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Roger N. Meyer "...of a different mind "
Puzzle Pieces Image

Bee Meyer

151 S. Resler, Apt. 189

El Paso, Tx.  79912

 

ONE NIGHT STAND

[1982]

 

 

     She woke as she always did, not moving.  It was as though she knew that she was she and would be there in her own bed in her own place, in her own life, if she didn't make any movement to change it.

 

     But this morning she woke with a sense of fear or excitement.  Perhaps both.  As always, when she was fully awake, her eyes circled the familiar room, the plants banked under the window, the wall of family pictures, the little make-up table converted from an antique desk.

 

     All the things she knew were in their place.  But even though she tried to prolong the regular morning voyage of recognition, it was impossible for her to keep from looking, finally, to her side.

 

     It was true.  He was still there, where she had brought him the night before.  He was sleeping so quietly, on his back, that she could spell out his profile with her eyes almost as though she was drawing it down with her fingers.  She traced his high forehead with the crisply curling white hair, beginning at the top and curling round his eyes, the arched nose finely drawn.  And the mouth.  That mouth she had drawn down almost harshly to her own.

 

     Old though he was and there was no way she could describe him otherwise, his face had a pleasant, pinkish tone.  Could she call him attractive, even handsome?  Possibly.

 

     What color were his eyes under those veined, quiet lids?  Did she think them blue?  Were they hazel?  Yes, she thought, hazel.  Trout speckled.  That must have been what drew her to him.

 

     How could she have done thing thing?  What happened to this old woman?  She was harsh with herself but that's how she felt others perceived her, this old woman.  But [did] she really think of herself as an old woman?  How could a really old woman have been this wayward, almost depraved.  Did she really mean all these words she was allowing to brim in her mind?  Not really.  She felt fulfilled and so young she caught herself smiling.  Worse than smiling.  She felt a wide grin on her face.  Impossible.  She had always referred to herself as amoral.  Now she was sure of it.

 

     What was she doing, anyway, staying on in the hotel dining room after her regular Thursday bridge game was over and their final afternoon pre-dinner drink toasted and down?  She had been watching him watching her an hour or more.  She had wondered whether he sat near one of the tall windows by the door so he could watch her.  Yet why had he kept his face averted so he could barely be seen and yet she knew he was watching her.

 

     What did he see when he looked at her?  She was short.  She wasn't thin.  Her legs, yes, but the rest of her globular.  She felt hers was not a body visually made for love.  Yet as she always had, she dressed her problems well and remained well enough covered so that the shape and looseness of her aging skin was decently concealed by her well cut, soft shouldered jackets and high necklined, crisply tailored blouses.

 

     Unlike her companions whose blue white bouffant hair hadn't changed in the past decade or so, her hair was cut short, shaped to her head and kept of a color not too incompatible with her face.  Not that one could have thought her younger than she was.  The skin of her neck showed her age.  The crinkles of her face, browned from her hours of sun walking and flower gathering, showed clearly.  The only time she lost these wrinkles was by lying on her back so that the loose skin of her face flowed backward toward her ears, smoothing her skin.

 

     Once in awhile she brought a small mirror to bed with her, turned on her reading light and looked at her face smoothed backward, as though she had been given a merciful face lift, the wrinkles momentarily ironed out.  It was then she could remember how she had looked perhaps ten or more years ago.  But not lately.

 

     Now she knew, by what she was and saw and accepted with her own eyes and what her younger daughter had said recently, lovingly but directly.  "You're cute, you know.  And special.  But you look every minute of your seventy years, Mom darling.  Cute, though."

 

     But she knew she did, look every minute.  Except when she was very happy and animated and so busy describing something she thought very funny and so did others who listened, that her face suddenly became that of the woman she had been, the wrinkles there but that enjoyable, even delightful younger woman taking over.

