Pioneer Square Hotel
Seattle, Washington
August 17, 1984

Dear Mother,

The SHARE conference ended this morning after five intense days of committee meetings, planning sessions, and technical seminars. My talk - on Applications Systems - was a success, and it was great getting together with I.T. colleagues that I see only once a year. Tomorrow I have a noon flight out of Sea-Tac and Carlos is picking me up in Oakland.

Do you remember that I used to work for a biochemist named David Rosenau when I was a junior at the university? He’s retired now but, as a professor emeritus, continues to teach a few classes. I phoned him on a whim and he remembered me, even after 27 years. He invited me to have dinner with him this evening...

Twenty-seven years. As he'd promised, David flew to Oakland when our baby was due and was by my side at the hospital during his birth. The morning after the delivery when we walked to the nursery and asked to see our son, the woman at the desk told us the head nurse didn’t allow unwed mothers to view their babies; hand-in-hand we stood gazing through the glass window, trying to identify the child who was ours. We grieved together for a day and then David went back to Seattle, leaving me to complete the adoption alone.
    Within a week I found a job with an insurance company and started saving my money to finish college. I knew I wouldn't be returning to Washington; asking my parents to pay out-of-state tuition and living expenses in Seattle was unthinkable after what had happened and, much as I loved David, I couldn’t face a repeat of the depression and the fear of pregnancy that had haunted me the last months at the university. In September 1959 I enrolled in a pre-medical program at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in biology; two years later I married Carlos Cisneros, a foreign student I met while working part-time in a department store, and left school, once more without a degree. My letters to David were infrequent; I wrote to tell him of my engagement and he replied, wishing me happiness. We didn’t write again.
    In 1967, one husband, and two children later, I returned to Berkeley and finally graduated, with a B.A. in anthropology. Despite having only a high school education, Carlos advanced from sticking telegrams in cubbyholes at Central Pacific, a railroad company in San Francisco, to rate clerk, to computer operator, and by the time I got my degree, he was working as a computer programmer. After I graduated, Carlos encouraged me to apply at C.P. for the same position – a suggestion I resisted strongly – but in the end, lured by the prospect of a higher salary than I could earn in any other line of work, I did apply, they hired me, and I found my niche.

Thirteen years later, when I read in a U.W. alumni magazine about Professor L.D. Rosenau's retirement from the Department of Biochemistry following his wife’s death, I wrote David a brief note of condolence. Returning home from work a few days after sending the letter, I picked up a stack of correspondence from the floor where the postman had shoved it through a slot in the front door, and carried it into the kitchen. I set my purse on the table and, still standing, leafed through the mail, tossing out a flyer for venetian blinds and a solicitation for a credit card, and there it was – a letter from David. When I recognized his handwriting, I broke into a cold sweat and tore the envelope open; I hadn’t heard from him in 19 years.

Department of Biochemistry
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington 98185
July 26, 1980

Dear Kate,
    Thank you for your heartfelt letter of sympathy. Your expression of concern has given me hope and encouragement during this difficult time.
Sincerely, David

     I must have sat at the table for the better part of an hour, reading and rereading his note, trying to decipher in it some meaning beyond the patently obvious, some kind of hidden message buried in the impersonal words, some expression of … love. David’s response disappointed me. The truth is I was hoping for an opening, an indication he wanted to see me again or at least keep in touch, and when I read his formulaic answer – probably the same thing he replied to everyone who wrote him – I couldn’t help wondering if our time together in Seattle meant so little to David that he’d simply forgotten me.
    In the late summer of 1984 Central Pacific asked me to attend a computer conference in Seattle and I seized the opportunity, knowing it might be my last chance to get in touch with David; he was 75 and there were so many things I wanted to tell him. Because David wasn’t listed in the telephone book and I didn’t know his home address, I wrote to him care of the Biochemistry Department, with “please forward” written on the envelope.

