I have to confess that I was surprised when I heard the doorbell ring about mid-morning Sunday.
Who would come to visit me that early and especially on a Sunday? I thought that maybe, just maybe, it was my brother and his wife on their way back from church. We lived pretty close to each other, so if he needed to borrow a tool or something he might stop by.
I didn’t want to scandalize my sister-in-law (I smiled to myself at the thought — actually scandalizing my sister-in-law was always kind of amusing), so I threw on my sweat pants and a tee shirt before I came downstairs from the bedroom, just to be decent in case he had the wife with him.
I ran my hand through my hair — thinner and grayer than it had been in my youth, but still a scandalous and unruly mop — to try and force it to behave. Alas, a lost cause.
My real surprise of the morning was when I looked through one of the beveled glass panels on the front door. Standing there was a ghost from my past — my first true love from about 40 years earlier, Allison or Ali, as I used to call her.
Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, Ali and I had been married for one year, two months and eleven days — but who’s counting?
Ali was a woman of Latin heritage whose hair had been such a dark brown as to look black. (She had confessed to me years before that she had gone completely gray by her mid-thirties, and had been dyeing it ever since.) Her skin was a café au lait color where it was exposed to the sun, although a much lighter shade in those areas that were normally covered. I suspect you will know where I mean.
When she and I were both in our early twenties, she looked like another ‘Ali’ — ‘Ali McGraw’, Steve McQueen’s wife and one time starlet in the movies ‘Love Story’ and ‘The Getaway.’ Not a raving beauty, understand that from the get-go, but she had a certain kind of charm.
In short, she was a skinny kid with big boobs. Well, to be more accurate, she had large breasts, a thin waist, and when you saw her naked, she actually had a butt that was on the larger size (not Kim Kardashian big, but getting there) and a set of thunder thighs in their early development phases.
Even then, while still a callow youth, I knew better than to point out those particular features to her. She lived with her mother at the time we met, so, aware of the mother/daughter nexus, I knew what to expect Ali to look like in the derriere/thighs department later in life. Like they sell you at Starbucks — a Grande… And looking at the woman outside my door my prognosis had been vindicated once again. Como madre, como hija!
Hey, I didn’t complain — I was never one to sweat the details.
Plus, she liked sex. When she orgasmed it was a bit like riding a bucking bronco. That was exciting. On the other hand, she was a pretty plain vanilla gal in her tastes.
Missionary position was the norm to the exclusion of anything else — riding cowboy was too much effort for her (really strange, since she did a lot of English style horseback riding with its up-and-down movement —’posting’) and doggy style was, well I honestly can’t remember her complaint about it, but she didn’t like that either.
Oral sex was great — when I performed it on her. It was too dirty for her to reciprocate. And anal? Well, another thing ‘too dirty’ to even consider. But to a 20-year-old, any sex with a hot woman is better than with your own hand.
As I opened the door, Ali more or less pushed herself in.
“Morning, Brad,” she said as she squeezed by me. At least she was smiling. That was a relief.
Oh yeah. I’m Brad. And it’s not short for ‘Bradley’, I was christened ‘Bradford’ by my parents — an old family name. If Ali had called me ‘Bradford’ as she came through I would have been really worried. The only time she called me Bradford was…well, let’s leave it at ‘it wasn’t pleasant.’
Another thing about her: she confused my politeness and civility with weakness. I wasn’t a 20-something-year old anymore and I was even less inclined now to put up with shit from a woman. But, as I said earlier, until really pressed I’m a pretty laid-back guy, so I didn’t point out to her that I hadn’t really invited her in.
No matter. She wasn’t going to be here for long.
I had a fairly good idea of why she was here. From the notorious, ubiquitous Book of the Face app, I was aware that she was no longer living with the man with whom she had been co-habituating for the past ten years or so. He was in the neighborhood of 15 years older than her for heaven’s sake, so I wasn’t terrible sure of exactly why she had been living with him in the first place.
I casually wondered why they had suddenly split, but hadn’t been interested enough to search out the reasons. Honestly, in light of my own long-past history with her, I figured it could go either way — he (or more likely, his kids) had tired of having her around sniffing around his estate, or alternately she may have decided that she didn’t want to spend her remaining active years as a nursemaid to a man who was increasingly feeble. Flip a coin.
