It is mid-morning, with a gentle sun streaming through the trees of the street are walking long. The temperature was perfect where you feel neither hot or a cold. The breeze was so gentle it, but it brought with the smells of early summer. ….honeysuckle, hydrangeas, newly turned earth, and freshly cut grass. In the distance we heard the sound of children playing: shouting, giggle and screams and with them memories of a distant childhood when summer days seemed to last forever.
The side walks we were on were made of poured concrete, straight and true, edged with no cracking, or undermining by the roots of trees, no winter heave. Most of the houses on the street, were set back. This was not a new neighborhood, generations had been raised here with only the regal shade trees, overarching the streets and canopying the yards as witnesses to the families of the past. Most had been modernized to some effect with modern windows, paving stone driveways but it did not detract from a feeling of comfort and safety, where children could play without playdates, and evenings were spent at kick the can or catching fireflies.
Elaine is wearing a pair of jeans that fit her as if custom maed, a white peasant blouse, and a pair of Haviannas with a tropical theme. My dress was similarly casual, jeans that were well aged, a navy Lacoste shirt and a pair of blue Asics running shoes. We are holding hands and more ambling than walking.
I said “When I am alone, I normally walk at a pace just shy of jogging but when I with you…”
You bless me with a smile and say “ Some things should be savored and this does not look like a place where you should hurry.”
I grip your hand a little tighter and say.” Have I told you today…”
“Yes, many times, but I never get tired of hearing it.”
“Well that too, but that is not what I was going to say….what I was going to say is that have I ever told you how much I love holding your hand. How it makes me feel ten feet tall and as small as a child. How it makes me feel like I can conquer the world yet like I don’t want to leave home. How when I hold your hand I feel at peace, comfortable with who I am, and where I am going. Holding your hand makes me feel like I have reached my destination. That I can stop worrying about the journey and just love the living…”
“I probably would have remembered that if you had said that before…I feel the same way….connected and alive, soaring and grounded, like I can change the world but have no reason to….
“Well, finally we can agree on something….” I said in mock sarcasm and kiss you.
We come to a yard where the owners had planted an English garden. It looked a little odd in this well manicured neighborhood but we agree that is wonderful that some one had the courage to break the mold and that the sienna orange roses tthey had planted were breathtaking.
The block ended in a park. We walk along the crushed stone pathways that wound instead of meandered, and by a pond where several boys were attempting to fish. In a clearing near the pond we pass a small portable band shell that has a banner announcing “Wednesday Night Concerts in the Park.. Beyond it is a fenced in dog park and several ball fields replete with bleachers and backstops.
We stop and sit on an iron black lacquered benches with aged wooden slats that are generously dispersed throughout the park. It is a great place to watch the world go by. Roller bladers, dog walkers, joggers, bicyclists and fellow amblers all pass us by. Birds sang from their perches in the trees and occasionally we cohear shouts from one of the ball fields. When I look at you, there is a look of mild consternation on your face. When I ask you reply of “We have not passed a single sign or place that has given me even the smallest clue to where we are.”
“You don’t say!” I responded with a grin. “Do all places need to have name for you to be comfortable?”
You give me a rueful look “Am I going to have bribe it out of you.”
“What kind of bribe do you have in mind?”
“Don’t past deeds count at all?”
“Okay.” Then you whisper something in my ear that seems physically possible but highly unlikely and I reply , blushing mildly “As much I would like to take you up on that proposition…and will at some point….can we put off me telling you where we are just a little bit longer.”
“That was a pretty good offer….”
“I know and lord knows I want to take you up on it but its our last stop and I want to hold on to the suspense just a little longer. But if you really mind…”
You shot me one of your inquisitive looks, you head slightly tilted to one side, eyebows in V formation annd reply “Okay you can have a little longer on your reveal but I reserve the right to change my mind at anytime. “
The park directly abutted a small downtown area. Most of the buildings in the six square block area were from the first third of the last century. There were newer structures peppered among the old, but the town definitely gave the impression of being established, its roots extending to the bedrock. Furthering that image was the conformity Signs over the storefronts being identical in color and size. There were no chain stores. Just local businesses who were content serving the community they lived.
