They hadn’t been out of college long, were at their first jobs and settled in enough to see that it was going to be a while before they began to rise through the ranks. They’d had a lot of plans but now everything was sort of on hold and they’d stopped even talking about marriage. The woman was beginning to think about her old dream of being a writer. The man wanted her to take cooking classes. She said not until they had a dishwasher.
Meals were the minimum necessary. They had a tendency to coffee a lot, but not really eat out. On this Sunday afternoon they were just sort of dawdling when one of them came across a story identifying the worst writing about sex. That was enough to sort of kick conversation up a bit.
“Okay”, he said. “You want to be a writer. Let’s play a little game. I’ll name a sexy singer, and then you compose a little scene to go with whoever it is.” She laughed. It sounded like fun.
“Louis Armstrong,” he said.
The bar is smoky, which is a little mysterious since tobacco is forbidden these days. There’s almost no light, just what reflects from the glass shelves of bottles against the bar mirror. The two of them are getting a little older now; it has been a long time ago that they . . . well. They smile and sip old Scotch, knowing that’s as far as it will go. They have obligations now. Loyalties. Vows to keep. Good jobs.
But their knees seek each other under the little table and they smile. It’s almost Christmas. It was nearer the Fourth of July last time. They were sweaty, even smelly, and loved it because it was the beloved’s skin and smell. A little fishy. A little grassy.
“I love it,” he said. Then he suggested Nina Simone.
It was college and they thought they were so smart, but also they were scared. So they played at being hip and put on sophisticated records in the little apartment in the top of a garage. It was getting towards graduation and they would go different directions. The afternoon sun pounded on the roof of the space, now furnished with whiskey boxes of things to be taken back home. They’d had to open a box to get the records out.
Home. A foreign place now. It was a temptation to run away, maybe to Mexico.
But no. They hold each other. They cry. They play the record over and over. They fall asleep in each other’s arms.
By now he worries a little that these are both far in the future and merely remembering the past with some sweet regret. None are about now. He says, “Miles Davis.”
He was black — she was not. it was a beach town and he picked her up, so easy, sooooo easy. She just wanted it. He didn’t care one way or the other, but it was interesting.
Then she was so . . . different, that he began to heat up. But as he began to spread and grow, she began to shrink. Her pink cheeks became a red face and her fluffy curls began to soak and stick. Her eyes flew open and wide, looking at him.
Then he knew what to do. He sat up and took her onto his lap like a little child, to be rocked and kissed until she relaxed. Then he laid her down with her head on the pillow and slipped into her so easy, soooooo easy.
“You’re good at this,” he said.
“Does it worry you?”
“Of course not, but maybe it’s time we went home.” They walked casually, holding hands, not really hurrying.
When they got home, he tried to take her in his arms, so he could kiss her neck. But she bent away from him. “No, no, no! I’ve got to write that stuff down before I forget it. Might be good enough to sell.” She headed into the little alcove where her computer was set up, ready to go.
“What have I done?” he thought. “I’d better think this through.”