Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Only Moments by Nick Oliva

Only Moments by Nick Oliva

The night air was brisk but we were dressed warmly, layered in old comfortable clothes. It was late November and the evening sky was clear. The pavement sported scattered patches of fresh light snow, expelled by a moist squall squeezed dry by cool Canadian air. We walked down the block to the stairs of the ice rink at Rockefeller Center. Strangely, no one was there. Not
so much as a cheerful chestnut vendor or an overbearing hot dog hawker. We looked at each other with disbelief in the thrilling anticipation of having the entire plaza to ourselves. Our eyes shimmered with light reflections of sporadic snow crystals swirling in the wind.

“Don’t have to worry about falling in front of anyone now,” she chided.

“Who, you or me?” I answered.

“This is my first time ice skating, so I guess I mean me.”

“You’ll be fine, honey.”

I felt my heart pounding in an uncontrolled surge of affection as I looked at her. We were together again. We sat and laced up our skates. The lights were brilliantly radiating on the white ice, and there was a low mist of fog about. The sinuous illuminated patterns rendered a smeary curvilinear focus much like the brushstrokes of a Renoir. In a cavernous city of maniacal
millions, we were alone, together.

“Meet you out there,” she childishly teased as she entered the ring. I followed close behind her in pursuit, uttering low-pitched growls that elicited playfully feminine giggles.

We skated freely apart from each other. Sometimes just missing a planned “collision” and other times we were wrapped up in our own little challenges. She fell a few times, once quite forcefully, but refused my help to regain her upright position. Our youthful bodies could endure the solid pain of failure.

Her fetching laughter swept through my ears as it reflected from the hard walls surrounding us. The spirited expression on her face seductively drew me closer. There was no course of neutrality and I surrendered to her smile that set forth patterings of joy I had not known in so very long. We were gliding freely through the mist, around and around, the shiny steel cut through the virgin ice. I turned hard to pursue her, carving a wave of a frozen ice behind me.

She playfully escaped my amorous advances. Her legs pumped harder and she pulled herself along, clutching imaginary handholds as her speed rapidly increased. Once ahead in safe position, she removed her brown quilted jacket and threw it over the side rail as she zoomed by our starting point.

“Aren’t you getting hot, Chris? Take your coat off.”

I hadn’t noticed but it was getting warm. I stopped abruptly to remove it when I heard her yell from the other side of the rink.

“Take your shirt off, too! Let’s have a little fun.”

I turned, and to my surprise, saw she had stripped down to her beige silken bra. She smiled wickedly at my dumbfounded expression.

“Oh, don’t look at me that way. There’s no one here to see me but you!”

She embraced herself and gracefully slid her hands down opposite arms, creating bountiful cleavage that she stared into before looking over to me, seductively offering herself with an outward shrug of her right shoulder. I skated toward her and she raced away again, taunting me to follow.

“You can have me, if you can catch me, darling.”

I dug the blades in harder with every leg thrust. She suddenly unsnapped her bra and held it up as a trophy won. A voluminous crowd instantly appeared surrounding the rink, roaring and cheering. There were people everywhere, in every conceivable spot from which to view this Felliniinspired exhibitionism. I caught up to her in the center of the rink and held her in my grasp to block the view of her breasts from the crowd. As we spun in a circle, she looked at me and smiled. “I knew that would bring you close to me.”

The throng threw red roses that sprinkled the ice like droplets of blood.

Still spinning, we looked up to see the mammoth structures, whose pinnacles pierced the backdrop of constellations, surrounding us, bending toward us.

We lifted in the air slowly, as if an invisible hydraulic platform engaged below us. I felt at peace. I had no fear. The people kept cheering as we rose to their eye level, past the flagpoles and beyond. I looked down and watched their faces smiling wide, their hands clapping wildly. I looked into her eyes and moved decisively to kiss her. She pulled back and whispered, “I love you, Chris.” A sudden flash faded away leaving me clutching cold thin mist. I cried out her name. It echoed deep without response.

