My mother had to abandon the quest, but managed to extract from the restriction itself a further refinement of thought, as great poets do when the tyranny of rhyme forces them into the discovery of their finest lines.
The chain link fence was now overgrown with vines, I hardly recognized it and almost missed it while driving down the road. I pulled off and stopped in front of the old gate, I had to search carefully for the latch reaching through the crawling vines and leaves, I swung it back and drove my car through. How long had it been? At least eight, nine years. More? David, my sister, and the dogs came out to greet me as I pulled the car up to the small cottage. I climbed out and was greeted by a German Shepherd mix who nuzzled my hand begging for a pet and a scratch behind the ears.
“Who’s this new guy?” I asked.
“Binxie, just got him.” David replied, smiling as he walked by my sister’s side.
“David, you look well, good to see you again!” I shook his hand.
“Likewise, so do you.”
My sister’s ex-boyfriend hardly looked a day older than when I last saw him, but he had to be in his late sixties by now, maybe older. He had new glasses, round black thin wire frames, distinguished, but modern, they complimented his thin, diminutive frame. He was bald as always, without facial hair, but never had much in the way of wrinkles. I had been wary of the man when I heard he was dating my sister all those years ago when we first met. I think an age difference of over thirty years would give anyone pause, but he won me over with his calm, gentlemanly ways. It goes to show from how he treated her, and by the fact that they are still good friends all these years later with my sister now married to Robert.
Inside the small cottage, the air was cool from the fans and air conditioning. On the outside, the place didn’t look like much, a small one bedroom place, but inside was modern construction, high ceilings, hardwood floors, and high end furniture and appliances that belonged in a million dollar home. Symphonic music played over the state of the art sound system hooked to a record player in the corner.
“David, could you please make some coffee? I’m feeling like I could use a little pick me up.” My sister asked sitting down at the kitchen table.
“Sure,” David got up and went to the counter.
“Would you mind making Jason one too?” She asked, before turning to me, “You have to try David’s espresso, he roasts his own beans now.”
“Really? That’s awesome, well, if it isn’t too much trouble, I’d like one.”
“Of course,” David replied priming the steam wand of his espresso machine.
David was a man of passions. When I first met him it was cigars, luxury watches, and literature. Earlier in life it had been politics, film, and jazz, and like me, he played guitar and piano. Later it was Apple computers, smartphones, and tablets. Then it was stargazing with a computer controlled observatory he built. Now it was coffee, espresso, and photography; his cottage was now adorned with his incredible framed works. It seemed he’d never stagnate, always becoming an expert in something new, and then moving on once he’d mastered it. I remember him sharing his passions with me when I was just a teenager, he always managed to get me interested in all of them. I never intended to copy the man even though I did admire him in many ways, but somehow I found myself gravitating towards the same hobbies and interests. More than anything though, I tried to emulate his manner. He was always calm, collected, articulate, polite, and equitable.
“Hmmm, this is Beethoven, but which symphony… two? I know it is an early one.” I said.
“Umm, let’s see…” David walked to the record player as the machine heated the water “Close, it’s three.”
“Figured, seems to me his symphonies really changed after five.”
“Yes, I believe you’re right, my personal favorite is six.”
He set an espresso cup in front of me with creamy foam topped with coarse grains of cane sugar.
“I should have said, David, Jason prefers americanos,” my sister said.
“Nah, this is great, I always enjoy a good latte.” I interjected.
“Good, this is all I make these days, sugar latte, I learned a special roasting technique from a cafe in Portland, the roaster suggests roasting the beans hot until first crack, then reducing the temperature and slow roasting…” David described the technique with the usual calm, even tone he always talked with, but when he was talking about something he was passionate about, there was no mistaking that glint in his eye and warm undertone in his voice.
It was one of the finest lattes I’d ever had. But, to be perfectly honest my ex-wife made the finest lattes and espresso creations I’d ever had. She had been a barista for five years already when we started dating, and I remember sitting there in the coffee shop during her shift, reading a book and she’d come by and bring me a custom creation with a kiss and smile, I don’t think David could ever match that with any roasting or brewing technique.
