After the most coincidental of chance encounters, Lesley and Trevor, lovers from decades ago, have bridged the ages and recoupled intimately. Revelations and observations between them are as naked as their post-coital state.
The phrase “By all rights …” stumbled through Trevor’s mind. By all rights no way dumb luck ought’ve reconnected him with Lesley.
By all rights they never should’ve plunged headlong into a merely sex-drenched, well, what was it? Couldn’t even refer to their much younger indulgence as a “relationship.” More like frequent interludes in which they willingly surrendered to that most earthly delight, fleshy pleasures. That was until gorging on so much candy either diluted satisfaction derived or exhausted his taste for, um, her sweets.
The thrill had gone. Those couplings quickly had become so common his desire for Lesley weakened. Worse than ordinary, the sex between them had become obligatory. And back for a youthful Trevor that defined a rut.
The two 50-somethings cuddled in a hotel bed. Given a mild desert autumn night and the heat of their prior frenzy lingering, the covers had been kicked aside. Heads rested on fluffy tufts, their long bodies streaked white linen.
A hand, hers, the knuckles knobbing, thinned skin exposed a crosshatch of veins and tendons beneath, ruffled the thatch across his chest. Much earlier in the evening she’d remarked at his prevalence of gray between shoulders and below waist. Distinguished gray winged his temples. She wondered how the thick brush atop his head had been spared similar indignity.
“Are you pulling a Reagan?” Lesley asked.
“There’s plenty in my medicine cabinet,” Trevor said, “but black hair dye isn’t taking up space. Anyway, my hair, it’s part of my bargain with Satan …”
She sought into his eyes trying to determine what meandered through his thoughts. Again. What a futile errand.
While he’d bedded many women, and God willing, would dozens more, which one of them hadn’t shared this particular irritant? What was it about exchanging intimacies that encouraged women to delve into male minds afterwards?
It was all quite simple, wasn’t it … until it wasn’t?
By all rights Beryl should’ve accompanied him on his path. Of course for that to have occurred Trevor would needed have possessing the sight he gained only after she’d gone. Funny. He saw her as His Only One clearly once she’d vanished.
Typical male, he realized himself.
Could Beryl and Lesley have been more dissimilar? Perhaps Beryl might’ve become his homebody, the goodwife. The virtuous woman someone finding such goodness constricting would’ve crept around on with, say, a woman like Lesley. One went home to a Beryl; Lesley a woman who fulfilled any stepping out notions.
The simplification made Trevor grin. Observing him as she did, this new development probably further vexed Lesley’s power of detection. Thankfully Lesley didn’t task either of them by inquiring what went through his mind. If she had, he had his lie prepared.
Beryl had made him slave for her affection. All the years aside, Trevor could recall her instantly and implicitly.
She was smart. No. Beryl was sharp. Not a step ahead of his game, but her stride equaled his.
While they lacked “ah-ha!” moments between them, through manner and comment Beryl indicated awareness. She knew. Unless he asked, she just wasn’t telling. Add that Trevor was perceptive enough or sufficiently frightened of her answers, especially given the level of truth which easily rolled off her tongue, he never inquired.
Her subtlety more than intrigued him, he found it, her, alluring. Hadn’t every other woman, um, girl, he’d known before Beryl resorted to broadcasting her observations and displeasures?
In reality, Trevor preferred a private life. Not concealed because truly he had little to hide, but he abhorred the idea of his affairs, his dealings, being widely known by these becoming grist for idle chat. Throughout life he’d seldom gossiped and often let rumor bounce off his ears.
He considered himself only partially libertine.
Blandly pretty, that Beryl couldn’t have made hearts race. Trevor never felt himself anticipating her.
Her head barely reached his shoulder. She stood fuller figured and far more buxom than he preferred. Beryl represented a significant deviation from his acquired female taste. Except for that single episode when Beryl went frilly for several weeks (either in appreciation of Harpo Marx or to see whether Trevor noticed) she kept her lank auburn hair bobbed.
Despite the 320-plus days of advertised Arizona sun, Beryl refused to let her pale complexion brown. Efforts she took to protect her skin from the sun amused Trevor then. Years later he understood her precautions. Decades on, fair skin such as hers might’ve likely developed all sorts of maladies.
