Couple in Hallway, oil on panel, 30x22 cms, 2009, by permission of the artist, Max Ferguson
‘John, give me the key?’
‘You don’t mean that.’
‘I do. This time I do. Really.’
‘Honey, it won’t happen again. I promise.’
The look in her eyes. Defeated. Saddened. Angry. Sadness in her voice.
‘I waited up all night. All through the night … just give me the key.’
‘I’m so sorry. I really am. I promise. Just give me one more chance.’
Last fall, when she handed him the spare key to her apartment she trusted him so completely; they had promised each other so much. This was going to be for real. So what that he had a reputation in the Village and beyond. She’d heard that. But she refused to listen to her friends. Even Julie from the diner who’d had firsthand experience. No, this was him and her. Her and him. Amor Vincit Omnia.
A whole year together. An idyllic time. A time of beauty. Of trust and complicity. Each keeping to the promise of never discussing old lovers. Never describing old love. It was John’s idea, from the very beginning. He said retro-fantasy always messed with his head. He could be as jealous of old lovers, ones he’d never met, as he could be of the here and now. Nothing was to spoil the intensity of their love. They would be the latter day Adam and Eve. Keeping it pure and new and innocent. Starting all over again in their very own Garden of Eden. And so they did. They only had eyes for each other. Soul mates. Body mates. Yet they kept their own lives. Their own interests. Their own friends. Their own apartments. On their anniversary, twelve months to the day and hour from when they first met, John got down on his knees and said he worshiped her, adored her and could imagine them growing old together. They were in Central Park. Leaves falling from the trees. She leant back against a mighty oak, feeling the ribbed contours of its bark in the small of her back. John bent forward and kissed her. She had never felt so vulnerable, so complete, so enamoured.
From upstairs comes the sound of a baby crying. The sounds she had hoped for herself. Dreamed of even: in her sleep; in his arms. The culmination of their love and passion. Life’s longing for itself, indeed. She looks up at him. The hat she’d bought him in Chicago. Playing chess against the hustlers down by Lakeshore Drive. He’d beaten the grandmaster from Kingston Jamaica, with three seconds left on his clock; he’d taken the five bucks, then tipped his hat to the wind, and smiled. A moment she remembers now, she feels so exquisitely now: the thought then of wanting his child. Of wanting him, forever.
So close. The wall against her back. The wall against his. The space between them. Now so huge. And the smell. Of Wild Turkey. Of women. She wants to speak before she cries. Before she crumbles.
‘Just hand me back the key.’