“After a Seder” by Don Shearn

“Hey, c’mon now. You didn’t find the afikoman, sure, but we’re required to rejoice. After all, we’re not in Egypt anymore.“

“Speak for yourself.”

“Listen, I feel bad. I don’t want to leave you this way. Do you want to do something? Maybe go to the Gold Coin and have some matza brei. Beat the morning rush.”

“No, that’s nice, Krinsky. I’ve got some brooding to do,” said Catherine.

“Well, that’s perfect. I love to brood. I’m a restaurateur by trade, but the love of my life is brooding. I majored in that.”

She looked at Krinsky, her blue eyes moist, her lips in a reluctant smile.

“What do you think? Have you got some time?”

“Are you joking? Time and I are buds. That’s what we do. We hang out.”

She gave Krinsky her hand. He held it and didn’t want to let go as they walked out of the synagogue.

“Would you like to come to my place? she asked.

“It would be a m’chaya.”

Catherine lived in a two-bedroom apartment on the 36th floor of a building on Marine Drive, which overlooked the lake and the north end of Lincoln Park. The night was warm and tasted like spring.

She led him to an overstuffed chair with an ottoman. Large bookcases that overflowed with mystery novels, poetry, and Judaica dominated the living room. On the walls were posters: a colorful mask from Cirque du Soleil, Picasso’s Blue Guitarist, the beach at Eilat. The room smelled of potpourri and scented candles.

“Does it ever stop?”

“What’s that?” Krinsky asked, as he eased himself down.

“The comedian. The jokes.”

“I didn’t think you noticed.”

“I don’t mean anything by it. It’s just an observation. Would you like something to drink?”

“Alcohol is good.”

“It may be, but I don’t drink. I have tea, fruit juice, and maybe a soda that my daughter didn’t inhale.”

He opted for the soda. She walked into the kitchen to make herself some tea. He listened for her footsteps. She didn’t wear shoes. Her feet didn’t seem to hit the ground. American Indian flute songs drifted in the air. He looked out the window at the cars on Lake Shore Drive.

When Catherine came back, Krinsky had forgotten where he was. Lost in thought or still feeling the more than four cups of wine. He tasted the soda. “OK, well you didn’t spike it. I worry about that knock-out pill when I’m at a lady’s apartment.“

She sat on the sofa across a low wooden table that looked like a heavily varnished rough wood door. She sipped at her tea.

“Why do you drink so much?”

“Are you always so direct?”

“So I’ve been told. You seem to drink a lot. Why?”

“Why don’t you?”

Her mouth turned taut, lips slipping into a secret smile. “I don’t believe that God likes us to drink. It blurs the distinctions without allowing us to see past them.”

“Say again?”

“God wants us to become one with Him. To see beyond race and gender, darkness and light, life and death. To return to Eden. The existence of unending joy and peace.”

“Sounds boring. I prefer bourbon, but for liturgical purposes, I can drink wine.”

She lowered her voice. Krinsky had to bend forward to hear her. He could taste her scent and the gentle cadence of her words.

“All life is sacred. Even the pain, even the suffering. When you hide from your pain, you hide from redemption. God speaks to you through the angels; listen for them.”

“Have you heard them?”

She reached out her hands to his. She nodded.

“What do they say?”

“They say, ‘Follow the path of love.’”

“Is that working for you?”

She craned her neck and stretched. “Are you always this direct?”

“Almost never. Could be the altitude, but I think it’s you. You can talk to me.”

She leaned back and put her arms behind her head, framed by the view from the window facing eastward. “It’s not a matter of working, really. Imagine looking at a river from above, like a cliff, somewhere you can get perspective. You can see the bends in the river. If you have the background or interest you might know how the river was formed, how it has changed over the years, and you could even predict how it will change in the future. None of that changes how the river is now.”

“Time is like a river. That sort of thing.”

“The river as you see it — the moment you see it – is the river. That is the ‘path of love.’ It exists in the temporal now; the path is there. We need the perspective.”

“What good does it do? That’s the problem I have with this kind of stuff. It’s a wonderful, abstract use of your brain, but does it stop the hurting or keep you company on lonely nights?”

“Is that what drinking does for you?” She lightly put her hand on his knee.

“When I’m lucky. Don’t you need somebody to make this all work?”

Her eyes looked deeply into his. “I do, indeed. Don’t you?”

“So where does that leave us?”

Krinsky reached out his hand. “You look very beautiful.”

She moved closer.

“Am I making you uncomfortable?” he asked.

“Are you trying to?”

“No, not really. I come by it naturally. There are times when someone comes into my life and I don’t want her to leave. I’m feeling that way about you. At this time and this place.”

“The temporal ‘now.’ Romantic and philosophical at the same time.”

“I’m trying to be serious, Catherine. I think maybe we’ve both had a rough ride. And maybe this is the right time and place.”

“I don’t know, Krinsky. It could be all about me. I feel like I’m some space junk that’s just about to throw you off course. But as I get closer to you, I feel the attraction.”

They kissed. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders and held him more tightly than he’d expected. She did not want to let go. When the American Indian music clicked off, she turned on Paul Horn, his flute meditations in mid-sixties, post-be-bop. Krinsky heard himself breathing, felt his forehead turning red. Catherine nuzzled her cheek against his shoulder. She pulled him out of the chair.

In the bedroom, a single blue candle sat on her nightstand. An oriental rug sat on the hardwood floor. Soft light and silhouettes. Flute jazz and puffs of the smoke from the wick rose to the ceiling. Krinsky took her hand. It felt cool and unfamiliar, like the first step into a lake. They embraced. There was no regret. Love became untied. Her hands grew warmer.

Krinsky felt her swimming in passion while living on the edge of a cloud. He understood. She knelt and faced him. Her eyes disappeared. She clung to his chest. “It’s not about understanding. You know that,” she said.

They made love. They kissed in whispers. Could it ever be this way again? Their love began in questions. The night is its own answer.