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The Flesh and the Love

The air was still warm and the sidewalk reflecting the day’s heat as Daniel stood idly on Main Street in Ouray.  After several days of work he had now completed his contract and was experiencing the delicious lethargy of satisfaction.  He was leaning against his parked car, not wanting to go back to his hotel, and not knowing Ouray well enough to have in mind a place he could simply stand, enjoy the warmth, and watch the world go by.  Maybe it was his age that allowed him the pleasure of inactivity.

Behind him the mountains were still lit by sunlight, red and glorious.  In front of him, and providing his present entertainment, was Ouray’s large general store.  The land dropped away from the sidewalk, so it was lower than him, and he was watching people enter and leave the store and occasionally raising his eyes to the forest and mountains beyond.  As a photographer, people fascinated him.  He could almost read them like a book.  So for Daniel the men and women coming and going from the store were full of information about the life in Ouray.

But a woman coming out of the store carrying a full paper sack focused his attention more fully.  Her car was parked near his, and she came walking up the slope and along the sidewalk toward him.  Her eyes were not on him so he could unashamedly observe her.  Something about her awoke a response in him, and the seconds it took for her to reach her car were stretched into lengthy time as he was assailed by impressions of her.

She was very smartly dressed in a light grey jacket with a matching skirt reaching just below her knees.  Everything about her had the same clean neatness and signs of personal care as her clothes.  Her appearance was obviously important to her and equally obvious that she had money enough to easily take care of that need.  She was slightly heavy in build without being overweight.  But this was, Daniel thought, due to her age, that he guessed to be about 50, and it in no way diminished from her overall look of health, cleanness and attractiveness.

However, it was her face that pushed Daniel into an even greater felt connection with her.  She was a plain looking woman with light brown tidy hair and a full face having few signs of her age.  The connection was, however, in her expression.  Daniel knew it so well from his past, though it was difficult to pinpoint it in any one person.  His sixty years had enabled Daniel to be close to enough women who had begun and passed through the huge life change women meet, to know something of what was behind that expression.

He glanced quickly at the large car she was approaching.  Again he knew it wasn’t lack of money producing the empty sadness in her face; a sadness well disguised by her well kept appearance and good health.  He could see she was a woman who had led a full life, was probably successfully married and perhaps with adult children.  She looked financially successful and intelligent enough to have been in, and perhaps still holding a position of authority and responsibility.  All of that was in the clothes, the face, and the car.  But the sadness; well, there was the real story.  Daniel had tried to put words to it when he had seen it in the past.  But in this woman’s face it spoke to him more clearly than he had witnessed before.  It cried out for love; for the sort of love and passion that were the deepest secrets in a woman’s life.  Success in life is a great satisfaction, but beneath a woman’s personality lays the great mystery of womanhood itself.  And that mystery wants to know itself, wants to reveal itself and pour out; and Daniel sensed this woman had never tasted that mystery.

The woman had reached the car, and in trying to locate her keys the bag she was carrying tore and some of its contents fell to the ground.  As Daniel stepped forward to help her regain the vegetables and coffee that were spread on the sidewalk, he saw her face lose its control for a moment and the beginnings of tears shine in her eyes.

As he bent to help her their eyes met for the first time. An amazed shock flickered on her features then disappeared. She gasped involuntarily as if the shock were physical, for she could see in that instant that the stranger before her was looking deep into her and knew her feelings. Daniel heard her say, almost inaudibly, “Oh my God!”

As the spilt objects were replaced and they straightened she said more loudly, “Thank you. I better go!” But she paused, struggling with conflicting feelings that suggested both that she and this man were old friends, and also that he was a complete stranger. Then, after fumbling with her keys she opened the car door and again looked at Daniel. The open car door offered escape, and with a slightly regained composure she looked at Daniel searchingly and said, “What happened just then?”

Daniel shook his head slightly, at the same time responding by saying, “That’s difficult to describe in a few words.” 

She got in the car and closed the door, but opened the window. There were still the sign of tears in her eyes. Daniel had taken a card out of his pocket and handed it to her as she said again, “I’ve got to go.”

“I know this is strange” he said, “but I am here for just two more days, so if you want to talk about what happened I am staying at Cascade Falls Lodge. I would like it if you called. I think I’m fairly harmless.”

She shook her head.  It wasn’t indicating a no, more like, “I am lost.  I don’t know what this is about.” Then she smiled in a slightly vulnerable way, and without a word drove off.

