My hand reaches out and softly brushes the mottled skin of this man. I see veins under thin skin and discoloration from the sun, scotch and too many years. His hair is a finely laid white web, delicate and thin and still there. Eyes sparkling, as alert as ever, I know his mind moves faster than almost anyone’s, regardless of age. While the flesh ages the brain can stay remarkably the same and his is hidden behind an expansive forehead, which really does reflect the depth of the thoughts behind it. Yet he isn’t the same. The heart attack, okay, the two heart attacks (both minor, right?) have taken away some of his physical courage, he’s less sure and moves more carefully, after years of fearing nothing. His body ended up winning when little else could defeat his formidable will. How to prod him to slow down when he resists so adamantly, like my toddlers many years past, who also were so sure they were right. And I admire him as we lie stretched out on his king bed in his king sized bedrooms. Strength can lead into utter and shameless success until it reminds you that ultimately we don’t win them all. He smiles and whispers, “Beautiful.” I just smile back because what can I say that hasn’t already been said before? He’s never once spoken words critical of me, so different from my father and many of the other men I’ve known over the years. I’ve made some bad choices, always seeking approval. This time, with him, I’ve only heard words like perfect, amazing and wonderful. Yet I don’t get to keep any of them or even him. “I need to go soon,” he states and I’ll let him without even knowing if or when I’ll see him next, if at all. We met late in life. This isn’t the man with whom I raised my children or struggled beside through good and bad. He’s my white angel who dropped in when I most needed, to reassure me that I’m good enough for anything and everything that stumbles onto my path. So I insist he kisses me for a minute since he forgets these things when headed on to the next battle, be it a board meeting or political fight. His chest is bare and I see the broad shoulders which age hasn’t tempered. Perhaps the muscles are less defined, or the hair no longer dark. I don’t care as he is lovely to me. And I see the skin, looser than it was and yet still doing its job perfectly. I could ask all sorts of questions but why? Do we really gain much by trying to control outcomes or fate? This man won’t provide me with all of the answers to my life so is it fair to try to make him? A gentleman, he’ll attempt the impossible then feel responsible, and perhaps guilty, for not meeting my unreasonable expectations. I feel a tear as he turns away to grab his white polo shirt and pulls it over his head. The muscles stretch and contract and I want to reach out for them but don’t. Then he grabs for his watch, a cheap sports version in his massive multi-million dollar mansion. “I don’t care about watches,” He’ll share. “In fact I’ve lost most of the expensive ones people have given me over the years.” He turns to me and looks so deeply inside my thoughts and I know he sees it all but strangely I don’t care. Sometimes we can’t hide and only then do we surrender. His eyes glisten but don’t flicker. Green with shocks of hazel and deep brown I can’t help but wish I’d seen them years ago. Did they look the same then? Can eyes morph as we mature or do they always shine with the same light they’ve had since our more innocent childhood days? I blink. We went for a walk one day, above the bluffs of Palos Verdes. Jagged green, much watered and landscaped, towering above deep grey rocks below and caressed by the deep blue Pacific Ocean. The sun was hot and bright and the sky clear, with not even the whisper of a cloud. We were spending the weekend together and had been in each other’s presence every second of every day. I wasn’t tired of him yet and rather loved waking in his arms not one morning but through a consecutive series of them. We broke up for the first time shortly thereafter, issues of age difference and commitment phobia intermingled with abject fear and too much clutter. But at that instant we were still happy and carefree in each other’s company and a soft breeze was mussing up his hair. “Do we get more out of books when we’re young, as Graham Greene suggested, more open and imaginative to the worlds they conjure for us?” he asked, never going for the easy questions but rather challenging me always until he needed to rest and asked for silence. “Yes,” I responded, ever eager and still at the stage of life where I believed that I needed to please a man. He hadn’t yet proven to me that I couldn’t, indeed no woman could, thus we needed to please ourselves and find a man who accepted that. “But why?” he whispered and gazed out across the bluffs, back-grounded by the rolling hills that named the adjacent city. I snapped the picture and caught his reflective side, which he normally hid behind Irish humor and canny defenses. But at that point I laughed and just kissed him, softly and publically. Pulling him close I felt his magic and knew my answer was wrong. Fantasy and magical worlds follow us throughout life and even if we don’t lose ourselves in the written version we try to live them in every love affair and wish to collapse into another. Would I admit my error and confess that the right book, or man, could still take me back to that imagination of youth so I could