It is the low-pitched and rolling brogue that startles me, and I look up. I hadn’t heard him enter the living room.
“Surprised to see me?” he asks, cocking that irrepressible eyebrow that makes a woman’s heart beat faster, like everything else about him.
He unknots the bow tie and unbuttons the tuxedo jacket, then settles into the black leather chair that seems to suit him perfectly. He is already holding his drink, and I wonder what I was doing that so distracted me that I was oblivious to his footsteps and to the sounds of mixing his cocktail. I never realized he was back, and only a few feet away.
“It’s been too long,” he says. “I wanted to see you. So here I am.”
He’s sipping a martini and though I’m pleased to see him – at least, I’m flattered – I’m also concerned. I’m expecting someone else any minute. And where does he come off making himself at home in my leather chair?
“You need to leave,” I say.
“Another man?” he asks.
I nod, and he holds my gaze but I say nothing more. I don’t want to get caught with my pants down – or rather, him, with his, in a compromising state.
And I’m only human. He’s as delicious as he ever was, mid-forties, oozing sex appeal, and with all the “game” of the practiced ladies man. Irresistible. Or so you’d think.
I’m tempted. I’m no longer married. I’m a free agent. But I am involved, and I’m just not that kind of girl.
“It’s been a very long time,” I say, quietly. “There’s someone else now.”
He grins and sips slowly.
“How can that be? It’s been you, the kids, and me, for years.”
I shrug. I glance at the wall clock. It won’t be long before the New Man, the Good Man, the Nice Guy will arrive. He will stride into my living room, his tie loosened from the long drive, his shirt sleeves rolled up in the heat, and his briefcase overstuffed, which he’ll drop to the floor before he hugs me.
No tuxedo, no martini, but a man. A real man.
* * *
I hear Meg’s voice and find myself curious about her role in this scene.
“There’s the hope of someone,” she says.
It’s a line from You’ve Got Mail.
* * *
How many years with no one at all? Why is it that men seem to sniff around and show more interest when there’s competition? I tell myself that women do the same thing; some bend the code and others break it.
He stands, takes a last sip of his drink and nods. He sets his glass down on the bar and leaves. Now I am fully aware that I’m dreaming – a lucid dream; there is no sixties bar in my home. I wonder which parts of this conversation are real and which are fantasy.
“This is a triangle,” I tell myself, and I try to make meaning of words. I believe in making meaning, in finding meaning. I believe in signage, in symbols, in the precision of semantics and its nuance; I am instructed by first words as well as the clouds that dissipate allowing for others to join them, to encourage me in stepping away, in viewing the big picture, in assessing.
* * *
Triangular forms are among my son’s favorites; triangles insinuate themselves in my morning’s errands and imaginary mark-making, in the nightmares of accidents that haunt me for a week, in the Friday fatigue and the long list of details to attend to – everything that is mine relegated to the bottom; what is his, still, taking precedence.
This is what a single parent does. Or perhaps, it is simply what I do.
I walk into the kitchen and remove the old filter from the coffee maker, dropping it into the trash and replacing it quickly. I need caffeine and I know it. I skip the usual measuring and pour the grinds, add water to the three-cup line, and flip the switch to ON.
My 18-year old is pressing the heating pad to his injured shoulder and laughing at something on television. He is making short work of the eight hash browns from McDonald’s; it’s been years since we’ve made that drive-thru for breakfast. The aroma is both familiar and comforting.
I am suddenly teary-eyed and concerned with where I’ll store the architectural models sitting on the floor and filling my small office. There is the piano fashioned of slim strips of balsa wood, the cardboard construction of undulating arches that he hopes one day to build in the backyard, the self-portrait residence of foam core and Plexiglass that consists of one play on threes after another: him, his brother, me; him, his brother, their father; our home here, his father’s home, his grandparents in Europe and of course – more meaning he once explained to me as I marveled.
I am baffled, frustrated, riled, unnerved, worried, and in awe of this frequently silent child of threes, this boy becoming a man raised of competing triangles with such beauty – their visual harmony in design, their structural instability that is better held by four supports. Or more.
I return to my room as the coffee brews and the image of 007 sitting in the leather chair flashes through my mind’s eye, a towering fantasy figure whose glossy surface of sex is undeniable, whose appeal arouses my awareness that libido doesn’t die though it may be dulled by life’s routine and then, happily, awaken to something or someone very real.
He will kiss me when he comes through the door and I will feel alive. He will bring a baguette and chèvre to surprise us. He will offer to cook and I will say yes.
He will sit at the kitchen table and we will eat and chat and laugh – the three of us – and when night returns, whether it is talk of vintage cars, or the latest politics, or something sweeter and then no words at all, three will dwindle to two and I will be glad for those precious hours when lights dim and essentials emerge brightly into a different sort of trio: the man, the woman, the couple.