The room was dark. It was late enough and overcast enough so that there was little ambient light entering the room through the two double hung windows opposite the bed. The sound of the air conditioner buzzing faintly in the background. Not because it was one those steamy, tropically damp nights we occasionally get here that remind me of Rio but since my return to New Jersey I need to hear its purr as it reminds me of our bedroom in Itanhanga.
Rosie was doing her imitation of a bagel on her under the curtains.
I lay on the bed, the blue and white duvet tossed aside, my favorite pillow tucked underneath my neck. Having fallen asleep reading my iPad lay closed on my chest. When I awakened only minutes later, panicked and searching for you only to realize that you were five thousand miles, and pandemic away. I sighed. It is always difficult to fall asleep without you. It is even more challenging to fall back to sleep without you after a a acute reminder of how truly far away you are.
As I lay there, eyes shut; I pondered how I was going to fall back to sleep again. There were options. The pharmaceutical method…but I am not fond of Ambien, they leave me mentally foggy and physically sluggish the next day. Besides, Dad had ingrained in me a great suspicion of pills to solve problems, so I try to avoid them when I could. Of course there was that exceptionally nice bottle of Bourbon, so tasty that it practically beggeds me to pour a glass every time I am near it. The problem with alcohol is while it puts me to sleep it also awakens me hours later with a craving for water and something sweet. I guess I could should just cut to the chase. Sugar always knocks me out. And I did have a healthy supply of Van Leuven’s Salted Caramel Ice Cream in the freezer.
All of those things require that I get up. I was far too comfortable to even consider that. Perhaps a prayer would help? You know that I am not religious in the sense that I go to synagogue weekly but, to me, prayer is meditative, providing an opportunity for thankfulness and grace, allowing me to move beyond my day and find rest.
“Dear God, thank you for the beautiful day. I appreciate all the opportunities that you have given me to see the beauty in the world and all the opportunities you have given me to love, cherish and understand. I ask your patience and understanding missing seeing some of the beauty you sent my way and ignoring or misjudging some of the breaks you sent my way. Allow me to continue to feel the pain of others so I know when to lend a hand or open my arms. When I have lacked patience forgive me and help me do better the next time. Please look after Marissa, Mark, Catie and Oliver…they bring me joy. . And please shine your love on Elaine. I love her lord and hope that her world is full of all that you can bestow.
The prayer helped. Soon I had that marshmallow feeling in the middle of my stomach I always get when I imagine you falling asleep in my arms. It is a feeling of connection. Not just to you but to everything. You make me feel as I if I am capable of changing the rules of nature. That the impossible is possible. Big dreams are possible. As I drift away I think of you.
When I awoke next it is with a start. As if a noise or movement had interrupted my rest and put me on instant alert. The room is dark but I can still make out the shapes and outlines. I can see nothing amiss but here is something not right. I can feel it. As if I am having a dream within another dream. As if someone is looking at me. Not being able to shake the feeling that something is amiss, I am about to get out of bed and investigate when I hear “Meu Amor”from the other side of the bed. I roll over and see you sitting on the edge of our bed with the smile of a schoolgirl who had just accomplished some amazingly precocious act.
I close my eyes and then reopen them. You are still there. I do it twice more with the same effect. What is that expression of Sherlock Holmes. “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”
Stuttering, I ask “Aren’t you in Barra.” Your eyes sparkle as if with a splendid secret. quickly I add “I mean I am really happy to see you and all but I am just really surprised to see you here….I just said good night to you a few hours on Whatsapp. I saw you. You were in our bed in Rio.”
I started to rattle on and you held a finger to my lip and said “Wasn’t it you who told me the story of Haita the Shepherd. What happened to him when he questioned happiness?” Then you kissed me slowly and in a way that made me suspend my disbelief. I pulled you closer but you pushed me away gently and said “I am here because you wanted me here”
“Weren’t we talking tonight about how you wished that magically I could come to Chatham now…No airports, or airplanes to travel through so I don’t have to worry about the stupid virus.”
“Well I am here. So don’t question. Time to get up my sleepy darlingo. Vamos!”
“I don’t understand. Where are we going….
Again I was began to ramble and as you had the first time you held a finger to my lips and kissed me again. “You are so right . I am sorry my luv. I need to tell you the rules.”
“Well first you have to realize that this is a fantasy, not a dream.”
“What’s the difference?”
“A dream is something that is made of cotton candy. It looks pretty but the minute you bite into it, it disappears. A fantasy is something that lives at the edge of reality. Just beyond your reach. You can live a fantasy but first you have to imagine it, then believe in it and then maybe if you work hard for it, it can be achieved.”
“Have I told you I love you, today.”
“No you have not. Thank you. But you need to listen.”
“We can go anywhere you want tonight. You just have to believe in your heart that we will get there one day. Do you understand?
“I do. Are their any other rules, Meu Amor?”
“Yes, darling” you responded smiling despite my impertinence “one. Our trip will only last as long as your dreams. When you wake it will be over. We can go anywhere you want to take me but That means you can take me anywhere you desire pick your places well because our time tonight is limited?”
“But didn’t you say that his was a fantasy. Not a dream.”