So there she was, walking into my living room, ready to reappear in my life, with the hope that I had forgotten just how badly our own time together had concluded.
A shame, because my memories regarding her behavior were still quite sharp. Embedded, you might say. Like sharks teeth left in the flesh after an attack. They hadn’t hurt for over 37 years, but they were still there just under the skin like old shrapnel as a reminder.
“Ali,” I said as I followed her into the living room, “How are you doing? Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
I remembered Ali telling me how she would have coffee and sweet rolls for breakfast when she was in grade school! Her teachers, many of whom I’m sure started THEIR days with a similar breakfast, were horrified at the thought of a first grader sitting at the table in the morning quaffing a shot of thick, black, sweet Cuban coffee. I was fairly sure she was still one to enjoy a cup por la mañana.
“I’m doing great, Brad,” she replied almost sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs before she realized I was headed for the kitchen and not settling in the living room. “Some coffee would be wonderful,” she called after me, now also heading for the kitchen in my wake.
Thanks to my late wife, who presented me with a Keurig machine for Christmas — a couple of minutes and a cup of pretty decent coffee would magically appear. I selected one of the smaller sized cups for Ali than I normally drink myself. No point in using the coffee to make our upcoming conversation longer than need be.
But perhaps, I thought, I am being unfair. She may just be passing by and felt the urge of one old friend to see another. If she had stopped because she needed help of some kind, then she had selected well. Even if we had parted on a sour note I would still do what I could to get her out of a jamb, if it was within my reach to do so.
I know the word ‘sucker’ comes to mind, but for me it is a ‘bread on the waters’ sort of thing. You understand — a karma concept in which you do good deeds for people and some day when you need help someone will arrive like the cavalry at your doorstep.
She sat at one of the bar stools at the end of the large island that made up the middle section of the kitchen.
“So what’s up, young lady?”
A quick note to all of you older men: call the women in your life who are approaching or over 60-years old, ‘young.’ They know it’s not true, but they love you for it anyway.
“Well, we hadn’t seen each other face-to-face since that time when I came down and you, your wife and I went out to dinner together. So it was long past time. And I wanted to give you my sympathy in person for your wife’s passing. I only met her that one time, and she seemed like a really nice person.”
There was a tale in itself: she had only met my wife once because that was the one time I allowed them to meet.
I divorced Ali all of those years ago when she decided that she wanted to go forth and explore the world of men’s cocks whereas I felt that my cock should be the singular hotdog in her bun, the only sugar in her bowl (as the old blues singer, Bessie Smith, expressed it.)
It could have been worse, I guess. Ali was always brutally honest, and she told me at the time right up front that she hadn’t actually carried out her plan for enriching her sex life at my expense yet, but that she was moving forward with it ASAP.
Only married a little over a year and she wanted out. Good god! We married too young; we were in lust, not love, and that old standby, “I love you, but I’m not IN love with you anymore.” Was there a cliché that she couldn’t throw out in her effort to ‘let me down gently.’ Hell, we even had a half-decent goodbye fuck that night.
While at the time I was heartbroken, I didn’t adopt the attitude ‘I can never trust a woman again.’ I figured that even if I had rolled the dice badly the first time, one never knew — the next woman who I met might turn out to be my soul mate. And although my second wife was not precisely the next woman I dated, I met her within a year and had spent the next 37 years in bliss. She was indeed my soul mate and I had been blessed.
Oddly, it was the disaster that was ‘Alison’ that really confirmed in my mind how wonderful my new wife and marriage were. I’ve heard it said that you have to have a completely disastrous relationship before you can truly appreciate just how good a great relationship can be.
But my second wife, June, had been a very different woman than Ali. Where Ali was a ‘country girl,’ June was a Phi Beta Kappa honors grad from a top rated university. Ali wanted to raise cattle and horses; my wife was a high-powered executive running the finance department of a manufacturing company
Nevertheless, Ali was in fact bright and I really respected her for her fearless nature — nothing either emotional or physical seemed to frighten her — but at the time that I met my wife-to-be, I was too embarrassed to have them meet. I expected June would have turned to me after talking with Ali for a couple of minutes and asked, “You were really married to this bimbo?”