Trevor surmised Beryl must’ve suspected then what’s known as fact now. What else did she intuit or foresee? Had she seen much of any future for them? Did she gauge his limitations – substantial as they were in his past these decreased appreciably as he matured – and simply decided to play out the string and move on? Who knew, maybe she even hoped he’d somehow miraculously glean some deeper understanding of himself, not her, and realize the treasure he might forfeit?
For a time, maybe a lifetime, Beryl would’ve instilled contentment, happiness and comfort in him. Trevor concluded this too late. Hers would’ve been a settling presence. He might’ve found it stifling eventually, yes. Had they gone beyond the start, though, had they persevered, she ought have made his life fuller.
That clarity came way too late. As the saying goes, so much water passed under that bridge a new bridge needed building. Or, more aptly, he’d burned so many barns even ones yet unraised were already singed.
During those grinding office afternoons and empty barhopping nights during the 80s and 90s when his youthful exuberances clearly revealed themselves to the critiques of a man entering his fullness, Trevor acknowledged the lesson gained at a painful cost. He finally saw who was lost. Worse, she could never have been regained.
Such prescience waited beyond him in the latest 1970s. Instead, Lesley availed herself.
If Trevor had gone seeking Lesley, he never would’ve found her. For him, she defined Kismet. Or better yet, serendipity. She was that bowl of candy left on a table. His favorite flavor, too.
Tall, fit, dark, lovely, sharing Trevor’s athleticism, chance magnetism slammed them together.
First day of a spring semester class. Trevor and Beryl had survived a rough patch initiated by him across winter break. She resided in the Midwest, he in the Northeast. Distance or his insecurities? Maybe some sense of impending guilt. His. The chafing unknown unto today.
Obtuse as he later recognized himself, even Trevor knew then they’d barely dodged disaster. As difficult as it had been to wend his way into Beryl’s good graces at the start, a winter break situation completely of his own fumbling, one whose remedy demanded patience and admissions he didn’t know himself capable of further stressed their bind.
Grant Beryl this: she unearthed resolution skills Trevor had never known he possessed.
Beryl made Trevor work before allowing him back between her legs. Maybe, just maybe, male prerogative made Trevor resent her piling on an already steep imposition. In the back of his mind perhaps he believed his mistakes unworthy of the severities inflicted, that Beryl ought have let him skate. At least lessened penalties exacted.
Whatever, it made him all the more susceptible to Lesley. Actually “susceptible” the wrong word. Lesley and Trevor were equally culpable, both joined at the hip – literally.
Each saw someone they wanted. Immediately as if jolted simultaneously by the same thunderbolt. Whether from long-seated hunger or a sudden craving, the pair recognized the other offered instant satiety. Propriety, or what passed for propriety in 1979, be damned. They gladly yielded to impulse.
Their start was the dumbest thing. In real life it shouldn’t have happened. In a dopey movie full of the usual horny teens maybe, but in real life between adults? Nah.
They’d randomly chosen side-by-side seats. The class TA had them filling out some form. He glanced over at her desk and read Lesley’s name atop it. More chance spurred him to speak. He spoke innocuously. Didn’t Lesley at first match his bland spontaneity? And then some spark ignited and that smoldered so by the end of the 50 minutes both became fully engulfed.
Pausing to recollect the scene of their “crime,” neither older adult could confess remembering what the other said.
“But I remember what you wore,” Trevor said.
She laughed loud and hard. Her unexpected reaction threw him momentarily. Laughter subsiding, though mirth ridging her voice, Lesley settled his confusion.
“Aren’t women usually keepers of such details? You must be in close contact with your feminine side tonight.”
Trevor said, “I don’t know how close I am to my feminine side, but I’m damn skippy happy I’m close to your feminine side.”
“Okay,” she softly commanded. “Spill.”
“A white two-piece getup,” he said. “Your top was cropped and the shorts were short and tight. The material wasn’t smooth, but pilled. Like it’d been cut from a terry cloth robe. Except it was thinner than terry cloth. The pill was nowhere near as coarse. You walked around in white flip-flops trimmed in pink or lavender. Know what made our first moment most memorable?”
Lesley nodded for him to continue.
“How the white offset your skin. The sun had burnished it. You could’ve worn black and that still would’ve been apparent. But you wore white. The white further emphasized your glow.”
