Hudson River Blues
What the hell do you do when you meet the right person at the wrong moment? Your spirit will soar sky high just as quickly as it plunges to the depths when the person leaves you.
The love story that started one late summer night at an American university campus had emotional after-effects that spread like rings on the water.
Henry had felt bad after that quarrel with the college professor, the obvious confusion in his mind turning into rage. Henry had turned himself into a victim, his own sensitivity doing exactly that for him. He had no idea this was his problem. The professor had told him just as much that night. Henry’s mind drifted constantly during lectures. His mind, the professor told him, could one day turn him into one of the leading men in society. Henry’s habit, however, of taking everything too seriously could ruin his life. He drove people crazy.
So, Henry scooted to one of the practice-rooms and sat there until three in the morning. He ended up playing a melancholy song on the piano. It was a song he himself had written he at first called “The Hudson River Blues” from a dream he had of making it in New York City as an artist. It was filled with longing. Longing. Yes, damn it. It had been longing, hadn’t it? A longing for something new, a change. A key change, anything. The result had been a song searching for a name. Then, all at once, Olivia stood in the doorway, giving the song that name, asking him what he was playing, telling him how good it sounded. She had been out and about, partying until two in the morning and was on her way back to her campus dorm room, not really drunk, but drunk enough to be relaxed.
It seemed Olivia was the only person he did not drive crazy.
The melody was written in the key of E-minor, a few pentatonic scales thrown in here and there, a blue note thrown in for good measure, suspended and augmented chords, sixth notes, jazzy majors with seventh intervals.
Olivia listened as he played the song again, sitting down on the piano chair next to him and leaning against his shoulder, playing with the locks of his hair. She asked him why had they not met before? The illusive music became an elusive act, an angel bending over the piano. Then and there, they fell into each other’s arms, kissing wildly, making wild ferocious love against the wall, running back to his room, and making love again. Laughing, hugging, kissing, chatting, feeding each other Cheez-it and Hershey bars and Oreos.
The unprotected sex with that mysterious woman made him feel wanted.
He felt cared for, loved and respected. It was tender and happy and honest.
Henry had found someone he could be himself with.
Shortly before she they fell asleep in each other’s arms, little crumbs of Oreos strewn about on Olivia’s breasts, she asked herself how it was possible that two people that were so perfect for one another could be studying at the same university and not know each other.
Olivia was leaving for good. She had gotten her master’s degree and was getting out of town. Right before they went to sleep, she told him she would leave her phone number on his nighttime table. When he woke up, she was indeed gone and the slip with the phone number was not there.
Five years later, Henry still mourned her, wondering what had happened to her phone number, if she had left it on his night-time table at all. Why had she left without saying goodbye? Henry never realized that the note with Olivia’s phone number had fallen off the table under the bed when he tossed and turned in bed that morning.
The cleaning lady threw it away.
He remembered all the musical moves of that song five years later, the diminished and augmented chords. He remembered what all those chords meant because they expressed what he had felt for her. When he finished playing it, Olivia was still there in his mind. He had kept playing that song over and over now for five years, punishing himself with memory, comparing every woman he had a relationship with to Olivia. In fact, the three buxom beauties he had been with since her had all looked like her.
Another Monday quarrel had crashed the third relationship. He did not even know what he had done to mess that one up. Was it leaving the wrong washcloth in the sink or was it simply getting drunk at her latest birthday party? Had he forced himself to be unfaithful to another girlfriend just to try to find Olivia again?
“Your mind is always drifting, Henry,” his ex-girlfriend Kimberley had screamed the day before. “You’re always thinking about that damn woman you knew way back when. Get her back. No other woman will have you if you can’t let her go.”
Thrown out of another girl’s flat. Another slamming door.
So, now, Henry was back playing piano at a bar by the Hudson River. Asking himself what other things he could do between gigs, he always ended up as a bar pianist, blaming himself for shunning the limelight.
