The Common Case of an Uncommon Man
He is quick stepping down the stone staircase that leads from the door of his office building to the street below. He thinks a moment about how significant his occupation really is, the gravity of the building behind him, and how yet the street ahead of him is no different than any street in any town in America. It has potholes. It has a yellow line down the middle and angry drivers in boxy cars on top. The sun is near setting and he is tired. But he knows by the end of the first bourbon he will be carried by that strange second wind that comes with relaxation. Yes, the day is done, but the night is new. It is a Friday. He has responsibilities to tend in the morning. He has friends that don’t work the way he works and they’re asking him to party. But he knows exactly what he wants to do and precisely what he wishes to get out of it. His quaking heart needs rest. It is pulled between truths hidden, anxieties ignored, opportunities passing, and ambition stirring. The center of his chest is almost always taught.
“What are you doing tonight?” He texts.
“Mmmm” She responds. “I haven’t thought of anything to do”
The man has a special rapport with this woman. A rapport he has had many times before, one that is comfortable on his mind and perfect for his heart. He is a heartbreaker. But somehow, with these particular women, he can love them when he needs to. Ignore them when he wants to. And see them at his whim, or hers. And they never mind, never complain, and always want more. The rapport is for the moment. A text always means sex.
“Meet me for a drink” He tells her. “The Upper Room”
“8” Her attraction lingers through the screen like perfume on sheets.
Calahan met Lucille by chance in London during an overnight trip. They were instantly intoxicated. Calahan had spotted her sitting at a bar. Lucille’s long healthy hair was, at the time, a very dark brown and darker still in the shade light of a London pub. Tapping her shoulder he simply smiled and asked for her name. Her pale but distinctly green eyes flashed. That was two years ago. They were never dating but occasionally texted each other because they cared for each other, but these were sparse communiques.
He arrives at the small, quiet hideaway bar that has proven a strong companion in Calahans search for selective privacy and solitude from his own life. The Upper Room has served him well. It is quiet. There he reads a novel and not The Economist. There he watches the World Cup and not BBC News. There he meets Lucille.
“Remember when I introduced you to this place?” She is obviously still tense from the day, but seeing Calahan arrive at exactly 8 o’clock put her at ease. Slowly she was slipping from the real world and returning to the place made just for her and him.
Calahan smiles, nods quickly at the bartender to make him a drink, and says “I was so happy when you took me here. I immediately knew it to be perfect. I’m here so much now I think I may be paying the rent.” The bartender shrugs affirmatively.
The drinks were set delicately in front of them and finally they were both in the same world. On the same earth. There is no one else in the room, no one else in the streets below. Just Calahan with Lucille and Lucille with Calahan.
The floor of the Upper Room is made of highest quality pine with no knots and few scratches. The bar is the warmest mahogany Calahan has yet to find. The grains of the wood are lovely to study because so brightly varnished. Champagne is poured exclusively into saucer glasses that are so fun because myth holds they were designed by King Louis the 16th to be modeled after his wife’s breasts, Marie-Antoinette. The bartender is quiet, extremely knowledgeable, and wears a simple white shirt with red bow tie that matches the ivory wall dressed in crimson paisely. It is empty on a Friday at eight because it is not a place for revelry. It is for celebrating self. Or, self and one other but never more.
There are a series of half-lounges with plush leather and velvet couch chairs that are separated by no walls but slight steps to and from. Calahan lifts his Old Fashioned to one such half lounge, Lucille follows with her French 75. She has a slight figure that stays somewhat healthy with non-committal workouts and a diet comprised mostly of red wine and dinners luxurious. She is herself a curiosity. A global citizen with no known port of call. Tonight she exists only for Calahan just as he exists only for her. They knew they would have this relationship the very moment they met, but they have not once talked about it. In fact, both have multiple such relationships and both know it.
They talk about memories, stories, everything and nothing. “What song are you listening to over and over again?” “Do you think it would be interesting to browse the halls of Hangzhou?” “What do you think about going to Havana?” “Remember when…” With every word their two bodies inch closer together. Their knees are touching. They have completely melted the world from whence they came. There are no aggravations in their hearts. Just the ache that is the labor of love. The two pairs of eyes are diving into each other and speaking their own conversation totally different in tone to the one carried out by their mouths. Their eyes are inviting each other into their respective souls. Calahan has had his Old Fashioned, a scotch, a Corpse Reviver №2 to freshen his breath, and now they are sharing a bottle of Cava. Lucille had a Manhattan. She tied the cherry stem into a knot with her tongue.
Calahan pours the rest of the Cava into Lucille’s Marie-Antoinette glass. He is thinking about the warmth of her skin, the pull of her body to his, and the texture of her lips. Lucille has the sort of eyes that are deep in understanding. As though she carries wisdom she doesn’t realize, from ancient sources she doesn’t know. They’re beautiful, fascinating, and completely honest. Right now they’re telling Calahan to take her and to love her.
He pays. They lyft to his flat. His hands are finding her waist and her thighs and her neck. No words are said up the stairs, through the hall, and onto the bed. That is when Calahan slows down. He wants her to respond to what he is doing because he wants to explore every part of her. Calahan doesn’t force the dance, he wants Lucille to be lost in the movement of the moment. He is fluid. He is natural. And Lucille trusts him wholly.
It is an evening that looks a lot like love. And now that the sheets are flung, Calahan is finally where he wanted to be on this Friday eve. It is 1am. He and his mind are naked next to a woman who is equally bare. You see, a woman says things to man in the peace of night that stills the violence raging in his mind. This preciously private time is deeply present. Totally devoid of worry. It is a ritual that calms the soul more surely than any sigh, more genuinely than any drink. She is saying “I care” and he is feeling loved, desired, he is feeling human. No matter what happens in the morning, or any morning, he must always know that he is human with human passions and needs. Lucille helps him tend these mental healthities without any effort. She steadies and organizes his emotions. She is fluid. She is natural. And Calahan trusts her wholly.
They fall asleep still talking, still embracing. He wakes up at 7am because his talents are demanded by the day and he must be ready. He is careful not to wake her. She will likely wake up at 10am finding herself alone in his magnificently designed apartment. She will take a lyft to her flat and get on with the day. But before Lucille can even get out of bed, she will find a note under her pillow. It will read:
“You saw once in a pair of eyes an emerald river,
you quickly realized you had seen something bigger,
the light of a soul, outpouring so full,
into your heart, you felt its mark.
That was the moment when you lived forever,
bound and brought to a place of normal never.”
She will tear. Have a cup of coffee. He will already be working. And they both know they may wait months before seeing each other again. They may never meet again.