First Dates

Maria called William out of the blue one Monday morning. They hadn’t seen each other in forty years. The years gone by had brought sweeping changes but William concluded that it wouldn’t hurt to meet her. They decided to see each other in a small café.

William arrived first, unsure of himself but sitting patiently with a newspaper in hand. He looked over the current events section. Avoiding the obituaries had become a pattern over the years, not wanting to see familiar names printed within the pages.

Maria’s hair was streaked grey and William wore a hat to cover what little was left on his head. She appeared from nowhere, surprising him just the way she had years ago. He didn’t take her hand and they didn’t hug. She simply sat in front of him, a large smile appearing on her face. It hadn’t changed in the slightest over the years.
“You want ice cream? A scoop of vanilla and a scoop of chocolate, wasn’t it?”, William asked, embarrassed that he still remembered her tastes.
“How on earth do you remember that?”, Maria said, bursting out laughing in pleasant surprise.
“I’m old, but not senile.”, he replied, grinning.

It was freezing outside but they removed their coats and sat across from each other, digging their spoons into the glass bowls.
“I never thought I would see you again.”, he said abruptly. The cafe was full but had fallen silent.
“I didn’t know if you would ever want to.”, she said.
William looked down into his bowl, swirling the strawberry shortcake with his spoon.
“Why didn’t you ever call earlier me then?”, he asked.
“I couldn’t wait forever, William. You were always around but never really there. I could never get through to you. I told you what I wanted but you didn’t move fast enough.”, she replied, ashamed but shaking herself into a stern posture.
“Why did you choose this place to meet?”, he asked, knowing that they had been on their first date there decades ago.
“I just thought it was a nice place that we might both know.”, she replied, searching his eyes for any hint of his memories. They sat in silence for a few seconds before they tried speaking. They stumbled over each other’s words and went quiet again.
“I can’t believe they’ve stayed open so long. Everything else has gone out of business from our days in school.”, he said, looking around.
She dropped her gaze to the floor. She didn’t care about businesses.
“I used to bring my kids here.”, William said, trying to change the subject.
“Me too!”, she said, almost shouting in delight. “But my husband is gone now, and my kids hardly ever call. I’m always chasing them just to hear their voice.”, she said.
“I’m sorry to hear.”, he said. “I never got that far.”
“You never got married?”, she asked.
“Never. Got engaged once but never married. Don’t regret it one bit. I’m happy having my kids but relationships….”, he said, stopping himself and laughing.
Maria looked away saddened.
“I’m sure you made a good dad.”, she remarked.
“You think so? I’m not really the patient type.”, he said, putting his hand on the table and looking at their reflection in the cafe window. The wrinkles on his face pressed together as he smiled.
“I’m happy to be able to see you after all these years.”, she said.
“You going to finish that?”, he said, pointing to Maria’s bowl of ice cream.
“Glad to see you haven’t changed a bit”, she said, laughing and shaking her head.

Edward Hopper

There is a small painting by Edward Hopper that sits above my bed. I visit Hopper’s scene often but I can never stay long enough to truly appreciate the breadth of the view. I am always pulled back to my pillow, to sleep away the night and have it rest in silence above my head, calling out to me from a place always so out of reach.

If I raise my hand above my head, it is a finger length too far from my touch. Maybe I should just sit up, maybe I should just open my eyes, maybe I should leave my pillow and leave behind the painting. But it will continue to grow wild in the dark, calling me to its shores, to the same old cottage and lighthouse with a beacon lit only for my eyes.

I cannot be sure that when I rest my head, the painting will remain as it is, peaceful and remedial. But I know that when I open my eyes, my dreams will live somewhere within its frames and I will move on from my pillow, my bed, and my home, but never far from its landscape and accepting shores.

Zero

Today I awoke at zero. There was little to pull me up and little to push me down. I hovered at a balance, walking a hardened tight rope leading from birth to the beyond suspended in time. I was not cold, and neither was I warm. There was no love as there was no scorn. I simply existed, without much insistence to take up or take down whatever the day brought my way.

I often walk a balance between day and night, somewhere on the cusp of dusk and dawn. I merge into darkness and I seethe into light, but I am neither inside nor out. I hover in between, balanced without effort, kept afloat through the crashing waves and endless calm, like a boat suspended without direction.

Maybe someday, I will decide. Maybe someday, I will pick a side. But today, I will walk down the middle with my head neither lowered in distaste nor raised in pride.

Covers and Coats

There are many lessons to be learned. Prizes to be earned, rewards to be burned, swallowed down in deciliters to celebrate the millimeters you’ve moved forward for your returns. Collect your dividends as you pass go, harass those who have less yet you move fast past foes whom you deem irrelevant. In the last throes of life, the knife sticking in your back is your own, the few inches you’ve grown in grace replaced in haste by dollars and properties you inhabit in this outer space alone in your waste.

Without a doubt, never one to talk about purchases without moving in a haste so nervous that the magic beans sprouting from mouths drop worthless to the ground without purpose. The world of dividing and displaying values and brands, net worth and what have you on avenues where less fortunate gather and picket their revenues where they stand. I am a man. An “ism” and an “ist”, but really an extortionist and venture capitalist with a plan to exploit the children and take what he can from the poor rocking the boat of the dutiful and the damned and whoever dares to maneuver through this earth pitifully unplanned.