The book was on the table, almost even with his eyes. It had an old, cracked binding and no front cover. Parchment leaves shaded from beige to sienna exposed like he was. It seemed to shimmer and float, like a magic scroll or talisman. A meaning of a dream, maybe?
Yes. Had to be.
Mark tried reach for it, but his arm was pinned under her ribs. Morning sunilluminated the room, showing their naked forms tossed amongst the sheets. Arms and legs gave like sacks of flour against whatever surface they touched, whether the mattress or each others legs. Not a pretty sight, but who was he to talk? He leaned over and kissed the top of the pale shoulder, drinking in the mix of sweat and Chanel. It had been so long...
Red and green neon had always taunted as he walked to home from work Blinking "chicken" in light displays in front of him. He finally gave in and stepped in the bar. Inside, it looked like a clubroom. Red leather bar, with brass tacks everywhere ran lengthwise on the right had wall.. The cushioned rail showed the scars of cigarettes forgotten and smelled of last night's drunk. Only a few people this early. He found a seat near the door so that if he felt uncomfortable, escape would be quick and invisible. A girl with a voice of an angel wailed about loss in the far corner.
Beer was delivered with a shrug and he began to relax. For it's off putting atmosphere, there was a spirit here. Not any one thing that he could put his finger on, but he knew the evening was turning, performing a plie in front of him. Mary would have screamed for wasting his money. "Nothing good ever came of demon liquor" she would say as she sipped her vodka and popped another Xanax. Yeah, nothing like a hypocrite. When had they made love last? That was lost in the haze. It had been over two years since Mary had died and he had not had as much as talked to a woman since. Once you lose someone, the confidence goes away. Mark thought maybe forever. But, last night he felt ready to at least be amongst the living, even if he came back alone. It was Friday and he could sleep in anyway.
"Hey. You awake?" The high voice rattled him back to the present. The owner was petite and blonde by choice, with enough curves to pique his interest.
"Uh, yeah. Just tired." Mark stretched. "Long day at work."
"And no one at home to massage it out. I can tell. The name is Suzanne. Suzanne Maria Kimberley." She grabbed Mark's hand and shook it. "Most guys make fun of me having three first names, but I think it's kind of cool."
As she said this, the scent of Chanel No.22 became apparent. It had been Mary's favorite and a frequent gift in happier times. Even in the dim light, he could tell she was not a young woman. Laugh lines heightened the hazel eyes. Her bust drifted against the foundation underneath a saffron blouse. A teal skirt, pantyhose and slingbacks the same color as the blouse completed the look. Other than the perfume, she was the physical opposite of Mary's slender sternness.
Small talk and more beer filled the void. She was also a widow, her man lost in a car accident some years before in another city. The marriage itself had not been good. Verbal sparring, with the occasional fist fight. She admitted she thrived on the drama and would pick just to get a rise out of him. There had been no children, which she was thankful for. But when he was gone, so was a lot of her life. Moving from place to place, she could not shake the emptiness. Mark listened sympathetically, but said nothing of his own past except that Mary had died unexpectedly and he was only now feeling like being social. Taking her hand, he aske:.
"Would you like to dance?"
The jukebox had taken over for Ms. Sadsong, playing a soft country love ballad. With the floor to themselves, they fit like hand in glove. A single unit gliding and pirouetting across the rough parquet floor. Nobody else took notice and to them it didn't matter. A new world enveloped them as the songs and hours ticked away. Soon enough, the bartender made last call and the new couple made their leave.
A dry, cool evening met them as they walked the few blocks towards Suzanne's apartment. Snuggling close with his jacket across her shoulders to fend off the cold. They turned the corner toward her door, their words became more intimate. There was no question on whether Mark would be invited in. A soft click and the evening began.
No lamp was turned on and no more words were spoken. They became teenagers again. Melding together, pieces of cloth dropped one by one to the floor. He cupped the soft breasts as they were set free, kissing them softly. Sensing more than seeing, each garden, marsh and well was explored and cherished. Fingernails ran up and down his body. Nothing mattered as they danced to their own music of sighs and whispers, a pas de deux of lust and want. Tomorrow didn't exist as they came home together. Hunger finally sated, they slept within their embrace.
Here they are, Mark thought, as uncovered as the book on the table. Our pages exposed for the world to see. It was beautiful.
Suzanne stirred. She leaned up one one arm and smiled. Brushing his hair out of his face, she asked.
"Hey, there, Handsome. Want some coffee?"
"Sure." He said, as he reached for the book. "You like books?'
"Yep. Owned a used bookstore before I was married." She slid out of bed and put a kettle of water on the stove. "That one was from one of my first estate purchases. It was so damaged, I couldn't sell it. I had loved the poem as a girl so I kept it. Let me see it a sec."
Mark handed her the rough binding as she sat down cross legged in a small, pink chair. Carefully she opened to a passage she knew and began to read.
should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?"
What do you need camerado?
Dear son do you think it is love?
Listen dear son--listen America, daughter or son,
It is a painful thing to love a man or woman to excess, and yet it
satisfies, it is great,
But there is something else very great, it makes the whole coincide,
It, magnificent, beyond materials, with continuous hands sweeps and
provides for all."