We stop at the local barista, “The Perk UP!” for a mocha latte and a chocolate cupcake we split. I ask “What do you think of the downtown area?
“It looks very peaceful.”
“You mean it looks as if they roll up the sidewalks at night.”
“I like it but there is something a little sad about it too.”
“In what way.”
“Did you notice that there aren’t really any stores here are little bric a brac shops and some service establishments but not a lot of places to really shop. No book store or stationers, or even a clothing store. I mean at least I didn’t see any.”
“I mean this is a charming town and I am sure during its day its downtown was thriving with all sorts of stores for the people in town but they have all been put out of business by chain stores and malls. Now the downtown area is really no more than a shadow, it is still here but is faded.”
“Sometimes you do me very well.”
You raised your eyebrows and said “Ah the soapbox”
“Ah the soapbox.”
We finish our coffee, and stroll down the main street of the town. The sun is warm, birds can be heard chirping and our fingers are interlocked. Occasionally we stop when we saw an architectural feature or some other small item that interested us. Even though I am the tour guide, it does not stop Elaine from peppering me with questions about the town. was delighted. Clearly you were beginning to love this place as I hoped you would.
Why wouldn’t you. I had made it just for you.
We made a left-hand turn onto Cassandra Street. It is lined with evenly spaced Elms, that arboreal columns that shade the street except for few errant shafts of light dappling the lane and sidewalk with light. It is an older part of town, perhaps the oldest but the next block we come upon is a gated lane that contains modern brick town houses. Each of the semidetached structure exteriors are of narrow horizontal mahogany siding with large floor to ceiling windows on the outside. Each has its own driveway and garage tucked underneath the house.
As we turn onto the lane, you ask “Are you going to finally tell me where we are?”
I reply “Can you be patient just a few minutes more. I will give you a full explanation then…but I think you already know.”
You gave me a look that was somehow a combination of “I feel like hitting you in the head with a lead pipe” romantic love (perhaps the same thing) and say “Vamos”
We walk another half block and I stopped and said “What do you think?” You turn to your right. It is a town home identical to the others except for the deep red Jeep Grand Cherokee in the driveway. I say “Do you want to go in?
You bless me with a rueful look and we walk up a set of gently sloped stairs to the front door and the enter the house through an oversized heavy wood door. We are in a large open floor plan room where the living room dining room are one with a minimally divided kitchen. The floors are wide planked bleached oaks with each siting area with its own run. The furniture is modern enough to match the décor but there are enough older pieces to add warmth. Most of the art on the wall is modern but there is a beautiful oil painting of Botofago bay and also an ancient print of Vienna. The Kitchen is spacious, with a lot of stainless steel and designed so whomever is cooking is also part of the action going on in the other rooms. Light streams through the windows and you can see tiny dust motes doing their ballet.
You nod your head and say “I think I know what you are up to…”
“Care to venture a guess?”
“I will. But, lets look upstairs first.”
We walk a set of floating stairs that have guy wires instead of bannister. When we reach the top there is a small seating area and three doors. One leads to a utility room with washer, dryer HVAC system, and endless water heater. The other leads to a large secondary bedroom, complete with a walk in closet, and with a large window that looked onto the street below. The owners of the house have turned this into an office with a modern desk and another of Danish mid century design. Each is replete with computer screens. There is a couch and a large television at one end. It manages to be business like and cozy at the same time.
The other room on this floor is the master bedroom. At its center is a King sized bed with night tables. A large Japanese print is over the bed and opposite is a mid century dresser with a flat screen hung on the wall over it. The floor is same wide planked bleach oak as downstairs with a Persian carpet under the bed. There are large windows one of which turns out to be a sliding door that leads to a porch that is large enough to fit a table and two chairs. The bathroom is sybaritic. Two sink console, Toto fully automated toilet is heated, acts as a bidet, and blow drys the user, a large glass enclosed steam shower and a tub that is the mirror of the one in the Maldives.
I say “Take off your flips flops.”
When you comply, you gasp “The floor is warm!”
“The floor is heated. No more jumping out the bath too cold floors. The towel racks can also be heated. The designer had delicate Brazilian flowers in mind.”
