We’d like that booth over there,” David said, smiling and pointing to a booth by the window. It was a four-seater for the two of them. Elaine wondered how the hostess would react to such a greedy request on a busy Sunday morning. David always asked for what he wanted, and he almost always got it.
“Sure, right this way.” The young woman smiled, grabbing a couple of menus as she batted her long eyelashes at David. Her fresh, dewy skin made Elaine feel suddenly invisible.
She watched to see how much attention David paid the hostess as they followed the woman’s lead to the table. She couldn’t tell where his eyes were. Then she realized she didn’t care. Elaine wondered why was jealousy was so automatic? Who programmed this response in her? It was one of her least favorite way to feel.
The turquoise vinyl booths and the black tables were most likely meant to be fun when they were first installed. But over the decades, the diner had become an over-decorated disaster. Gold pillars were added while the black and white titled floor remained. There used to be a few over-sized clocks, now they were all over every single wall. Each set to a different time. If she looked around too much, she’d get dizzy. But the food was always delicious, and it was close.
They sat across from one another. David smiled at her and opened his menu. She opened hers and scanned the list of specials until she found what she wanted. The waiter came, took their orders, and the menus. Seconds later, coffee and water arrived.
As she was pouring cream into her coffee, she saw Michael in a booth for two, two tables down on her left. He wasn’t alone. She realized that the back of that head must belong to his wife. Her heart beat a little faster.
David took her hand, “Last night was extraordinary, Elaine. I have been thinking about how nice it would be to spend all our nights together. Live with me and be my love.”
Afterglow was still coursing through her veins. Sitting near her former and current lover, she couldn’t help but mix up memories of both men. She sighed and then brought herself back to reality and did a check. “Did he just ask me to live with him?” He had.
“Do you think our time would feel as special if we lived together?”
Pushing his dark chin-length hair behind his ears, he said, “I do. I can’t imagine being with you would ever be anything but wonderful. I want to see that smile of yours every morning when I wake up. I want to feel you beside me every night.”
Elaine felt herself blushing, “David, that’s sweet. But you know, living together would be a whole different thing.”
She glanced over at Michael. Their eyes made contact this time, and her mind was flooded with memories. Those afternoons at the Hyatt. She was looking at David and thinking of how Michael would always be waiting for her when she got off the elevator. He always brought a nice bottle of wine. They spent afternoon hours making love on top of crisp hotel sheets and shifting positions all over the king-sized bed until it was almost dark. There was that time the headboard fell because she was holding onto it too tight.
“Yes. It would be different, and it would be wonderful.” His words dispersed her memories of Michael.
Elaine bit her lip for a moment before speaking. “David, we’ve only been seeing one another for. . .”
“A year.” He said it as if he had just dunked a basketball.
“Has it been a year?”
“Oh.” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Michael motion for his check and felt a confusing rush of emotions. Love and sadness. A dash of anger at the reality of it all. She wondered if he had told her the truth about his marriage.
“It’s not you, David. I’m so used to living alone now. I wonder if I’ve become too set in my ways. The last time. . .”
“I’m nothing like your ex, Elaine.” He seemed annoyed with her, or was he frustrated? She couldn’t tell.
“I know. You’re not. It’s the little things that worry me about living with someone again. It’s always the little things that matter the most. They all add up. I like having everything in order. I can get obsessed with it. I don’t want to change, but how can I ask you to be as rigid as me? I don’t want to fight over socks on the floor or wet towels on the bed.”
“When have you ever seen me do those things?”
“Yes. A few times. There’s a tension that forms in a relationship when habits don’t align. Little resentments become a big deal. I’m certain there must be things I do that you don’t like.”
“You know, I’m pretty easy going. Is this really the problem, Elaine? Or is it something else? Are you afraid?”
“I’m not afraid, David. Things are so nice the way they are. Why change? Wouldn’t we be taking a big chance if we lived together?”
“Isn’t it worth the risk?” He flashed a full-face smile, but she couldn’t concentrate.
Just as he finished speaking, she saw Michael stand up from his booth. He stood by his wife and gave her a hand. She got up slowly. He continued to hold onto her as he reached over and grabbed something. It was long and white, red at the bottom. A cane. He never told her his wife was blind. Elaine wondered if the blindness was new. She had tinted glasses covering her eyes. Was it a temporary thing? She had red lipstick on. Did Michael put that on for her? How did she look that chic?
She couldn’t hear what David was saying. She couldn’t keep her focus on him. As Michael and his wife passed, she looked into his eyes and wanted him. She wanted another afternoon tangled up in fresh hotel sheets.
Elaine realized she should feel awful for having slept with the husband of a blind woman, but she didn’t. She wasn’t the one who committed adultery. It was “just one of those things.” She could hear Louis Armstrong continue the song, “a trip to the moon on gossamer wings.” What was it, David asked? She remembered.
“I don’t know if it’s a question of risk. Maybe it’s more that I’m happy now.” Elaine looked up at him and wondered if he really loved her. Maybe he just wanted someone to wash his socks.
“Look, I don’t want to live with just anyone. I don’t need someone to take care of me or do my laundry. I love you. It’s because I love you that I want to live with you.”
His mind-reading startled her. “I love you too, David. I’m sorry. I wasn’t expecting to have this conversation.”
She watched David as he gazed out the window before returning his attention to her.
“You know, when we met, I thought you were seeing someone else. Were you?”
Elaine wondered how she should answer that question and decided to just go with the truth. “Yes, I was seeing someone when we met. I continued to see him until you said you’d like to be exclusive.”
“I asked to be exclusive because I thought you were seeing someone else. Did you ever see him again? Am I the only man in your life now?”
“You are. You have been ever since you asked me not to see anyone else. I saw him recently. We didn’t speak. He was with someone. It looked like she was his wife. So, I avoided him.”
“Did you ever regret ending it with him?”
“No. I think he was seeing someone else the whole time too. Maybe she was the woman I saw him with.”
“Did that bother you?”
“It didn’t. We had our own thing. It was sweet and simple. Never all that serious.”
“Is that what you prefer?”
“Obviously, it’s not. I choose you, and you’re complex.” She laughed, and he did too before becoming serious again. He took both her hands in his.
“Elaine, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I have loved no one as much as I love you.”
She smiled and felt the heat of her blushing cheeks. Out the window, she saw Michael helping his wife into their car. She felt a stabbing pang in her heart. It was a sweet pain.
She thought if only I could see him one more time. But it would be pointless. After seeing his wife, his blind wife, she could never have sex with him again. It hadn’t been difficult to sleep with a married man when the wife was a theoretical entity. Now she’d always be real.
“David, I love you too. I love you more than I have ever loved anyone. Why don’t we try adding more nights together during the week and ease into living together slowly?”
“I’d like that.”
He took her hand. Elaine smiled as she looked into his eyes and then out the window. She could see Michael’s car disappear. He had made her feel safe. He was older. A wealthy doctor. But for all their time in bed, they never slept curled up. They never cooked dinner together. There were no weekend getaways. And, they never went out for Sunday brunch
She did fall in love with Michael, and all the times she couldn’t be with him had hurt. Then David came along. He might one day break her heart; he could because she loved him so much, but at their love wasn’t confined to a few hours in a hotel room.
“I lied earlier, David.”
“Is there someone else?”
“No. I am afraid.”
“I know.” David leaned in and kissed her. “I won’t break your heart.”
© 2019-2020, A. Breslin. All Rights Reserved
Image Credit: Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash