Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ceaselessly Into The Past


The world only exists in my eyes, I can make it as big or as small as I want. I'm not sure what I'll do. I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow, I want to live where things happen on a big scale and someday I want excitement; and I don't care what form it takes or what I pay for it, so long as it makes my heart beat. I'm going to find somebody and love her and love her and never let her go.


I looked at her the way all women want to be looked at by a man. It's hard to sit here and be close to her, and not kiss her. My heart beat faster and faster as her face came up to my own. When she saw my face, our eyes met and everything was all right, everything was wonderful, she knew I was beginning to fall in love with her. The helpless ecstasy of losing myself in her charm was a powerful opiate. So I waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then I kissed her. At my lips' touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.


Beauty has got to be astonishing, astounding. It's got to burst in on you like a dream, like the exquisite eyes of a girl. She had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life, that understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that at your best you hoped to convey.

All she wanted was to be a little girl, to be efficiently taken care of by some yielding yet superior power, stupider and steadier than herself. She wanted to crawl into my pocket and be safe forever. We slipped briskly into an intimacy from which we never recovered. "Think how you love me, " she whispered, "I don't ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember that somewhere inside me there'll always be the person I am tonight.  Let us love for a while, for a year or so, you and me." 


I didn't realize it, but the days came along one after another, and then two years were gone and everything was gone. I was gone. My dream must have seemed so close that I could hardly fail to grasp it. I did not know that it was already behind me. Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away. The beauty of succulent illusions fell away from me. There are all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice. 


I have traded the fight against love for the fight against loneliness, the fight against life for the fight against death. I realized that what I was regretting was not the lost past, but the lost future, not what had not been, but what would never be. The loneliest moment in someone's life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly. 


Life is so damned hard, so damned hard. It just hurts people and hurts people, until finally it hurts them so that they can't be hurt any more. That's the last and worst thing it does. Everywhere we go and move on and change, something's lost, something's left behind. Long ago there was something in me, but now it's gone. I cannot cry. I cannot care. That thing will be back no more. All the bright precious things fade so fast, and they don't come back. 


There's only one lesson to be learned from life...that there's no lesson to be learned from life. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. 

Acknowledgment: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Kiss

Cindy was the roommate of a girl I was dating during my first year as an attorney in Atlanta. She was a former "Bunny" at the Atlanta Playboy Club before a fire closed it down in 1975. She was a stunner, the kind of woman that attracted mens eyes with laser like stares. Cindy was beautiful, sexy and in her own sweet way, innocent, almost naive, the kind of woman who got a pass in life just because of her looks.

Cindy was also a kept woman, working as a part-time escort/girlfriend to a very wealthy and generous gentleman who lived in Chicago. Cindy's job was to be his eye candy companion and sexual partner whenever and wherever he chose. It paid well and about every other weekend she was on a private jet, or via a first class ticket, off to some exciting city or exotic destination. There was one problem with this set up. Cindy drew men to her constantly not so much by choice, but by the law of natural attraction. Some women can put out an air of flirtation just by how they smile at the world. That was Cindy and it was why she needed a friend for her time in Atlanta, a companion to keep her from being alone, to protect her from being constantly pursued, to keep the wolves at bay. That's why Cindy had a roommate, Carolyn, and Carolyn had me.

Cindy and I took a liking to each other immediately. I wasn't rich, or urbane, or anything like the pick of men she had in her days at the club, but I was a nice guy, low key and funny, smart, professional and mostly unthreatening. Plus, I was dating her roommate, posing no romantic threat to the good thing she had going with, well, "Dr. Chicago." At least so long as I was with Carolyn.

My dating Carolyn wasn't to last. In a sudden and unexpected corporate shuffling, her company, American Express, relocated Carolyn from Atlanta to Denver. It all happened in about a week, and Cindy was left living by herself, alone in a big city full of hungry men. Cindy and Dr. Chicago were faced with a new dilemma, find Cindy a new roommate, one without a gaggle of men hanging around her, or move Cindy to Chicago. They chose the latter, but the move needed some time to make happen, so who would keep Cindy company in the interim?
"What about Carolyn's old boyfriend, the lawyer you said you liked? Does he know about our arrangement? "
"Yea, I like Allan, he's a really nice guy and has never come on to me. I'd like that." 
I willingly became Cindy safe male companion and her social life until she moved to Chicago. When she was out of town, I had my own social life. A young lawyer with a red Fiat Spyder convertible in Atlanta in the mid-70's, where dating Southern women was casual, easy and with no strings attached. When Cindy was back in Atlanta, the two of us hung out. I accepted my role and played the part very well. We were both careful enough to not cross the boundary of being just friends. That might take the shine off of the expensive gifts, jewelry, travel, the good life she was living, transient as it might be. It was fine with me, I enjoyed the company of a beautiful woman. It was a win-win.