 

     Perhaps that is what he had seen, sitting there quietly and sipping his drink near the window.  Perhaps he had been looking over to the table when the game had stopped and she was talking to her friends and they were laughing.  Perhaps she saw in her something she felt -- something coming through.  Perhaps he knew it for what it really was.  An invitation.

 

     "Look at me," she was saying, as she furtively looked toward him still there, without turning her head.  "Look at me.  Want me.  Make believe we aren't this old.  Wait for me.  Ask me to join you.  Want to make love to me."

 

     She was mad.  How could she even let herself think this, she was wondering now in the morning light of her familiar room.  With this man laying in bed as though he belonged there.

 

     For it had been she, after all, who had spoken the invitation.  Had she had that many drinks?  Of course not.  She and the girls never had more than one.  One before their luncheon.  Nothing during their game and then, late afternoon, the one pre-dinner drink that lifted their spirits again, and made them believe what they wished -- that they had had a wonderful time.

 

     It wasn't true of course.  She didn't really want to count back how many years they had been meeting regularly through falls, winters and springs.  It was while the children were still in grade school and together they had celebrated anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, confirmations.  Bar and Bas Mitzvahs, weddings, grandchildren, some already great grandchildren.  And they hadn't lost a member.  Some of them had given up bits and pieces of themselves in the vanity of face lifts and nose jobs and some in the terror of biopsies, but they were all luckier than most.  Probably because they were able to afford and use the best doctors.

 

     She felt they were fated to go on living together.  Some days this thought held a kind of horror for her.  She didn't want to go on each day the same, each gesture, each word, each meal time, each trip, each week, each meeting, each point of view all known, all constantly repeated.

 

     And she, like Abou Ben Adhem, led all the rest, not so much in affection as in fear of breaking the linkage.  This is how they had grown, how they continued to live.  Nobody strong enough to break away, nor weak enough to have broken away, nor sick enough, nor ready.  Actually, by this time their very presence each week during the seasons, gave them a sense of confirmation and affirmation.  Once they had seen each other smoothed out, made up, well dressed, their nails done, their hair lifted, some of them charming enough to carry their years gallantly, some of them vain enough to have come back to these weekly games with still another surgical smoothing out of face and neck.

 

     Now they were sleeves that never went above the elbows and they had long before stopped their plunging necklines, but some of their legs remained slim and firm and these strutted in their shorts at golf.  But most of them pulled up their legs and knees with panty hose before they put on golf shorts or swinging skirts.

 

     Why was she going through all this.  Why was she lying here like this, thinking of her friends and the dull normalcy of her life when all the time this man, this pick-up, was still lying asleep next to her.

 

     How was she going to be able to get up and go toward the bathroom and the kitchen as though this were an ordinary day, to plug in the coffee pot and set the little toaster oven for her morning bagel or English muffin.

 

     Nor could she lie here indefinitely.  Suppose her daughter Nancy stopped by this morning.  How could she leave her bedroom and run downstairs as though there weren't the living evidence of her insanity -- that's what it was -- upstairs, lying in her bed.

 

     And who could tell at what moment this man -- she wasn't even sure of his name -- Roger?  No.  Couldn't be Roger.  She must be making this up.  Paul?  No.  Making that up, too.  She had always wanted three children, Paul, David and Ruth and once she had born her three, she used only one of the names, Ruth, as a middle name for Nancy.  So maybe she was daydreaming that he was called Paul.  David?  No.  Not David, either.

 

     It was nearly 7:30.  She had to get up.  She had to shower.  She had to begin her day.  What should she do, wake him?  Ask him his name?  Ask him if he wanted to stay for breakfast?

 

     Suppose he woke while she sat at her little converted make-up table, smoothing out her deeper wrinkles with face make-up.  Would he wake and look toward her and see that sagging neck, that crop of hair with its graying roots, those impossible upper arms loosely hanging as she lifted her brush?  She couldn't bear it.  He'd have to go into another room and dress.  She had always believed that the only civilized thing to do as she got older was for a man and woman to dress and undress away from each other.

