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Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Going Up the Stairs

By Sharon McKinney

Someone said that the French have a saying, L’espirit du escalier, which roughly translates as “going up the stairs.” It refers to all those wonderful things we wished we’d said on an earlier occasion and just came to mind on the way to bed.

I’ve been doing that for a couple of days now since I responded to a “Hello” from across the fence. When I stood up on the two by four and peered over the fence, I was met face to face with a guy I had had a romantic fling with many years ago. He asked if I remembered him. Going up the stairs I wished I’d said, “I remember most of the guys I’ve slept with.” In reality I just said, “Yes.”

And the female thing clicked in. Oh my, my hair, my face! I had handed him my hand covered with garden dirt as I was clearing a bed for the winter greens garden. Going up the stairs I was delighted that I had dirty hands and at the same time I realized that I had on a dirty sweat shirt and was relieved he couldn’t see it.

Of course, I noticed the wedding ring and the use of “we” that felt like an electric shock. Why? I never had long range plans with this guy.

He told me what he’s been doing social work. He left here under a cloud when someone discovered that his credentials were falsified and I wished I had asked him if his new credentials were up to scrutiny. Actually I just said “That sounds interesting.”

On we talked with me making the mundane replies to the superficial conversation. Going up the stairs, I wished I had asked him why he called to me and woke up the memories. What did he want to know about my years since the last time we met?

I’m glad the fence was there. I don’t know if I would have socked him or jumped into his arms. I felt empty and needy and finally made an excuse and hurried in the house to cry. It was a risk that I would not have taken if I had known who was waiting on the other side of the fence.

I called my friend and said, “Guess who I just talked with?” The quick reply, “Is he still gorgeous?” Oh yes. Picture a younger Tom Selleck with a head of white hair and a smile that could melt ice. He is the same age now as I was when we met. 57 years old. Now I’m 72 and I know which one of us has changed the most. Gravity wins.

I had bowling balls rolling around my insides for the rest of the day. Why such a reaction after all these years? What did we have together that could jump up and bite me now?

It was a playful and close love affair. Heads together, silly noises, and long looks across the room. One night in a raging gale we went to the beach. The wind was rocking the car and we jumped out and ran up on the rocks. He found a dead seagull and did a Tarzan yell, swinging the gull around his head. He threw it right into the wind and it came back and splatted against his chest. We both laughed so hard and grabbed each other to stay upright.

We worked together on a yard project with lots of mock bickering and throwing pebbles and weeds at each other, making the chore into fun. I miss that. I miss the safe warm feeling of belonging.

I wasn’t looking for a man when we met. Working in the same building with different schedules and assignments, someone pointed out to me that he was always finding me. I had not noticed. Imagine having someone else say that I was being courted and I was totally oblivious. So I looked back. Found out that he wasn’t only following me around but had personal information about me that he had gleaned.

It was flattering to have this handsome younger man pursuing me. Then one day we met outside on a windy, rainy day. He used that big beautiful body to shield me from the wind and I was touched. Also felt the urge to get up close and that did it. I was hooked. Imagine my surprise when our boss called us in his office to say that our behavior was not professional and to stop seeing each other.

Well, at that time we had done nothing more than one hug. I found out later that Miss Nosey Newser, the one with no lips, arms crossed tightly, and a slight sneer had been looking out her window at just the moment of our first contact. At that time it was a friendly hug. That was the beginning of meeting privately and getting involved. The whole wonderful time lasted almost two years.

He was single parenting two high school kids. Lots of our conversations were about them and his need to guide them through the jungle of high school. The boy had been in some trouble speeding. I joked about how I once had a chair at traffic court with my name out it because of my frequent appearances with my boys. His daughter was into sports and we talked a lot about how she could use her skills to get scholarships. He was in a quandary about how to give her guidance about boys and limits. Since I had been there ahead of him, I could give him at least hope that they would come out all right at the end.

I lost interest in romantic attachments when I had the spinal injury that cost me my job. I did see him a few times after that and they were purely friendly visits. There is nothing like pain to take away any desire for a romp. By the time my spine was repaired, he was gone without a good-bye. Just gone. By the time I had recovered from spinal surgery and was healthy again, my mother came to live with me for the last nine years of her life and that was a barrier to romance. It took all my energy to keep my bubble in the middle. So I guessed the wonderful interlude was the swan song to my romantic life.

It was a week before I found out why he was on the other side of the fence. He was visiting my neighbor who was recovering from ankle surgery. They are Harley motorcycle friends. A group was touring and they stopped to cheer him up.

Going up the stairs, I sigh to myself that I hope it doesn’t happen again. Or maybe the emotional belly flop was worth the burn that brought worthwhile splashes of memory that I once was a desirable woman. Or maybe it’s a reminder that someone might be paying attention and I need to look back before someone tells me. There is no age limit on friendship and who knows!

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Happy memories need to be jogged every now and then.

What a wonderfully told story. I've had my own brush with the past recently (both in real life and in dreams) and know how bittersweet is can be. I can certainly imagine why he wanted to say hello - no doubt he carries his version of those memories you described in such sweet detail.


PS from Sharry

Sharon, I looked for your name on the list of writers on The Elder Storytelling Place, hoping to read other stories by you. I guess this is your first at this venue. I hope you'll be publishing here again soon.

Shay, though I have read this story before, it is all the more poignant seeing it here at the Elder Storyteller Place. At 70 myself, I often revisit old romantic memories and the safety I felt by being with a man who cared for me. Thanks so much for sharing this story with us. Please submit more. You are such a gifted storyteller.

A wonderful memoir and one that brings back memories here, in similar situations. Don't close the door; you never know what might happen.

Who of us hasn't gone back now and then to visit our romatic memories? This was a wonderful tale and hope you will write more.

Beautifully written. Thank you for a poignant story. We all have our memories, but they seldom revisit us as yours did. Re-living them is full of mixed emotions. Underneath there is always the question, "What if?"

My, my. That post may me remember people and things I have not allowed myself to think of. I long for companion, but, feel those days are over. Maybe I should look over my shoulder...look around...

This story was wonderful to read. I have lots of going up the stairs thoughts. Just tonight I've been kicking myself for what I said, and wishing I could say the clever things I've thought of since. Too bad we can't click the delete button and re-write conversations!

This is so sweet. My memory box is open and in fourth gear...what a great way to spend a snowy Buffalo day. Fireplace, Christmas tree, me and green tea..and oh yes....those memories of time gone by.

Thank you,
Dorothy from grammology
remember to call gram

Oh, Oh, oh....I have had one or two encounters with old lovers that have touched me deeply.....even as I was retreating while holding my dear G's hands.

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