A seat at the bar, with me on it. Not so unusual.
But when I look up from an empty pint glass, the place feels different. Little to see, aside from some back slapping and hand clapping. More of a change in atmosphere. A change of tone. Bawdy voices rise in exclamations, no longer trying to be demure. A transition from the bullshit buttoned-down behaviors to something far more real. People are honest. Unfiltered, genuine human interaction. It’s beautiful.
A woman is sitting on the stool beside me. Beside her sits her very jealous husband. Does he have reason to be? I’m not even sure. Neither is he, apparently, because he straight out asks me.
“You got no worries,” I tell him. “There’s someone…has my complete attention. I really like it with her.” As I say it, I realize I’m not just saying this to avoid a fight. I mean it.
The woman beside me is relieved to hear me say what I did. There’s a hurt shine in her eye when she looks at me, but I can tell she doesn’t want to lose this man. And I don’t want her to lose him either. So I slide off my seat and go looking for my gal.
I find her in a basement apartment with dark wood paneling: walls, floors, ceiling, everything. There’s a small fireplace with a modest fire going. She reclines against her headboard, bundled beneath blankets, damp hair combed back from recent shower. The sight of her is pure pleasure. She smiles to see me. Wasn’t expecting bruises around her throat, though. Red and purple marks encircle her neck. Not sure it’s on the up and up.
She’s unconcerned. Had a visitor this evening, and it was a tad rough. But consensual. And that defuses the misplaced over-protective Neanderthal vibe I’m throwing off.
She rises from bed. Black tank top and pajama shorts. Long, smooth legs and arms. She embraces me, warm body molding entirely against mine. I don’t care what she was doing earlier. It never matters what we’re doing or who we’re with. We don’t judge one another for our appetites. And when we’re together, it’s intimate.
The passage of years. She only becomes more desirable. Slight exaggerations of her natural shape. Wisdom around her eyes. Changing employments inflict distance upon us, but always, we find one another. Like two planets sharing an orbit, we cannot disentangle ourselves, even when the distance wears hard.
An invitation from her. I take it without a thought to what I’m leaving behind, and I drive to an apartment in a rural town. It’s one large room with an enormous fireplace in the center. The fireplace is nearly a room all its own, encased in glass on four sides. Tall, yellow flames waver inside.
Warm. Inviting. Safe.
She is there, familiar and exciting. Arousal of sense and memory. She does not belong to me, nor I to her. And that is our brand of magic. Mutual understanding has a gravity all its own, and the proof is underscored as we crash together. Every moment prior to this seems irrelevant, merely prologue and window dressing for the story yet to come. I know…I know this where I’m supposed to be. Her eyes tell me she knows, as well.
Exhausted, we collapse, and in contended gazes we see each other plainly. Through hard times, we’ve been knocked down as often as we’ve remained standing. We’ve ventured off and explored to our hearts’ content. But in that exploration, we never found anything so satisfying as returning to common ground…to the trusted, loving friend who missed us.
No more bruises around her neck. No more diversions for me.
“Time, Gentlemen,” the bartender would always say at the end of the night. “Go on home.” That voice echoes in my head, and with a smile I understand why.
Because, finally, I know where home is.