Everything Old is New Again (Part 2)
by Lawrence Christopher
It was during one of Earl Grey's seasonal visits back to his hometown of Odelot, Ohio when he ran into Cynthia Sinclair, a high school sweetheart. They were at the grocery store. She was looking for a bottle of dinner wine. Earl recommended a nice Moscato. They stood in the aisle for close to ninety minutes getting reacquainted. Later during Earl's visit, they met for a Saturday brunch which lasted for two hours.
In asking about Earl and about his now living in Atlanta; he told her "I'm a devoted bachelor, living the dream as an executive creative director for an advertising agency." Cynthia, the once leggy cheerleader in high school is a Dartmouth graduate, married with children, working in the corporate headquarters of a Fortune 500 company. Her husband is a city government attorney and her high school senior children are music prodigies. She invited Earl to one of the children's musical programs, where he met the entire family.
On the return flight to Atlanta, Earl pondered the confessed status of his life; "I'm a devoted bachelor, living the dream . . ." The words of his mother replayed to him, "I knew you should have hung on to that one." Subconsciously, he agreed. Looking out the airplane's window, he envisioned the first time seeing Cynthia.
He was sitting on the front porch talking with Reverend Clarence R. Smith, Sr. on the virtues of good living as a teenager. Cynthia was walking home from cheerleading practice, still wearing her uniform. Earl's wanton gaze at her as she passed gave him away. Pastor Smith quoted him the Bible verse; "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee." The pastor went on to explain the scripture to the young man. Still looking out of the plane, Earl spoke as if to his childhood minister, "forgive me Father for I have sinned."
In two months passing Earl received a call from Cynthia, asking if he could pick her up from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. He did. She was in town for a week on business. While in town, they talked almost every night over the phone. When the end of the week arrived, they met for lunch. Cynthia decided to extend her stay by a couple of days and would fly home on Sunday. "Is it okay if I stay at your place?" She asked. "Not a problem" Earl answered.
At his Decatur, Georgia home, Earl carried Cynthia's bags to one of his guest bedrooms. They changed clothes and went out for dinner and to catch a premiere late night showing of Tyler Perry's movie Why Did I Get Married Too. In the sequel, this time around the characters - four couples retreat to the Bahamas and must deal with their deep seated marital problems. The wife of one of the couples is having an emotional affair with someone at work. When this became evident to the moviegoers in the theater, Cynthia grabs Earl's hand. They walked out of the theater hand in hand as did many of the other couples.
The thirty minute ride from midtown Atlanta to Earl's home was silent, other than the Quiet Storm playlist on the FM radio station. It was late, so they went right to their rooms. Before falling asleep, Earl could hear Cynthia on her mobile phone, on the balcony outside his bedroom. There was a full moon highlighting her silhouette. She was explaining to her husband why she was calling so late.
The morning after when Earl came down after waking, Cynthia was already up sitting on the sofa completing a crossword puzzle he had given up finishing.
"Good morning mister Grey."
"You know that you don't have any breakfast food to cook."
"Yes I do know. I eat cereal and milk."
"Who doesn't have eggs?"
"I don't. Would you like to go to IHOP? And I have some errands to run."
After they had breakfast, Earl had his car detailed, he dropped off and picked up some dry cleaning and then got a haircut. Cynthia seemed to enjoy being a part of his every other Saturday routine. For the late afternoon they spent some time at the popular Atlanta City Piedmont Park at the Dogwood Festival. Cynthia was looking very attractive on his arm, in her bare arms bright yellow sundress, draped over her athletic, palates and treadmill running maintained body. Then it was off to Phipps Plaza, one of Atlanta's luxury malls.
"How long have we known each other?" Cynthia asked.
"I don't know, twenty, twenty-five years."
"That's what I figured. Let's go in here."
The couple walked in the Tiffany & Co. store, where Cynthia purchased Earl a gift of a Streamerica® sterling silver pen and matching cufflinks. He graciously accepted the surprise anniversary gifts, with her insistence.
"So let me take you to dinner." Earl offers.
"How about I make you dinner instead?"
"Uh, you've seen my fridge and I don't have anything in it to cook."
"Then let's go shopping."
After shopping at Whole Foods Market, Cynthia prepared a Rumaki appetizer, a rice pilaf, mixed vegetables and broiled tilapia meal. They finished a bottle of Moscata while playing backgammon.
"So, this is your devoted bachelor life?" Cynthia mockingly chided.
"This is it."
"I expected a parade of women coming and going. Your phone hasn't rung once."
"My privacy is respected."
"After the kids are off to college I'll know what privacy means again."
"Fortunately, you'll have your husband so you won't be lonely."
They retired to their respective bedrooms. Earl reposed in bed thumbing through the latest subscription issue of Esquire magazine. Cynthia strolled in wearing only her underclothing. She goes into his walk-in closet and retrieves one of his freshly dry-cleaned dress shirts and put it on. Upon her exit, she pauses in the doorway.
"Get your cell phone? Take a few pictures." She asked.
A half dozen or so clicks later of the impromptu photo shoot, Cynthia climbed in bed to view her electronic proofs. From one provocative pose, another risqué, to a few downright dirty shot after another was saved to the memory card of Earl's phone. She felt flushed with the sight of herself in the uncharacteristic boudoir poses.
"So, what do you think?" She baited.
"Nice. Like the day I first laid eyes on you." He stated, then thought to himself; "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he . . ."
"So, now what?"
Sitting at the counter of one of the coffee shops in the airport's atrium, Cynthia and Earl stared into their cups while quietly reflecting on the night before. Cynthia was summing the events of her business plus pleasure trip, including her personal time with Earl. She concluded that overall that it was a successful trip. The business aspect aside, she rediscovered old feelings for her once high school sweetheart. She also discovered new feelings for the man he'd become. But there was a problem.
"Why wouldn't he have sex? She asked herself. "That 'I like you, but I want to respect the sanctity of your marriage and our friendship' was a bunch of crap. No real man is going to turn down a no-strings attached night of sex. He had nothing to lose and a good night to gain. He must be gay." She comforted herself with thinking.
Contrary to the thinking of most of those who critiqued Earl's bachelorhood; he doesn't indulge in indiscriminate sex. In fact, the last woman he made love to, he still has feelings for her. He tells each woman who broaches the subject of sex, "I have to like you first." That wasn't a problem when it came to Cynthia. He did like her. In fact, Earl liked her a lot. All things being equal between them, with the exception of place and time, he could see himself married to her.
"I should have 'hit it' and then asked afterwards if we could still be friends. It's hard trying to be a righteous man, especially here in Atlanta. It would be almost too easy to settle for whatever eligible woman crossed my path. Instead, I'm holding out for a woman of substance, with a passion for a purpose other than herself." Earl mentally lamented as took a sip of his namesake Chai tea latte.
"So, I guess I should be going to catch my plane."
"I suppose so."
"I have to say Earl, you have changed."
"Oh really. How so?"
"Well, for one; you're a different flavor of a man than most."
"Some would say that I'm an acquired taste."
Beyond the security gates, the attractive Cynthia paused to blow Earl a kiss. He raised his mobile phone and captured her image. With his phone in hand, Earl proceeded to select the photos of Cynthia from the night before and one by one he deleted them.
"Not everything old can be made new again," he spoke to himself.