After the symphony ended, David pulled out Kind of Blue from his LP’s. The vinyl pop came through the speakers as he set the needle down, then piano, bass, and Miles Davis’ trumpet came through softly. It was a nearly perfect afternoon, relaxing in that cool cottage with good company and epicurean delights, escaping the heat. It had been as perfect a Sunday as possible thus far. It started off just right. I slept in, woke to Her’s text. We video chatted for over an hour, but it is never enough. I love seeing her smiling face, looking into her beautiful eyes, and the sound of her voice warms my heart. Sadly, things in her life aren’t perfect, but neither are they in mine, but our relationship is a source of incredible sustenance. She feeds my romanticism and love as no one ever has. She’s sexy, and funny, and cute, and I never get my fill. We plan to meet in just a little over a month, she’ll be flying out to see me. I couldn’t be more excited to finally meet this woman who haunts my thoughts, dreams, and fantasies. I was practically glowing by the time we got off the phone.
Having spoke with Her set the tone. It brightened me up, put the spring into my step. I put on some music, made a breakfast of fried eggs and sourdough toast, then took my time selecting a button down shirt, chinos, and casual loafers. Around noon I drove into the city to my friend’s place. It’s a nice house on the south side of town rented by an bunch of old friends from high school. The summer air was warm, not a cloud in the sky. I walked in and found Big Al relaxing on the couch in his shorts and tank top. I’m not sure why we still call him Big Al. Average Al would probably be more accurate since he lost the weight. He had bulked up in terms of muscles too, and was now fighting in the amateur MMA circuit. He was covered in tattoos from the neck down, we couldn’t be less alike apart from both having beards. We sat out in the spacious back yard in lawn chairs in the shade of tree and had cigars and beer while listening to old country songs, Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, and the like. It was a bit of a tradition. Big Al and I shared a love of premium cigars and quality microbrews. The conversation was simple and clean, we talked about the old days, old friends, surfing, playing golf, antics and anecdotes. I melted into my chair, feeling every worry and stress melt from my body. It had already been a great day when my sister texted me and said to come meet them at David’s for dinner.
And there we were, Robert finally joined us as we finished off the Davis and were consuming some Sonny Rollins while David spoke of his days playing in various bands in the LA jazz scene in the 70’s. We changed into swim clothes and walked out into the heat. David’s property was inland, near the vineyards on the edge of town, he had several acres. The cottage was very new, I remember when it was being built, custom designed to his specifications. Next to it sat his parents house, I remember when his father died, but his mother still lived there, now well into her 90’s. There was also a small barn where David’s new Prius was garaged, and a chicken house and other old farm buildings. The centerpiece of the property was a palatial Spanish style hacienda and a matching servant’s house next to it with a pool out back. I spent many summers visiting my sister there when she and David lived there, and for a time my other sister and mother lived there with them. Now it was rented out, but we could still use the pool. I could still remember the interior layout. There was a large kitchen, two bedrooms downstairs, a drawing room, dining room, and the library with big antique leather chairs and mahogany shelves lined with books where we used to sit while David smoked fragrant cigars and we talked about science fiction (he instilled a love of Star Trek and Douglas Adams in me), philosophy, and theology and sometimes we’d play chess. Upstairs was an office, and three more bedrooms with balconies overlooking the pool.
The pool was heated, but slightly cooler than the ambient temperature, which was welcome. We swam up and down enjoying the water. Binxie would come lick me if I came too close to the edge, but he was too afraid to dive in. I remember warm summer evenings sitting out by the pool and falling asleep laying back in a chair and waking up to see the bright stars overhead and eventually the sun peaking over the mountains. It felt good reminiscing. As the evening went on we ate a nice dinner, took a walk down by the lake, and watched a Woody Allen film.
I kept thinking it had been a nearly perfect Sunday. Sometimes we think we could make something more perfect by having it tailored to exactly what we want. I felt the day would have been more perfect if I could have shared it with Her, and no doubt that would have been wonderful. But, if we could shape the world into what we want it to be, would that really achieve a greater perfection? I could also wish for a million dollars, to see my son every day, to somehow not have cheated on my wife and have it all ending in a messy divorce, or to repair the damage I’d done to all my relationships. We just have to accept the restrictions placed on us and make the most of them. Great symphonies, poetic verses, works of art are often created within a set of rules and restrictions. We live in a reality where we don’t always get our way and must extract refinement from the hand we are dealt. Despite all, the Sunday made me miss Her, a woman I’d never met, but all the same, my soul was satisfied knowing I’d done all I could for the time being. In that regard, it was a perfect Sunday.