 

     Oh, Lord, she would have been the whore of the world she was thinking, if only she had been born with a decent body instead of being stuck with this mish-mash of short and round and loosely hanging in the breeze.

 

     Would she exchange this with the bodies of her more beautiful friends?  Or at least those who had been so beautiful, so sexy, so lusciously desirable when they were younger?

 

     What was that cliché she'd heard the other day:  that a woman until she was forty needed  beauty, between forty and sixty personality and after sixty, money.

 

     Well, she'd had her run.  She had come on like gang busters all her life and she had had her moments between forty and sixty and before as well.

 

     But now?  This as indecent that she was even enjoying the review in her mind when this man was lying in her bed.

 

     How had it happened?  She'd better put the pieces together.  She couldn't have drunk too much although of course she could no longer drink the way she used to.  She used to be able to manage up to three martinis before dinner.  No.  She was lying to herself and she knew it.  After the second martini she'd blacked out.  She had had to cut back years ago, in her forties and hadn't dared to think how much she had once poured down in the early years when she and Mel dated and she was free to drink with the ___[material missing]________________while Mel watched and tended her and many of those Saturday nights poured her into bed and crawled in beside her.

 

     What would her children say if they knew she and their father had been lovers for two years before they married?  Why was she wondering what they'd say.  They had already said they thought it was great.  She had told them long before this much, when they had asked how come she'd married such a cold character as their Dad.  Cold, nothing.  Not Mel.  Quiet, maybe.  Couldn't speak his feelings.  But cold to her?  Not even in anger.  He turned most of it against the children rather than use it on her.  But he knew how to get his way.  They couldn't have lived together that long if he hadn't been tough enough to remain his own man through their long years of marriage.

 

     But stop that.  She had to put the pieces of yesterday together.  There he was.  That man, watching her from the window, while she made some kind of excuse, that she was going to wait a little longer because one of her sons was coming by before he went home from the office, to see her about something and had asked her to wait downtown in the dining room for him.  And so they had all left and she remained at the table fiddling with her purse and her make-up, anything to keep from turning toward him.

 

     Anyway, she had been unable to see his face.  He had been turned with his back toward their table, only now and then managing to turn round long enough to look at her.  Or anyway, that's what she thought he was going or trying to do.  When everyone had left and the waiters were setting up for dinner, he walked over to her table and smiled down at her.

 

     "I've been watching you," he said.  "I wanted to come over and sit with you.  I'm glad you waited.  How did you know I was waiting for you?"

 

     "Somehow I knew," she said.  "Somehow."

 

     "Would you have dinner with me?" he asked.  She thought he had a dear face.  She especially liked his eyes and somehow she felt he looked younger than his years.  He was not a young man.

 

     He sat down next to her a moment and asked whether she'd like to stay on and have dinner in the hotel or would she like to go to a special little place he knew out in the country, where he had gone many years ago as a younger man with a woman he loved.

 

     She didn't even ask where or when.  She just got up and followed him.  She sat down in his car, next to him, barely speaking.  She was afraid to look too much at him. She felt as shy and strange as though she were on her first date.

 

     He had a little trouble starting the car and when he backed up to get out of the parking lot, she heard a little familiar grinding noise and bump.  Mel always had backing trouble, even though he had taught her how to look out throiugh the left window to see where the car was in line with the driveway.  Then Mel forgot what he had taught her and began to have bumping and paint scratching trouble.  Dear Mel.

 

     They came so quickly to the little fried chicken restaurant she was startled.  He came round to her side of the car, opened her door, put his hand out for her and then, standing there, wrapped his arms around her and she, lifing her face for the kiss she wanted, drew his face sharply, quick, toward her own.  She hadn't felt this surge of almost physical pain so sharply in years.  He reached back into his car, drew out a bottle of Johnny Walker and said, "This little place never managed to get a liquor license.  Takes me back to the dating days of prohibition." 