“Yes.” And you gave me a look that told me in a second not to question this confounding so I add sure, I get it. But anything else fair game. This is my fantasy and I can go and do anything that I want to do”
Despite the low light you look beautiful. Your hair draped around your neck and hung over your left shoulder. The smile is the same incandescent one I saw on my first trip to Rio. But there is also mischief in your eyes. A gleam that told me you know more than you are telling and the secret knowledge pleases you. I see you are wearing clothes perfect for travel. The white peasant blouse I had bought you years ago and jeans that seemed to be made to fit only your body..
I said “We can do anything?”
Suddenly you wearing the black La Perla nightgown I had bought for you.You look perfectly luscious in it. The swell of your breast and the curve of your hips perfectly accented. I may have gasped.
You looked down at yourself and then at me and said, “Not exactly traveling clothes….”
“I know but you look so beautiful in it and its been so long since I have seen you in it and you did say that I could do anything I wanted.”
“I did” and you kissed me again and said, “I am glad that you think that I look beautiful in it but don’t you think it is time to go.”
I say smiling “There you go again…reminding me that it time to go. Have I taught you the “party pooper” song yet?
You giggle and take my hand and pull me out of bed. We kiss and I said “Vamos?”
In an instant, you are back in your traveling clothes. I wear a pair of khaki colored jeans, black LaCoste polo shirt with a Boston Red Sox cap. I take your hand and lead you to the windows. I slide it open and with just a touch of mischief say “Second to the right and then straight on to morning.”
You smile and say “Your name is not Peter and I am not Wendy and you do know that you do know we don’t have to use a window?”
I smile back and reply “I do. But you know me. I need to play.”
Instead of replying, you kiss me, lightly, but with all the import of our first.
We are sitting at a sidewalk table at the Café Flore. It is early afternoon. The traffic on Saint Germain is buzzing by. The sidewalk traffic is at its French best. Crowded with elegantly dressed people strolling, with pefectly wrapped bundles in their hand. They have a destination in mind but are in no particular hurry to get there. Young couples are walking hand in hand oblivious to the hustle and bustle around them. A retiree walks a small perfectly coiffed dog, and several art students walk by with their sketch pads and charcoals. You are sitting facing west looking at the wonderful shops that line that section of the boulevard. I am facing east with a beautiful view of Brasserie Lipp. A coupe Denmark is sitting in front of me and a Mille Feuie in front of you. We both drink espressos.
I must have looked like I felt. Very pleased because you say “Why Paris first?.”
“There are so many reasons…It is a place we have both been before and love but we have never been there together. To me, it is the city at the epicenter of Romantic love. It is a place we should experience together. Perhaps even buy a lock and place on the Ponts des Arts”
You just smile and nod and are silent knowing there is more I want to say. I ad remember that Andrea Bocelli televised concert at the beginning of the Pandemic…Music For Hope?”
You nod. “All of it was so emotional. The empty church. The socially distanced organist. But when he sang Amazing Grace outside the cathedral and they showed images of empty cities….well I completely lost it when they showed the empty streets of Paris. It was as if the world had ended…and I guess it had in a way…but as I cried all I could think about is that I had never taken you to Paris and it made me weep more.”
I guess I started to cry again and perhaps to regain a little dignity I say, “And of course the Addams Family reason.”
“What is that.”
“I always wanted to hear you speak French.”
You indulge me with a small smile for my small joke.
I take a bite of my coupe Denmark, savoring the richness of the ice cream and chocolate sauce when you say. “I am glad to be here with you. Where shall we go after we finish our snack.”
“You mean after you take me back to the hotel room and had your way with me?”
“Okay that was easy….yes after that….”
“We would walk to Musee de Orsay and spend a lazy couple of hours looking at the art and telling each other what we love and what it is we just like. And then we might walk across the Seine and go window shopping along Rue St. Honore or go for a ride on a Batten Mouche. We might find a small café that looked like a place where the neighborhood people ate and have a meal of simple French food… Steak Frittes or Cassoulet with a bottle of inexpensive Burgundy. On the way back to the hotel we would walk by the river listening to the form one of the party boats passing by. And maybe, being a little giddy from the wine I would ask you to dance. Perhaps it would earn the applause of the passengers on the ships passing us by.”
“That sounds lovely but no Notre Dame…”
“If you want my love, but I think having seen it while it was in its glory, seeing it now, in ruins. The world in tatters. Might break my heart too much.”
“Okay my love…we will see how we feel.”
“But there is so much more that I would want to do as well… I would want go to a different museum everyday. Not for long just for an hour or so and find the things that most others pass over and savor them. We could go to the open air market and find little bargains or object de arts that we could love together.You know that the type of knick knacks Brazilians love. I would go for a picnic in some small park and watch the French playing with their children….” I paused looking at your brown eyes sparkling as if amused by a private joke.
“I love your enthusiasm.”
Your comment gives me pause. Not because it was off kilter in some way but because I knew that you were trying to say something to me without saying anything at all. It dawns on me. I add “But I guess it isn’t really the point what we do here. Is it? The point is that this is where I start my world tour with you. It is where the fantasy begins. And that is why we are here just to let you know that. That the first place I would take you if I could.”
You smile then leaned across the table and kiss me and say in the soft sultry lusophonic voice you use when you are moved and say “So what is next my darlingo.”