studying at the grad library on floor three behind the stacks in the small, private cubes.

She opened the door to the study room. A campus policeman stood on the other side, glaring down at her.

“There’s no eating in the library,” he said.

“Oh,” she said, embarrassed, “sorry.” Jordan pushed the orange into her bag.

“You have to leave, now” the cop told her.

“What?” she asked incredulously. “I didn’t steal a book or anything if that’s what you think.”

“No, that’s not it. Listen, we don’t really care about eating in the library but when we get a complaint, we have to reinforce it. And an orange? Really?” he raised his eyebrows at me. “An orange is probably the worst thing to eat in a library. The fragrance is everywhere. One of the students complained saying it was too distracting.”

Of course, Jordan thought. The smell was distracting, it was vibrant and fresh and so very, very appealing. And suddenly she found herself famished, again. She packed up her belongings and walked with the campus cop to the door and out of the library and headed directly to the concert downtown and Charlie.