Lori Horvitz A Threesome with Time

Although I liked the attention, I hadn’t considered Abigail as girlfriend material--the age of a legal adult stood between us. At least that’s how I saw her thirty-three years to my fifty-two. “If you were closer to my age,” she said, “I’d totally go for you.” Our feet shuffled through fallen leaves, reds and oranges shimmering above, and I took a breath of crisp October air.

A week before at a lesbian get-together, a group of women had gathered around Abigail, the new girl in town. She waved her long fingers and brushed hair from her face and spoke about the politics and syntax of French surrealist poetry--the focus of her dissertation.

“You remind me of me, a mini-me,” I said, both of us New Yorkers from the same Jewish stock, writers and professors. Abigail responded, “I’m honored to be the mini-you.” My anxiety level shot up, the pleasant kind that leads to giddiness. I saw our interaction as a healthy flirtation, if not a little bit of an ego boost. At first glance, Abigail could pass for a teenage girl in skinny jeans. I even referred to her as “The Little Girl.” Maybe I used this phrase so I wouldn’t take her seriously, the same way my father referred to a woman he had begun to date as “The Lady,” three months after my mother died.

Abigail decided to take a break from New York and check out the North Carolina mountains. A serious poet, she had written an award-winning book with blurbs on the back by three famous poets. I asked how she got such a glowing testimonial from one of the poets, a Pulitzer-Prize winner. Abigail said she learned where the poet lived, showed up on her doorstep and asked if she’d look at her poems.

I’m not sure Abigail was the mini-me; she was the most ambitious person I had ever met.

While Abigail and I walked in the woods and talked about poetry and French theorists, her stare slid the peephole of my heart open, but I looked away and said I had to get home and grade papers.

Amid reading student stories about dying grandparents, I couldn’t stop thinking about Abigail. I texted and asked if she wanted to go to a pumpkin carving party. Thirty minutes later, she held a bottle of wine and hugged me, the bottle knocking at my spine. I pointed at a Japanese Maple tree in my yard, some leaves green, others orange and red against the blue sky. “Soon the tree will be on fire,” I said.

We drank the wine, an Italian cabernet mentioned in a poem she loved. She had a copy of the poem and read it to me—maybe she had multiple copies of the poem and this is how she courted women. She started to pour more wine and asked, “Do we have to go to the party?”

“I already told friends I’d go to the party,” I said, and picked up my pumpkin. At the party, I stood close to Abigail, our backs leaning against outdoor deck railing, her fork swooping the last of my potato salad. We posed for a photo, our arms around each other, and after the camera snapped, we didn’t let go for a minute or two. We chatted with others but kept hovering back, and by the time I pulled into my driveway, by the time the engine quieted, Abigail hadn’t moved from the passenger seat. “I don’t want to leave,” she said. “I’m having such a good time with you.”

I opened my door. “I have to get to sleep,” I said. Abigail got out of the car and we hugged. She drove off.

At dinner the next evening, she told me about living on a small French island and staying alone in a haunted house. She couldn’t sleep but wrote poetry all night. She said she liked to put herself in uncomfortable situations. That made two of us, because the situation right then terrified me. She rubbed her leg against mine, touched my arm and said, “Would you sleep with me once?”

I spotted vague creases by her eyes, which made me feel a little better out in public with her. “Why once?”

“Because I figure,” she said, “that’s all I could get from you.”

Did she use those words on other women? Two colleagues walked in the restaurant.

I didn’t invite Abigail inside my house, but she followed me to my back door. “I was hoping,” she said, “I’d at least get a goodnight kiss.”

On my porch, I took Abigail’s hand and we sat on the concrete step, the Japanese Maple standing over us, hundreds of small delicate leaves with pointy lobes that spread outward like fingers on a palm. Hundreds of fingers creeping towards me, perhaps fingers that only wanted to caress me, and heaven knows I needed caressing. Was I letting a predator slowly break me down and manipulate her way into my life?

Abigail moved closer and held my hand in hers. “It’s getting cold,” she said. “Don’t you have a couch or something?”

I cracked up at her brashness. “Yes, I have a couch or something.” Unbeknownst to me, Abigail had left her computer in my kitchen before we left for the restaurant; she’d have a reason to come into my house, if the couch line didn’t work.

I tried to remain vertical but it didn’t take much to get me horizontal, with her on top. Right after we kissed, she said, “Do you want children?”

I lifted my head. “We don’t even know each other!”

She talked about her ticking clock and wanting to find a partner. She asked again if I had ever wanted kids. I told her there were times I did want children but it was more important to find a healthy relationship. We kissed and groped for the next two hours and then I didn’t think she was such a little girl. We were two sweaty women on a couch, and it was getting late, and I told her I had to teach in the morning. She asked if she could stay over and I said yes, but she needed to stay in the guest room.

I reminded myself that I wanted to find a long-term relationship; I was too old to be messing around, even with a brilliant woman who spoke several languages. Moreover, I was never good at separating sex and love and admire those who can.

Abigail slithered under my covers at the crack of dawn and we held each other, and my morning was a blur of coffee and teaching and anxiety. Later that day she texted, said she had no doubt we had chemistry but the age difference might be too much. Still, she wanted to hang out, and we needed to be careful with our hearts.

