The Old Should Be Explorers
by Ute Carson, July 25, 2006

The night clouds had drifted away and the morning broke silver-gray. Little had disturbed Eva and Mike's breakfast routine since their retirement from Rosewood High School three years ago. The atmosphere in the kitchen was warm and friendly and the pair sat next to each other like two content cats with their tails entwined. The water kettle whistled until Mike turned it off and poured Eva her first cup of coffee, so strong the silver spoon threatened to stand up.

"I need my jump-start," she said, her face bent into the vapor of the mug.

The coffee aroma was almost too much to bear as it overwhelmed the smell of fresh bagels and an alluring fragrance arising from the marmalade homemade from overripe strawberries. Eva twisted the halves of a bagel apart, handed Mike the bottom half and then began to nibble on a piece of crust. They chewed calmly while listening in companionable silence to the ten-minute news round-up on the hour.

"Joe Schreiber celebrated his 75th birthday by swimming the English Channel." The information boomed from the radio as if the announcer had performed the feat himself.

Mike ran a dreamy hand across his ample stomach, popping out of his shirt, and with a deep and earnest voice, slightly lifted, said what he always said when hearing of amazing adventures,

"Old men should be explorers."

"You've said that before, "Eva reminded him.

"No, T.S. Eliot did."

Mike pushed his chair away from the table and made his way to his study where he spent the next hours thumbing through travel guides, bent over maps and tracing his right index finger along roads and across mountains. He frowned at the volume of information until he found their next destination. A historic spot. Mike had not taught history in vain.

Eva, a fragile-boned woman who had shrunk and furrowed with age, ambled into her bountiful garden where flowers with round, sunny faces and fat heads and the odor of damp grass gave her daily sustenance. Her garden made her feel alive. Here time did not stand still. Eva used to teach photography, "time-catching" she called it. Even now she sometimes tried to capture the miracles of nature with her camera, an orange black-speckled butterfly flitting like a sunbeam from one blossom to the next or a yellow brown-spotted bug climbing the dizzying heights of a grass blade.

As the day declined, Mike and Eva retreated again to their cozy kitchen and talked over the days' events.

That evening Mike shot his long-time companion a quizzical look and let her in on his latest plan.

"We're flying to the Bahamas. Little Exuma, a small island. I found a deal at the Cove Inn. If we stay two weeks they'll throw in one extra night." Mike was always finding deals.

Mike could read Eva's reaction by the shape of her eyebrows. If she was pleased she'd draw them up into perfect arches. If she bunched them together caterpillar-style, he was out of luck. Today he got the desired response. Eva not only beautifully arched her eyebrows, she also curled her long auburn, silvery-tipped hair around two fingers and said,

"Sounds great. When do we go?"

* * * * * * *

The sky did a color-changing trick from velvety purple to glossy pink. Each day Mike and Eva woke up to the heartbeat of the ocean.

"Let's see where the morning takes us," was their vacation motto.

Little Exuma was idyllic. They rented bicycles and rode them to the rugged tip of the island where waves moaned with hopeless abandonment against exposed rocks. Hand-in hand they strolled along an uncluttered, dazzling white beach, and collected shells for their grandchildren. Seagulls flew loops around them and then sailed down, kissing the sea foam with the tips of their wings. On sun-baked afternoons Eva and Mike roared over the swells of the water in a powerboat. They ignored their healthy dietary resolutions and indulged in sumptuous meals in those restaurants with a welcoming atmosphere which cozied up to the sea. And they indulged in long naps, after leisurely lovemaking.

Fog rolled onto the island and clouds scuttled across the sun. Lulled by a warm, dancing breeze, Mike and Eva carried two chairs onto the porch of their cabin. A sand dune placed them out of earshot of their neighbors and the roar of the waves muffled everything but the sound of their own voices. They spread provisions from the village store onto a small stone table, a long crusty loaf of bread baked in a clay oven, juicy papayas, a variety of cheeses, and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. After Mike uncorked the wine, they toasted the end of another marvelous day and settled in to watching a veiled sunset. The crimson disc became glazed over by a golden mist. Slowly the evening air wrapped itself around their bodies, squeezing them into a cozy cocoon.

