SEE ME, FEEL ME

My husband Sam and I were hosting our usual Friday night dinner with friends, something we’ve been doing for several years. Sam is a psychology professor at NYU and I manage Dahlia’s, an eponymously named floral shop.

Our weekly dinner companions are Claude and his wife Piper who own a small eclectic bookstore called The Paper Trail and Austin and Rebecca who have been engaged for seven years. Rebecca is a music teacher at a private school in Manhattan and Austin is a graphic designer. We keep asking them “When’s the big day?” but neither one seems to be in a rush.

Our dinner conversations are always lively, touching on a variety of topics. This particular evening, Sam said “I asked my class this question today: ‘If you had to choose between being deaf or being blind, which would you choose?’ Now, my friends, I’d like to know how you would answer that question.” My husband – ever the provocateur! Perhaps that’s what I find so stimulating about him.

Well, no big surprise, no one said anything for a moment; this was a profound question. I finally decided to break the ice by responding. “For me, as a florist, I would have to say I’d choose to be deaf. I need to see the arrangements I’m creating, which color flowers go well together, the best bouquets to match bridesmaid’s dresses, even something as simple as placing flowers in the right vase. I wouldn’t have to hear the bell on the shop’s front door or the telephone ring; both can be hooked up to a light to get my attention. And customers could always email or text me with their orders. Why, I could even communicate with my customers via tablets in the shop. I’d still be able to see and smell all the beautiful flowers, meet my customer’s expectations and take pride in my creations.”

Spurred on by my answer, Austin chimed in. “Exactly! I totally agree with Dahlia. In the field of graphic design, I would be incapable of working without the ability to see. These days there are so many electronic devices we can use to communicate; I don’t think being deaf would interfere with my life or my work at all.”

Immediately Rebecca countered what we said. “I get where the two of you are coming from but I could never teach music if I were deaf. I’d be able to place my fingers on the correct piano keys or strum the right strings on a guitar because I’ve been making music all my life. It’s second nature to me. But I wouldn’t want to exist without the sound of music, to hear my students playing, to correct their mistakes or praise their achievements. It would be impossible for me to conduct an orchestra, not knowing if the violins should be a little louder or the bassoons pianissimo. Austin, if you were deaf, you wouldn’t hear the wedding march when I walk down the aisle or hear me say the words ‘I do’.”

Austin was quick to reply. “As long as I could see your radiant face in your gorgeous wedding gown carrying the beautiful bouquet designed by Dahlia, that’s all that would matter. And as far as hearing you say ‘I do’, I would read your luscious lips before tenderly kissing my new bride.”

We all laughed as Sam exclaimed “Nice save, Austin! Claude and Piper, we’ve yet to hear from you. What’s your poison – deaf or blind?”

As if on cue, both Claude and Piper declared their answers at the same time; he said “Deaf”; she said “Blind”. They stared at each other in bewilderment and the rest of us couldn’t help but laugh at the expressions on their faces. Of course Sam had to keep the game going by saying “At last! Some controversy, a little gasoline on the fire of our conversation. Let’s keep this ball rolling!” and he poured everyone a fresh glass of wine.

Claude cleared his throat. “Piper, mon cher, we own a bookstore! How can you possibly say you would choose blindness over deafness? Mon Dieu! Have you forgotten how we bonded at that little book shop in Paris … what was the name? Ah! La Manoeuvre! We both reached for the same book of poetry by Paul Eluard and when our eyes met I knew I could never look away.’’

“Oh, my darling Claude. I could never forget La Manoeuvre. You read poetry to me and time stood still. It was as though we were the only people in that shop. Our love for books is why we bought The Paper Trail; that store is our baby. I know each book on every shelf and have read most of them. The feel of the paper, the smell of the leather-bound first editions, hearing you read to me – I do not need sight to love a book.”

Piper and Claude moved closer to each other and embraced, momentarily forgetting they were not alone. They kissed, then pulled away, embarrassed. Piper blushed and gave a breathless laugh.

“Claude, do you remember the books I had in my bag the day we first met?” Piper asked.

Claude nodded and said “Oui. One was ‘Wuthering Heights’ in Braille and the other was French sign language. They were for your parents.”

Piper looked around the room at the rest of us and explained. “My mother is blind and my father is deaf. Somehow they never had trouble communicating; I suppose they spoke the silent language of love. That’s why I was so passionate about having a Braille section in our bookstore. Also, there is new technology to help both blind and deaf people enjoy a movie or television.”

Turning to Claude, Piper said “As long as I can hear your voice, it doesn’t matter if I never see another thing again.”

We all felt a little in awe of Piper at that moment. We sipped our wine, captivated by the sounds of silence.  

NAR © 2022

FRENCH KISSING LIFE

There is a place somewhere called Paris
And I’m going there on vacation today;
A city where every useless worry or care is
Forgotten and carelessly tossed away.

I don’t need to see the Eiffel Tower
Or pray at Cathédrale Notre-Dame.
I’d happily pick a delicate wildflower
Or caress a charming man’s arm.

