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Somewhere Else In Time

By: Katrina Smith-Robson

The middle years may or may not be the best time to evaluate the quality of the life you are living, but it must be so prevalent to choose that time above all others, that it got a name, The Midlife Crisis.

Susan would not have chosen to upset her applecart. She liked the status quo, or at least, she told herself she did. Her children had been raised successfully, home paid for, money to spare. She had a life to be envied. But, deep inside her, she hid a secret. She hid it so well that even she didn't know it was there.

But one night, she couldn't sleep. She woke to a storm raging outside her windows. Thunder, lightening and pouring rain. She left her bed and walked down the stairs, she wanted to sit by an open door and enjoy the violence of the evening. She had always loved the rain.

For a reason she will never understand, she suddenly understood how unhappy she was. Unhappy was different than just not being happy. Unhappy was an empty, lonely place. It was a place from which there seemed to be no escape.

Had the man she loved hit her, or verbally abused her, she could have left him. She could have looked for her own happiness. But, he was kind and giving in so many ways. He had no real faults that she or anyone could place on him. He was a good man, and he was killing her. Can a person die of boredom, she wondered as the thunder clapped around her? The kind of mind numbing, soul wrenching boredom that made you feel as though you were disappearing down some sort of hole. Like Alice, falling down a deep hole and no one noticing you were gone.

He didn't know and she could never tell him. She was here and here she would stay. He gave everything he could. He just remained always somehow out of her reach. It suddenly occurred to her that if she died, she could leave him. Oh yes, death was the answer. As the thought came to her, she rose from her chair and lit a candle. She wanted to see the prison she had entombed herself in. It was a lovely prison, each piece in the right place. Carefully arranged to impress others, just like her life. She was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of loathing for herself. What a fraud she had become.

Death wasn't her answer, she had been raised to fight, not to give up. Her Irish genes screamed at her, "take your life into your own hands."

What the hell did that mean, she thought. My hands, what would I do with it?

With that thought in her mind, she curled up on a sofa and fell asleep. When she awoke, the external storm had passed, but her first thought was, "take your life into your own hands." Her storm continued to rage.

For days, she pondered her problem, but before she found her solution, she received a phone call. A phone call that would somehow change everything.

"Hello Sue, how are you? I'll bet you don't recognize the voice."

"Not sure, give me a hint," she said.

"Terry Norris, class of 64."

"Oh my God, Terry how are you?"

"I'm fine, and I would love to have lunch with you. Is there any chance of that?"

"Of course, when?"

"How about Tuesday around 1:00 at that Chinese place we used to go to?"

"I'll be there," she said without really thinking.

"Great, I can hardly wait to see you again."

As she hung up the phone, she smiled. Terry Norris had been one of those guys you never dated as a boyfriend but always wanted to have as a guyfriend. She had gone bowling with him, played miniature golf with him, studied with him, even been in class plays with him. But, she had never kissed him, or even held his hand. It wasn't because he hadn't done everything he could to make her fall in love with him. He had tried to make himself irresistible. But, he had failed. They had seen each other at class reunions, and occasionally at other events, but he remained always the friend. She knew he had married twice. She knew he had two daughters who would also be grown now. But, that was about all she knew about him. Well, it would be fun to catch up, she thought. And smiled. She had a date.

For the 4 days between the phone call and the date, she worried. What would she wear? What would they talk about? Would he recognize her? Would she know him? What would be next? Engaging old friends can always be dangerous. People who knew you as a young person, may judge the new version of you unfavorably. But, then if you didn't give them a chance, they would never know the new you. Finally, she just relaxed. He had always been a good friend, and she knew him to be a kind man. No matter what he thought, he certainly wouldn't throw rocks at her.