pretend again, if only for a few pages or days, that I could be a princess or even a magician in the space of this limited world? “Maybe it depends on the person,” I responded and he just gazed back, the sun shining enough in his eyes until he had to squint then pull out his sunglasses and put them on. I watched and wondered at whether he’d push me further as he sometimes did, depending on his mood. He’s very moody, and even unpredictable. I’d learned to mostly accept that trait though occasionally it left me reeling and I had to acknowledge my mostly denied desire to control. Born in the Chinese Year of the Horse he couldn’t be thus restrained. Later that night we’d fall asleep together, nestled and gently curled together until dreams settled in. “Penny for your thoughts?” I tried anyway, caressing his back, and he just smiled before turning away. As he turned now, so I pushed away the past, and faced the presence before me. Upright and strong, I still worried about his weakened heart. Life is so fragile, the bonds that tether us to one day versus the next are mere ribbons in the hands of a random God.Yet this man could still hug me so tightly and kiss tenderly, involved until he lost interest and moved on to something new. But for now I let him go and tried to resume my own life as befit my schedule. But being human I could still hear his familiar voice and imagine us entwined and laughing as we watched an old movie, until it turned poignant at the end and I let a tear drop.And the week passed, I wrote and revised, dealt with my kids and numerous other people less loving and more demanding. Night comes each day and I can scarcely believe how little I’m able to do in 24 hours. I talk to someone, advise them, and then two days later I repeat myself, using the same words in the same order and they get ignored again. So I move on to the next thing, always remembering how time is passing and the skin on my hands as I type is getting more lined and populated by California sun spots. Will time slow down so that I can catch up or must I always chase?I have another date, if you can call that. We aren’t “dating” anymore but after knowing someone long enough, and being close or even intimate enough you no longer care. He’s here for me when he can be and really what more can we expect from anyone in life, especially those whom we love? I pirouette in a white dress and the night is warm. I’m wearing the first Marc Jacobs perfume, the original one that I bought while married to another man. Gardenia, musk and ginger waft around me and I wait for a call that he’s close. I won’t need the doorbell because I’ll see the lights as he pulls up. Excited? Yes, absolutely. Outside I hear the steady hum of traffic but of course he’s late. So I try to scan Sephora online for new gift options as the holidays are drawing near. Really, I don’t care in the least as I just want his car to arrive, not another holiday.And he does and I kiss his cheek.“How have you been?” I ask. “Done anything exciting?”His eyes twinkle but don’t meet mine. “None of your business,” he replies and pretends to smile. Internally I roll my eyes but outwardly say nothing. Why fight and about what? I kiss his cheek instead and we head into blackness and dinner and a nice, ridiculously expensive Italian restaurant close by. The stars seem unusually bright in the sky and I enjoy the drive, listening to a story about some people I know and with whom he met today. We walk to the restaurant, nestled in to a small California mini-mall but still ridiculously expensive, as befits the neighborhood. He holds my hand and I squeeze his back. The tones of his voice are soft with traffic as a backdrop yet I don’t miss a word until he opens the door to the restaurant and lets me pass, with a wave and smile at the valet. We both hate valet parking.Nestled quickly in a deep booth soon I’m sucking down deep red wine and leaning close to catch his every word. We pick at the bread, with a side dish of butter, and I glance around the half full restaurant. Most diners are well-dressed, older and seeking privacy. The lighting is shaded and everyone has a booth not a table. We prefer eating early and only later will the room fill. He asks about the stock market and then tells me how to make money. He’s made a ridiculous amount and I dutifully listen, flashing my eyelashes or a smile to encourage him to tell me more.As we share a Caesar salad I ask a lot of questions, some smart and others anything but. He watches and answers, pausing for a sip and a bite. I squeeze his knee and am rewarded with a return smile. I hear his breathing and know I’ll always remember this evening. A fleeting grab at a soul on its own path, just out of my reach? He’s onto a pasta dish now, spicy but within his realm. Sometimes in my eyes he can master all while I gaze in wonder. “When will I see you next?” I ask. We struggle with this. I keep asking for certainty and he can’t provide it. So he ignores me.