Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Walkway Named Desire

A Walkway Named Desire

Last week, I was out for a walk, well, a limp really, and as I turned the corner to visit one of my favourite parks, a young woman appeared out of the sunlight and was walking towards me.

By "young," I mean she might have been 21. I am 65, I suspect more than three times her age.

She had long, strawberry blonde hair sort of swirling magically in the breeze. I have no hair to speak of.

She wore a sleek white mini-skirt and an insubstantial, tangerine halter top, and neither the skirt nor the top seemed to be effectively concealing anything underneath one or the other. I was hiding under bulky sweat pants and some long-sleeved, refugee of the 60's T-shirt with a series of small holes in the right elbow.

Her body glided towards me, as if she were afloat on a wave of air. I stumbled, not once but twice, and stubbed the toe of my left sneaker into the asphalt walkway.

Her clear blue eyes were steady as the distance between us shortened into just a step or two. Lord knows where my eyes were, certainly not steady, definitely not focussed. No, my tired old peepers seemed to have discovered some kind of weird bifocal aerobics, darting all over her trim silhouette. Yes, I'll admit it. If eyes could breathe, then mine were breathing in every perfect pore of her winsome figure.

The distance between us seemed to evaporate in a second. As she passed, I noticed her pouty lips became miraculously reshaped into a small smile, and then she actually said something. Was it "Hello" or "Good morning" or even "You OK, old fella?" I wish I knew. My ears were burning and buzzing so badly that any hope for actually hearing her was completely impossible. For my part, I dearly wanted to say, "Hi, how are you? Enjoying your walk? Want some company?" but the most I could manage was an old man grunt. You know, kind of a "Duh" mixed in with a gulp and a muffled burp.

And then, it was over.

She passed by me, or perhaps I might more accurately write, "she passed me by."

A voice in my head began screaming, "Don't look back. Don't you dare look behind you!"

I couldn't help myself. I felt like I was like that poor child in The Exorcist, and my head seemed compelled to spin round so that my eyes could complete the portrait. I watched as her long, sun-caressed legs carried her pert butt around a corner and out of my line of sight.

Suddenly, I was overcome with the man-datory guilt and shame.

After all, I have a daughter older than this nymph from the deep forest. I could hear the charges of objectifier, perv, pig, peeping-Tom, or peeping-Kennedy, if you prefer. I felt I had failed some oath, some secret code that "decent" men do not ogle a woman, no matter how indecent she may be dressed.

Mea culpa. I ogled.

"Well, the good thing is that you didn't do anything other than look," the voice inside my head said as I was returning home that afternoon. "It's not like you followed her. That would have been touch-and-go illegal. Stalking, even."

"Yeah," I returned in a sort of dementia-driven mumble, "but she was younger than my daughter."

"Ahh," the voice demurred, "but she was not your daughter."


"Men look. Goodness, women look. Everyone looks. People admire vibrancy and beauty. Young, old, doesn't really matter. Some people just have that "Je ne sais crois," a natural appeal that draws other people's attention. Yes, sometimes it's physical, sometimes sexual, but I don't see anything wrong with that. I think, my friend, it is just the way of the world."

"I suppose."

"It's all a bit like shopping in the most expensive store around. Lots of cool stuff, but really nothing you can afford. Someone comes along and asks you if you need help with a colour or a size, and you say, 'No thanks, just looking.'"

"Yes, just looking."

"Not even trying something on to see how it feels," the voice asserted in its strongest tone. "Just looking and going on your way."

"But," I wondered, "why did she look back at me? And why say something to me?"

"She was just being polite. You're old enough to be her father, remember. It's called respect, polite respect because of your age and your obvious limp."

"Yes, you must be right. Polite, she was just being polite."

"Unless ..." the voice drifted off into one of those mysterious caverns of the subconscious.

"Unless what?" I called to it, somewhat perplexed.

"Unless ..." the voice returned with something of a chuckle, maybe even a muffled snort, "unless, what she said was ..."

"Yes, what? What?"

The voice hesitated for what seemed forever. Then, it said quietly, "That, my friend, we'll never know. And, quite frankly, it's probably better that way. It's just the stuff that dreams are made of."

"Well, it's weird," I concluded, "the older you get, the more life is made up of dreams when what we want most is one last sip of reality."



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