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Entries in Carol Bly Award (1)

Friday
Sep282012

Gloved: A Short Story

(I wrote this story published by Dust & Fire. Bemidji State University, MN. 2010. It won the Carol Bly Award in Non-fiction.)

How does a woman respond to a man she’s only just met that morning, on the train? She greeted him by name (recognized him from his photo), introduced herself, and sat down.

“How do I know you?” Who is this woman?

“I’m presenting today, too.” We’ve never met.     

She was a colleague for the event, another speaker, relegated to a breakout session versus his keynote address, he being the Ph.D., the corporate-sponsored, unavailable the last four years until now.

She listened to his dismay regarding the cold that had demanded suffering and Sudafed, how close he’d been to canceling. She sympathized with his condition, changed seats to allow him his rest, his privacy, but not before their hour together talking: his practice in Boston and New York, her teaching and graduate school, his books, her book, his writing, her writing, his digging clams on Cape Cod as a boy, her catching crayfish in the Iowa River as a girl. His three children, her son, her daughter, her husband.

“How long have you been married?” How old are you?

“Twenty-five years this June.” Older than you thought.

---

How does a woman respond to a man she’s only just met that morning, who is twelve years older than she, in the prime of his professional life? “…featured in the media, including 20/20, Oprah, CNN, PBS, and NPR as well as…” And she, feeding and watering her roots, her tight buds just beginning to loosen, to blush. She had her photo taken with him to document the afternoon’s speakers who traveled across state lines to be there. She sold her book, next to a volunteer who sold his three.

Afterwards, they waited together for their train. And together, they waited. A freight train derailed in Virginia. Their train would be delayed. He phoned his driver.

“Don’t worry. I’m traveling with a very beautiful woman.” That was meant for you to hear.

“Oh, do worry.” I heard, and this was meant for you.

---

How does a woman respond to a man she’s only just met that morning, who sat beside her on the smooth, curving oak bench in the regal station, watching the schedule above their heads flip—clack-clack-clack—updating the status of the 4:38 to Boston?

“You really are very beautiful.”

She stood with him in the brisk Atlantic wind on the New Haven platform, snuggling her faux fur coat around her neck and then her hood to her ears and rosy cheeks. They talked of films. He asked her if she’d seen Casablanca. She hadn’t, not the whole movie. He told her she must see it, if just for the final scene.

They climbed aboard the business class car and stood in the aisle together. Only single seats left for the return trip. This was it. They’d have to split up. He turned to her.

“It was a pleasure meeting you—oh, let me kiss you.”

---

How does a woman respond to a man she’s only just met that morning, who nuzzles to her cheek, her neck, and smells her hair?

She sits up front, ladies first, he towards the rear, the gentle rocking of the train cradling their tired bodies. The sun sets, then the blackness makes a mirror of the window.

Her stop before his, she gathers her shoulder bag, a heavy box of unsold books, and walks down the aisle to the exit. She’d considered leaving her gloves deep in her coat pockets, but thought better of it. Some believe that gloves are made to guard against the cold when really, they are meant to keep in the heat.

She averts her eyes, until she steps closer. She sees his radiant smile, his outstretched hand. In her fluster, she doesn’t hear exactly what he says, but she says,

“It really was a pleasure. Take care of that cold.”

His outstretched hand.

Her black, leather-gloved hand.

       Touch.