Now That You're Around Me

Donald Shephard

"And I love you so" sang Don Mclean as the couple slow danced in the kitchen of their retirement nest. He rotated his hips against hers and she smiled at him signaling her willingness, if he only thought it possible.

"How lucky I am to be here with you," he said.

"Yes, you are, very lucky. Me too."

"It was not always so. Life began again the day you took my hand."

"What can we tell others to make their marriage as happy as ours?"

"I don’t know."

They stood holding each other for a while, then sat together on the sofa, his arm around her, her head on his shoulder, as they gazed at the ocean.

"I guess people understand about us, but I don’t know what to tell our boys, when they ask how to make a happy marriage."

"Look, a Crossbill family at the feeder." He studied the juveniles through binoculars.

"Now there’s a face only a mother could love."

"Do birds feel happy?" she asked.

"I’ve just read ‘Mind of the Raven’ by Bernd Heinrich. His observations, of what he calls “wolf-birds”, suggest to him they show emotions but, he doesn’t extend that to other species. When male ravens macho display, with elevated head, spread shoulders, and puffed-out throat feathers, they certainly show confidence."

"I love that knocking noise of the female ravens,” she said, “it sounds content to me, perhaps they are asking males to ‘knock them up.’ That’d give them a giggle, but it’s hard to imagine a smile on a Crossbill’s face".

"Yes, they’re the Keanu Reeves of the avian world."

"You’re just jealous."

"Is he married to you?"

"Hardly likely."

"Then he has nothing for me to envy."

He watched the low evening light shine through the leaves of the Cape Primrose on the Chinese rice cart by the window. A jackrabbit stopped its peripatetic meadow wandering to stand and improve the reception in its ears, the evening glow turning them translucent tan. Another jackrabbit ran by.

"Look," he said, "your buddy has a mate."

"Lucky fellow," she said.

"I think I’ll take a pill."

"Good idea."

She set out the Mexican Train Dominoes while he doctored himself. He looked at the bathroom mirror, popped the pear-shaped pill, and raised his water glass. "Here’s to you, Ed," he thought, believing that the collective genius that invented ED pills named them all Ed. Two hours later, she won the game and he stacked the dominoes in the box, often fumbling the slippery tiles.

"My fingers feel numb at times," he said and winced. When they retired and moved to the coast, he vowed to avoid the trap of sitting around with other old folks detailing the deterioration of their bodies. He called it an "organ recital", yet he shared his observations with her.

"We agreed to grow old gracefully" she smiled, "like our mothers."

"And they lived before Ed."

"Yes, but not before ED, it’s all quite natural. You take the first shower. I’ll shut down the computer, turn out the lights, and follow you."

They clung to each other ‘til he rose to open a window and welcomed the clean salt air into his labored lungs. He climbed back to bed, breathing heavily and kicked and yanked the tangled bedclothes. She curled into him snug as an onion layer.

"You are one clever girl."

"You too."

"I’m a clever girl?"

"Hardly likely, given what we just did."

After a while he said, "I wonder how much more time we have together," but she snored. He listened, intrigued by the familiar sound, awed by her presence, by her lively femininity at an age when he had assumed, when much younger, that sexual potency retired at sixty-five. He moved his mouth close to her ear and sang softly.

"And I love you so."

In his euphoria, he lay between singing and sleep.

"And, yes, I know how loveless life can be." He thought of their untenable first marriages.

"The shadows follow me." Her love for him vanquished his demons; for his father’s sweaty face no longer woke him with a start.

"And the night won’t set me free." The two o’clock in the morning images of torture, men mutilating men, faded when he reached out to lay a hand on her hip.

"But I don’t let the evening get me down

Now that you’re around me."

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