“I’m not sure this is a good idea,” I say.
“I’m a big boy, Nina,” Oliver says and I know he knows I’m hesitating because of age—his and mine and the years that separate us.
He chuckles and comes back down the steps. I want so much to be that romantic type who throws caution the wind as it were. I imagine said wind, loaded down with the cares of innumerable people caught up in moments too strong for them, too passionate or reckless, desperate and unmanageable. I imagine some French couple at an outdoor café in Paris, sipping their coffee, smoking their cigarettes, being blown right out of their chair by some rouge, heavy laden wind from the other side of the world. Crazy American fools, they would say, righting their chairs, lighting a new cigarette, calling for the garcon to bring new cups of café and perhaps a pastissier while he’s at it.
“Is this really the time to sort out the good ideas from the bad,” Oliver says, taking hold of my hand.
“I think this would be the perfect time,” I say, not turning loose.
“You may be too quick for me,” he says.
“No, I’m too old for you.” I say, letting go. I twist the ring on my finger that despite the paperwork in progress, I still wear. The truth of that statement sparks in the air. “I’ve been there done that, as they say.”
I feel like I’m walking backwards, trying to undo something that I really don’t want to forget.
“So,” he says, surprising me. “What’s one more time around?”
I shake my head as if to say no, but he kisses me and the wind blows and I wonder if that poor French couple will forgive me the intrusion on their peaceful day. Oliver leads me up the steps to his house. The interior is clean and sparse. The small living room holds a couch and old rocker and a small television. The most predominate thing about the room is a wall of music—song books, more than three guitars that I can see, CD’s, a stereo system and an old piano.
“Do you live here alone?” I ask as he tries to pull me past this area of the house and down the hall that I imagine leads to his bedroom.
“I do now,” he whispers.
I don’t ask for details even though I find myself wanting them. He doesn’t offer any more information. I don’t know if he’s noticed my ring, but if so, he didn’t press and I won’t either.
I let him pull me down the hall and we go inside a small bedroom not far down it. This room, too, is sparse and tidy. A bed, a dresser, closet doors open with clothes arranged neatly, his scrubs at the far right. He goes to the dresser and reaches over it to raise the blinds; the moonlight finds its way in. He excuses himself from the room and I finger through the clothes in his closet—searching for a tactile knowledge of his everyday life.
He comes back into the room and we don’t speak again. He kisses me like he’s asking permission for something, yet not waiting for the answer. His hands find the small of my back and the nape of my neck again and his fingers twine through my hair like they have been there a dozen times before.
This is far from where I thought I’d be tonight should anyone have asked earlier today. There’s a place in my gut that yells at me for putting Dad aside like this. But the option is this or sleeping in my childhood bed quilted in by the heavy-handed stitching of the way things end up.
So for the moment, I choose the soft brush of lips on my neck and the hard clinch of muscled arm holding me tight to this semi-stranger who may be the only piece of the world that makes any sense to me. I let go of everything that holds me in. Thirty-nine years of everything that means anything collects in the palm of my hands, the shallow of my throat, the escape of my breath.