Today’s word was … shipwreck.
Spaces After the Period
When we first met I wasn’t so impressed. I had always gone for the prototypical bad boy. Tattoos and wild hair, leather jackets and a Harley, nonchalance and indifference. I hardly knew how to act when you were so nice to me. Holding a door open, offering your hand to help me out of the car. In those initial moments, though, all I could see was the physical you. Two inches shorter than me. Hair already thinning. And a button down shirt.
I couldn’t believe my sister thought we could be right for each other. And when you started talking about your mother’s corned beef, it was all I could do to stifle a yawn and claim an impending illness to cut the night short. Something held me back. I gave it a shot. I gave you a shot. This strange thing happened by the end of the night. After dinner, while we walked along the river, you slipped your hand into mine. Suddenly, it was just there. And it was warm. And right. No man had ever held my hand before. Not like that. All those Zachs and Codys and, yeah, Joe, my god, Joe. They held my hand in the throes of mind-blowing sex. It is one thing those tattooed losers have going for themselves.
But they never held my hand just to hold it. To provide comfort. And you did. I didn’t even realize I needed it until that night. It was one of those things you taught me, usually without a word or gesture. It was the way you were. The way you could just touch me and I could then see things in a way I had never seen them before.
I should have run that first night. I mean, seriously. You, a quiet Jew, who was comfortable with your G-d. Me, a snarling and assertive atheist, scornful of believers in anything. See what I did there, I spelled it your way. To honor you.
You were eight years older than me. All those bad boys had been, always, younger. Some of them barely legal.
You had a job. I had art. You paid your bills. I didn’t know how much mine were.
You were an anchor. I was a kite.
So we walked and we talked. At the end of the night, we parted ways. I went back to my apartment where I would have to move the drop cloths and dried brushes to find a place to sleep. You, back home to your mother. I shuddered when you told me that, but your hand was still in mine so I couldn’t go far.
When you pulled lightly and brought me closer to you, I almost laughed as you closed your eyes and brought your face to mine. There was something about your innocence and purity that sucked me closer while screaming at me to flee. The peck on my cheek, not on my lips, that first night, kept the screams at bay.
I cursed my sister for what she had gotten me into. What horrible misfortune was going to befall me if I saw you again? Would I be sucked into a world of quiet dinners with the folks, afternoons at the symphony, and semi-expensive sedans that I would have laughed at in my prior life?
You called me the next day, but I couldn’t find the phone so you left a message. “Ummm. Hello, this is Mitch. Mitchell Steinbaum. Ummm … I was just calling to say hello and thank you for a wonderful evening. Ummm … I’ll call you later?”
I never deleted that message and I listen to it now when I need to hear your voice. I still laugh, even through the tears, that you had to tell me your full name. As though I had gone out with more than one Mitch the night before. It was that uncertainty and the uncomfortable hesitation in your voice that pulled me even closer.
I thought about waiting for your call, but I couldn’t. We talked again while I lay in my apartment eyeing the wall of white where only the week before I had begun to apply the colors of a falling sun, and you pushed paper across your desk while filling my head with your words. Hours passed.
And then days. And weeks. And months.
We didn’t see each other again for five days and by the time we did, I ached. I couldn’t’ believe it. How you had wormed your way into me with such simple, small gestures. I cursed my sister again. I called her and asked her what the hell she was thinking. She just laughed and said, “I knew it.” By the time you picked me up, I felt like the lone survivor of a shipwreck, rescued after days of hunger and thirst.
Halfway through our second date, you fed me your line. Only I knew it wasn’t a line. For you it was the truth and it was heartfelt. Dinner was wrapping up, there was only another swallow of wine left in our glasses, our dishes had been cleared, the bill had been paid, and you leaned forward. “You know, we’re like the two spaces after a period.”
“What?” I leaned forward too, bringing our faces perilously close. “What are you talking about?”
“You and me. We could be like those spaces. You know, a sentence ends with a period and there are two spaces. We’re those two spaces waiting for the next sentence to begin.”
I laughed then. “But there’s only one space after a period.” I couldn’t help it. You said it so earnestly, I needed to make a joke. So early and so unexpectedly, you committed to the idea of the two of us, being a connection in the midst of a story. Inside, I took a breath and thought maybe, just maybe. I decided to see what the next sentence said. I held you with my eyes and leaned further in, but this time I closed my eyes first. I tasted the sweetness of the wine on your lips and the gentleness that was you.
We began the next sentence that night, but as with everything it was slow and quiet and respectful. You were always a gentleman. There was no rush. No expectations. Nothing other than letting the words of our story flow naturally and as they would. When we parted ways again, you left me at my apartment door with a hug that swallowed me into your world, letting me know that there was much more than a single sentence in our future.