Old Friends, a short story by Sheila Levin at Spillwords.com
Ralph Nas

Old Friends

Old Friends

written by: Sheila Levin

 

I can’t remember if it was a romantic meeting, it was, after all, 49 years ago.

For these past 49 years, he now is 86 and I am, well, somewhat younger, we have been having an affair – of sorts. I live on an island in the Caribbean, and he in an apartment in New York. I visit four times a year. We rarely communicate between rendezvous.

Of course, he has other friends, and companions for the many months I am away. What satisfies me is realizing that I’m there, in his bed, while she is not. For the time we have together, I’m the center of his life, and she is somewhere else.

Competition, once a theme of my life, has faded to a washed-out blue; instead of the red hot coals I once tossed from hand to hand in the struggle to be first. Then, years ago, I speculated, burdened myself with images of “other women,” interpreted his words, and analyzed the times between his phone calls; what did it all mean? Was he really in love with me, or repressed? Was I good enough? Was I just a fling?

It’s completely different now. I do not need to compete. Now I know with the certainty that is one of the few rewards of old age, that I am not really what he wants; and he is not what I want either. This was settled lang years ago.

So, what’s it like, this geriatric affair? It’s very adult, no longer beset by suspicions and jealousies; it meanders along, tender, passionate, and carefree. I don’t require the answers anymore to those childish, retrograde queries that had so tormented my younger self. It seems churlish to indulge in old-age angst.

When I take my daily run, I palpate myself for signs of bruised feelings. I’m fine, out of breath but fine.

The warming rituals of dating fill that day, and in old age, how amusing they are. A haircut, eyebrows trimmed, maybe a massage, and the unusual, but pleasing task of taking my time deciding what to wear. Make-up on with a gentle stroke, The mirror is satisfied and so am I.

I treat myself to a taxi, arriving in style at his apartment. I am announced by the concierge who recognizes me and tips his hat.

I check myself in the elevator mirror and quickly run a lipstick wand one last time.

As I walk down the hall to his apartment, I wonder if will this be the last time. Where once I prayed to a deity for commitment and marriage, now I humbly ask that deity for one more time, one more melding of our old bodies for pleasure far more intense than ever before.

That’s right, more intense. The most intense of my life. One reward for enduring all these years is just that, an astounding intensity of sex. Uninhibited passion, informed by a generosity of spirit unfamiliar to the young. If I despise his flaws, what shall I think of my own?

I’d had lovers, yards of lovers, but they knew their place. In the olden days, any man who chose me knew what he was getting into. I smoked dope and cigarettes, carried a large carpetbag in place of a briefcase, and wore my hair long, tied back with a ribbon. My repartee was slick, my body lean, my manner edgy. I was overworked, broke, and in therapy twice a week.

As I grew older, I was not big on regret, but I was certainly aware of what had passed me by. Success as a writer, and a constant and true significant other, were high on the list. An awareness that I was now too old to even hope for another chance.

But there is between my old friend and me a bond of trust and understanding, the warmth of shared experience, the pleasure of relaxed companionship. There is love, some kind of love, inexplicable in youth but comprehensible, at last, in old age. Finally, I relax in his embrace and allow myself to be comforted by our version of love, as oddly magical and potent as the long-remembered childish version.

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