Henry’s mind drifted while he played the song that had been “The Hudson River Blues” that evening, a tune that turned into “Olivia’s Tune”, realizing that third six month relationship had been a forced attempt to replace perfect Olivia. A woman he had only been with one night many years ago had become perfect in his mind. Or maybe talking to another try-out-chick about Olivia? He just could not help it. No one could reach her joie de vivre, her grace, her charm, her sexuality.
The memory of that spiritually intense sexuality made him feel even more alone, sitting in the corner playing “Olivia’s Tune” to guests who were not even listening. So very alone, back playing piano at Rit’s Bar. Funny, not even the bar at the Ritz. No, Rit’s Bar.
Even though the bartender Zed dressed all fancy and stuff, bowtie, and black vest and even a glitzy earring in his left ear, playing piano for six hours for divorced fifty-somethings was not what Henry imagined his life to be. This gig seemed like a drag for someone with a college-degree. Some college graduates in Manhattan had ended up homeless, but Henry still could not feel lucky. Playing versions of “Olivia’s Tune” for horny old farts was not his idea of fun. They slurped their whiskeys before finally strolling down by the Hudson River into an alleyway past the Queensborough Bridge while remained by the grand piano, playing “Stardust” and “Body and Soul” to the chick hoping to get picked up by some Manhattan stud.
Henry glanced out the large window onto the waves of the Hudson River as he played, wondering where his dead body would end up. Past the Statue of Liberty, downstream toward Hoboken? Closer to Frank Sinatra? As close as he would ever get.
Manhattan gave Henry that eerie feeling of nostalgia, the weird memories of lost loves. Here he was, a guy in his thirties, once again between sporadic gigs; another performance contract behind him. Between girlfriends, last one too confusing to be the real thing. Looking for answers.
The closing of the bar door woke Henry up, ripping him away from daydreaming about lost loves and how to deal with their pain. His gaze scanned the place, his fingers leaving the keyboard. Zed wiped the bar clean, putting the last Martini glass into the dishwasher, going back to put the chairs back on the tables before closing. Zed was completely oblivious to Henry’s silence.
Henry slammed the grand piano shut. He waltzed into the back room behind the bar. The company fridge in there, so he had been told, contained free after-hours beer for the employees. These were after-hours, right? He’s stopped working, right?
Feeling used and disrespected, he left the back room again, strolling over to his colleague, wiping another table clean of breadcrumbs.
“Do you like working here, Zed?”
The slick bartender with the greasy hairdo looked up at him with neutral grin. “It pays the bills. But that is probably not what you are talking about, right?”
“No, Zed,” Henry muttered. “That’s not what I’m talking about.”
“So, what are you talking about?”
“The people come here, and they don’t really give a shit.”
Zed gave Henry a smirk, wincing and shaking his head.
“Look, Henry,” he chuckled, “I’ve cleaned this place up. I’ve written down the day’s earnings. You seem to drift off into dreamland, playing some old standard in that corner. You don’t hear those people talking. They tell me stories. The girl that just left, she’s a young widow left alone with her husband’s fortune, but she only comes here because this place was where she first met her late husband. What are you thinking of back there, man? You play your tunes, but you don’t really care about the people.”
“I’m too busy being in pain, Zed,” Henry snapped. “Do you care?”
“Well, they come and go. I serve them drinks; you play them old Sinatra tunes. But it don’t seem to be you like very much whatcha doin’.”
Zed made an effectful pause.
Henry shook his head.
“Then why the heck are ya here?”
Henry looked up into Zed’s eyes, astounded.
“You ask me if I like working here,” Zed snapped. “My answer is that it pays the bills. I have a wife and a daughter, and I go back to them after this. You, my friend, seem to be yearning for something that left you a long time ago. You’re an artist, right?”
“So, what are you doing behind a grand piano by the river?”
Henry winced, unable to answer.
“Did Sinatra waste his time playing bar-tunes?”
“Sinatra didn’t mess up his love-life,” Henry mumbled.
