It’s a one-man show. An intimate space. He’s spotlighted. She slips into place.
The grandmaster of improv segues smoothly: ‘…then we saw her…’
Damn! He noticed!
His timing’s precise. She’s sometimes a little off beat.
Onstage, he thinks wryly: Half-angel already. But if that last trump ever calls, she’ll be lost in a book… or fluffing her wings…
Stiletto sandals dangle from polished toes. With halcyon poise she studies the oblivious audience. Shoots him a mischievous glance.
Her flawlessly serene metamorphoses amuse him: The lady’s at her best with zero decorum – he relishes his thought.
Contiguous sombre lines slide from his practised tongue. Inwardly he reviews a joyous scene: She whisks away impeccable street clothes. He causes expensive silk wisps to disappear. Then – his favourite cue – impatient feet flick a pair of pretty shoes into wanton, airy parabolas.
Oh God! Her SHOES! Move over Imelda Marcos. Even his renowned powers of persuasion can’t limit her outrageous footwear collection.
He’s secure in their oft-played routine. She likes to ad lib. Ah, the morning she strolled into the kitchen wearing only a trench coat and boots! Dozens of enthralled eyes track his dramatic shivers. His hands replay rough fabric; warm skin; uneven Oregon tabletop…kids’ breakfast plates?
“…but the heart continued to beat!” Addressing crowded faces, he rhythmically thumps his chest. “Doem-Doem …”
Linen jacket meets dusty floorboards. His audience cranes its collectively curious neck. Thinking dry-cleaning, she drags a mock-threatening forefinger across her throat. And smiles. The funky black suit was crisply creaseless that wintery afternoon; hanging behind the bedroom door until darkness stumbled upon them, delivering an abrupt reminder of time.
Coffee! Shower! Socks!
She speed-buttoned his white shirt. Knowing better than to suggest a tie, she tenderly kissed his open neck: ‘Mr Wordmeister, you’re primed to impress!’
He stumped off. To strut and fret his hour upon the stage … he could almost hear her thoughts accompanying him.
He’s on a roll, gripping the crowd. A gifted man she muses and he was just sixteen, the first time I watched him perform. I was twelve. Kids!
Her adult decades comprised a perfect Plan A: She marries a successful man; insists on Pears soap and lilies in her understated home; reads and travels widely; creates a meaningful career and beautiful children – never missing a flight, a deadline or a parent meeting.
And then they share a path again, realising their souls had desperately missed the sun.
She teaches classical literature. She knows irretrievable loss, uncertain futures and conflicting bonds aren’t new themes. But she barely swallows an Orphean cri d’ coeur: How long would I mourn without him?
Unhesitatingly he seeks her shadowed face. He recognises that beneath her burnished mien she lives unedited. Under his crumpled exterior, he filters everything. His words are measured. Hers flow randomly. She once asked him where he felt most alive.
‘Well, right here, of course!’ he claimed extravagantly, kissing her arms to the tips of her French manicured nails.
‘Uhhh…and on stage.’ A grunted response to her quizzical stare.
‘Plain sight’s the best hiding place, hmmm?’
He laughs: ‘Not true!!’
‘True! But truths exist in parallel, my darling! Has to be space for grace between. Truth alone would crucify us all.’
He has no religious beliefs, but that evening he took her to see a painting displayed in a central London museum gallery. A young woman held a handful of pink carnations, the dimpled infant boy on her lap gleefully grabbed at the blooms – his transfixion was yet to come
Does a lifetime contain more love than this moment? Can any yesterdays or tomorrows make now less whole?
Now. It’s all the time we ever have. Intently scanning her lucid eyes, he had noted tears. He folded his arms around her spirited body with unaccustomed lack of public reserve: ‘Beloved, your substance still lives sweet……and God help you little man if that flash pops, even once!’
Exit camera-heavy tourist. Stage left.
She suppresses a chuckle, as a deep communal gasp sucks the surrounding air. His finale is impressively sepulchral!
The theatre lights begin to lift. She peers into her new handbag. Capacious enough for her laptop and reams of A4 papers, the style is overtly Vuitton. Predictably he’d loathed it on sight: ‘Now you’ll never find your damned phone!’ he’d grumbled.
But he finds beautiful words for her. In her universal scale of treasured things, his daily scribbles transcend all; including her library of antique books and her prized Jimmy Choos.
From her purse, she carefully extracts that morning’s precious paper scrap:
The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.
Thank you Rumi!
She tells a vestigial rosary of zestful images: Two barefoot children. Red earth. Orisons for rain. Scattered worldlings. Quirky smile. Applause.
Wiping his forehead, he acknowledges accolades – instantly registering that her mind wasn’t focused on his performance: ‘She can be SO infuriatingly, fucking…… epistemological!’ he mutters, stepping into the throng.
He oscillates through the laudatory forest of hands and finally materialises alongside her, honed for a coup d’ grace:
Thespian: (rapier drawn) All men and women merely players, huh?
Academic-Fashionista: (parries) One man in his time plays many parts.
Thespian: (challenging) Love’s not Time’s fool…
Academic-F: (unrepentant) …whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken…
Thespian: (dramatically) …to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach…
Academic-F: (between giggles)….to the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
Fresh out of lines, he kisses her hand: ‘Touché Madame! Where do we find some unscripted space?’
In many ways, he’d already given her an answer.