Eventually, Chicago beckoned, an upscale downtown penthouse was much more convenient for them both. Our platonic relationship, which had become so much fun and fulfilling for us, was coming to an end. It really doesn't take long to get to know someone, to develop feelings, to start to think about someone way too much. In any other circumstance, I felt so out of Cindy's league that I would be lucky just for the opportunity to see and stare at her, like so many other men. I saw them, she did too, but she never looked back, not even when she was with me. Cindy was a faithful pretend-girlfriend.

In a short time we built a surprisingly strong emotional bond that transcended our unwritten agreement.  We got to know each other well, having fun discovering the best parts of each other. Cindy wasn't just beautiful, she had a kind and seductive heart and in her own way, was just an innocent bystander to the life she was living.  As for me, I was above all, a nice guy, intelligent and unassuming, unlike any of the men she had been used to. I kept my hands to myself and came to like her for what was inside of her heart and behind her eyes. I wasn't chasing her, just enjoying my time with her, treating her with respect, curiosity and harmless affection. In return she let her guard down. I was no threat and without any carnal desire, at least none that I let her know about.

We made a special date to spend her last night in Atlanta together, just dinner at nearby restaurant, then back to her apartment. When dinner was over, we walked slowly back to her place, with not a word said about our good-bye that waiting for us just ahead and up the stairs. Before long we found ourselves at the front door. We had never kissed, it just wasn't allowed and from the start it was understood that any trappings of romance between us was off limits. But tonight, our last night together, I wasn't about to let her go without one show of the affection for her that had been building up inside of me for the past couple of months. She was leaving. There was nothing to lose.

We were standing at her door and as she turned to say good-bye, and before she could say a word, I leaned in and pressed my lips against hers. It felt so right, so natural, and before I could pull away, Cindy kissed me back. We held our lips together and held, and held, and held. I finally pulled back just enough to see her eyes moist with the realization something just changed between us, just as our time together was at the end. We stepped apart and stared at each other, maybe for a second, or two, or three, or a lifetime.
"What are we doing?" She asked.
"We're saying goodbye." I answered. 
Sometimes things just happen. It's like seeing a person you never saw before, you can be passing on the street you look up at each other and for that moment, for a second or two your eyes meet and there is a mutual recognition that you both know something,  but then the person's gone and its too late to do anything.  You remember it because it was right there and you just let it go.

I kissed Cindy because if I didn't, there would never be another chance. I kissed her because I felt something special for her, and she knew it. Words wouldn't do. When she kissed me back, it was her way of letting me know she was beginning to feel something too. Maybe I wasn't so out of her league after all, that there was a part of me she was so attracted to, that she wanted and that she would not find in Dr. Chicago, or she may never find with anyone, anytime, anywhere. Maybe that scared her, maybe for once in her life she felt real affection and desire for a man, only now for the right reasons.
"Goodbye, Cindy."
"Good night, Allan."        
I turned and headed for my car. Cindy stepped inside and closed her door.  I heard the latch lock from the inside. I walked down steps and into the street and got into my car.  I just sat there behind the wheel, my eyes now moist with the realization that my time with Cindy had past.

Four decades later, as I write these words I'm still standing with her at her door, kissing her and being kissed back. What a time that was, and now with all that has gone by, the lives that she and I created independent from each other, all of the people, places and things that have happened to us, I remember that night so clearly, what we said, what we did, what we felt.

She was right there, and I let her go.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Homeward Bound

"I received this long, handwritten letter from a guy who lived on some island in South Carolina. I remember it was like this long catharsis, flashbacks of his life in song, my songs. He went through every concert he attended, starting with one he went to with his first date ever while in high school in 1966 at the University of Detroit. Artie and I still remember that gig, it was one of our first big venue college concerts and we were scared shitless. When the curtain opened and we saw a full house, Artie and I knew something had changed for us, we were real singers now and that too scared us shitless. This guy wrote about how we was on his first real date and how by the end of the concert, he said that, "she had fallen in love with me...or maybe it was you.," But it didn't matter to him, he wrote something like, "it was close enough." To know you have that kind of effect on people, while it is flattering, it's something I never intended. I'm just a songwriter, a singer playing my songs and all I ever cared about back then was entertaining. He went on about the songs that he said affected his life, something I hear a lot. Then he ended with remembering the last concert he went to, in Atlanta in the late 80s. It was at another college venue, Georgia Tech. Artie and I had both gone solo back then, maybe for at least 20 years. I think it was on our first Simon and Garfunkel reunion tour. This guy's father had died a few weeks earlier and he wrote about how he just lost it when we did Homeward Bound, one of the encores on those reunion tours. His words, his intense emotion, he took me back to my youth, my mom and dad. He touched me. I thought to myself, "We're even." - Paul Simon, Interview in The New Yorker, 2003.