In the Circle of His Arms

The door opens into an almost empty room.  Wednesday night at the Rec Room (remember this spot from The Cougar Pack?), and only a few drinkers are seated under the fluorescent light of the bar.  The dance floor is empty; truly empty with  bare board walls, scratched and dented tables pulled together in the center of the room and a lonely deejay lost behind  his equipment, spinning his discs out into the void.

We head toward the deejay, and my companion asks, “Do you have any swing music?”

“Swing?  What’s that?” the deejay asks.

“Oh, you know, you must know, ‘50’s and 60’s rock and roll.”

“Like Elvis Presley?”

I say, “Yep, you got it, Elvis Presley.”

My companion looks at me, scrunches his face up and says, “I hate Elvis Presley.”

“I don’t like him, either, but if it gets us danceable music, who cares if it’s that silly old Jailhouse Rock.”

“I’ll look,” says the master of the music, while he puts on a tune by The Byrds.

It’s a cheek-to-cheek number, so I head for a table and pull out a chair.  After all, the rule with this companion is that we never touch each other (You met him in Toying).  He’s married, so this is the deal.  No swaying slowly to the music, no cheeks or anything else pressed together.  Not with this guy.  Not about to happen.

But he’s standing on the empty dance floor, mesmerized, as if he’s back on his college campus in a packed auditorium and The Byrds are on stage.  So, I go stand next to him.

He turns, pulls me to him, and there we are, in this almost empty beer joint, his arms around me, swaying slowly to the music as he sings, “I was so much older then.  I’m younger than that now.”  His voice is light and fluid.  His mouth is so close to my ear that I feel the warmth of his breath as it rustles through my hair.

But I am not now, nor ever will be, a vixen divorcee.  Stunned as I am by this development, enjoying it as much as I am, I still maintain my distance, even within the circle of his arms.

His left hand, holding my right hand nestled into his shoulder, is dry and rough.  The sensation is surprising in its unfamiliarity, yet pleasing.  It speaks of his years spent in the sun fishing, hunting, riding his motorcycle, tinkering around his summer cabin.  It accentuates his otherness, sometimes aggravating, but at this moment, so delightful in its masculinity.

The song ends, as does the moment.

The next few songs have that classic one, two rock step rhythm and he continues to delight as he spins me forward, back, under and around.  He’s even patient as I teach him two of my favorite swing moves.

However, when the deejay slows the pace to a romantic ballad, my dance partner heads for the bright lights of the bar.  The bartender pours two beers, he takes his first sip, wipes the foam from his lips, turns to me and asks, “Were you at the Bottomless Cup Saturday morning?”

“Yes.  I was.  Were you?”


“I didn’t see you.  Where were you?”

“Behind you, at the opposite end of the café.  With my wife and kids.  My daughter and her husband were in town for the Fourth of July.  We were headed up to the cabin.”

I’m surprised.  Our lives are so different, I never would have anticipated them crossing like this.

“Was that Alan you were with?”  he asks.

He’s referring to my former husband.

“No.  He doesn’t live here anymore,” I say.  “Why did you think it was him?”

“Because he was so animated talking to you.  His face, his gestures, he looked so happy to be with you.”

“Why didn’t you say hi?  I would love to have met your family.  I’ve heard so much about your kids.  That would have been the perfect opportunity to meet them.”

My head is turned to face his.  I’m looking straight into his eyes as the silence spreads between us.  Finally, he breaks it.

“The whole time we were there I sat staring at your back, thinking about getting up, walking across the room and saying, ‘Hello.’  I just couldn’t.”

“Why not.”

He pauses.  “I was jealous.”

Now it’s my turn to sit in silence as a seed of sadness drops into my heart.

I don’t get to ask the obvious question, “Why,” because just then a new musical mood blasts across the Rec Room.  The deejay has dug Jailhouse Rock out from his bin.