When the day finally arrived, she was careful to dress well. She had brushed her shoulder length dark hair until it shone. She choose a dress short enough to show off her very excellent legs and a pair of high heeled sandals that made her small feet look tiny and perfect. She smiled at the face she saw in the mirror, it had aged well. No visible lines, skin as bright and shiny as a girls, she wondered what exactly it was that made people look old. Was it happening to her and she just couldn't see it? The odds that the answer was yes seemed high. Suddenly, she realized that he had been getting older too. That made her smile. He knew how old she was, she knew how old he was, no reason to hide anything from each other. They had been children together.

She arrived on time and when she entered the restaurant, a handsome, academic looking man waved to her from a back booth. His hair had turned to silver and he had a lovely beard. That was new. He stood and came to greet her. He was smiling.

When he reached her, he put his arms around her and whispered into her ear, "You look remarkable."

"As do you my friend," she said quietly back to him.

He put his arm around her and walked her back to the quiet booth he had selected for their meeting. He was taller than she remembered. He made her feel tiny. She liked that.

Small talk at first and then he said, "Have you got a picture in the attic that is aging for you?"

"Of course not, but if you know how that works, I would love to have one. Oscar Wilde should have left a recipe. Although, come to remember The Picture of Dorian Gray was a tragedy wasn't it? Maybe, aging is a good thing."

"Well, it certainly is the way your are doing it."

She laughed; he was so sweet. Slowly, she stopped feeling uncomfortable.

They organized their Chinese meal and sat back to await their lunch.

He talked, she smiled and laughed. She talked and he smiled and stared.

Suddenly without any warning, he reached across the table, taking her hand into his and said, "When we were in school together I must have spent too much time staring at your gorgeous body. How could I have missed those unbelievable eyes. A man could get lost forever looking into them."

Could a woman her age blush? Because, if they could, she was. She looked down at the table and then slowly raised her eyes back up, looking into his, "Sir, you do have a way with words." Her dimples lit up a smiling face. He was lost, and she was falling out of the lifeboat she had created for herself. This was going to be more than lunch.

When their time in the restaurant was over and they could drink no more tea, they rose to go. As he walked her to her car, he held her hand. When they arrived at the car, he bent down and kissed her gently on the lips. She responded as she had not responded in years. She actually felt the kiss, noticed his warm lips on hers. She felt his passion, and hers was bubbling deep inside her. For a moment, she heard the Irish genes again, "Take your life into your own hands." His hands touched her face and she understood immediately who's hands her life was in. She vowed to enjoy this vacation from reality. Surely, this was the medicine she needed.

When she was in the car, he said, "Would you meet me at the art film on Thursday at the Castle Theater, I think you would like the movie, and I know I would love to sit beside you in the dark."

"I'll try," she said in her softest voice.

As Terry drove away, his mind was racing. This was every fantasy he'd had as an adolescent, some he'd maintained into adulthood, and some he'd never even let his mind entertain. This was Susan--the dream of his youth, and she seemed to want to be with HIM! Was it real? Was it happening? Was it merely a temporary aberration on her part, soon to be snatched back into grim reality as so may of his dreams of her had been. Was what he was feeling really about her, or the pent-up memories and desires of her?

It had all felt so natural, so right, so comfortable--the conversation, the light flirtation, the kiss. He remembered with embarrassment the few awkward kisses they'd exchanged over the years and how clumsy he'd always felt. He couldn't recall once, from their childhood on, when he'd been able to just enjoy the physical pleasure of her lips, and he knew how she must have grimaced inside at his awkward attempts, although she'd always been kind. But this time. Oh dear God, this time! She'd melted into his arms, her lips light and searching against his, and he knew the pleasure was mutual. This time, he knew.

He'd no more been able to not ask to see her again than he could fly to the moon. He had to allow this door to open, to explore the possibilities, to feel alive…And yet the practical side of his nature, the Mr. Spock-like voice of his brain was warning him to move slowly and cautiously. He vowed to listen (a little) but he had to take this chance. It was Susan!

She began receiving lovely flirty e-mails from him. He wanted to play and she did so much want a playmate.

