Nicole says, "I still want you to meet her."
I don't respond to that.
I lay there in the bed with my eyes closed. Nicole is on top of me, her hands tracing over my body, wide awake like she's been IV'ed to a double latte mocha cappuccino espresso.
Another commuter train rumbles by out on Embarcadero.
She kisses my lips before she heads for the bathroom. Nicole walks in a way that lets you know she used to do ballet many moons ago, as a child, that she does yoga as an adult, using the core of her body to move herself, her abs and inner thighs tight from doing most of the work.
Nicole leaves the bathroom door wide open. She sings a Pru song, the one about the candles. She sings that all the time. Her singing is terrible, but it has raw passion. The toilet flushes.
The sandman sprinkles sleep dust all over me. Try to shake it off. Body heavy.
Water runs in the sink. She's washing up. Her bracelets jingle with her scrubbing.
She asks, "Did you hear me when I said that I want you two to meet?"
I sit up. We stare. I tell her, "I'm not deaf."
"Last month, when I asked, you said that you'd think about it."
"Help me out here. Why would you want us to meet?"
"Then I won't feel guilty. Like I'm cheating."
She pauses. "Then you won't act like she doesn't exist. I love you. I love her."
"You don't love her."
"How do you know?"
I say, "Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve."
We stare at each other, restless, indeterminate gazes that reach deep.
She says, "I'm a divided soul, sweetie. And I can't go on like this. Not much longer."
This is a discussion we've had countless times since the wedding. Each time it becomes harder.
She tells me, "I have a solution. If you're still open to new things, it can work."
She wants me to ask, but I don't.
With a wounded smile, she hand-combs her locks, untangles that hairstyle that started off as a sign of resistance, and still is, and she takes my running shoes from the closet, tosses them at my feet.
She gently says, "Get dressed."
Fog walks the streets. Dark skies give Oaktown that Seattle appeal.
I have on black running tights, white T-shirt, gray St. Patrick's Day 10K sweatshirt. She wears blue tights and a black hooded sweat top, a red scarf over her golden hair.
We take a slow jog out of the Waterfront, by all the gift shops, head through the light fog. Rows of warehouses that are being converted into lofts line the streets. All in the name of profit and gentrification, the reversal of the White Flight is in progress. The homeless are out peddling Street Spirit papers for a buck a pop. Some are sleeping on the oil-stained pavement while people pass by in super-size SUVs and foreign cars that cost more than a house in the 'burbs of Atlanta, Georgia. The dirt poor, the filthy rich, all live a paper cup away from each other in the land of perpetual oxymorons.
I say, "You want me to meet this chick--"
"Don't say chick. That's a misogynistic word."
"Nicer than what I usually call her."
"Which is disrespectful. Yeah, I think meeting will benefit us all."
"So, this thing with her is pretty serious?"
She smiles because I've given up the silent treatment. "It's serious. There's more to it."
Acid swirls in my belly.
Nicole goes on, "I think we can resolve this situation."
"More like what?" I ask. "What more is there?"
"We ... just more." She has a look that tells me this is deeper than it seems, but can't tell me all, not right now. She says, "Let's talk while we run."
Reprinted from Between Lovers by Eric Jerome Dickey by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2001 by Eric Jerome Dickey. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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