We laugh, jump off our bar stools and dash back to the empty dance floor.  We amuse ourselves by swinging to classic rock and roll, hustling to disco music and jumping up and down to punk rock.  At the very moment when I’m about to admit to being tired, he looks at his watch and says, “Got to go.”

As we head out the door he says, “When we walked in, I didn’t know how this would work.  This joint, hardly anyone here.  It was fine with me, but I wasn’t sure you’d like it.”

“I had a great time.”

“In my experience, both parties in a relationship never enjoy the same thing.  I had a great time tonight, too.”

During my marriage, and during my pre-marriage affairs, my partner and I would sometimes do things we didn’t particularly like to please the other person.  We’d  do it out of love, and we’d do it with pleasure.  I do not understand this man’s world.

The seed of sadness that dropped into my heart pushes out a tiny root.

We talk and we laugh as he drives me home because we both, truly, have had a great time.  But after I close and lock my front door, I fall back against it.  That sadness is now more than just a seed in my heart.

He doesn’t say hello and introduce me to his family because he’s jealous.  Of what?

He lives in a world where husbands and wives don’t enjoy doing things together.  What kind of world is that?

The sadness pushes out of my heart, hangs in the air, fills my living room, smothering me as I lean against my closed and locked front door.

4 thoughts on “In the Circle of His Arms

  1. This reminded me of a very special time a few years back …. we were on an island and I was arranging an evening at a piano bar with my husband and the gentleman who owed the PentHouse in our building … all of a sudden my husband got a better offer and flew out to the Midwest for a football playoff game. I phoned my newfound friend and told him about the change in plans and asked him if he was still interested in going to the piano bar…. he replied with a very strong “YES”. I waited in the lobby of our condominium and heard the ding of the PentHouse elevator … he looked yummy in his soft peach sweater; tan pants and no-socks loafers …… We arrived minutes later at the piano bar … as we entered all eyes were on us … I asked him what he thought that was about …. he answered “probably because you are so much younger than me” I rejected that theory. “Probably because I am Jewish and you are not” was his next offer. I rejected that one too. He said “why do you think the room hushed as we entered then?” I responded “perhaps because you are perceived as the bad boy of the island and I am the good girl.” He laughed and smiled and told me I might be right.

    We sat at our little bistro table for hours — never once did he ask me to dance. I asked him why not? He replied “I don’t dance.” I said “haven’t you heard that dancing is the verticle act of the horizontal act of making love … and you are constantly trying to get me to go to bed with you!” He laughed and we left. We had no clue it had rained while we were inside and had left the top down on the convertible….. it was soaked inside and was still raining …. we started laughing and simply left the top down and drove around the island singing and laughing in the rain. When we got back to the building we got to my elevator and I kissed him on the cheek and said goodnight …. he was shocked and said, sadly, “I’m not coming up?” I shook my head no and got in.

    Three days later he invited me to watch him play tennis during the afternoon and return to the piano bar that evening. I accepted both offers. He was in his late 70’s then but looked like a gazelle on the court to me. We shared some dinner and headed back to the Inn…. it was going on 9 p.m. by the time we arrived. We were barely seated when he asked me to dance. I said “but you don’t dance”… he said, “I know, but you like to — so we will”. An unfamiliar woman was singing — and again the room seemed focused on us… it seemed like we had been dancing together forever… we didn’t miss a beat.Unfortunately that was also her last song for the evening. For years though I coundn’t figure out who the woman was that was singing or what she had sung… then one night we ran into her again and she sang CRAZY by Patsy Cline…. and we remembered that’s what it was and laughed because that’s what we are!.

    • Hi Priscilla: Is there a connection between this and your comment to my posting, “Your Naked Body?” Just curious.

  2. Your last line in the story says a lot.
    Sadness hangs in the air smothering you.
    Not sure which is more difficult, having that relationship with one who is not present for such things as vertical lovemaking which means going outside the relationship for satisfaction or having the one who is present for vertical lovemaking and satisfaction but not available for a relationship. Not sure either can feel fully satisfying.

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