Hand in hand we leave the bathroom and cross the bedroom and walk out to the porch and sit looking onto old growth trees and the house’s postage stamp back yard. .. Would not want y large with a king size bed The house began with a cupola, with weathervane, with windows on each side of its pentagonal shape. The second floor had turret like structures at its front corners, with large curved windows, and on the ground floor a 12 foot wide stairway let up to a wrap around porch that was empty except for some hanging plants and two wood rocking chairs that stood side by side.
Pointing to the rocking chairs you said “Are those….?” I was too nervous and too emotional to be able to respond verbally so instead I just nodded. It was clear from looking at your face that that you were touched by my emotions but it was also clear that you were a bit confused about what we were doing here. You put your hand against my cheek to reassure me that whatever the reasons were that we were here that it was okay with you. I turned my head while at the same time reaching up and taking hold of your hand at the same time, and kissed your palm. I said in the lightest tone I could muster “Do you want to try those puppies out?”
You gave me your biggest grin, complete with sparkling green eyes, and dimples and nodded. We climbed the bricked driveway and then the stairs and assumed our positions in the side by side rocking chairs. We held hands as we rocked back and forth and looked out at the quiet street dappled in sunlight and listened to birds happily chirping away in the trees. The shorter of the two little girls came flying by now riding the little boys bicycle. In hot pursuit was the little boy who yelled out “Come back here” with the girl just giggling in response.
You say “So”
“Aren’t you going to tell me where we are now?”
“Come on…. you know!”
“Well its sort of obvious that we are at your house, but I guess…”
“We’re not at my house.”
You turned and looked at me, a surprised look on your face and said “We’re not? Then where are we?”
“We’re at our home.”
The surprised look on your face was replaced by one of mild confusion. It was a look that clearly conveyed to me that you hoped that I would provide you with a more complete explanation on why I was spitting hairs on the differences between house and home. So I said “A house is a place you dwell. A place where you may sleep and eat…A home is a place you live. Do you know what I mean.”
Smiling now you said “I do. It’s a big difference.”
“One of the things I realized shortly after I met you, is that no place is going to be home unless you are there.”
“And one of the things we have tried to do for the seven years of our marriage is find a way to be together always. Our intent from the beginning has been to live together in the US but obstacles keep jumping in front of us.”
“Let me finish. How to handle bi continental finances is challenging. How to handle your apartments let alone your house have left us scratching our heads. Even when to apply for a green card, so you could come and go as your please, has been impossible to schedule.”
“But we figured out. Well mostly figured it out. You would come and stay in the US for as long as you could and when I could make it to Brazil I would do the same. We weren’t always together but we always knew when we would see each other again.”
I reach over and grab both of your hands “But now this damn Covid19….were forced apart. Traveling is not only risky but also limited. Not like before when you could pick up 10 flights a day from Rio to the US now there are less than that per week from all of Brazil.”
“It has forced hard decisions on both of us. I could have stayed in Rio. But it would have been harder if not impossible for my work. Rosie, who was already well on her way to forgetting me, would have forgotten I ever existed. I would have missed my family.
“I would have been with you. Or, you could have come with me…”
“You know I couldn’t.”
“I know why you felt why you could not make the journey. What to do about Romeow? What about Fatima and Antonio? What would happen with the house? The uncertainty of making it back to Brazil for your pensions. And fear. Traveling through Sao Paulo is scary with what is going on and at our home in Itanhanga at least you feel safe. “
I paused and looking into your eyes.”There are so many places left in the world I want to go with you this journey could go on night after night for years. But at the end of the day, or night, as the case may be, there is only one place I want to take you. Home. I want us to have a home where we are always together. Where parting, if it happens, is brief, and we keep all our suitcases”
You leaned forward and lift my chin with your hand and kissed me softly on the lips. The wind blew and a branch of tree moved just enough to allow a beam of sunlight to shine on us and then we were gone.”
It was not quite dawn and the light coming through the double hung windows of my bedroom was as grey as a bank of fog. There was just enough light in the room to see Rosie asleep at the end of the bed none the wiser of our journey. I lay in my bed propped up on pillows, and you were sit with one leg on the bed and the other hanging off, facing me. Our hands are clasped together.
