But Gracie and I! We couldn’t keep our hands off each other! Her neck! Those eyes! Her legs! Her…! And her…! The old flame, alive! Well, anyway — what bullshit. Quite simply, we met at the restaurant, late, after the crowd had thinned-out, had a couple of beers with the regular late-night drinkers, the quiet crowd, and we made our way to her house, and her bedroom again. The old lights-out routine. There, she fucked my brains out, screwed my lights out. Rather, screwed my lights on. And I did a few things myself too. Whatever, I’m into hyperbole here, making mountains out of the most common molehill known to humankind. She liked sex now, in the prime of her womanhood, didn’t critique my shortcomings anymore, enjoyed me as an irregular partner.

And she had gotten over me too. That stuff before was just a wild dream thing. It happens to the best of us. She realized, as she had so many times before, that I was not the one for her. Or rather, that I still was the one for her – but not as a live-in husband. That could never work, as delightful as the idea was. She put me in my place, assigned me to my niche – the ex-hubby-occasional-sex-partner-no-permanent-strings-attached-best-old-friend-intertwining-youth-and-history-charity case niche. The fucking niche. Not bad, eh?

Then, in that sleepy after glow she delivered the whopper. (I say sleepy because, after all, sex with Gracie was exhausting, in the best sense of the word. It was a whole mind and body rush – all that a man of my age, with my deteriorating physique and waning good looks – could ask for. Thank the Lord, I didn’t deserve it, but I’m grateful for it; she wanted many of the full-featured physical effects – it knocked me out).

“I’m going to take a trip, with Artie.”

“Artie? That,” dot dot dot, “– well, Artie?”

“We’re going to Europe. Eastern Europe, first. He wants to go to Prague, see the cemetery, all the old places his grandparents came from. Then we’ll see other countries too. Spend some time in Italy, England, France – probably Greece. We might go to Israel. He needs somebody with him. You know, really, I’m glad I’m not married. I do love him. He knows about you. All about you. He’s an incredible person.”

“Can you take the restaurant along?”

“He has some friends, a couple, who lives in California. They’ve managed restaurants for twenty years. They’re real pros. Really, really experienced and good. They just sold out, retired. They’re going to come in and handle the place for a month.”

She had hesitated to tell me this moments ago. Certainly it had been on her mind before our aforementioned brush with passion, and during. But she was rolling now. These were happy thoughts.

“It’s my chance to get away, too. I’ve been tied to this place to a long time. I’m lucky to get away for a weekend a year, and I’ve made some money, but you know – money. I want to go somewhere. I don’t mind spending some of it, I just want to travel a little. This is a way to do it without selling the restaurant.”

“I understand completely.”

I did. She was a hell of a businesswoman, had provided a good living and a good future for herself and The Wimp, but it depressed me to think about her spending her entire life tied to that joint. I had spent years chasing windmills. The turmoil of my inner world, the unpredictability of my moods, had given me a kind of hunger on the outside, a need to satisfy, a kind of if-only-I-was-there complex. Accordingly, these mood shifts, along with an intuitive, if not recognized, knowledge that they were there, an innate lack of intelligence about what was coming down the pike, along with some embarrassing deeds, had given me the recurring urge to get the hell out of Dodge. These defects had landed me in a number of interesting locales. Gracie had had no such luck.

“I’m going to leave Rachel here, at home, with you. You’re her father. You can live here, take your medication everyday, and take care of her.”

She said this as she reached for the light, turned it on.

“Pardon me? Now you’re bullshitting.”

“I’m not. There are friends who can help when you need it. She’s pretty independent. She’ll survive.”

The Wimp and me. Just us? Ug. The cloud of sleep I lay in suddenly lifted. I got nervous. It sounded domestic. Responsible. A grown-up thing to do.

I looked at Gracie, that marvelous woman. She was smiling, getting out of bed, excited. She put on something, a nightgown. Nice legs she had there, still nicer than ever, the cutest thighs in the world. She was talking, fast and in a whisper, about her trip, the restaurant, the house, The Wimp – me. She opened the curtains, let a little moonlight in. She got back in bed, snuggled up beside me, made me feel good, secure. Fair is fair. She had it all worked out.

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