It Takes Two
by Vicki Graf
This story was published (July 2004) in the North County Times (N. San Diego)
Mona tried desperately to remember what had happened the previous night. She had become so forgetful since entering the "golden years." It frightened her; and she wanted the fog to clear. Now floating in and out of an ethereal sleep, she could see slices of a dream – a fedora, a red rose, and a mustachioed man – but dawn had blown away the web between them.
She struggled to find meaning in the fragments that were barely a gossamer strand away from her mind’s grasp. Still drifting, she was suddenly on fire as the mustachioed man led her in passionate pursuit across a dance floor. Her heart had never fluttered or her skin tingled as it had when they danced the tango.
One look at him and she knew his soul. The kind intensity of his eyes pierced her heart. Under the pencil-thin mustache, his shy smile broadened only for her. She observed attention to detail in his dapper apparel – black silk shirt, Italian leather shoes. The fedora was an elegant touch. She loved a man in a hat. When he handed her a red rose, she knew that he was grace personified.
Spent, following their first tango, the two dancers rested against a dance hall wall while watching another couple play out their own pursuit. Mona could feel their heat – or was it exuding from her own dance partner? Wrapping his arms around her, the man in the fedora whispered, "Marry me."
What was he thinking? After all, he really didn’t know her, at least in a practical sense. But practicality had nothing to do with their connection. Mona’s mind said, "Go slow," but her heart knew that he was The One.
When she woke from her morning tango man dream, Mona was surprised that she was not in her bed. Instead she lay crumpled, yet cozy, on a pile of old clothes and comforters. The light streaming through the attic windows converted cobwebs into lustrous silk strands, weaving a magic cloth over the old trunk beside her. Now she remembered. She had come to the attic to reminisce, but must have fallen asleep under the spell of her memories. Just seeing the old trunk, once her hope chest, had brought their first tango to mind.
Mona brushed away the cobwebs with a yellowed pillowcase, then lifted the trunk lid. It had been ten years since she and Frank had peered into their past. She could feel Frank’s presence as she worked her way through the mementos to find what she was looking for. There it was – the fedora. She placed it on her head, feeling the warmth of Frank’s soothing spirit, his eyes loving her still. She found the silk shirt he had worn the night they met. Removing her blouse, she slipped into the shirt. The memory of Frank’s scent and warmth wrapped her in bliss. Moving on, a fragile pressed rose escaped from a book of poetry. She smiled, remembering his first gift, which she had held between her teeth in perfect tango fashion.
Searching the remaining keepsakes, Mona’s arthritic fingers found the tango dancers that had adorned their wedding cake. Though the couple was not as perfect as the day she and Frank married – the man’s knee and the woman’s hand had chipped off – the rose remained intact.
The metaphor was not lost on Mona. Theirs had been a marriage that flourished and bloomed even through thorny times. Through Frank’s military career and countless transfers, raising four children during the chaotic ‘60s, and Frank’s battle with cancer, they had laughed, danced and romanced.
Five months before his final breath, in a moment of sudden strength and passion, Frank took Mona in his arms and danced her across their bedroom floor. The dancers slowly flowed in unison, each connected to the other’s movements as they had for their first tango and for all the tangos that followed. By the time they crossed the room twice, Frank needed rest. Mona helped him to the bed, and in a burst of laughter they fell onto rose-colored bedding. There, they found comfort in shared memories. It was their last dance.
Mona gingerly placed the pressed rose in the book of poetry. She returned the wedding cake couple and the fedora to the trunk. After lingering in the bliss of Frank’s silk shirt for an extra moment, Mona slowly removed it. She slipped back into her blouse, then folded and returned the shirt to the trunk. After closing the lid, she crawled from the attic with the book of poetry in hand. Infused with memories of her mustachioed man, Mona yearned to tango with him again on this, their 50th wedding anniversary.
Vicki Graf is a native Southern Californian. Her flash has appeared in flashquake and is forthcoming in Mindprints, Quintessence and Laughter Loaf. Her nonfiction articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Contact Vicki.