Daniel had got in his car and sat for a while with the windows open.  He also was feeling that something strange and unusual had happened.  The immediate and deep contact he had felt with the woman was certainly not a frequent occurrence.  In all his sixty years he could only remember it having happened once or twice before.  One time in particular when he had been running a two day workshop, during a break, a young woman in the group had asked if she could talk with him.  It was a fairly informal group and they had sat a little way apart from the others, facing each other.  The woman wanted to ask a question about an aspect of what they were learning, but within less than a minute they were both trembling as if they were cold.  But it wasn’t cold Daniel was feeling.  It seemed like a force of attraction connecting him with this woman, and she was obviously experiencing the same thing.  She had looked at him, rather wide-eyed, and said, “What is happening?” It wasn’t a question he had a ready made answer for. He had never seen that woman again, though she forever remained in his memory.

This present meeting wasn’t the same, but Daniel could still feel a similar excitement and stimulation lurking behind the scenes of his awareness.  It had about it a similar unexpectedness and potency, so he felt an urgent hope the woman would call him.

All of the next day Daniel spent waiting impatiently, but no call came.  The degree of loss he felt made him aware of the level of contact he had made and the hopes he had unconsciously already built up in regard to this unexpected and short relationship.  So he went to bed that night trying to accept the inevitability of what he felt were ships passing with no further exchange.

The next day was Friday and he had to fly out back to the UK on Saturday.  He needed to drive back to Albuquerque and check in the hired car by Friday evening.  But he left it as late as he possibly could with no relief from his feeling of loss.  Then, with final acceptance he checked out of Cascade Falls Lodge, packed his precious photographic gear in the trunk of the car and drove the long miles back to Albuquerque along the old Navajo trail.

The two hundred mile drive was spectacular.  There was hardly any other traffic on the road and it gave him time to think about why the meeting with the woman had stirred such feelings in him.  His life had been full, eventful and varied.  He thought of himself as a slow starter, but he had married quite young and helped to raise a boy and a girl.  It had been a good marriage in that they had both got on with creating a home and producing two healthy and capable children.  Even so the marriage had fallen apart, and Daniel felt this was mostly due to his own restlessness.  It seemed to him he had always been in search of something, something that had led him into other relationships and other quests.  It set him wondering if, in looking at the woman, he was in some way looking at himself in a mirror.  Maybe they were both looking for something similar and they recognized it in each other for that moment.  But, it seemed to Daniel, that it had not been a strong enough motivation in the woman for her to carry through into further contact.

This left him wondering where he was unconsciously trying to go in his life.  What he had seen in the woman applied to himself.  He was economically sound, had a good place to live, loved the work he was doing, and he even had loving friends.  But what burned in him sometimes was that he lived alone and missed that close companionship, sharing and building a life together that real marriage gave. But as he pondered he realised it was even more than that. Two marriages had failed, and he had moved on to become a different person. He could give so much and receive so much more of himself now than in the past, and he wanted to know how much he could love and be loved.

He smiled to himself, and thought that getting old often made life more complicated.  It wasn’t that he hadn’t got wiser as he had aged.  There were things he had certainly learned, such as how to be independent and happy, and how to live alone without being eaten up by loneliness.  The complication was that he no longer grasped at any relationship to fill a void.  Sex wasn’t a huge drive in his life either; not any more.  The relationships he had entered into over the years had shown him that finding a real connection with a woman in a loving way, outside the dependencies brought about by loneliness and sexual need, was not an easy task.  Of course, such a woman was out there in the world somewhere amongst the uncountable millions.  The problem was, how did you get to meet her.  Sometimes it seemed to Daniel that such a meeting could only be a gift from the gods, and you needed to either pray for it, or kneel before the shrine of Hera, the goddess of love and marriage.

Back in the UK Daniel busied himself with preparing the photographs he had taken for the travel and tour company who had wanted new images for their brochures.  They were one of several companies he worked for, and as with the contract that took him to Ouray, his work often placed him in different parts of the world.

For several weeks he was home based and spent his time catching up on things that needed to be done and possible new projects to undertake in the future.  He had been toying with the idea of writing a feature about his photographic travels and some of the strange places they had taken him; but he wasn’t clear about what magazine to aim it at.

