I’d only really been in love once in my life and we were married for forty-four years. Judith’s heart was as big as her eyes and they were the most enormous, deep brown eyes I’ve ever seen. We met when we were still young, still impressionable. There were circumstances, of course, around our meeting and our loving one another and she never tired of telling the story. I’ll repeat it for you now so you’ll begin to understand - and I’ll tell it her way, even try to tell it in her voice. Yes, I’ll try that. It would make a difference.
"I met Mitchell Anderssen when I was nineteen years old and I hated him on the spot," she would say. "He was already much older than me. He stayed that way until I died and now he’s much older than me." I can hear her laughter in my head over that little addition to her rendition, but never mind, let’s hear her out.
"He was already much older than me. He says he fell in love right away. I don’t know. He didn’t seem like a young man in love. He never sent me flowers or gifts. He didn’t telephone every day. He says he was shy. I think he wasn’t sure if I was interesting enough." This is wrong of Judith. She never remembered...well, I’ll tell my version afterward.
"After we’d known each other about two years he began to look more appealing. He had gone away to work and when he came back he was different. He had written me a few letters, that’s all. I didn’t think about him while he was gone. It never occurred to me that he would ask to marry me. But when he came home again he was different. He was smarter. He was more sophisticated. He was gallant. He courted me and no man had ever done that. Most of the men I knew took me to a movie and then tried to make the moves. Mitchell Anderssen brought me candy, flowers, chatted with me for hours and always kissed my fingertips before he left. That was sweet." I did do that. I did.
"When he finally asked me to marry him, and I was already twenty three, and he was twenty nine, I said yes. I said yes because he had always been gentle and gentlemanly. I fell in love with his manners, I suppose. But we were happy eventually." Judith never said anything more about it publicly, but I’d guess that her last statement summed up our life together after all. She was happy eventually.
But I was in love with her from the first moment we met. I was twenty five and she was nineteen. Her brother was my partner and he made the introductions. I think he wanted to cement our work relationship with a little hitchy-koo on the side. Judith wasn’t for it. Not her. She told me straightaway that she wasn’t interested in me at all, at least not just because of her brother Phil and me, no, she was only interested in serious men who took her seriously. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t, really. She was so young, so petite and silly and when she turned cold and serious that way it was clear she had a foot and was putting it down. That was a real inspiration, what my son would call a turn-on.
Phil and I went to Costa Rica to set up a plant there. We were gone about two years and when I came back alone, Phil had married down there, I took up with Judith again. She was more mature and she was being pursued by lots of guys. I got in with her by sending her stuff. That was easy. On our second date, I got to second base and on our fourth date she spent an hour with me, mostly naked, in the back seat of the car I’d borrowed. After that there was no hope for us. It was marriage and that was that.
I think she knew from the first week after our honeymoon that she was pregnant and that she wasn’t happy about it. It wasn’t that she didn’t want children, she just didn’t want mine. She didn’t love me and she knew it. Frances was born exactly nine months to the day after we got married. It’s probably that she was already with child when we took our vows. Eddie was born three years later. In between we had sex twice. She didn’t really want me near her, she said. But after Eddie, it changed and I think she did come to love me the way I loved her. And we were pretty happy together for a long time. Until Sanja.
Sanja never came between us. Sanja was, I don’t know, a fling. She didn’t last, but the friendship did. I didn’t love her at all. She was just unavoidable, I suppose. And then she became inevitable. But Judith never forgave me. It blemished the rest of our time together until her "death by chocolate": run down by a UPS truck. That name for it came from Eddie. It was easier for him, and for me too I think, that way.
So here I was, suddenly feeling a kid again. Delly Delaney, a man I’d just met, made me feel the way Judith had so long before. It made no sense. He was a man and I was a man and I didn’t favor men. There’d been Judith whom I’d loved and Sanja I’d made love to, but there’d never been a man. It made no sense at all.
I stood up near the edge of the pool and I thought about the simple feelings I had, the way I felt and probably the stupid look on my face that I couldn’t see, but sure felt. How was I supposed to deal with this? What was I supposed to do? What would be expected and what did I, personally, want? I wondered if the rest of my life would be nothing but questions without answers, riddles unsolved. I was seventy-two - spell it out - and I wasn’t planning on a significant life change. This was just a visit to Sanja, sex probably in her big brass bed, then back home to recover from my financial and emotional losses. Now I had a crisis to deal with in my spare time.
Sanja had disappeared from her towel and I hadn’t noticed. I was too engrossed in my thoughts, memories of Judith, thoughts of Delly. I looked around for her and finally spotted her across the pool, near the bathhouse. She was snuggled up with someone, a man, his arms around her. They were kissing and it was passionate, that was clear even at a distance. Somehow he disengaged a hand and opened a door behind him and they slipped inside the building, still mouth-to-mouth, still involved in their visceral engagement. I didn’t mean to do it, but I was curious, so I sauntered around the pool until I’d reached the other side. I sidled up to the building and found an uncurtained window. I looked in, discreetly, and saw them all too clearly, lit by the sunlight though a window on the opposite wall. They were really into one another, and him especially, and his face was as clear as day. It was Delly Delaney. He was my lover’s lover.
- continued next Sunday -
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