This story is by Tommie Ruth Blackwell and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
HEAVY SNOW QUICK THAW
I fell in love…body and soul…at a time when swinging my grandchildren at the park was a better idea. However, when reading my story, you should erase from your mind any faulty idea that I was not smart or educated. Well, smart might be in question. I was not so smart to fall in love at mid-life. An unconscious naïveté…common with Southern women…whispered into my ear that I would be the exception to whatever happened to others, and love-tragedy would never happen to me. My subconscious intuition yelled: You are NEVER the exception. Don’t think you are for a millisecond.
I agreed to meet David for a brief introduction in a coffee shop. I wasn’t even nervous. Then, I walked into Starbucks and saw him sitting there with piercing blue eyes sending out bolts of electricity, and I knew: he was special. No kidding…the light in the shop went from buttery to brilliant, turning the scene into a movie moment; the coffee smelled heady, chatter became music, a fat sunbeam spotlighted the stool left for me, and…I promise …people, chairs, clutter, and tables parted like the Red Sea as he pulled me across the width of the room with the shear magnetism of his eyes.
As I reached for a stool, afraid he might suck me into his black-hole-irises, David put out his hand like he was going to conduct a business meeting. I shook it, with my clogs cemented to the wooden floor.
“Would you like coffee? I’m having a Latté,” he said to break the palpable tension. He didn’t seem to have any kind of self-conscious, macho obsession, because he didn’t order a Marlboro Man drink.
But, I did!
“I’ll have black coffee…bold.”
I’m sure he wondered how sophisticated I was as I perched a little askew on the stool and didn’t order the high-heeled, red finger- nailed, diamond-ringed-finger-drink of a 30-something yuppie.
His eyes were like two miniscule camera lenses clicking, clicking, imprinting my image…saving it for investigation later. Whirr, click, whirr … I could almost hear the mechanism working. He was concentrating, trying to analyze my face or dissect my words. I was only concentrating on proper breathing and trying not to fall off the stool. Lights flicked on behind my eyes, and by the time I left, I was a fricking supernova.
Later, when I spoke his name, I felt I’d betrayed a secret. The world shifted on its axis that day. It was truly extraordinary. Big deal extraordinary. In fact, it was super-radiant, extragalactic, once-in-a-million extraordinary…extraordinary turned up a few thousand notches, because, with so many reasons to feel silly, I felt heady and right. I wanted to stretch the moments…pull them like taffy into long, golden streams to make them last.
The next night, we went to a crowded café. We didn’t notice a soul. Our lives sang loud and in color…amplified…while others played in silent black and white. I wondered how I could explain a lifetime in one night of ‘slow food’ and Sauterne. In spite of myself, I began riding the gentle wind of ‘love’ and forgot to watch for windstorms.
We spent jillions of moments together…talking, laughing, and loving. David filled my mind to capacity with no room for another piece of life inside. One day, he brought me flowers…a bouquet of vibrant colors…and gave me butterflies. In fact, no kidding, I envisioned heart-shaped butterflies drifting from my eyes and landing on his shoulders. The ‘love’ word flitted around like a tiny bird, looking for a place to land. David sat in my living room with a warm fire burning even though winter was still a month away, “Tell Him” drifting from the Bose, and his expression looking dejected. I thought he might take flight himself if he didn’t hear profound ‘somethings’ from me.
I glanced over for help from the sunflower in the bouquet now sitting on the edge of my baby grand, but it only stared back in silence without a petal of encouragement, leaving me to gather my wits and let “I love you” bubble into symmetrical syllables, detach themselves from my lips and float over to him. I scared myself to pieces; but, then his passionate kissed glazed over my fright.
His kiss, warm as butterscotch
Lingered on my lips and heart
Like liquor-soaked cake
Weeks later, after all the loving and beautiful words, David said he had to be away for 10 days. Ten days! I thought he might forget my face and how our hands fit together so well. Tension eats oxygen, so I found it hard to breathe. Since the days moved like slugs, I consoled myself with memories.
Memories grow out of memories. And, each memory is a little distorted from the one before, like stories passed around town. That was how it was remembering moments and David’s words. Soon, I was unsure what was a skewed memory and what was reality. Memories are elusive. They’re nothing you can hold onto.
Ten days later, returned home…changed.
His sentences left spaces with too much room for mischief. Plus, he hid in the back of a cave as black as a hundred midnights. I promise, I couldn’t even find him in there. His spirit swept me off my feet…completely ‘snowed’ me…but his soul lagged behind.
I knew his reputation for falling head-over-heels in love but disappearing when the chase was over. I knew people called him ‘Heavy Snow Quick Thaw’, but, I thought, of course, I was the exception. So, I tried to push worrisome thoughts into a corner of my mind where even their Mothers wouldn’t recognize them. But soon, I admitted that kisses aren’t contracts. I hung onto the ragged edge of our relationship with buttery fingers, slipping, into an abyss. Instead of catching me, David was greasing the edge of the cliff.
For consolation, I concentrated on things like exercising, watching strands of my hair fall out, doctoring the teenage-stress-bump that appeared dead center on my left cheek, and not tripping over my poodle, Nikki, when I walked him. I really wanted to puncture my lungs and deflate myself into a puddle-like mass of protoplasm right there on the sidewalk.
Early one frosty November morning, Nikki and I ventured onto 23rd street. The weather matched my mood: cloudy. I wore the strange pimple and dark circles under my eyes as symbols of my unjustified mistreatment. Even though we were slinking about at dawn, friends anticipating a “David Update” greeted us with their dogs. So, with dogs pulling us sideways and other friends coming out to join us with coffee in hand, we had a little conference. What happened? Was I going to do anything about the wrong that they all…I mean all…suffered through with me? I had not had enough coffee for this report, so I tried to abbreviate without punctuation. I felt like the blasted Birmingham News.
After the “Tragic-Love Conference on 23rd”, I left for The Fitness Center and knew in some corner of my now news-worthy life, that I’d have to repeat my performance. John the Trainer and all the instructors eagerly awaited my arrival. Tragedy always entertains.
After an update, I endured a vigorous workout, thinking it might repair my psyche. Wiping the sweat from my brow, I stuck the Go Gear in my ears, punched the button for workout music, and began my cardio routine. I couldn’t take one more step when the door to the Center opened.
A tiny, wrinkly, wizened lady of…oh …87 or so tottered through the opening. Around her turkey-like neck hung glasses with frames attached to kaleidoscopic-colored wires twisted into various Age of Aquarius kinds of things. She wore purple tights, shoes with purple laces, bluish-grey hair, and a determined look.
John the Trainer directed her to the free weights. I watched in amazement, because I didn’t think she could lift her water bottle, much less any weights. But, as I thought I would expire from the workout and almost hoped I would because of my broken heart, she…the frail, almost-ready-for-the-grave, old lady in purple…wrapped her bony hands around 20 lb. weights and did 25 ( I counted them ) repetitions without breaking a sweat. She moved on to the Leg Press, and as John the Trainer piled on weights, I piled on shame.
The guilt gave me new spunk. “That old lady no doubt has hope for the future. Why am I wallowing in misery?” I thought with a clarity I had not felt in weeks.
Turning my music to “I Can Survive”, I logged in another 40 minutes at a break-neck pace. Dragging myself out the door, I decided if I quadrupled my vitamins I could indeed survive. Instead, with the help of 3 Aleve and 3 glasses of Pêrrin Cotes Du Rhône, I slept.
The next day, a blue sky stretched uninterrupted like fresh laundry. I turned the page knowing that David was searching for another shiny thing and hoping for a snowstorm.