That would never have actually happened because my wife was the kindest, gentlest and most understanding woman in the world. When she did finally meet Ali they got on well together and never a nasty word came from her lips about my former paramour. The same couldn’t be said for me. Sigh. My wife was a better person than I am, hands down.
You often read or hear about how after a break-up the man feels really stupid. In my case, although I felt as if I had been deceived and betrayed, I was convinced that based upon her actions that Ali must have been a lot less intelligent than I had believed. Talk about ego, I guess!
It was never my I.Q. I doubted, but hers. And since we had begun to communicate again about 10 years before this, Ali’s postings on FB had often led me to conclude that I had been right about that!
I brought her the coffee with the fixings and while she added her cream and sugar (substitute) I completed my own coffee.
“Ali, I appreciated your sympathy card. I can hardly describe to you how crushed I was to wake up one morning and discover that sometime during the night my wife had died.”
“Oh mi pobre querida, that must have been horrible. Did they ever find out why?”
“Eventually. It seems that she had a congenital problem with her heart that by any rights should have killed her in her twenties or thirties, but the Lord in his wisdom gave me almost forty years with her before he took her home. It was very comforting to know that she most likely didn’t feel any pain; she went to sleep one night and just never woke up again.”
Ali gave me a correctly serious and sad look as she put her hand over mine and patted it.
“That was almost two years ago, if I recall?” she queried. Ah! The serious sparring was about to begin. “Has it gotten any better for you?”
“Oh yes. Every morning I wake up only missing her intensely, desperately and feeling like my right arm is missing. But that is better than it was… In fact, I’ve been really starting to feel much better recently.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” she said, still oozing empathy and looking at me with an appraising glance to see if the time was right.
“You know,” she started, winding up for the pitch, “I think as we get older it isn’t the sex as much as it is the love and companionship that one needs in a relationship. And older people who have a significant ‘other’, as they say these days, supposedly stay healthier and live longer.”
I couldn’t help myself. I could feel that malicious demon residing in my soul taking charge of my words.
“I think you’re right about that — you know, the need for love and companionship. I’ve been considering getting myself a dog or a cat. Which do you think would be better?”
Ali was looking distinctly unhappy about that particular sally.
“Pets are great — and I should know, I’ve always had them. But they are no substitute for human companionship.”
I nodded sagaciously agreeing with her.
“I know of a couple of guys — widowers like me — who’ve moved in together for that exact reason. Nothing sexual, mind you, just friends who can keep an eye on each other, share expenses, that sort of thing. They’re great friends, always doing things together like fishing, playing golf, going out to bars…”
Ali was looking at me goggle eyed by then. She must have been exasperated thinking I was completely oblivious to the direction she wanted the conversation to go in. I could see her posture stiffening as she girded her loins and gathered her courage.
“I was really thinking about older couples — you know, men and a women. I would think that by now you would be emotionally ready to get back out into the dating world. You’re not too old to be in another relationship. You are still a vigorous man with needs. I mean after two years you must be pretty damn horny. And no one would think any less of you; after all you’ve waited and grieved for two years, if you were to find someone to help you get past your sorrows.
“In fact, you and I have been friends for such a long time. Isn’t it nice that we already ‘know’ each other so well,” at which point she winked at me, in case I had missed the double entendre, “that we can sit down with a cup of coffee and it’s almost as if we’d never been apart. Even after all of those years.” She giggled. I mean seriously, giggled like a teenager.
“I don’t know, Ali,” I started trying to interject some overdue realism into this conversation that was rapidly flying off into another dimension. “I’m very different than I was forty years ago. For example, I’m much more sexually demanding than I was then and I suspect that you aren’t…”
“Oh no!” she interrupted, “I’m very open to a broad range of sexual activities these days, and it’s fairly common for people to ‘taste the wine’ before you buy the barrel…”
Do you remember earlier when I mentioned spreading the bread on the waters? And the day when karma would send the cavalry to my rescue? At that very moment the cavalry arrived in the form of a beautiful woman in her late-forties who had been staying with me for the prior three weeks, by the name of Helen.