Toward the end of the third week, he was sitting in front of his computer idly writing notes about the possible feature and the places he had been and experiences met.  He had so many interesting memories and he closed his eyes and began to imaginatively live in some of them again.  But in his daydream he was led back again to Ouray inhabiting once more the moment of meeting the woman.  The daydream had a life of its own, and instead of the quick parting, Daniel found himself exploring a relationship with her.

Considering what had actually happened, the relationship that was spontaneously developing was very playful.  It was the sort of play that sometimes develops in a relationship as a way of testing each other and discovering who their partner really is.  Suddenly Daniel and the woman were chasing and challenging each other, running and bumping, testing not only their own strength but also their partner’s ability to meet them with a similar strength, goodwill and resources.  Then they were standing nose to nose, breathless, assessing what they had learned of each other, with pleasure at meeting another person they could be so free with.

Daniel had become immersed and almost lost in his reverie, and now as he came out of it was amazed at its strength and feeling of truth.  Irrational as it was, it seemed to Daniel that he and the woman had really met and begun to know each other. He smiled as he remembered some of what they did. At one point he had grasped things to distract her. But she had been wise to all his tricks and come back at him with a new strategy. In his fantasy she had been his match and as such they had connected powerfully.

As he sat wondering about this his computer pinged announcing the arrival of an email. He casually switched to see what it was, thinking it was work connected. For a few moments he stared at what he saw without understanding. He didn’t recognise the name, and it was headed, ‘Dancing with You’. The name was Susan Newland. His astonishment created an immediate quickening of his breath and aroused excitement.

When he opened the email there was a quote saying, “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.”

Daniel couldn’t understand what was happening to him. Something deep inside him, something that everyday life usually denied as real, was swelling and crying out its aliveness. It recognised itself in the words and that the email was not just words. It was a living messenger of something he longed for but usually failed to know – intimate connection of a kind that leaped over what are usually believe to be absolute barriers. This was extraordinary.

He read on.

“Daniel, do you remember me; the woman with the broken paper sack in Ouray?

Our meeting had a profound affect on me and it took me ages to find steady enough ground to dare writing to you. So I am happy that you gave me your card so it could happen.

That is all I want to say at this time, as I need to know if you want to communicate still and talk or write about what happened, as you originally suggested.

Hoping you reply – Susan.

 

 

Chapter Two

Susan drove home slightly dazed.  Something had been brewing in her for some time.  She had felt more vulnerable than usual.  In trying to understand what her feelings were about, it seemed to her that something was becoming more exposed, and whatever that thing was, it wasn’t yet used to the rough and tumble of everyday life.

At one point in her drive she had to stop at an intersection and she quickly glanced at the card she had dropped on the passenger seat. It gave the name Daniel Riga, photographer. She felt the name sounded slightly foreign, and thought about her impressions of Daniel’s face and build.  She considered that he was probably older than her, with a rather craggy well worn face, with no fat on it anywhere.  What she could gather through his clothes was that this probably applied to his body also.  But her biggest impression was his eyes.  She felt tears start again when she remembered that moment of him looking at her.

There it was again, that feeling.  She felt disturbed and unsettled by it, and as much as she would like to see this man Daniel again to find out why there had been that moment of intense connection, she felt it would be dangerous.  She didn’t feel the danger was in Daniel but in herself.  She wasn’t too clear why, but such feelings were indicators to be noticed.

When she reached home she sat for a while in the car looking at the card more fully.  Then she decisively put it in her purse and went indoors balancing her to torn paper sack.

Zack, her husband, and Justin her son, were already home.  Zack came out of the kitchen where he had been making himself a coffee, and helped her carry the produce.  Justin was on the telephone near the front door and waved to her as she passed.  Susan and Zack engaged in small talk for a while about their day, and Susan started preparing the meal for her two men, and Zack went into the television room to watch the news.

While she was preparing the shrimp, garlic and lemon dish she was going to serve on rice, Susan was reviewing her meeting with Daniel, and wondering why it had impacted on her so much.  She had also noticed that there was a distinct restraint in her about telling Zack what had happened.  Obviously this was something she wanted for herself alone, and that was the clue she was looking for in connection with her present feeling of being unsettled.

The clearer the situation became the more she realised how many serious issues were involved in it, and why it felt both dangerous and disturbing.  Daniel, she began to understand, was almost totally unknown to her.  Yet there was obviously something about him she had immediately, and perhaps intuitively, recognized as involved and connected with her emerging disquiet.