“Sinatra was too busy drinking whiskey,” Zed laughed. “He was married a kazillion times, man. So, don’t you talk about Frankie’s love-life.”
Zed looked up, shrugged; waited and then lit up a cigarillo by the room’s gaudy and oversized chandelier, as they both headed for the exit.
“Oh, well,” Henry sighed. “See you tomorrow, I guess.”
“Oh, yeah,” Zed smiled, locking up. “Tomorrow. Jiggins, that’s your name, right?”
“Well, for you, Jiggins, I’m guessing, tomorrow’s always another day, right?”
“That has nothing to do with anything, Zed,” Henry spat.
Zed pointed at Henry’s chest, three times. “Whoever it is that you are mourning, whatever it is you can’t let go, man, either get it back or let it go, or it’s gonna eat you up. Pain is merciless.”
Henry grinned, not very convincingly, wondering how anyone could be so blunt, so insensitive. It took someone brain-dead to the world to forget a colleague’s name who had been working there for… how long had it been? Three months? Shit. Either that, or Henry was just a boring old schmuck. Maybe it was depression. Maybe depression made Henry dull. Or maybe, just maybe, Zed was right. Henry had to learn to let go.
So much for part-time bartenders. Zed vanished into the night, strolling to God knows where, leaving Henry to light up his Marlboro, the Hudson River looking like a silvery abyss, welcoming and dark, an answer to a painful question. Henry gazed toward his home in Greenwich Village, opposite Hoboken, far, far away from the dream of writing songs he believed Frank Sinatra would have loved to sing. In the dulled delirium of tedious deterioration, Henry wondered if life was better in the abyss.
“You believe in the after-life, kiddo?” an evil gremlin cackled inside his head. “The water is deep enough for ya to tryyyyyyy …”
Henry shook his head in fear over what had just popped into his head, trying to remind himself of the good stuff. The pizza the other day, the hooker last Tuesday.
Henry looked down into the water again. His eyes lifting towards heaven. As his eloquently formed smoke rings fluttered up toward the moon, Henry Jiggins wondered how Frank Sinatra had felt growing in up in Hoboken, hoping to become famous. Should Henry try sending his stuff to that big band across the river?
To the “Old Blue Eyes”?
He thought, revival shows.
Holy shit here comes suckin’ up to the Catskills.
“Come on, boy,” Henry chastised himself. “You’re no Harry James.”
With a name like Henry Jiggins, he mused that he could even think he could get a job as a composer or even as a part-time accompanist or lyricist. All that came Henry’s way were silly remarks about not being quite the language professor that Henry Higgins had been in “My Fair Lady” and that he should check if the rain in Spain stayed mainly in the plain. He thought he did not give a shit. He got by; teaching twelve-year-olds little pieces by Czerny; playing “Olivia’s Tune” in Rit’s Bar and then working part-time as a waiter, not a musician, in an Off-Broadway restaurant. As he often did, he thought the Catskills seemed too damn close and Broadway too far away; the life of a day-to-day, gig-to-gig-musician… too restless? No female companion to hold his hand. He chuckled, not even a guy. The hooker last Tuesday? Forget her! Henry had never tried the other side and he had never wanted to.
The Marlboro still lit. His beer still tasted like shit, and the memory of the girl he had made love to years ago haunted him, just like the pain in his heart stung his soul. Hell, no more slamming doors. No more angry women. No more two-bit-sleazy-bars with bartenders that did not even remember his name.
Henry walked toward the pier, watching, and loving the Hudson River, leaning over, thinking about jumping in just to escape the pain.
“Pain is merciless.”
Zed’s phrase had made everything worse, intensifying his emotional turmoil.
“Why can’t I let her go?” Henry muttered to himself.
He hoped to hear someone from Monroe Street yell, “No! Don’t jump in!” as clouds darkened the moon. Henry looked up, seeing how the sky turned into a dramatic conglomerate of raindrops. First one, then two, then a million. One of those raindrops extinguished his cigarette leaving Henry with nothing but a broken heart, memories of a sad boner in his drawers. Was somebody looking? Was Zed at least still close enough to see he was thinking about jumping?