I’d love to stroll through Pére Lachaise,
Have a chat at the grave of Jim Morrison.
I’d play him some tunes like Jimi’s “Purple Haze’’,
Just dishing the dirt with that sexy rapscallion.

You won’t catch me near the Seine for dinner;
Much too highbrow and touristy for me.
Seat me at a bar with the saint or the sinner;
We’ll close the place down at quarter past three.

Mona Lisa is enigmatic in a gilt frame so fine
But the thought of the Louvre is a total bore.
I’d rather be laughing in a park drinking wine
Or sharing a smoke on a bench with a whore.

I’ve got nothing to hide; it’s far from a secret:
When it comes to Parisian men I’m a big flirt.
The playboys in the square whisper “Come, be my pet”
And I purr “Oui, oui, mon cheri! Who will it hurt?”

There is a place somewhere called Paris
And I’m going there on vacation today.
I’ll give life a sultry lingering French kiss;
When I’m in Paris I like to do things my way.

NAR © 2021

TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY

The scream of the alarm clock jolted Tia from a deep sleep. With eyes closed, she reached over and smacked the off button. Slowly rolling her head, she glanced at her dozing boyfriend Andrew. 

Feeling her eyes on him, Andrew peeked at Tia and whispered a groggy “morning already?” 

“Uh-hum. 6:15” Tia murmured as she snuggled closer. “Plenty of time to…….” 

Fuck!!” yelled Andrew as he bolted from their bed. “I’ve got a 7:00 Caesarian and patients all day!” 

Disappointed, Tia went into the kitchen to brew some coffee. When she returned to the bedroom, Andrew was dressed and ready to go. He rushed by her, not even stopping to take the coffee and muffin she prepared for him.

Gotta run, T” Andrew called over his shoulder. “Catch ya later!” And he was gone. Tia picked at a muffin thinking how mornings like this were becoming more and more frequent. 

They met in college and fell in love, sharing their dreams – she becoming a fashion designer and he a doctor. Tia had been accepted to the Fashion Institute of Paris but Andrew begged her not to go until he was in med school. She agreed with the idea and found work dressing bridal shop windows. The job was ok but it was unfulfilling and every time she mentioned studying in Paris, Andrew reminded her of their plans. Now he was a busy doctor and she was still at the bridal salon. 

On the way to work she heard that George Harrison song with the line “And if you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there”. She couldn’t get that line out of her head and the road not taken – the road to Paris. She truly loved Andrew and made many sacrifices for his career. Now it was her turn. 

That evening when Andrew got home from work Tia told him they needed to talk. “Let me grab a shower first and I’m all yours” he replied. 

When Andrew returned he went to the fridge and poured them both a glass of wine. “Listen T, I known you want to talk but I have something to say. Can I go first?” Tia nodded. 

“After all our plans and promises, our dreams have finally come true but there’s still something missing in my life. I love you, Tia. Marry me. 

Tia was floored. “Drew, I love you, too, and want to marry you but there’s something missing in my life. What about my dream to be a designer? What about Paris?” 

Paris!? Not that foolishness again! T, forget that road, stay here and marry me.” 

“Foolishness, Drew? Foolishness!? You begged me to wait for you while you pursued your dream. If you truly love me you’ll wait while I follow my dream.” 

As they stared at each other, Andrew’s pager beeped. He glanced at it. “My patient’s in labor. I gotta go. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.” 

But Tia already knew which road she had to take. 

NAR © 2019

JUST THIS ONE

“Impressive collection you have here” said Jackson to the owner of the record store.

“Feel free to look around” came a voice from somewhere behind a stack of boxes.

Jackson browsed the tiny cubby of a store, appropriately named “The Inner Sleeve”, looking for nothing in particular. 

“Psst. Down here,” whispered a battered box stashed in the corner. Jackson crouched down to wipe the dust off a yellowed label.

SIDNEY BECHET” 

Feeling a jolt shoot straight to his heart, fingers racing through musty LPs, suddenly there it was- “Les Annees Bechet”, #1: “Petite Fleur”.

“I’ll be damned”, whispered Jackson. No longer was he in “The Inner Sleeve”. It was Paris, 1982 in that enchanting café … what was the name?

Café de la Paix. Yes, that was it!” he recalled. And then, in a barely perceptible hush, “Lisette”.

Slumping back against the wall, Jackson clasped the precious vinyl against his chest, caressed it lovingly with the same fingers that raced through the box just seconds before. The same fingers that released Lisette’s raven hair from its ‘pince à cheveax’ and showered it across her porcelain shoulders. The same fingers that traced her face as gently as butterfly wings – ‘ailes de papillons’ – from her widows peak to her crystal blue eyes, her nose, her blushed lips. “Just this one time” thought Jackson. Just once before returning to his insanely mundane existence in Stamford, Connecticut. Oh, for just one more taste of Lisette.

Slowly Jackson stood, a sadness like none other enveloping him. He suddenly realized he had been crying. He wound his way through the maze of boxes overflowing with records that were meaningless to him. He had found what he didn’t know he was looking for.

“All done, sir?” the clerk asked. 

“Yes, thanks”, Jackson replied. “Just this. Just this one.”

NAR © 2017