The following Thursday she met him in front of the restored 1920's theater. Aptly named The Castle, one felt as if you had entered someplace very special when you walked through those doors. The ceiling was a sky full of clouds and stars all moving as the evening progressed. They choose a seat in the balcony, another lost feature of movies theaters, but one they both remembered from their youth. It was good to share the memories of life with someone who was there. Someone who knew you when you were 16 and at the beginning of your life. A time before mistakes had been made, decisions decided that would close the future. A time when we all had more future than past and anything was possible. It was good to be with a friend, in the dark.

And then he took her hand into his. And when he felt her touch him, he stop breathing, he closed his eyes and she felt him inhale her into a place deep inside of himself. A place filled with adolescent longing and the dreams of springtime. In the dark, in a public place, with the credits rolling on the screen in front of them, subtitled in English, they entered each other and filled the empty place they both shared.

The Thursday art film series became a regular part of their week. The summer passed in a whirl of French, Swedish and Brazilian plots. Popcorn and Indian films seemed the perfect way to pass a hot summer. And holding hands, kissing fingers in the dark, arms around shoulders and the touching of legs and thighs. The smiles that passed between looked like love to bystanders. People who saw them were jealous and looked at their own age worn partner and wondered where their passion had gone.

She knew that the flirting must end and something real needed to happen. She agreed to have dinner at his house. They would be alone.

He worked very hard at creating the exactly correct environment. When she arrived, he buzzed her in; he waited for her at the top of his stairs. He held his breath as he looked at her. Dinner passed very slowly, or at least it seemed to him to do so. He could think of only one thing. She was thinking of it too.

She wanted to be closer, but she wasn't sure yet, how close. She appreciated all the trouble he had gone to. Even the music was perfect. She wanted to be with him. She wanted to feel him close, very close.

When dinner was finished, he took her hand and walked her to the living room. No need to rush, they could take their time. He sat on the leather sofa and invited her to join him. She chose to lay down with her head in his lap. He took her hand and began to kiss it.

It didn't take long to move to the bedroom. Slowly, he unbuttoned her blouse, and she let him. Unlike high school, she was now ready for him. His touch was soft and warm on her skin. As his hand touched the breasts he had dreamed about, his eyes closed, he inhaled her again. Pulling her deep inside him. He wanted her soul, he wanted her love, he wanted her. And she wanted to be wanted. Her nipples hardened, telling him he was welcome. He kissed her lips and she kissed him back. For two hours they lay in his bed, kissing, touching, feeling. It was delicious and finally she said with a smile, "This is so adolescent, deliciously adolescent. Like being in the backseat of a car." They laughed and both agreed that it had been too long since they had felt this way. It was time for her to leave. He couldn't believe he was letting her go and he had not made love to her. Or had he, was this love? He had not had intercourse with her, but he had definitely made love to her. Both of them were satisfied with what had happened.

Terry was shaken and confused. What had happened/was happening? To him, to her, to them? He'd hoped that the evening alone with her would be the moment they consummated whatever it was they were feeling, and that then he'd be able to understand what was happening between them. He'd tried so hard NOT to try too hard, to be relaxed and natural with her, to enjoy the quiet flirty affectionate evenings when sometimes he literally ached for her. (He'd always thought that was a literary affectation, not reality but some nights he'd come home from the movies so aching with desire that he'd had to relieve himself in the same awkward frustrated fashion that he'd felt in his youth.

When they'd moved to the couch, and later, gloriously, to the bed, he'd thought…, he'd wanted…, he'd thought he wanted… But somehow the touching, the caressing, the awareness of passion was enough, was right. Her breasts, no longer quite the breasts of a teenage girl, but the full lived-with glorious breasts of a woman, were more than he'd ever fantasized about on his worst teen night. He could have spent hours stroking, caressing, licking, sucking--and perhaps he had. He had no idea how much time had been spent on the couch, on the bed, clothed, unclothed, only that it had not been nearly enough. And yet it was. Somehow, without a climax, without the anticipated explosion, he was satisfied, content. He still wanted her, wanted to possess her, at least for a moment as a man possesses a woman, perhaps even more than before, and yet this was somehow right for tonight.