“What happens at year end when we reach the fiscal cliff?” he responds.And so I answer, explaining the projected economic contraction and echoing repercussions if the inevitable is allowed to happen. Then, I say the bill will come due but the waiter arrives and offers dessert instead. We request the check.He hugs me as we leave, pulling me close and kissing me on the lips. I’m mostly confused now, flush with wine and conversation, half answers and deflections. But all of these are normal and I wonder at the heart, which beats but not always as it should. Do you fight for what you want or take what you can get?And he tells me he has to be up early but Saturday night I can sleep over. So I smile and kiss him before sliding into the car, a door held open wide as we avoid facing deeper issues. I can’t hold him by demanding but perhaps I can keep him interested by not doing so. He mentions a movie he wants to show me, TiVoed and from fifty years past. And we plan to make time, knowing that it might happen if I push, more focused on such things than he is. The night is quiet and the moon full and very bright now. I think I see a shooting star and make a wish, hopeful. Let it just stay like this, so hard but yet also so very easy. I get jealous when we’re apart and wonder at whom he sees and what they discuss. Someone will always be more interesting or prettier. But can one person ever be constantly present or all fulfilling? I don’t think so but as I stare into his searching eyes I still feel inadequate, as if what I supply comes too far away from what he needs and that’s why I don’t see him more. Another part of me knows how busy he is and yet I don’t care; I’d rather be petty and insecure sometimes until my mood shifts and I no longer need to wallow in self pity. We have our moods; and other times our balance of close then far away feels perfect. I have commitment issues too, and am as inclined to push away as pull closer.He walks me into the house and we sit and chat a little more on the couch, then we kiss. His lips are firm and know mine well. Arms and shoulders likewise are a constant and I can hear the heartbeat under his chest. I reach my hand up his shirt and run my fingers through his snowy white hair. I don’t need to see it to know exactly how it scatters across mottled skin. I kiss his neck then nip an earlobe. Before I know it he’s out the door and back into the darkness of night. I change into an oversized navy t-shirt and grab a half a glass of wine. Acrid and dense, it soothes me as I stare out into the night sky.The days pass again and I don’t think about the weekend or him or love or anything along that story line. I’m busy and run errands while trying to also work. I cook and eat and dodge as many social engagements as possible, figuring that sometimes I’ll get caught so I might as well stay uncommitted when I can. People are fun but they distract me from work and I’m behind. Why am I always behind?The newspapers are full of the upcoming elections and I read about propositions and Presidents. Both sides to any issue always say that they’re right which is why most of us are just confused! Our President looks the same, even after four grueling years and I wonder at his determination to hang on to such a job at all costs. His opponent smiles blandly but says smart things and the two men seem oddly well matched for the fight. I don’t speculate with regards to the outcome because all the guesswork in the world won’t matter in the end. We fall into the future, much as we also create it.On Saturday morning I read my newspapers again and go for a run. The morning is still cool as they are early in Southern California. My feet in grey and neon yellow Nikes pound the rough pavement and I weave among the cars at intersections. Running, running and not wanting my mind to catch up, I try to think of nothing and succeed. Later the thoughts will return but for now I’m just happy to escape. I’ll go to the grocery store later, after I shower, and then I’ll work. Behind.That evening it’s still warm when I drive to his house. Traffic is light and he lives but moments away then suddenly I wait outside the vast iron gate for him to buzz me in. I know the next part. He’ll be at the top of his winding staircase when I enter and will tell me how beautiful I look. Or, he’ll be in the middle of an online chess game in his library, books towering above and around him. He’ll ask me to let him finish and to stay quiet. Tonight we’re going order food delivered and whatever I want. As we wait we’ll discuss the election or the economy or books and I’ll ask if he learned anything this week. Maybe he’ll tell but if he’s tired he’ll turn the question on me and make me do the talking.And we’ll hold hands while we wait for our food. After eating and cleaning up we’ll watch the promised movie and have a glass of wine or scotch for him. And I’ll curl into him in that vast bed, dogs scattered and the calm of another evening. He’ll doze off and I’ll rest into the sound of his breathing. Then I’ll jolt him awake and he won’t let me talk. Instead he’ll tell me to focus on the movie glaring out of darkness and holding our attention with its simplicity. His eyes are bright and I see intelligence and sensitivity shining out toward me. How can I not respond with a smile and more?“This scene is key. Pay attention!” he’ll demand. And I will and he’ll be right then we’ll both fall asleep slowly and his dogs will curl up around us, happy as those content must be. The stars will watch down upon us and reserve judgment unlike man who always seemingly has an opinion.And as the dawn breaks through dense curtains I feel an arm hug me tighter and the bed sheets feel too warm. But instead of pulling back I curl closer, knowing that sometimes being in the right arms is more important than the circumstances surrounding the embrace.