Henry turned around, glancing toward the parking lot, only to see Zed still smoking his cigarillo by his car. Henry faced the Hudson River again, looking into the deep water, realizing what a coward he was and how he let the past torment him.
When the lightning struck and the Manhattan sky exploded into a thunderous cascade of uncontrolled water, Henry ran, trying to find a corner of Rit’s that had a roof big enough to grant him some shelter. Henry ran back and forth a few times, trying to figure out what other nooks and crannies this sordid sleazy dive had. Somewhere to remain relatively dry. As he ran, he saw Zed getting into his car. The back of Rit’s bar had a shed with garbage cans. It gave Henry a moment’s protection from the rain. Somehow, Henry felt this to be a fitting symbolism for his life: an unhappy and single artist running into a garbage shed to get away from the rain.
“Why the hell didn’t I drive here?”
Henry found himself remembering all the degrading moments of his life. Getting bad grades in school. His mother yelling at him for breaking a dinner-plate. His father reprimanding him for returning two hours late after school. A former voice-teacher telling him he should look at how real singers worked with their technique. Real singers. What was he? A second-rate musician and a two-bit composer? Losing Olivia: the most degrading moment of all. Maybe Zed was right. He had to find or let go.
The rain now found a different path of destruction, turned far-away from Greenwich Village, bringing God’s revenge-floods pummeling down to punish humanity for its sins.
One face appeared by the back door, lit up by a flash from the sky.
The lightning bolt lit up the sky and revealed a man with a brown paper bag and torn clothes. Henry searched his pockets for anything, a knife, a lighter, his keys, anything.
Henry stepped out of the shed, trying to see if Zed somehow had decided to dawdle a bit, playing with his Android smartphone like he sometimes did.
“Zed, you still there?” he cried. “Can you give me a lift home?”
The homeless man Henry had discovered cowering inside the shed growled a few times. The growl turned into a whimper and finally died out into a snore.
Henry scooted toward the parking lot, hoping to see a red Chevy, a vest, and a white shirt. The slim chance of seeing Zed still sticking around would give him at least half a chance of getting home earlier.
Another bolt of lightning, another flash of that face.
Now that face had a body, bad teeth.
“He gone, rich boy,” the face sneered, crawling in behind one metallic container labelled Rit’s. There was a roof there, a rat, a few old newspapers, a brick wall, and shadows on the wall from an emergency light. The homeless bum crawling out of the corner, made Henry feel guilty for being well-off.
Henry found himself running out into the rain, shouting after the car, his shoes drenched in rain, his shoes making little swooshing noises.
Zed was gone, making Henry realize that he himself was transforming into something he had never wanted to become: a victim.
As raindrops turned into starlight, Henry loafed onward, hoping to find booze.
And Henry waffled into oblivion, wondering if he could pull himself out of this mess.
Having arrived at Washington Square Park, his clothes soaked and his temper down the tubes, he thought about the bum. Henry looked out toward the darkness, picturing that old bum lighting up a smoke. It was strange, though. Rit’s Bar seemed a rather cool place to be close to for the bum, knowing he was somewhere dry. Why was that? The back-alley bum had never gone back to the subway, the hookers had never left the docks, the cigarette butts had never been cleaned away, and Henry was trying to figure out what had gone wrong. Henry worked, he had an apartment and he did not have to crawl behind a garbage can.
As Henry stepped onto the stairway of his house, the marble tiles overflowing with rainwater, he remembered Olivia. The boner was back; the urge to pluck out those magazines from the sock drawer returned and soon every single stair overflowed with rainwater.
