I looked up at the stately, stucco and stone, three story mansion rising before me as I lifted my little blue suitcase out the back of my car. A little oval placard declared this the Nagel Warren Mansion Bed & Breakfast 1888. It looked the part. Inside was even more tantalizing, as my eyes drank in the dark wood paneling, copper ceiling, and period furniture. A willowy old man sat behind a period desk in one of two bright sitting rooms flanking the entry. He was speaking into the phone, but he pointed one long finger toward the room next door. Turning the corner, I looked into a dark library, with tall shelves and two comfortable chairs.
He was waiting for me and I smiled as I was wrapped up tight in his big embrace. We stood that way for a while. In time, we got the key to our room, an honest to god key, an old, skeleton key to the original brass doorknob with the original lock. We got the tour from the friendly proprietor and the security check by a large grey cat who scanned us from the garden bushes, then we retreated to our room. We were both a little ennervated, circling each other as we circled the grand tower room, gazing at moldings and paintings, sticking our heads in the closet and the bathroom, and really all the time readjusting to each other.
We lay sideways on the big bed, a bed I will always remember, fully clothed, relearning what it is to touch and be touched. For the last several months the entirety of my human contact had involved the polite shaking of hands between strangers, the rib-cracking hugs of my father, and the sweet peck on the cheek of my mother. To be able to run my hands unhindered along the warm skin of another, along ears, neck, back, to feel someone’s heavy palm resting on my rib cage, hip, shoulder, was both new and very old, uncertain and very welcome.
Years ago I watched an Alan Alda movie, something that had been adapted from a play. The movie spanned decades of the two characters lives, yet always took place in the same location, an out of the way motel room. “Same Time Next Year.” It was the story of a man and a woman who met there for a few days each year, and each year relearned each other, through marriage, birth, death, war, loss, and finally into old age. It had it’s funny parts, like when George saves Doris’s marriage (and himself from an angry husband) by posing as a priest, but it was one of those poignant comedies in which laughter is the balm used to smooth the hard edges of life. It was an amazing window into the lives of two otherwise oh-so-normal people.
So that’s what I thought of, at that little bed and breakfast in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I thought of George and Doris and how much they loved each other, no matter that they were each apart so much of the time, leading their separate lives. I thought about how they met each year like almost strangers and parted again and again as such close friends.
I don’t know where my life will take me, though I have a few ideas, and who knows where life will take him, but I hope that we can love each other when we can and always part as friends.
As the warm sun poured through stained glass windows onto polished wood floors, I ignored it all looked into his face and realized how lucky I am.