Helen entered (stage right) wearing one of my old tee shirts covered by a bathrobe, also obviously originating from my wardrobe. Her state of dishabille suggested that she was naked beneath the hastily assembled ensemble. You couldn’t quite see her shaved pussy, but I knew it was hiding under there somewhere.
“Ummmm… is that coffee I smell?” she said as she entered the kitchen. She walked over behind me and promptly staked out her claim by coming up behind me, kissing me (I turned my head to make sure that our lips were properly aligned) and wrapping her arms around me.
Completely focused on me, she practically purred as she spoke.
“I wondered what was keeping you from coming back to bed, lover.”
She seemed to finally notice Ali, now sitting in shock with her coffee frozen in place halfway up to her lips. I guess Ali was figuring out that I hadn’t been entirely celibate for the two years since my wife’s passing. Not that I was going to confess that Helen was the first.
“And who is our guest?” Helen queried. How could you not love a woman who with the single word ‘our’ completely vanquished her foe? “Sweetie, would you make me a cup of the chocolate latte?”
She turned back to Ali and extended her delicate hand.
“I’m Helen, by the way — I’m handsome’s fiancée. And I take it you are one of his ‘old’ girlfriends?” Ali cringed at the way Helen emphasized ‘old,’ but she wasn’t quite ready to abandon the battlefield. I grinned while facing the Keurig so as not to give away my amusement.
“No,” Ali croaked, “not an old girlfriend, I was his first wife!”
“Ah!” Helen said giving Ali the once over.
I was completely taken aback at Helen’s self-description as my fiancée to be honest. We’d only known each other for about three weeks, but I kept my poker face in place when I turned back towards the two women, since she was clearly running interference for me.
Helen was a story herself. She was the niece of a long time friend and we met at his funeral in L.A. Phil’s (my deceased friend) family all lived on the east coast in the New York City vicinity. When he died rather suddenly, they came out to clean up his condo and take care of his estate.
I had met his brother, George, and his wife on several occasions years earlier when Phil and I were on business trips that took us into the NYC area. So I was somewhat acquainted with the family — Phil had often spoken of his nieces and nephews, but this was the first time that I met any of them. One of his nieces called me up to invite me to his funeral service. George knew I was a friend and I was one of the few people whose number and address Phil kept in his personal phone book.
After the service, I helped the family gather up the drinks and snacks they had brought for the attendees and I asked them if they would allow me to take them to dinner, which they did. We talked about their brother/uncle and the conversation went on to other topics. I mentioned that I still lived in the house that my late wife and I had shared for the past 35 years.
I described us as being rather ‘sessile.’ One of the nieces admitted that she didn’t know the word, so I described it as being like an ‘oyster, immovable, stuck to a rock.’ Helen at that point turned to me, batted her eyelashes and added, “But only mature oysters.”
I nearly fell off my chair! She was, of course correct, and her other siblings informed me that they called her ‘Wiki Helen’ because she always seems to know obscure factoids about, well, almost anything! She blushed at their obvious pride in their knowledgeable sister and demurred. She put up her hand with the thumb and finger just far enough apart to see a gap.
“But my knowledge is only about this deep,” she said with an alluring smile on her face.
I fell in love with her at that very moment — what can I say; I’ve always been a sucker for smart women! That she was articulate, witty, charming, and very attractive looking were all mere side issues. Really. And when I was young I only bought Playboy for the articles.
Back to the issue at hand, I returned to the kitchen island and presented Helen with her coffee. Ali seemed to have suddenly remembered another place she had to be, so she finished up her coffee and gathered all of the paraphernalia that accompany women just in case they find themselves stranded in the wilds of the Hindu Kush.
“Ali, thanks so much for stopping by. It was really good to see you again.” I did give her a hug and a quick kiss on her forehead as she was leaving. She kissed me on the cheek (a quick move of my head kept her from making direct contact with my lips.) I managed not to recoil. My soul has been making progress lately.
“Maybe we could get together again sometime when you aren’t so busy,” she asked with a slightly more hopeful look on her face after the hug and kiss. “You know, I’ve always regretted breaking up with you. It didn’t take long for me to realize that you were one of the ‘good guys.’
