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An Old Friend


by David James


That afternoon she met me in the lobby of my hotel. We spoke in the bar briefly and then she followed me to my room. We sat close, across from each other, shoes off, touching feet and hands and skin in a warm and unconventional, but playful, greeting — exactly like we did back then. After so many years apart, we talked for four hours. As our time was nearly used up, and I tried to kiss her, not as a prelude to coupling, but as recognition of our being together, finally. She pulled back, misreading my intent, and said, “No, I can't risk my settled life this way. I just can't. I'd never forgive myself.”

After a moment though, she slid forward off her sofa chair, kneeled  between my knees, placed her hand on my Levi's zipper, looked up at me and said, “This is all I can give you. It's all I have to give.” Clearly she was extending herself. I was moved. I took her face, framing it in my hands, tilted it upward, looked into those dark eyes then took her shoulders and encouraging her to stand, told her that I didn't want want her proffered gift; I wanted her...but if she was unavailable to me, what she had to give would make us both regret. 

“Besides, I was supposed to ask you.” 

"Oh, yeah, your Southern thing, I guess I forgot.” 

I helped her with her coat and led her from my room, holding hands as we walked down the hall, entered the elevator, walked through the lobby and went outside. A brief kiss, then the February chill came in fast as she walked away. 


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