I look at old ladies a lot differently now and, yes, because I am one. It pretty much never occurred to me when I was a whippersnapper that behind the visual static of their wrinkled faces and lumpy bodies might lurk some very interesting love stories. I could be wrong, I think they just weren’t saying.
I’m thinking about this because this morning I’m drinking a marvelous cup of Guatemalan coffee. I ordered two pounds from the Solar Roast people as a birthday present to me and now I’m savoring it.
A long, long time ago in a faraway place known as Denver, Colorado, my then boss introduced me to his college friend. Let’s call him Ed. That wasn’t his name, but it’s a fine name. Ed was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. He walked into our office with the kind of grace you never see anywhere, but maybe particularly not in a man wearing clogs. He was long-legged, had black hair, green eyes, and a beautiful, wide smile.
He noticed (who wouldn’t?) the 2″ x 3″ photo of T. E. Lawrence and Lowell Thomas that was on the top shelf of the credenza behind me, leaning against the wall.
“I’m reading Seven Pillars,” he said. “Monster book.”
I was stunned. The first love of MY life was T. E. Lawrence. I got a huge crush on him (thanks to David Lean) back when I was 10 and really NEVER got over it.
“Yeah, it is,” I said. “I read it a long time ago.” I was 12 when I read it, but why show off?
It turned out he was as attracted to me as I was to him and an epistolary and telephone love story ensued. He was, at that time, taking courses at a university in Texas so he could apply to med school. He was already 30. He’d been inspired to this decision by his recent expedition (yes) to Annapurna II. Passing through India (passing through India, got that?) he’d been touched deeply by the poverty and illness of the people. And he’d picked up TB.
It coulda’, shoulda’ worked, but as time unfolded it was clear that though we were attracted to each other and had many commonalities, we were not at the same places in life. I was recently divorced and wanted to “see the world.” He’d seen the world and was ready to settle down and start a family. But in the meantime, his career goals (climbing and treating diseases of impoverished Spanish speaking people) took him to Guatemala to study Spanish and climb. He brought back a yard of Guatemalan weaving and two pounds of unroasted coffee beans as gifts for me.
The night before my one-woman painting show in 1981, I roasted them in my oven. They lent their fragrance and flavor to that moment of my life. There’s more to the story, but as an old lady, I’m not saying.