“Welcome back George. How was it?” Pete asked, strictly observing the custom of not giving George time to settle in upon returning from his trip before beginning the questions.
George’s eyes had the look of a man searching for an appropriate opening to the story that he knows will be well worth telling. “It was good. Seattle has some good weather and good scenery,” he said.
“Yeah, but that’s just in the summer, right?” Pete asked.
“Right. The point is, I don’t think I could live there unless some company paid me a lot of money,” George said, repeating “a lot” for effect. “Oh, and Pete, I have to tell you about the girl,” he excitedly recalled.
“That’s right. You actually got to meet her. Though you had essentially made up your mind before the trip that she wasn’t the one for you, right?”
“Yeah, she’s definitely not for me. She was hot, but she kept reminding me of my ex-” said George.
“Probably never a good thing.”
“-and besides a bunch of little things, you should’ve seen the place she lived in!” George recalled, his animation for the story growing exponentially now. “I don’t know where they got the figure from, but it was a downtown apartment and everyone in it kept saying it cost six hundred thousand dollars,” George said, cutting himself off there with a stare that is usually followed by a stroke or heart attack. Thankfully a burst of laughter which most would categorize as the sound of a man going insane ended Pete’s concern and preceded, “Oh, and you won’t believe this. She had some nice bookshelves. So I took a look-”
“Bad books, right?” Pete guessed.
“-no,” George said, his eye-lids still completely out of sight. “No Pete. Not bad books, fake books.”
Now nodding, George continued, “Yeah, I saw a book that I didn’t recognize, so I pulled it off the shelf.” Then flipping the pages of an imaginary book, he said, “When I opened it, the pages were blank.”
“Get outta here!”
“She had decorative books Pete,” George concluded. “Pete, the woman had books on bookshelves purely for decoration.”
“I don’t even know what to say.”
“Of course, she did have a big TV though,” George said.
The two single men would have laughed themselves to death if it wasn’t for the eerie silence that accompanied each necessary breath. The silence that these two knew ought to be filled with the sound of crying babies, children’s laughter, lids rattling on a hot stove, the clothes dryer buzzing for the fourth time in as many hours, bad piano playing, lousy excuse giving, and sometimes–just sometimes–the sound of a loving wife’s voice as she mockingly whispers, “Isn’t this everything we hoped for and more?” with an inner strength and resolve that have, as of yet, avoided language’s shackle.
“Oh God, yes! I do, I do,” I confessed, closing my eyes tighter.
Opening my eyes, I could see disbelief in his baby blue eyes as they maneuvered to find my eyes through the tendrils that now covered them. Never having the courage to broach the subject myself, I instantly affirmed his suggestion. After so many years, I was still unable to resist his eyes–those intense, honest eyes.
Immediately, I regretted everything. What if I was wrong? What if this is all he was really after and after he got it he was going to leave me? No. He wasn’t like that. Not this one. At least that’s what I told myself in order to sustain the warmth that had come over me.
“You ready hon? I don’t think I can wait any longer,” I half-heard him say.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” I answered, trying to hide my excitement. I wondered if he knew how excited I really was. I felt like a volcano about to erupt. Just think of it. No, I couldn’t think of it. Just the thought of it was too much.
“Michelle! What are you doing up there?” I later heard him call from across the house. I was so thrilled that I didn’t even realize I had stopped buttoning my blouse and taken a seat on the edge of our bed. Flushed, I stood up, straightened my skirt, finished buttoning my blouse, looked at myself in the mirror, pulled the comforter back to perfect, and headed down the hall to the stair case.
“I’m here. Sorry, I still can’t believe this is finally happening,” I burst.
“Geez. If I would’ve known you were into this, we could have been doing this for years,” I heard him say with his decisive, genuine voice; a voice that reminded me why I loved him.
The way he was standing, so far below me, head tilted up, slightly turned–it was striking.
“You’re sure you meant it?” I couldn’t help but double check, feeling ashamed for infecting the moment with doubt.
“Yes. Wow. You really are something. I’m just sorry it took me 35 years to ask. Why didn’t you ever say anything all these years?” he inquired.
“Oh, I don’t know.”