Henry, the loner with the useless college degree stripped naked, leaving his wet clothes hanging on hangers in his dirty bathroom. He flipped on his PC, clicking himself into some YouTube chillout song that had received twenty million likes, written by someone no one had heard of, receiving attention merely for its chillout-factor, making Henry wonder if he could not write something like that. But that would not get him cash. A guy could have the world praying at his feet and not earn a single buck or even get any fame at all for it. It reminded Henry of all those Broadway actors, who gave the musicals they were in their fame, but who never became famous themselves, not if their names were not Madonna or Antonio Banderas. God bless their souls.
The 2017 Rioja reminded him of a date going the tubes; the flipping of channels felt like a boring lecture; the popular and unknown chillout song that had received twenty million likes on YouTube just increased the tension. The end of another bad relationship had triggered the need in him to feel love. Real love. It made Henry wonder why he never had told that special lady named Olivia long ago she was his soulmate. Had she ended up on Broadway?
The guilt devoured his soul, crisscrossing it, grabbing ahold of his heart.
Lying awake, the sweat drops on his brow felt like small ants biting his pores.
Henry closed his eyes; breathed in deeply and convinced himself that everything happened for a reason.
He fell asleep around two o’clock that night, residue drops of Rioja dripping onto the couch. Henry dreamt of the bum at the back of the Rit’s. The woman that had laughed during sex so many years ago faded into the back of his memory. And when morning arrived, Henry’s eyelashes barely enabled light to seep into his optical nerves. He winced, his eyes blinking again and again. The all too bright sunrise broke through the see-through curtain in front of the balcony and tickled his face. A fleeting dream soared into the heavens, flying off like birds toward Africa.
The noise outside in the chilly reality of Manhattan awakened Henry to a feeling that he was like a dog chasing his tail. Life was stagnant in its ordinary routine and no day had differed from the other. In his mind, the noise from the city streets drilled holes into his heart. The beginning of another day walking in proverbial circles.
The TV was still on, loud and clear. Some silly morning show with guest stars no one had ever heard of. Citizens crisscrossed the pedestrian walkways like insane ants and Henry, alone again. A restlessness plagued his heart that was as abandoned as the bum behind Rit’s Bar. Henry had never believed in miracles.
As he stepped out onto the balcony, leaving the stains on the couch to themselves, Henry started shivering, almost wetting himself as he looked down the many feet down to the ground, picturing the article in the New York Times tomorrow and the chit-chat of the Puerto-Rican neighbors. “Such a shame. Amargado, constantly depressed, you know whatta mean, por que no? Pianist by the river, constantly drunk and unhappy. Such a shame. Anda pa’l sirete. Atorrante. Ah, pues bien !”
Henry stood on his balcony now, holding onto the steel railing and stepping over it carefully. It was a spontaneous decision to try killing himself again. The pain had proved to be too strong, the suffering too intense, the confusion too deep. He felt like a rat in a frigging maze. His life flashed before his inner eye. He pictured what his sister would say, if she would provide a long speech or just sob like she had done at their mother’s funeral. He stepped onto the railing gently, sitting on it for a bit, waiting to jump, just breathing a few times before leaping. His hands were shaking, his heart on overdrive. The hangover was not finally killing him; but, the ground below him would finally send him home. Home? Where was home? Did it matter?
“The booze will kill you, Son,” his mother had told him.
No, Mom, he thought to himself, not the booze; but I will be seeing you sooner than I thought. The antlike people of New York City did not even care if he was going to jump, so why shouldn’t he?
“Oh, God,” he sobbed, not noticing the sensual voice emanating from the television set, a voice with a charming and soothing quality. This emotion was all too often robbed from his life. Then there was that voice whispering sweet nothings into his ear during unprotected sex in a college dorm. The only tender sexual encounter in his life had been with a woman he barely knew. And the woman he had lost now spoke live on the morning show in TV. Henry was not even listening.
What Henry feared most was the free-fall flight on the way down. He leaned forward to jump. It seemed almost a relief. No more competition, no more abuse, no more….
