Romance Contemporary Sad

Our story starts with a man puttering in a kitchen. Let’s call him Michael, once the most popular male name in America. Michael is preparing a very special meal for his wife. Let’s call her Susan. It is their forty-fifth wedding anniversary. Michael is fast approaching his seventieth birthday, the age where you max out your social security benefits but non-max just about everything else in your life. The age where you hesitate and second think your own mores and abilities as social and technological changes occur. The age where you can clearly see the plane parked at the far end of the runway. But let’s not dwell on some of the darker aspects of aging, this is after all a love story.

Michael only recently began to cook after his retirement. Till then he deferred to Susan since she was a wonderful cook and baker and enjoyed doing it. She loved to cook and he loved to eat. It was a perfect marriage. His grown kids accused him of perpetrating the greatest scam in the world after they realized that Michael could in fact cook and do it quite well. He had tried to prepare dinner for Susan on the two days she still worked, after all she had always had dinner waiting for him. Seemed fair.

So, let’s see what’s on the menu for this special dinner. It seems to be a Mediterranean meal as a nostalgic nod to their first date. That first date turned out quite differently than Michael had planned. Actually “planned” is being kind, since he failed to make reservations at the upscale French restaurant in Manhattan that he wanted as his impression date. Upon their arrival, he found it to be closed for renovations. Now what? Susan told him, in later years, that she had totally enjoyed this hiccup and waited for his next move. Back to the car and down to Greenwich Village where he knew a funky little Middle Eastern cafe called The Finjan. A small dimly lit entrance opened to a larger dimly lit interior. Flickering candles on the tables and jangling ropes of beads suspended from the rafters. Hookahs of all sizes lined shelves above their heads. The smells of incense and pot mingled in the musty air. Tables encircled a small dance floor where zoftig women (and a few men) belly danced to loud Arabian music. They were seated at a small round table in the back, ordered an assortment of appetizers, and spent the next two hours nibbling, talking, laughing at the nights events and eschewing the waitress’ encouragement to get up on the dance floor. Maccabee beers were ordered and while drinking his, Michael took the time to drink her in as well. Mismatched eyes, blue and green gave her a sexy immersive stare. A small dimple in her chin gave her an impish smile that he found very alluring. Short boyish hair. Perky. What she saw was a dark haired man with streaks of gray already showing, a happy faced smile with a witty sense of self and humor. She liked that. After dinner they walked for hours in the Village. People talk of chemistry and maybe it is, he certainly didn’t know, or maybe something spiritual, but from that first date he could see forever in her.

Fast forward to our puttering chef. Now a full on head of white hair with a small gut from all those great meals, an erect back and a viable mind (depending on who you asked). He was preparing many of the items they had eaten on that first date, so, hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel balls, lamb kabobs, a vegetable platter and pita bread. Okay, he purchased the pita, he hasn’t tried baking yet, let’s cut him some slack. Michael set up a small round table in the middle of their living room, hung strands of beads and fabric he had purchased from the dollar store, draped the sofa, coffee table, and chairs with blankets and carefully placed vases and pitchers all around the room (trying to emulate the hookahs from the restaurant). He set the table, lighted some candles, put out the food (as well as two Maccabee beers), set up a few pungent smelling diffusers, found a Spotify channel that played middle eastern music and lowered the lights. Only then did he go to the bedroom door and gently open it. The shades were down and Susan rubbed her sleepy eyes as Michael entered the room.

“Will you join me for dinner, I’ve had to make some changes. My first choice was closed,” he said.

“Oh no, that’s fine,” she said, “I’ve been looking forward to this all week. I told my mother I met this handsome older guy with gray hair,” and she laughed.

Michael took her fragile hand and carefully escorted her out to his makeshift cafe.

Susan had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just about a year ago and it had progressed quickly. She had her occasional moments of clarity but they came less and less frequently as the disease took hold.

Michael served her an assortment of treats from the many platters of food he had prepared. Her still colorful eyes, now a bit duller, looked up at him and smiled. They ate in silence as the music blared from the speakers.

“This is such a wonderful place for a first date,” she said. “Thank you, I love it. I really wasn’t sure what you’d do.”

“I wanted something special, my love,” something to remember.

"Oh, I sure will,” Susan said. “You know, if our next dates are as nice, I might just fall in love with you,” she giggled again.

Michael smiled and wiped one small tear from his eye.

“This music is great, makes me want to dance,” she said.

“Okay, lets,” and he extended a hand to her. They stood and he took both her hands as they slowly gyrated and stepped in a circle to the manic music. “I think I could do this forever,” she said.

See, I told you this was a love story. 

June 29, 2021 19:54

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