But he worried. That was part of his nature. He worried; he analyzed. That was his strength and sometimes his downfall. Would she think he didn't want to? Surely the obvious signs of his desire would reassure her? But what if she was relieved? Was this a moment of weakness never to be repeated or a glorious foretaste of what was to come? (Even in this spiral of concern, another part of his mind chuckled at the Freudian play on words. Then he was pulled back.) What of her mate? He knew him, had met him at reunions and other events, even liked him. Terry and Susan had already talked enough that he knew she wasn't going to leave him. And she shouldn't. But how could this proceed, how could he let it and still maintain his self-respect? And yet he knew there was no way he was turning back, no chance that he wouldn't take to proceed down this road…

It was then they both realized that they would build it all slowly. There would be evenings of holding, and evenings of dinner. There would be lunches with passionate promise and long kisses of goodbye when they parted. Playful e-mails and quiet phone calls inquiring as to the weekend of the other. It was delicious.

It was a night in October when the playing ended and the commitment happened. They had skipped a "Bulgarian Masterpiece" and gone instead to his home. She had asked him to pick up a pizza, while he was out, she undressed and when he returned he found her sitting naked on his bed. With legs folded in a yoga position she smiled at him and invited him to join her. They ate the pizza naked and facing each other. She had never enjoyed a pizza more. They laughed and she sparkled, she was so happy to be here. She was happy to be free to make her own decisions. She was happy that it was him she was with. She was feeling joy at what was to come.

And so it did, they joined together in an embrace that was 40 years in the making. They both brought the children they had once been to the embrace. And the children and adults came together in something so special, so unique it would become forever a part of them. Never had they been with another human from which they were not hiding something. But, they had nothing to hide. Nothing to be ashamed of, they were young again, but also wise with age. They could now value the gift.

She left his bed a changed woman. On the drive home, she realized how free she felt. She realized that it wasn't her partner who had become a bore; it was she who had allowed herself to be boring. She had lost herself somehow. Her sensual nature had been buried, but like an archeologists they had unearthed it. She would not ever allow it to get lost again. She would treasure it and nurture it. She had found her way back home. She was alive and in control of her own life. She felt no guilt, only joy. She was alive.

Terry smiled to himself and waved as he watched her drive away. He knew there would be other days, other nights, other moments as right as this had been. The layers, the complexity of love in all its facets, what a marvel it was.

The physical pleasure had been more than he'd dare imagine, while the act itself had been simple and natural. The tortuous marathon fantasies of style, position and endurance had given way to a natural expression of what they were feeling. While it might not have won awards in an adolescent porn film competition, it was one of, if not the most, simply satisfying physical experiences of his life. Were there still things he wanted to do to her, with her, for her, receive from her? Of course there were, and his libido stirred restlessly deep within him at the thought. But there was time.

And the closeness had far outshone the acrobatics. He remembered other times, other women, lying there drained and exhausted, spent both emotionally and physically and yet feeling so alone. This had left him wearily refreshed, and alive. This was right, this was good, this was what love was meant to be.

And whatever variations the future would bring for them, from exotic nights of passionate experimentation to quiet afternoons of gentle affection, he knew that they had touched more than each other's bodies, they had at last touched souls. And wherever the journey would take them, be it hand in hand or apart, as partners or sharing this newfound joy of life with other partners, they would never lose this gift that had been give to them. He was sure, and for the first time did not need to worry about forcing limits of definition upon a feeling, that they Loved each other. He and Susan had finally shared a moment of Love. He smiled again, facing gladly an unknown future, and went back inside.

Their story had just begun, the script has taken 40 years to write. Another 40 years may bring it to a close. Or maybe not.

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