There was only a yellow stream of light. It slowly reached my bed, traveling from the thinly carpeted floor to my face. My sweaty hands still clasped the sheet, eyes quivering, I rolled over away from the window. The muffled high-pitched cries of indigenous hungry birds made their way to my ears. I was fully awake and I really wished I was not. Other noises entered my
sonic foreground. Familiar sounds. Ones that required no visual confirmation. The brilliance of another golden morning sun beamed through the large oceanfront window. It normally would have been electronically masked between double panes, to prevent any visual penetration from the outside. Not typical. I usually guarded my privacy well. The angled window slightly diffused the warm rays making their way across the silvery strand of beach opposite my first floor apartment.

The ocean droned in the background with its incessant and euphonious song. Waves crashed unmindful of time’s hold, along the shoreline. I squeezed my eyes closed and tried to zone out all of these external stimuli and fall back to sleep. Insistent pressure of my body’s morning ritual
would prevent me from doing so. I opened my eyes fully and stared at the half-open door to my bedroom and I could hear the barely perceptible sounds of people in the complex hallway. I glanced at the projection of my calendar/ clock: 8:32 AM, January 7, 2020. I tried remembering bits and pieces of the dream but much of it had faded. “Enough,” I thought as I slowly pushed the peach sheet away and struggled to move my legs out. I swiveled my lower body around and let my legs fall naturally down the side of the bed.

Limping, I made my way to the bathroom and began another day. Each morning was torture for me, mentally and physically. At age sixty-six, I felt I had enough. There was little left to live for. I had no family or relatives that bothered to acknowledge my existence other than a yearly Christmas call from my younger sister. I reasoned that I had a very full life, why must this go
on? I was lonely and still bitter at God for taking my wife away. The only reason I wanted to believe in an Almighty now was to have someone to blame.

Why hadn’t I gone first? The helplessness and agony replayed less often now, but never would a day pass without the orb of black thought letting me know it was still there. Scant few seconds of my life altered every conscious moment I drew breath thereafter.

My fine gray hair, once deep brown, was always a mess in the morning.

Appearance mattered little. I began brushing my teeth with the same machine-like rhythm as always. At least my teeth and gums were in good shape, I thought. My teeth were all mine. Most of them were filled, bonded, capped, or bridged before the age of 35, but they were mine. I combed my hair and tottered back out to the bedroom to dress.

The beachfront apartment I lived in was part of a long-term “total care” complex located in Flagler County, Florida, about twenty or so miles down the road from St. Augustine. It was a fairly new facility that had opened two years before. I signed up in the pre-construction phase and moved in upon completion. Although my apartment was less than 900 square feet, it was
designed with the latest home technology, including wireless life monitors and a completely macro-digital, closed-circuit camera system that sequentially monitored each room of my apartment. It led to the nurse’s station’s main viewing console, which was tied into the Central Command computer. It could be switched on or off at my choice. It was usually off. All
of this electronically integrated with the medium-size hospital that could be reached by a short distance down a connecting corridor.

I really didn’t want to move into such a place, but I knew that it was just a matter of time before I had no choice. It really wasn’t that bad at all, I reasoned. Privacy when I needed it, which lately was most of the time. I could still cook my own food when I wanted to – or go to the in-house cafeteria, which was a pleasant place, decorated quite tastefully with a pleasing view of
the back meadows and river. The loneliness of eating alone was hard for me, even after fifteen years.

The joys of my life were amplified by the sharing of them. I never attempted to find another lifelong partner when she passed on. No one should have to bear the burden of trying to measure up to a deceased mate. I didn’t think I could help but draw comparisons, and therefore did not actively pursue relationships, although more than one woman had made aggressive moves toward me. The limited “dating” I had allowed in my life was usually a waste of time. I remember women’s eyes casting baited hooks for worn but wise faces. I saw the glimmering memory of bodies once taut and playably in tune to a gay seafaring song. I saw the bittersweet creases of the carefully measured gaffing smiles. It was much too painful to be hooked.

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