Peter Pan. (Or Listening to Bernstein in the Nude.)

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
“I always thought it would be sex and not music,” was her answer when she finally made it to the couch.

“Sex is good, very good. But sex passes. Music lasts.

“All of a sudden you are worried about eternity?” she muttered. Then she hesitated, pulled down the muscles between her eyebrows and he knew she understood even before she spoke again . “You’re serious. You actually woke yourself up for this. You have always been curious.”

“Yes. It is time,” he said. “I always said I would be first.”

He was right about her, once again. She did know where this was going, even before what he had said. Courage, was all she could think. I will have to muster up as much of it as I have ever learned, preparing for this moment.

When he woke that morning, bright and very early as old people do, he had his hands crossed on his chest. The first thing he did is, he did nothing. Really doing nothing is harder than most would expect. Then he just lay in bed naked next to her, as always, although he lingered a bit longer. He frowned to himself with the sense that his chest under his palms was softer than he would like it to be, but he realized it was actually harder than even he could have reasonably wished at his age.

When she stirred and opened her eyes, he posed his question, which wasn’t a question after all, “Come. Don’t get dressed, just sit with me. I want to hear something again with you.” That is how they arrived naked on the sofa.

“Fifty-seven years together and you have always been good for surprises. I could have sworn it would be sex. Sex has always been something you could wake yourself up for.”

He just smiled at her without comment, got up, kissed her lips. He walked a little stiffly and opened the doors to the terrace, letting fresh air in, then he turned to the side wall filled with CDs.

“Looks like we are never going to convert to the latest media, are we?”

He started the CD at the beginning, not sure that he would make it to the song he wanted to hear, the last one, but he was determined to try his damnedest.

In the back of her head, she heard a needle skip, a skip that wasn’t there the way it used to be when they began LP records. She recognized the musical from the very first notes, “Berstein?!” She hesitated, and when he didn’t answer, she continued, “Peter Pan. All these years, I have been in love with Peter Pan.”

He heard the humor in her voice, but ignored it, at least for the moment, “I am scared. I am trying not to be, but I am.”

She wouldn’t back off, “Peter Pan. Of course. Every man’s dream, even at a time like this.”

“Not even. Especially... At my age, I hate to admit being afraid. It’s not only about if it hurts. Most of all I don’t want to be alone. ”

Finally, she surrendered to him, and her laugh evaporated but not her smile, “I have always loved you, you old coot. Why would I stop now or ever? Besides, you have your daughter. She is still young and her love for you is boundless.”

“There was a day when I could say that of yours, too.”

“I am old now as well, you know. Besides, now is no time for regrets. We’ve done well with her. We really can’t ask for more than that in life, now can we?”

“No, We can’t. I guess we can’t.”

He closed his eyes and gave in to the music, a little impatiently listening to each song and waiting for the last, the one he wanted to hear.

She put her hand on his wrist, her head on his chest. I like the white, she thought, aware of the fact that she was carrying on a dialogue with herself in her head, something she would have to grow used to. The white is wirier than before. More manly. I have liked each of the colors, each of the stages, and now the white. There’s a difference between your white and mine.

She looked down and saw that it might have been sex after all.

But his eyes were still closed and flimmering rapidly behind his lids.

He felt the touch on his lips of their first kiss ever, remembered even though it wasn’t memorable then in the year of rebounding and sewing wild oats.

Squeezed between all the pictures, was Robbie Daily, the kid in fourth grade who used to pick his nose in class and eat his own boogers, long and slimy.

Then there was Italy. The wonderful, kitschy Fountain of Trevi and afterwards sharing with her everything about his first vacation all alone.

Walking the long path up to Taj Mahal hand in hand...

He saw his beloved daughter yanked fresh and gooey from her mother’s body, so real he could smell her. He wanted to stay right there even though he knew he did not have much time.

He saw the teary photo, the photo, not the real scene, the photo they took at the end of the annus horribilis. He wanted to force himself back to his daughter, that first look at his tiny baby girl, and when he couldn’t, he thrust open his eyes.

“I don’t have any memories of my own,” he moaned.

“That’s good,” was the reply. “Shared memories are what some people call heaven. Don’t worry, we’ll get there.”

He heard the first notes of that song. Just three more minutes he thought.

“I hope it won’t be too difficult for you. I know I am going to be difficult to dress, but I wanted to be naked with you, one more time, naked as the day we were born.”

“Forget about it old man. I have enough trouble with dressing myself these days. Besides, you’re leaving me alone. And I am just going to throw a blanket over you and say I didn’t know what happened.”

He smiled with her giggle, and through his smile, he muttered just loud enough for her to hear, “That’s my girl. I have taught you well after all.”

The verse came that he liked most of all, the music he was waiting for:

Spring will come again.
Summer soon will follow.
Birds will come again.
Nesting in the hollow...

He blinked and shivered just with his shoulders, “I am cold, very cold.”

She pulled herself closer to him and tried to pass warmth into him. Getting dressed or covered was never a possibility. She played with the wire of his hair one last time. Her lips began to move and she decided better of it and stopped.

The music finally came to an end. He stuck through it for the entire musical, she thought. The CD stopped spinning. The machine went on stand-by.

Then she heard it, even more than felt it. His heart beat louder and louder and she worried that it would splatter against the walls. It revved like an old muscle car with a 17-year old at the wheel, something from even before the time of their courting and romance so very long-ago. The noise of it started a ringing in her ears. And with the noise, she felt so much well up in her, like she did when she read those great novels as a 14-year old girl. Especially the Russians, as a young girl her heart went out to the Russians with their unique form of sadness. There is no passion, no melodrama like a fourteen-year-old girl’s. All those years ago. She heard his heart go boom, and also the whoosh of his blood.

Then everything was still.
Absolutely still.