In the big picture, nineteen years wasn’t impossible, but when I looked at the smaller picture, the photo of us together on my phone—her smooth skin, little girl face and big head, against my crow’s feet and worry lines, she looked so much younger. And why the hell did she go after me if she knew how old I was to begin with?

I cried on and off all day, perhaps because I didn’t get much sleep the night before, or because I felt duped, or maybe because I mourned my youth—this was the first time age had been an issue in a relationship. After all, I have women friends who are with much older men and they are happily married, so might this be a gender issue?

Now I was in my fifties, and the last decade had snuck up on me. Surprise! You’re getting old!

I ran into a colleague who’d been with her partner for ten years, a woman seventeen years younger. She said it was all a mindset and things were working out just fine. “But,” she added, “sometimes people think she’s my daughter. I don’t bother to correct them anymore.”

I talked to another friend who married a man twenty years younger—they’d been together for twenty years. She said he was the one with the health issues, that at seventy-five, she was fit as a fiddle. When the couple had gotten together, they taught at the same university. Her colleagues didn’t believe her when she told them.

It was Halloween and Abigail sent me a picture of herself dressed as a bumblebee. She texted: “Can we hang out later?”

Of course she dressed as a bee; she had a stinger and she’d sting me again if I let her.

Then again, she was brilliant, funny, sexy and creative, and she’d only be in town for a short while. Maybe I shouldn’t look at all relationships as potential marriage material. Was it possible for me to enjoy the moment? I loved talking about poetry and love and life with Abigail, and if something did happen, she’d be gone in a few weeks. That evening Abigail held my hand and asked me to kiss her. I kissed her. We hugged. “I’m leaving in sixteen days,” she said.

“You know we’re playing with fire,” I said. “Don’t you?”

She squeezed my hand. “Can we spend that time together?”

“Like a contained fire,” I said, “a controlled burn?” I caressed her neck, breathed in her rosemary-scented hair. “One of those fires intentionally ignited to clear the land and recycle nutrients?”

“That’s exactly it,” she said. She placed her hand on my heart, but I stepped back. A neighbor waved from the street, his beagle tugging him along.

We agreed to enjoy each other for the sixteen days she’d be in town.

As long as we set clear boundaries, I figured, we’d be okay, although contracts of the heart might be harder to abide by than, let’s say, contracts with a home inspector.

I gave her the key to my house, and for the next sixteen days, we shared stories and food and poetry and our bodies and we relaxed into that contained field, burning and bright. On a daily basis, we strolled at a nearby lake, our hips snuggled, my dog romping by our side. We ate expensive pistachio ice cream in bed and watched videos on YouTube. One morning she showed me her online dating profile and asked if I’d respond, and I said I wouldn’t have seen it in the first place—she was out of my age range.

Our contract worked, at least for the first week, although one morning I woke up sad; I felt part of a threesome, and Time was the other woman, my nemesis, my competition.

But if Time were the other woman, just then she gave me the option to enjoy, to have at it.

I heard that men date younger women because it makes them feel more boyish again. Abigail made me well aware of my age, especially when my gray roots started to show. I mentioned I needed to dye my hair. She went on about how she liked my gray roots and suggested I go all gray. I said I wasn’t ready for that, not yet. She said, “I have a few white hairs,” and I looked and looked and finally found one. And when she ordered a glass of wine at a local bar, she got carded, and that made me even more aware of our age difference.

I played my guitar and sang for Abigail, and she said her heart burst open when I scrunched up my face and grinned. And I took her to my gym and she used a worn-out bathing suit a friend had left at my house, a little too small and it drifted up her ass in the pool, and we laughed and laughed, and the lone man in the pool laughed along but had no clue why. And every day I pointed to the Japanese Maple, the reds and oranges lighting up the sky, the tips of the uppermost leaves starting to fray, and I’d say, “That’s our tree.”

I couldn’t imagine that a year later, I’d be comforting her, as her friend, when the woman she would get involved with broke her heart over and over, how we both would look at our experience as a re-booting, but not without a price. It took several months of emotional untangling.

Yet, as a male friend said, “The Little Girl delivered.”

Abigail and I went on “a proper date,” as she insisted. We went to the Sky Bar, its patio overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. She wore her slinky black dress and got carded, and it felt like porn when she flipped her leg onto mine, and we shared an apple cider froufrou drink. For a moment I felt like a middle-aged man with a prostitute. It didn’t help that a gang of frat-looking boys were huddled in the corner. Abigail asked, “Are you okay with my leg like this.” I told her I was, but really I wasn’t. I never liked to call attention to myself, especially in front of frat boys. Yet there I was, in the place of discomfort, the place Abigail and I talked about, where the real learning happens, the place where I began to acknowledge my own aging process. From this place, I also learned I was still capable of attraction, of passion, of love, not only with others, but with my fifty-something body, and at times, even my graying hair.

Before Abigail drove off for good, we hugged and she wept and dabbed tears and snot with her jacket sleeve. Her car glided in reverse from my driveway, rolling over dried up leaves, leaves I would later compost into nutrients to feed next year’s harvest. She put her car in drive, waved one last time, and stepped back into her life, and I into mine, a chorus of leaf blowers blasting in the distance.

END


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