“I don’t remember what you wore that day,” Lesley said. “Frankly I don’t even remember what you wore tonight. Won’t I always prefer seeing you naked?”
After class, they hurriedly met in a hallway congested with students rushing to reach their next assignments. Later, Trevor supposed his and Lesley’s lack of similar urgency ought have made them conspicuous. While suddenness of attraction immobilized both in an alcove, their busy hands furtively stroked the other’s strange new presence.
They quickly agreed to meet that night. He heard her address but its significance failed deterring him – Lesley’s residence loomed near from Beryl’s. Throughout the remainder of the day she did not occupy his thoughts. A good thing this that one day he and Beryl had no interaction. Wouldn’t her contact have burdened his proposed tryst with possible conflict?
Lying to Beryl from before the true onset tasked him. Once involved with Lesley his deception became second nature.
Their fateful night, Trevor stepped lightly across a still Arizona campus towards Lesley’s North Drive address. Focused as he was on the structure, he also maintained peripheral attention on Beryl’s dorm one building away.
Some fanciful architect had lent Lesley’s two-story residence minor extravagance. Ionic columns supported the portico. Maybe the architect had felt a little ante bellum at his drafting table. Lesley’s was an earlier structure constructed during a leisurely age.
On the other hand, Beryl’s on-campus abode displayed simple utility. One born of World War II housing exigencies. Boxy, undistinguished, unadorned, those bricks could’ve been seen as public housing prototype.
Until standing on that lane readying himself to mount Lesley’s steps, Trevor had discounted the possibility of crossing paths with Beryl or any mutual acquaintances. His certainty of this subterfuge remaining undetected so strong, Trevor hadn’t bothered preparing any alibi. Besides, a sufficiently lighted North Drive remained a year away. Then, electric versions of gas lamps barely illuminated the walk. Mild wattage misted rather than blasted all three residence facades.
Between walkway and edifices rolled a continuous carpet of Bermuda grass seeped in murk. There, on moonless nights, lovers seeking open-space anonymity congregated and expended passions.
Lesley laughed at his old North Drive memory. “With all those nervous virgins now, prison floodlights leave that grass almost as bright as day at night. Poor girls. They don’t know what they’re missing. Or who.”
“No ‘communing’ under the stars,” Trevor said. “No telltale grass stains or clippings either.”
Both Lesley and Trevor laughingly lamented such restrictive modern conditions which today retarded men’s and women’s development; that fascistic security purity guised under protection unnecessarily extended current young adults’ adolescence.
It failed striking Trevor that then perhaps his answering instinct might’ve transgressed against Beryl – until Lesley met him at the dorm’s lobby desk.
His co-conspirator had changed outfits. Tight and short chartreuse now adhered to her contours. Only then did he realize the possible injury he might inflict on Beryl.
“At that moment I became apprehensive,” he said. “An idea of ‘wrong’ actually pierced my skull.”
“You may’ve been jumpy inside,” Lesley said, “but outside you were cool. So cool as if not to have a care in the world.”
“I was uneasy, yes,” he said. “Since I’d gone that far no way I could turn back, come what may. I’d controlled my steps until that instance. Afterwards momentum alone must’ve carried me. I’d gone so far I couldn’t turn back. I don’t regret that part. There may be plenty to regret after, but not that part.”
She escorted him upstairs.
On their ascent, Lesley loosely hooked her arm through his. During the climb each recited their respective day since they’d parted that harried afternoon. Either both made the trivial interesting or each faked listening real well.
Quiet ruled the second floor of her hall. Spooky almost. No chatter. No TV, stereo or radio noise filtered from behind any of the corridor doors. In a men’s dorm, his own in fact, plenty of hell would’ve been erupting.
Lesley opened the door to a neat though not immaculately kept dayroom. These rooms, nominally used for studying, served best for socializing. Desks, seats, and book storage for three individuals though only a solo daybed. Unlike his own accommodation in which two men bunked to a room, women housed in North Drive addresses slept in wards.
Trevor gathered Lesley had scheduled some exclusivity with the dayroom’s other two residents. If not, he wondered what worked as the women’s equivalent to “tie hanging off the doorknob.”
