By Alexis Rhone Fancher
His walls are an altar to our May/December tryst, framed nude drawings of a teenaged me. Back when my body was flawless, his hand, steady, his lust so palpable, sparks flew off the paper.
We met at Christmas. I had been dumped by my first love. He welcomed me into his lair.
Now, in his ramshackle cabin near Santa Cruz, time treads water. While I moved on to college and then the world, he’s stayed put. Dressed in the frayed Mr. Natural t-shirt and blue jeans he’s worn since the 80’s, still listening to Satie and reading Tolstoy, he’s lost sight of change, his days a mind numbing slosh of toking, drinking – once gin, now wine. His doctor of 50 years says Alan, if you don’t quit you’ll die. My old lover is addled, not stupid. He knows everyone has an expiration date.
How are your parents? He wants to know. He’s forgotten that time I brought him home, a man as old as my mother, my father’s disappointed cordiality. Now Alan stares at me, all expectation. Like I’ll have good news. Like my parents are forever forty, cruising the Caribbean, or renewing their vows in Madrid – not lying tandem in a Hollywood Forever vault.
They’re about the same, I tell him, as if I can wipe the intervening years away. But nothing stays unchanged. Alan no longer caresses my breasts or arranges my body on the bed. Those drawings of me on every wall make me feel shopworn, not sexy. I’d pose if he asked, but he doesn’t; Alan has no interest in drawing me now. And I’m not even old. Just not young.
Anyway, he shoots beaver shot Polaroids now- barely legal girls from UC Santa Cruz, who model naked for extra cash. His hands shake; he no longer draws. The booze took care of that.
Maybe, if I hadn’t been so selfish, so eager for more of life, I could have saved him. Better women than I tried and failed. He needed a manager, not a wife. He needed to stop fathering children he couldn’t feed. But there was something so helplessly childlike underneath his immense talent. Was that what made him retreat to his cabin near Santa Cruz; was he unable to win in the world? And me, in love with my body in a way I never would be again. In love with the sweet, kind man who cared for me, gave me worth at my most vulnerable. He who smoothed me into the world.
I’m glad I got away. And ashamed. Maybe, if I’d remained, I’d be forever seventeen, worshipful, devoted. With me there to remind him, his memory might have stuck around. The girl in those drawings might have survived.
Maybe we could have stopped time.
Copyright 2018 Fancher