She wondered, if she had stayed and talked with him, what would she have said?  She imagined this as she was waiting for the rice to cook.  She had to have several trial runs at the conversation because the first few sentences were too trite and superficial.  They in no way reflected what she was feeling or the situation.  So she tried again until her imagination began to lead into what she could feel was the real ‘stuff’.

“This is strange,” she said.  “I feel you are touching or seeing something in me that I have barely dared to look at myself.  This is both intriguing and a bit frightening.”

She imagined Daniel responding at this point by saying, “Why is that?”

“Well, I guess it’s because it’s unknown.  What you don’t know about can be scary.”

Once more Daniel responds.  “I’ve often thought that the unknown scares us because there are things about it we actually know but aren’t admitting to ourselves.”

The rice was nearly ready.  Susan had to end this conversation.  “Okay!  If I’m honest it’s about things I really don’t want to recognise.  I’m married, and he’s a good man, solid, caring, and a provider.  He is also a good father, and I really love him.”

“But?” Asked the imagined Daniel.

“God Daniel this is hard.  But, okay, I have gradually come to feel there are things missing that I desperately want.  Exactly what they are I really don’t know yet.  Somehow though, I believe you represent them for me.”

Her imagined ghost of Daniel disappeared and Susan called Zack and Justin to come and eat. Justin was still on the telephone, and she went to make sure he had heard. He was now sitting on the floor leaning against the door, and he gave her a hand signal he had got the call, but carried on speaking. Susan wondered if she really understood what he was talking about.

“Sure…. It’s on YouTube…. Yes. It’s amazing… Search for Stellar. It’s the third one down….. Okay – got to go now. Talk later.”

Justin got up and she hugged him as they walked in to the dining area.  She loved him and a lot of what she did and planned to do revolved around him.  At seventeen he was as tall as his father, at just over six feet.  She could feel the strength of him as her arm was around him.  It gave her a good feeling; relaxed her somehow.

Days went by, then weeks, and her meeting with Daniel seemed to grow smaller as if receding toward a horizon where he might disappear.  She wondered if she were arriving at some sort of compromise.  It wasn’t that the feeling of lacking something had gone away, but an argument had gone inside her, and an insistent voice had insinuated that what she felt was normal for a woman of her age. It tried to convince her that she was getting older, and of course you just have to get on with that.

But something happened that suddenly drew back curtains to reveal a very new viewpoint on what she was feeling.  Zack had to go away in connection with his work, training he had to do to get promotion or just to keep up with what was happening in forestry.  In all he was going away for just over a week.  This had happened before, but this time coming back to the house with just herself and Justin, and going to bed alone, gave Susan an immense feeling of freedom.

At first she didn’t recognise what it was, but then a clear image of it arose.  Walls had fallen down that had blocked her view of a vast and interesting countryside.  She wondered if the people of East Berlin felt that when the wall went down.  Slowly the freedom clarified as resulting from a number of small but important features of her marriage and her present lifestyle.

Zack worked for the forestry.  It was outdoor work, quite physical in some ways, and Zack loved it.  In many ways it defined the way he was as a person; clean, hard working, straightforward and uncomplicated.  He hardly ever read or talked about all things other than his work, sport and local events, and he never explored ideas or opinions with Susan in long conversations.  Susan’s father had been as straightforward as Zack, but he had a very lively mind, he read widely, and loved discussing or talking about all manner of different things in the world.  Susan missed this in her husband.  But it wasn’t just the conversations, it was also the lack of desire to explore the world, to engage in different interests and people. There was something else too.

It wasn’t until the third day of Susan being alone the big impact happened.  She had enjoyed a languorous bath with candles and perfumed oils, and had gone to bed slightly early to read.  That in itself was a freedom, because she could choose exactly when to put the light out and settle down to sleep.  But something in what she read provoked feelings of sadness.  The sadness revealed to her that she no longer felt the delicious feeling of passionate love during sex with Zack.  But she could feel the desire for that.  It was a huge sensitivity and hunger in her belly and her throat.  The hunger grew and she felt it and immediately the image of Daniel came clearly to her imagination.

Perhaps it was simply that he represented a completely unknown, and so allowed free rein to her imagination.  But a deeply sensual, erotic and satisfying experience of kissing, touching and love making, followed.  Susan experienced the first orgasm she had known for a long time.  She smiled to herself afterwards, as it seemed to her that her body was rejoicing – almost singing.

 

 

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