Close the door softly

I was sitting on the corner of her bed smoking, she was in the bathroom freshening up. She didn’t and couldn’t know that I was infatuated with her. The radio plays a news report about Mohandas Gandhi’s arrest. This was another person I would like to meet. She steps from the bathroom with nothing but a silk robe and soaking wet hair. The light from the window makes her soft skin glow. She returns to the bed and begins to comb her hair. I share the remainder of my cigarette with her, she finished it off. This was my affair with Clare Boothe.

I have become, circuitously, an admirer of the arts. I began to find warmth and comfort in art and that of the artists. In my search, I found Clare, her work as a journalist, screenwriter, diplomat, playwright and social activist beautiful. Such an amazing persona I decide to go back in time to meet her.

It was a cold but beautiful New Years Eve in New York. I was in front of the offices of Vanity Fair. I walk into the warm office building, looked as if the building has been abandon for the holiday. I take the stairs to the floor where her office was. Empty desks and stacked papers everywhere, with only the light bleeding in from the windows to guide my path to her office. I found her sitting sideways in an armchair, chewing on the end of a pen while looking over an unedited article. One high heel dangling on her toe the other tossed on the floor. I knocked on the door frame. Her other shoe falls to the ground as she twists in the chair to sit in it properly. “I do not mean to disturb, are you Ms. Boothe?” She straightens out her dress and answered: “Why yes I am dear, but you may call me Clare if you’re looking for a job we’re not hiring.” She had both of her hands on the article she was working on, her knuckles were turning white. “No, no, I am not here for a job.” I pause just briefly, this was enough time for her to cut in. “Then may I ask why you are here, we’re closed for the holiday.” I could tell she was annoyed by my interruption, so I quickly stated my reasoning. “Well, honestly… I really didn’t mean to bother.” I was clambering for words at this point. “I just appreciate your work, I wanted to meet you, sorry, I’ll get going.” I twirl the hat in my hand, turn, and walk out of her office. “Hold your horses, I never really met a fan before.”  She was standing in the doorway when I turned around. She ripped off the corner of the article she was working on. She scribbled on the tiny piece  quickly. “Do you have plans for New Years?” She asks while handing me the paper. “Not in the least.” I unfold the paper to revile an address and a name to a place I wasn’t familiar with. “I will be there around 8; we’ll discuss then what of my work you enjoy.” I stuff the paper in my front coat pocket. “I look forward to it!” I said. She didn’t reply and walked back into her office.

It was about 10 minutes after 8, a perplexing situation, I went to the address she had written down, and all around me were what looked to be cleaners and cigar shops. Nothing appeared to be the sort of place one would want to meet to discuss things, especially at this time. I began to wonder if she wrote down a random address to get rid of me. I mean it was highly possible being that our first exchange was that of only a few minutes.  I was about to dial back home when I saw her walking up the street with a few friends of hers. They were talking and laughing as they approached me. I straightened out my collar and put out my cigarette. She gives me a warm “Hello” as the gap shrinks. “What are you doing out here, is it too noisy in there?” Her friends laugh, I shrunk into my frame due to my embarrassment of really not knowing what was going on.  She introduces her friends, though I quickly forget their names. She turns to me “You reckon I have no clue what your name is, but you know so much about me.” “It’s Karl.” I’d say in a hurry. She reached out her hand and we shake. “Well Karl, it’s a pleasure to see you again.” One of her friends will say that it’s cold and we should get inside. I didn’t realize till this point that I couldn’t feel my face. Her friends lead the way to the door of a cigar shop I have been standing in front of. They knock twice and an elderly woman answers the door. “We’re here to see John.” One of the girls said as the other two giggled. Clare did not speak. The old woman welcomes us inside the shop and shows us to the backroom. This was a complete surprise; a live and active bar was back here, even with a band. But yet I couldn’t hear a thing while I was in the street. We find a booth and sit down, a gentleman asks if he could take our coats, we obliged. Our waiter comes up and asks us for our orders, her friends order some jungle juice, Clare orders a cranberry and vodka, short on the cranberry and I get two fingers of scotch.  Her friends chatted away while we waited for our drinks, once the drinks did come they left to dance, leaving Clare and me with the bill. “I really don’t understand what I see in those women.”  She said. She takes a large drink from her glass and spoke. “So Mr. Karl what is it that admire of my work, to prompt such an unorthodox exchange we had earlier today” I took a sip from my glass. “Honestly, it’s the linguistic grace you display with satire and understatement.”  She laughs, “Thank you, you’re a sweetheart.”  I blushed, a bit. “So how does a man like you, read a magazine like Vanity Fair?” She asked. I didn’t quite have a story step up for this so with a little bit of liquid courage I made one up “A lady I work with showed me one of your articles, soon after I became a fan of your work.” I drank the rest of my glass when I brought my hand down; she softly placed her hand on top of mine. I called the waiter over with my free hand and ordered us both another round.

A couple drinks, playful touches, sweet words, this wasn’t exactly going the way I imagined.  That is not to say that I detested it. Midnight was closing fast, her friends never really appeared again. It was decided that we should go to the dance floor for the countdown.  She moved her body like a soft breeze, no hesitation just simple flow. I, on the other hand, have never been a good dancer, sometimes I forget how piteous my dancing really is. Never the less we danced, the opening between our bodies getting ever smaller. When the hostess started the countdown, “Ten, nine, eight,” The space between us was null. “Seven, six, five,” I gazed into her eyes. “Four, three,”  Time was at a crawl “Two, one, Happy New Years!” Our lips locked like long lost friends, people were cheering, and screaming their well wishes, just echoes in the back of my head, too damn far away for me to care about.  “Happy New Year Mr. Karl.” she said with a smile “You too Ms. Clare”.

She filled up, the bicker I called a heart with a pure energetic caress. We saw the empire state building, looked at all of New York from the top of the world. We spent a good part of the following weeks together. In such, I didn’t know if I really wanted to return to my time. The hardest part about time travel is going back. Back is one place I didn’t want to be. It soon dawned on me that though I was infatuated with her that it was best for me to leave.

She puts the cigarette in the ashtray next to the bed and starts combing her hair again. Her eyes squint every time she combs out a knot. It reminds me how human she is, not so much the goddess I made her out to be.  I find my trousers and get dressed. The radio goes to an advert for Lucky Strikes “Rich, Smooth, Wonderful”. I couldn’t but help feel they were describing her instead of a cigarette. I was buttoning up my shirt when she put her arms around me from behind. “Going somewhere?”she asks, “I have to go out of town for awhile.” Her grip on me tightens “Will I be seeing you again when you get back?” I finish buttoning my shirt and place my hands on hers “Most likely.” Her hands slip away from mine. She said “Oh.”  She walks to the bed, sits down, and pulled a cigarette out of my pack and lights it. I watch as exhales the smoke up into the ceiling fan above. I put my jacket on, walk to her and kiss her on the forehead.  I leave her apartment, her building, her block. I walked for a while to clear my head, turned down an ally and dial back home.

Clare Boothe would marry and change her name to Clare Booth Luce. She met her perfect match, someone as high up as herself. I’m happy for her. We both needed that little pick me up, I can’t say we used each other; it’s such a nasty word. We filled a void we both were lacking. Better now and better then.


3 comments on “Close the door softly”

  1. P & C

    I have read 2 books by Diana Gabaldon on time travel, enjoyed yours as being much more believable and entertaining.

  2. Nathan Green

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with his work, but Joey Comeau of A Softer World wrote a similar story about a woman who goes back in time to sleep with Patricia Highsmith. I enjoyed this!

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