Once Upon a Time
Winter raged outside his window making him a shut-in for yet another weekend afternoon. He sat filling the ashtray before him with one cigarette after another, thinking of a summer past spent on a Lake Michigan beach and the girl in the salmon pink bikini he had shared it with. Where had all the passion gone, he wondered. He knew all about companionship and contentment, but he only remembered passion. At 33, was that feeling, that had once made him feel so totally and completely alive, now gone for good? The phone rang. He debated for only two rings between lighting another cigarette and answering it, then moved across the room in response. "Hi, hon, I just called to tell you I'll be a little late," said his wife. "I have to wait until one of the four-wheel-drive trucks comes back. They're really doing a good job considering how many people they're bringing to and from the hospital." She sounded entirely the nurse on-duty assessing the situation. "OK, we'll see you when you get here." "Hey, is everything all right? You were pretty quiet before I left for work this morning." "Everything's fine." "OK, I'll see you later." He returned to the window, the winter storm, and his daydream of the girl in the salmon pink bikini. He saw her smiling face against the backdrop of breaking whitecaps, watching the warm breeze blowing through her golden hair. It had been many years ago. She was now a mother of four in Tacoma, Washington, married to a successful computer programmer. Then too, he had changed, long ago giving up the dream of writing the great American novel for the reality of a paycheck and advertising copy for heart recovery boilers and bilge pumps. Still he wondered, if they were ever to meet again, would she still find him attractive? Would she still have that magical beauty that comes from somewhere inside, out through the sweetest blue eyes he had ever seen? Would she even recognize him? With a surprising thud his three year-old son landed in his lap. How he loved this boy. Ever since that first sleepless, worrisome night he spent pacing the hospital floor after the boy's premature birth, his son had become his whole life. His son and his daydreams. "Dad, what makes snow?" asked the little boy on his knee. "Well, when the clouds are crying in the winter cold, and..." "Look!" interrupted the small voice, his blue eyes widening, "the mailman's here. Do you think there's anything for me?" "Well, let's have a look." He cracked open the front door and his hand braved the cold, bringing in the mail. "Yep, here's one for 'resident', I guess that's you." "Oh boy!" He watched his son toddle off, prize in hand, headed for parts of the house unknown to scrutinize the latest department store catalog. Then, his eyes dropped to the envelope with the Tacoma, Washington postmark. His fingers trembled with excitement as he tore it open revealing the card inside. "Even when the snow falls... I think of you," it said. It was unsigned. He smiled and looked out the window, her face reappearing in his mind, but somehow, it was a sad smile. Yes, passion was still there, still aflame within him. How could he have ever wondered otherwise? Four over-sized tires came to a halt at the end of the driveway. His wife's hospital whites blended with the blowing snow as she ran toward the house. He walked to his desk and read the card once more before tucking it in the bottom drawer. The back door squeaked as it came open. "Mommy's home, mommy's home!" came a little voice followed by the scampering of little feet. She entered the living room with his son in her arms. The boy had her nose. "How did work go? He asked her. She watched his sad eyes go back to the window. "Are you mad at me for something?" she asked. "No, why would I be mad at you?" In the blur of the blizzard he again watched the girl in the salmon pink bikini run across the beach. "Well, is there anything wrong? She asked, giving the boy in her arms a kiss. He lit a cigarette and turned back to her. "If there's nothing wrong with being in love, then everything's all right." She grinned at his reassurance and started for the kitchen to get a soda for the thirsty child in her arms. He drew deeply on his cigarette, his gaze returning to the window. As a lone tear silently crept to his cheek, he sighed and whispered, "If there's nothing wrong with being in love, then everything's all right."