Olivia Peterson appeared as the guest of honor on the NBC morning show that day. Her face flickered across a TV-screen that had been pumping out light since a lonely bar-pianist had arrived in from the rain sometime during the naked night.
Henry did not know that the woman that he had tried to forget for ten years now sat on a couch just miles away, talking to a congenial host about her new pop album.
The memory was ever so subtle. His own boner lingered inside Olivia’s body, thrusting in and out of her vagina, her breasts wobbling, her tender skin feeling like silk, her hair with the texture of soft satin. Then, the laughter. A sound sweet as apricot, soft as tender rose petals, as bouncy as a tennis ball, as sexy as an inviting wink on a warm summer night. The voice from the morning show reached his ears moments before he was about to step off the balcony. Henry looked toward his living room, his eyes opening wide, a memory of a woman promising to leave him a note with a first name and a phone number.
“I’ll give you my last name when you call me, baby,” she had told him that night, “and then we can have some hot sex again, okay?”
There had been no second time. Henry never found Olivia’s note. It fell off the table under the bed. Years later, Henry realized it had fallen off when he had tossed and turned in bed. He must have been pulled up his sheets over his face and hit the note. It must have fallen under the bed. The college cleaning lady had mistakenly thrown the damn note away. How loud and obnoxious had he been to that woman?
“I wanted to check under the bed if the note fell off my night-time table, you stupid woman! And now you tell me there was something under that bed? Where’s the fucking garbage bag?”
“At the garbage dump,” the cleaning-lady had responded.
Henry, standing on the ledge of his balcony, ready to kill himself, recognized Olivia’s voice, speaking live in television during the morning show. His head slowly turned as he heard Olivia Peterson being addressed by name, her sultry mezzo crooning the words of every sentence as if she were having an orgasm. It was her. It had to be.
He stepped away from the ledge, trying to flip his leg over the railing, but slipped in the process. He hit his chin on the metal spikes, screaming, afraid he would be falling to his doom. He now held on with one hand, seeing the deep plunge under his feet. With one anxious and nervous hand, the terror in his heart rising to his head, Henry held on. He swore himself to make it. It was then and there that Henry realized the college professor had been right all along. Even Zed had been right yesterday about what he said.
“Either get it back or let it go, or it’s gonna eat you up.”
All these years, Henry had regarded everyone as a potential enemy out to get him.
“Actually, broki, y’know, dis guy did not wanna kill himself, but he slipped and fell to his death anyway. Que bruto! Whatta losah!”
That was Olivia speaking live in television and Henry would be damned if would fall to his death now. He dragged himself up back onto his own balcony, screaming and weeping like a baby. That was when he heard that laughter again. Olivia’s laughter.
Henry smiled again, crawling on his hands and knees to the TV-screen.
What happened next came from the bottom of his soul. It appeared from the depths beyond his current life. He sat there on the floor in front of his TV, looking at the woman he had learned to adore for years now. Olivia had not changed much. She seemed to be calmer, more experienced, sexier, she now had curly hair. But Henry recalled every fiber and pore of her skin, her perfume, her nipples, her pussy, her smile, her sensuous kisses.
In his mind, he had searched for other people that could make him calm down, that would solve his problems, make him relax. That was a big load for anyone to carry. A good reason for any woman to call it quits after six months.
Olivia was the woman of his dreams. Henry would have to calm down and be sensitive to her wishes.
Henry calmly searched for the number to the broadcasting corporation. Funnily enough, it was not hard to reach the right people. The woman at the morning show’s call center was friendly enough but told him that star guests were ensured their privacy by the company. However, she added, he could leave his number and his address, and she was confident that if Miss Peterson really was that old acquaintance from his college days, she would certainly call him soon enough.
Henry did not pray, recite prayers or brood. He dressed nicely and remained still just to focus. He cleaned up. He occasionally strolled to his smartphone to check his WhatsApp; made some stupid phone calls just to pass the time. He called an agent or an employer just to pretend that he was successful. The professional gear he purposely slipped into that evening seemed like a joke. He was not going anywhere. He ended up coming across as a bad version of James Bond with a hairdo so sleazy it would make Engelbert Humperdinck look like Mother Theresa.
