He studied her across the table as she read the menu. He knew what he wanted. His favorite, the spaghetti carbonara. She finally looked up, head canted, her sidelong glance asking, ‘What?’ to his intense stare. He shrugged. What could he say? They had just spent forty minutes at the bar waiting for the table. Like old times, she had her usual Negroni. Talk was easy. It had been thirty years since they had last connected. Much to fill in. At this point they were actually free between divorce for her and widowhood for him. The waiter took her order: saltimbocca, salad, Chianti.
She held his eye and her tongue over a slow sip of ice water. It was his turn, this time to ask out loud, “What?”
She simply looked down.
They both felt it. Or rather didn’t feel it…the buzz. There was no tingle as they tried to pick up the fallen powerline of their past. Does hot leak out, he wondered? He could still see the girl in the woman he used to know when she giggled then spanned thumb and forefinger to the corners of her mouth. Familiar. But different now, her hand gaunt and heavy-veined.
Mirroring his scrutiny, she measured him as well. He could feel her tally his lank gray hair, pouched eyes drooping over scored laugh lines, middle finger pushing glasses up.
Was this too heavy a lift? Trying to revive feelings from half a lifetime ago? Sure, there could be fond recollections, like looking through a forgotten box of photographs. Their snatched time together. But just now, it felt like spinning the rasp on a cigarette lighter—waiting, hoping for a spark to catch, to burst into flame. Their flame.
They worked on their meals. Toasted each other. He forced an old joke. She shook her head, smiled indulgently. Finishing their tiramisu and espresso, he tried to imagine them snogging, maybe more. The image wouldn’t focus. The honey didn’t rise. Maybe he…they, were past it. Or maybe it was just her. Maybe with some other woman…starting fresh, not trying to stoke cold ashes…
“I’m not that throbbing hunk anymore,” just popped out.
She nodded. “As if…”
Under a tight grin, he handed the credit card to the waiter. He always liked her snarky side.
“My turn next time,” she said.
“’Kay,” he said.
Retired trainer, and writing instructor, Joe Novara lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Writings include novels, short stories, a memoir and various poems, plays, anthologies and articles. Read more at https://freefloatingstories.wordpress.com/