 

     No, he wasn't a young man.  He was at least her age and then some.  As she was thinking this, not wanting to look back at him and affirm it, they were walking into the little restaurant.  She inhaled the deeply ingrained fragrance of freshly fried chicken.  She was amused at how plain and humble the room was and that a man so well dressed, obviously at least comfortably well off, could take her to this little road house.  There was an old upright piano near the platform, but it was too early in the day for the dinner pianist.

 

     The woman at the cash register came over and said they would have their chicken fresh fried for them but there wouldn't be any music and they didn't care.  He ordered a bottle of soda and some ice and poured them a short drink.  They clinked their glasses together and their eyes met...locked.

 

     Later, driving back from a dinner neither of them had done more than pushed about their plates, it was she who asked.  He had been quiet.  Waiting.  She said, "Would you come home with me?  I want you."

 

     How could she have brought herself to say that to this man, white haired, both of them old, old.  Was it because suddenly with him, from the moment she saw him furtively watching her across a room, she no longer felt old, nor staid, nor dull, but alive and arching and wanting?

 

     It was nearly eight o'clock.  She had to get up.  But wait one minute.  Let's go through this again.  How did it really happen?  How did he come here to her room?

 

     How?  She had asked him, that was how.  When she said in the car, "I want you," he said, "I want you, too."  And they hadn't said much more than that.  She gave him her address, pointed out the corners to turn.  It was as if she couldn't get there soon enough.

 

     She didn't remember opening the front door, hanging up her coat, putting away her winter knee high boots.  She had only said, "Upstairs.  Upstairs."  And by the time he had come into the room, he had walked up the stairs slowly, holding the banister -- not so much as if he needed its support, as though he were shy, she was already in bed waiting for him.

 

     How delicious it was.  How sweet and loving and wild and beautiful it was.  As though it were the first time or the best time.  That man.  Unbelievable.

 

     A sudden, tearing, buzzing sound split the morning quiet.  The damned alarm clock.  How could she have been so out of her mind not to have turned it off.

 

     It was too late.  He was awake.  He had turned toward her.  His eyes were open, those trout speckled eyes.

 

     "Darling," he said.  "I wouldn't have believed it was us.  After all these years."

 

     She laughed and reached out and put her arms around him, fitting her old body against his as they had fit together for over forty three years.  "Oh, Mel," she said.  "We really made it work.  You were nearly as good in the part as you were the opening night of 'Our Town.'  Remember how well you played the Stage Manager?  Nobody at our table even noticed you or could have recognized you.  You should have been an actor."

 

     "You are one," he said.  "And now, for God's sake, let's have some coffee,  My mouth tastes like the bottom of a bird cage."

 

     Oh, God, she said to herself as she stood up to go to the bathroom, but on her robe and [went] down the familiar stairs of their home to plug in the old coffee pot she had taken from her mother's house and which snored every morning of their lives.  Oh, God, if only he'd refer to his mouth as something other than the bottom of that same damned bird cage I wake with every morning of my life.

 

     But as she walked down the stairs, holding onto the banister as she hadn't last night running up the stairs, she grinned.  "Never mind," she said out loud.  "It was the best time and it was like the first time only better.  And somehow we'll work it out so it won't be the last time, either."

 

     Somehow.

 

Copyright Issues

 

This article is copyright, all rights reserved by the author, Bee Baxter Meyer.  It may be reproduced in single copy once for personal use, and in no more than ten copies total for educational purposes.  Fair Use is authorized for all purposes and under conditions established by US Statute and the International Copyright Convention, to which the United States is a signatory nation.  No person shall publish, distribute, copy, or by other means make this material available to others for purposes of personal gain or professional self-aggrandizement.  Individuals wishing permission to exercise other than fair use or limited distribution as outlined above must contact the author, in writing, and receive explicit written permission from the author prior to engaging in further use of this material.

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