One last look in the mirror gave Henry the assurance that it had all been a dream. Olivia had never been on NBC. Henry had never given that call-center lady his phone number. What was worse, he would never get a response from the woman he remembered not only as the best fuck of his life, but a woman he would have loved to keep making love to for the rest of his life.
He was getting ready to leave throw himself in the Hudson River as he wanted to in the first place. Maybe then his dead body would wash up in Hoboken; end up close to Sinatra’s birthplace. At least then he could touch stardom, if not in life, then in death.
That other part of him, the responsible part, told him to relax and just to trust.
Then, his phone rang.
The elegantly dressed Henry pressed the green button on the phone and carefully whispered a greeting into it.
There was a painful silence, long and wondrously strange.
“Hi,” the voice crooned. “This is Olivia Peterson. Who am I speaking to?”
A feeling of warmth flooded into Henry, the connection with his old self back with happiness. “Henry Jiggins,” he answered.
There was a faint laugh. “You’ve gotta be kidding me!”
“Ol- … Olivia?”
It had not been a dream. It had been the truth.
“You really are real.”
“Why did you never call me back?”
One tear rolled down Henry’s cheek. The short pause, a snort, no more, made Henry realize he had hurt her. Henry shook his head, looked out the balcony door toward the railing. He had almost found out how hard the pavement felt when crashing down upon it.
“I lost your number,” he whispered, almost to himself. “I’ve never let go.”
It seemed like an eternity after that. One minute of slow breathing, the energies of two people who had felt something they had never felt before. Unanswered questions that had spiritual answers. Destiny forcing phones to ring.
“Maybe I’m just a guy you met that you don’t want to see again,” Henry mumbled.
“What do you mean? You were the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”
He smiled, remembering how heartily they had laughed. “It was good, wasn’t it?”
“You could have asked the office back at the college for my number.”
Henry shook his head, feeling how defensive he was getting.
“There were 14 Olivias on campus back then.”
“I gave up, Henry,” she muttered. “I …”
Three sighs later, Henry seemed uncertain if Olivia was still there or not.
Henry felt that stone of remorse being dropped into his soul.
“Henry,” Olivia added after a long pause. “I’ve had so many broken relationships since I lost contact with you, but it seemed I just kept thinking of you. I couldn’t even explain why I did. It just … it …”
One single second seemed like the passing of eternity and Henry found himself searching for words, wanting to say something, but not really knowing what to say at all.
“I’ve missed you, Henry.”
The crazy laughter Henry had only heard himself bellow during his wildest days returned up from his soul’s deepest hope in triumph. Now, that laughter came reverberating back toward him from the other end of the line.
The return of a soulmate is a wonderful thing.
“You want to see me again?” Henry dared.
Olivia’s laughter, the sound of sunshine, bounced into his ear like a rabbit jumping into a sunlit meadow. It sounded like what would have been the taste of strawberries had those berries had been able to sing. The worst thing that can happen to you is yourself not grasping for the chance to find a way back to your own heart.
“Are you still as good in bed as you used to be?” Olivia chuckled.
Henry half-smiled, his old confidence returning again. “Better,” he laughed.
“Where do you live?” Olivia giggled in return.
And Henry cheered.
Seeing Olivia standing there in the doorway of his apartment was a revelation. Yes, they did have unprotected sex again. Yes, the shared Oreos and Cheez-it. Yes, he ended up licking them off her nipples. No, she did not leave him after their sex. Yes, the relationship lasted. Yes, they had kids. Yes, Henry calmed down. But most of all, Henry realized the Beatles had been right.
“All you need is love.”
That was a good enough reason not to take things too seriously.
Simply trusting the universe to fix the flow of things is the best alternative.
Love always finds its way back home.
“The Hudson River Blues” was now officially Olivia’s tune.