“But by then it was too late — some other smart woman had captured your heart. Even when I was married, I would have run off with you in a minute if you had asked. But that wouldn’t have happened — which is partly why you are such a good man.”
Very pretty sentiment, but I didn’t believe a word of it.
I smiled at her, “Ali, that is very kind of you to say. And we will get together soon.”
“You promise?” she replied, her tone almost begging.
“Promise. I’ll give you a call next time I’m in your neighborhood.”
She smiled at that, “I look forward to it.” Then in classic Ali style, she turned and walked away, getting into her car and leaving without even a look backwards.
I walked back to the kitchen where I looked at Helen with a grin.
“At the moment it seemed like the most irritating thing I could say to her,” she replied with a twinkle in her eye.
“It seemed to work,” I nodded in assent.
“I heard you talking to her at the door. Are you really thinking of giving her another chance?”
“Not on your life, babes. I will remain a friend, but I could never be anything more. For one thing, if I ever decided to ‘taste the wine’ with her again I suspect that the ‘barrel’ would be moved in the next day. And that is a boucoup non non.”
Helen nodded her head.
After our après-de-funeral dinner with Phil’s family, Helen and I had gone to a local bar together and had a drink. She was bewailing the cold temperatures that had plagued the east coast for the entire winter and said that she wasn’t looking forward to going back there two days hence.
That was my opening to invite her to stay for a while (assuming that she had the time off available) at my place. My house has four bedrooms, three with comfortable beds — queens or larger. And I had no expectations of her other than she should enjoy herself in the Southern California coastal climate.
She accepted my offer, called her work in NYC, and instead of flying back, she put her ticket into abeyance and settled into my humble abode.
It wasn’t until the second night that she crawled into bed with me naked.
“Has anyone mentioned that you’re kind of slow on the uptake?” she huffed at me.
I have a very difficult time being harsh or impatient with sexy younger women who’ve just gotten into my bed and stroked my dick a couple of times. It takes all of the witty repartee out of me as the blood flees my brain for parts south. Plus it had been a long time — over two years for me.
“Did you think that I decided to come and stay with you in your house and not make love with you? What were you thinking?” she informed me in the tone women use when they feel the need to treat a man as the simpleton he is.
“Hope rises eternal,” I whimpered, conscious of whose hand was where, “But I would never presume upon your finding me as attractive as I find you.”
“You think that I went out for drinks with you because I found you repulsive?”
Well that settled that and we had gotten awfully comfortable with each other over the past three weeks. We’d talked, seen the ‘gotta see’ sights and places. We’d been to the beach, the local mountains and up the coast to the wineries in Santa Barbara County. We’d compared favorite books, movies and music. We’d explored each other and made love together.
After Ali left, Helen and I ate lunch and went out for a walk in one of the local parks. It felt damn good to be out walking along with a beautiful woman whose arm was wrapped around mine and not enough room between us for light to pass through.
“How much longer can you stay?” I asked, hoping that I didn’t sound as desperate for her to stay as I was.
“I called my boss and arranged to work out of our west coast office in Santa Monica; you’ve got me as long as you can tolerate me chasing off the would be predators and interlopers.”
“That could be a long time,” I assured her.
Did I mention that Helen worked for one of the national Auction Houses that dealt with art? She did historical research and appraisals on art, mostly paintings, for them. As I said earlier — she is a very smart gal.
“Already had Dad get my stuff out and put it in storage. Gave my landlord his notice. If you’d told me to get out, I wouldn’t have an apartment waiting for me back there.”
“That takes a lot of faith in my predictability!”
She smiled, “No, just faith in your basic character. You’re a good and loving man. Reliable. Dependable. That’s why your ex wife showed up again.” I looked over at her face. It was a picture of serenity.
“You know that you are too young for me? Or more properly speaking, I’m too old for you,” I pointed out.
“That’s a question of opinion. Regardless of age, you are the most attractive and fascinating man I’ve ever known. I think that I love you and I think that you might love me too. Can we take some time to see if I’m right?”
“Oh, I suppose we could test it out for the next twenty or thirty years and see,” I concluded, nodding in agreement and deciding not to sweat the details.