You say “Its almost dawn.” Leaving the last part, that you had to leave, unsaid.
“I know….I don’t want to be selfish…I have just spent all night with you, taking you places I have only dreamed of taking you…showing you places that are in my heart….showing you my heart. But even after all that I don’t want you to go. Can’t you stay here with me.” I pause for a second and then I added
COME live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines and silver hooks.
There will the river whisp’ring run
Warm’d by thy eyes, more than the sun ;
And there th’ enamour’d fish will stay,
Begging themselves they may betray.
When thou wilt swim in that live bath,
Each fish, which every channel hath,
Will amorously to thee swim,
Gladder to catch thee, than thou him.
If thou, to be so seen, be’st loth,
By sun or moon, thou dark’nest both,
And if myself have leave to see,
I need not their light, having thee.
Let others freeze with angling reeds,
And cut their legs with shells and weeds,
Or treacherously poor fish beset,
With strangling snare, or windowy net.
Let coarse bold hands from slimy nest
The bedded fish in banks out-wrest ;
Or curious traitors, sleeve-silk flies,
Bewitch poor fishes’ wand’ring eyes.
For thee, thou need’st no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait :
That fish, that is not catch’d thereby,
Alas ! is wiser far than I.
I could see your eyes mist and I add “My mother would have been very pleased that I remembered John Donne. She always liked his poetry. “
You say “.If only I could stay…I think you know I would. That nothing in the world would make me happier than crawling into bed next to you and falling asleep in your arms and starting the new day together. I wish that I could do that today, and tomorrow, and they day after that…until there aren’t any days left but….
“You have to go” I say smiling the smile of those trying not to impose their sadness on others.
You said “Yes, I have to go… but ou were quoting poetry before. Can I give you a favorite verse from TS Elliott.
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated.
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated with no before or after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment.
“Remember home is not a place. It is a state of mind. You are always in my heart. You are always my thoughts. Even when we are apart we are at home with each other.”
You pause for a second, trying to maintain your composure but several tears made paths down your cheeks nonetheless. You continued “From the first, every moment that I have spent with you has felt like I was finally home. That wherever we were or were going to be, as long as it was together, would be home… I loved knowing that the placed you wanted to take me most of all was home.…”but I have felt that I have been home since the first time you put arms around me and kissed me.”
You continue “A lifetime burning in every moment.reminds us that our life exists in moments and that every moment if we cherish it enough can live on forever. That every home like feeling that I have ever given you and that every home like feeling you have ever given me will last as long as we care to remember them.” You paused again and got a very serious look on your face and grabbing my hands said “It is very important that you remember that…promise me that you will remember that.”
I looked at you with what can only have been a confused look on my face and nodded. You kissed me and said “Good!…” You turned and looked at the double windows opposite the bed. The grey pre dawn light was beginning to develop hints of pink and reds. When your gaze returned to me you had done you best to put a smile on but I could sense that there was deep sadness there too. You kiss me and say “I love you.” And, I fall into a deep sleep.
Alexa wakes me at 7AM as I have programmed her to do. However, instead of the normal claxon she sounds to rouse in me into consciousness she decides to play Coldplay.
Steal my heart and hold my tongue
I feel my time, my time has come
Let me in, unlock the door
I never felt this way before
And the wheels just keep on turning
The drummer begins to drum
I don’t know which way I’m going
I don’t know which way I’ve come
Hold my head inside your hands
I need someone who understands
I need someone, someone who hears
For you, I’ve waited all these years
For you I’d wait ’til kingdom come
Until my day, my day is done
And say you’ll come and set me free
Just say you’ll wait, you’ll wait for me
In your tears and in your blood
In your fire and in your flood
I hear you laugh, I heard you sing
I wouldn’t change a single thing
And the wheels just keep on turning
The drummers begin to drum
I don’t know which way I’m going
I don’t know what I’ll become
For you I’d wait ’til kingdom come
Until my days, my days are done
I am not sure if it is Alexa, God or you who have the sense of humor. …playing “Till Kingdom Comes” after our night together. But What I do know is “Til Kingdom Comes.” it is and the perfect way to start this day. So I do.