I watch her, as she sits on a comfortable spot near the ocean. I see her eyes scan the horizon. She seeks answers in the waves and the clouds. She peers intently into the distance, striving to bring the answers that hover over the water into sharp, clear focus. In her mind, words form. They blossom into phrases and sentences. She captures them on her fingers, binding them to a linguistic art safe. She smiles as she thinks of me. I hope it’s me who triggers the grin on her face, though I can’t be sure she is thinking of me; but I see it and hope I launched that silent laugh.
Does she know I am watching her? Does she know I see her sitting at the waterfront? Does she know my eyes are riveted to her form, her hair, the way her every breath fills her with beauty as stunning as the sunrise that brought the day to us?
I should introduce myself before telling you more about her. I am Gideon Fleeman, the fifth son of Cartwright Fleeman, whose father was Jeremiah Fleeman and whose mother was Sharona Scott Fleeman. My mother is Cassandra Webster Fleeman. She kept her married name even after she remarried Blaine Cooper two years after my father died in a farming accident. All of these names tell you little about me, though. That’s my point. We’re all products of people most of the world never see. I could go on and on about my youth as a farmer’s son. I could regale you with the stories my grandfather used to tell. But, in fact, I did not know Jeremiah Fleeman, nor did I know Sharona Scott Fleeman. They died before I was born. I barely knew Casandra Webster Fleeman, at least not the woman she became after marrying Blaine Cooper. And I knew very little about my four older brothers. They had left home to make their ways in the world before I came along, unplanned and unappreciated, just days before my mother’s forty-fourth birthday. I grew up as if I were an only child, in the shadow of a woman old enough to be my grandmother. Except for the teasing by the school children, I wouldn’t have known it was odd to have such an old mother. But the children made me painfully aware of it. And I learned that their parents were the ones who talked about Cassandra Webster Fleeman in hushed tones, hissing soft tirades between one another about what the woman was thinking, having a child so late in life. I’ve loathed those children and their parents ever since. But that’s dusty history. I’ve grown up and followed in my father’s footsteps. Not as a farmer, but as a drinker. I learned from him that drinking can blunt the pain of making irrevocably bad life decisions. But even that’s history now. I am seventeen years sober and five years into retirement. And yet somehow I am hopelessly in love with her. It pains me when she’s away. But I watch her; through my mind’s eye.
You may have guessed that I don’t actually watch her. She’s miles away, on holiday with her husband. But I believe she thinks about me, though I don’t know precisely what is on her mind. Maybe I don’t want to know. But maybe I do. That’s the thing. I imagine her looking into my eyes when she returns. And I imagine her stealing a look around her to make sure no one sees before she kisses me. I want to tell you more about her and I would if only I knew more about her. If I knew the thoughts that flow through her mind. If I knew whether she shares my heretofore secretive longing to be together. By now, you must be thinking I am a rogue, to be in dreamy pursuit of a married woman. I suppose you would be right, especially in light of the fact that I have been married to my second wife for nearly fifteen years. Yet, let me suggest you should not be so quick to judge. You don’t know the history behind any of this. Were you in my shoes, I suspect you would be in exactly the same predicament in which I find myself. Your choices would be no different from those I have made. And if my choices make me a scoundrel, then you, too, are a scoundrel.
Ah, that’s no way to be speaking to a guest, is it? We barely know one another (though you know far more about me than I about you); please forgive my churlish behavior. It’s not like me. Not like me at all.