Eva got up and went inside to spread towels over their bed sheet and set their favorite massage oil on the night stand, a balsam of rosemary, the love charm herb.

"Making preparations for a special bedtime treat," she called to Mike.

"I'm for that."

Then Eva joined him again and asked for more wine.

"Old women should be explorers," she said with a fetching smile.

"Said who?"

"Says me."

She unfolded a piece of tinfoil revealing two bluish-white pills. The pill faces were inscribed with butterfly logos.

"What's that?" Mike's voice came from deep within his throat, a funeral tone.


"Are you crazy?" Mike said, shocked. "Remember Whitney Houston?"

"She was arrested because she's a celebrity. I'm not celebrity."

"And I don't have the money to bail you out."

"Just an idea. Don't get all riled up."

Mike rubbed his eyes and coughed twice.

"Where did you get these?"

"My physical therapist. Try them, you'll like them, she said."

"You trust her?"

"I did my own research. But Liza uses X with rape victims."

"Rape victims!"

"Or the old and decrepit."

"The old and decrepit. Have mercy!"

"You don't have to take one."

"We have fun...always have fun...without shit like this."

"I want to explore...shit like this. You can just stand guard. I'll go ahead."

"The hell you will. Not without me."

That night woke them to another world.

A feathery, mild-mannered rain muffled the air and its wetness deepened the tone of all things. The moonlight, just a splinter like a night candle, submerged the inside of the cabin in bronze-colored mystery. The light bulbs on the night stands shone like little, unnatural suns.

Mike and Eva placed the pills on their tongues and daintily swallowed as if chewing might spoil the effect. They sprawled naked on the bed for maybe twenty minutes before adrenaline shot into their fingertips and toes and a fire raced through their veins. The light stroked across their skin like scraps of lace. Their breath, sweetened with wine, mingled and their hands moved gently over each other as the pounding of their hearts filled their ears. They felt weightless, on upwards winds. Eva trembled as Mike's hot-red fingers began to knead her dewy body. Mike's face was flushed as if with fever, and sweat pored from him and mixed with the oil he began to put on them both. They slithered in and over each other with the smooth grace of snakes. Several times Mike reached for the water glass. Eva chilled and snuggled into Mike's warmth, unable to wrest her hands from him. Endlessly their tongues crawled along familiar places, dipping into crevices, hollows and indentations, marking territory in the bend of a knee, the tender elbow curve, legs spread in delight. Desire brimmed in their glassy, oddly dilated eyes, dark as blackberries. With pupils wide open, the whites around the irises glowed. They stared at each other with such rapture. It was if they were seeing each other for the first time. Their bodies were singing with ecstasy as if life itself flowed through their veins. Mike and Eva were overtaken by this passion that blossomed like a crocus in the winter of their lives.

They never reached orgasm. But it didn't matter. Their minds opened like window shades and they were attuned to each others' emotions, constantly asking,

"Does this feel good?"

"Or that?"

Mike sighed with contentment and Eva purred like a happy cat.

They were keenly aware of each other, yet they were both afloat. Not out of control---they could have reached for the phone, done what was necessary. But all hostility toward the world was gone; an oceanic feeling united them with everything and everyone. Time was an accordion. What seemed like five minutes was actually five hours. The door of the cabin gaped into an endless night and the waves crashed on shore like Wagnerian music.

What had brought them here was a longing for a perfect moment. It was granted. Mike did not hallucinate, but Eva did. She gazed at objects and wondered,

"Am I swinging from the ceiling?"

"You are in my arms. It's the fan moving," was Mike's reassuring reply. Mike also couldn't see the purple birds flying out of the tapestry behind the bed. And when Eva cooed, "These birds are juicy grapes... plump to bursting, " Mike gripped her earlobes with his teeth and nibbled on them as if they were grapes, all the while shaking with laughter.

The next morning on Little Exuma, light nudged Eva and Mike awake and rays from the amber crown of a rising sun drew them from their bed and sent them running to the beach. The wet sand sucked at their feet as they stepped into the waves and waded in. The water rose above their waists, tickling their navels. They squealed with delight like little children and didn't need to be reminded that the Old can be explorers.

- ~ -