Opened windows looked out onto North Drive. Steady foot traffic through the vestibule below provided a stream of teasing voices that tickled the pair’s ears.
A lighted gooseneck lamp bent upon itself emitted gentle illumination. This actually warmed otherwise blaring yellow walls. The dayroom’s occupants had resorted heavily into using Indian blankets as furniture cushion covers. These softened the pieces’ severity. They’d also tossed around several stuffed animals. Big pillows crowded chairs and massed on the daybed.
Inside Lesley’s lair, its door shut and locked, roommates shooed, she kissed him. Trevor easily submitted.
Her lips were lively and mouth greedy. How unlike Beryl’s considerate and calmer ardor. In fact all of Lesley incited him more than Beryl. He found himself embracing Lesley tighter while her palms shimmied inside his pants waistbands to maul his hard bare rump.
With the greatest reluctance Trevor drew away from and also disengaged her hands. As he slid them to her sides she nimbly managed clutching and stroking his tumescence. Her agility compelled him to retreat a step.
She didn’t regard his reaction with disappointment, confusion or disbelief. A coolness, one indicating she waited for an explanation, gelled on her face. Trevor cleared his throat. He asked her to sit. On the daybed. Lesley obeyed, leaning back on her elbows observing him from under her eyes.
Years later, an older woman confessed, “I eyed you like hot meat. I had a taste and you were the dish. Nothing short of you saying you liking boys instead could’ve changed my mind. Even then …”
Trevor’s preamble was curt. He hoped sounding earnest as well as truthful.
“I don’t want to mislead you,” he said. “I already have a girl. She’s a wonderful girl, too. Maybe I even love her.”
In the room’s forgiving light, Lesley remained inscrutable. Her composure pleased him. He’d expected fireworks.
“Here?” she asked. “On campus or in town?”
He named Beryl’s dorm. It book-ended the three aligned on North Drive. Lesley arched her eyes, answered him wryly.
“Cutting it kinda close, aren’t we, cowboy?”
And that settled the matter to her extent. His too. No dismay from Lesley. She simply dismissed his problem. Trevor eagerly followed her lead.
“I don’t want to know her name or have her pointed out,” she said. “I might see her in passing. Walk by her, you know? I don’t want to look at her and make myself conspicuous and tip her off. I don’t want to look at her and ask myself questions and make comparisons. What we have … what we could have … is simple. And don’t we both believe it could be pretty damn good, too? Any complications? They’re all yours.”
Her clarity became his.
Were he a moral man, some chump willing to deny himself by being overly burdened by conscience, Trevor ought have felt some tug of remorse. A twinge at least. Nothing. Not even a pang. Instead he was elated.
Lesley and Beryl almost side-by-side, he imagined himself maintaining a nurturing rewarding relationship with the latter, an exciting illicit one with the former. Why, for him this would be akin to a fat boy having his ice cream and cake and eating them, too!
In his short life, had Trevor ever been as satisfied with himself at that moment?
Presently, though, unsubstantiated rue burdened his former delight.
“Beryl knew,” Trevor confided to his one-time now restored accomplice. “She had to have known. Or had a powerful hunch. One of those women’s intuition things.”
Lesley asked what made him suspect Beryl aware of them. He replied.
“Towards our end she started behaving out of character. If someone was predictable, it was Beryl. There were two instances, two standout instances, which I just didn’t know enough how to compute then.”
The revelation intriguing her, Lesley insisted on details. Trevor half-heard her, but his own train of thought wouldn’t be shunted yet.
“It was as if she’d laid these unavoidable snares,” he continued. “More to confirm her suspicions rather than any attempt to ensnare me. I couldn’t have been any more light-footed and couldn’t have covered my tracks better. Nobody knew about us until she’d gone. Jesus, I only confided in one or two dorm guys about how we got started – and that years after we ended.”
Lesley clarified his view of their past. “Remember, cowboy, we didn’t end. You skipped out leaving me high and dry.”
“And when I tried sneaking back in, you slammed the door,” he said.
“Had to,” she said, deliberately. “That was your reward. But about Beryl. How do you know she suspected, well, okay, us? What’s your proof?”
Drawing on a locution from one of his favorite authors, Trevor said, “Because let’s face it, Beryl instigated a few things that were, seen now, especially now, still, ka-raaaaaaazy!”