2700 Sonoma Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94708
August 1, 1984

Dear David,

    I hope I'm not being presumptuous in thinking you might remember me after all these years. I’m going to be in Seattle from Aug. 13 through the 17th attending a computer conference and I'd like so much to see you. Is there any possibility we can get together? I’ll be flying back to the Bay Area late Saturday morning, the 18th.

Yours truly, Kate

    Yours truly. I wondered if David would notice this phrase. Would he ask himself if I’d meant my closure literally? Probably not.
     David replied with a short note saying he still had an office at the university; he gave me his telephone number, invited me to dinner, and asked me to call when I reached Seattle. He didn’t say anything about remembering me, but I assumed he wouldn’t have extended a dinner invitation if he couldn’t recall who I was.
     When I phoned him, my heartbeat was pounding so insistently in my ears that I could barely hear the ringing on the other end of the line. I counted eight rings and David answered the phone. "This is David Rosenau. I'm currently unable to take your call. Please leave your name, number, and a brief message, and I will contact you as soon as possible. Thank you." I hadn’t heard David’s voice in 26 years, and when I recognized his familiar Argentine accent, I was so overcome with emotion that I couldn’t utter a word. I phoned again and somehow managed to say I was free on Friday after five and would he please confirm the time he’d pick me up. Later in the evening, when I returned from dinner, the receptionist at the hotel desk handed me a message saying a Dr. Rosenau had called while I was out and he would come by my room on Friday at six. Once again we’d missed each other, a paradigm of our entire relationship.

    The conference ended at eleven on Friday morning; too agitated to attend the farewell luncheon, I took a sandwich to my room and spent the afternoon trying to read a novel, but David’s words of so many years before kept running through my head: “on Fridays, when I know you’re coming at three, from one o’clock on I start to feel happy.” David was coming at six, but I wasn’t happy; I was apprehensive, worried he’d changed too much, I’d changed too much, and that getting in touch with him was a terrible mistake. I took a shower, turned on the television set, watched the news, and returned, unsuccessfully, to the book.
    At six o’clock a soft knock on the door set my pulse racing. I looked through the peephole and saw David, an older version than I remembered, slightly stooped, eyebrows bushier than ever, with completely gray hair and more lines on his face, but he was recognizably David and my heart leaped. He glanced at the peephole; did he realize I was watching him? For a moment I wondered what we’d do when I opened the door. Would we shake hands? Would we just stand on the threshold staring at one another like a couple of strangers? Would I say “please come in” or something else equally awkward?
    I opened the door, our eyes met, and David raised his right hand as if to touch me. “Kate…” And then we were in each other’s arms, kissing, hugging, laughing, and crying. It was 1956 all over again and nothing had changed. David pushed the door shut with his foot.
    Still embracing, we crossed the room and fell across the bed.
     “I was afraid you'd forgotten me.”
    “How could you possibly have thought that?”
    “The letter I had from you – after your wife died – it was so remote; I wanted to keep writing to you, I longed to see you, but the way you answered me – it was the sort of letter you would send to just anyone."
    “Kate, I was only trying to forget how happy I’d been. Remembering the time we spent together was so painful, knowing it would never come again. If I didn’t suggest we stay in touch it’s not because I didn’t want you in my life. So many years had passed … your letters … the few you sent me … they were distant, too. I thought you’d probably forgotten about me as well, and if you hadn’t … you’re a married woman now, a mother. I don’t have the right to jeopardize your happiness a second time.”
    I started to unbutton his shirt and he withdrew my hand, gently. “No, Kate.”
    “Yes. This is my happiness, here with you. I was desperate to see you again because I was afraid … I’d never get another chance to tell you this – David, I love you, I’ve loved you since the day we met. Please. Hold me the way you used to.”
David removed his shoes and hung his jacket on the back of a chair. He lay down beside me on the bed again, and for a long time we talked in the gathering twilight, mingling our words with kisses and caresses.
    “Do you remember when we swam to Boone Island and made love on the beach?”
    “Do you remember the time at the zoo when you picked me up and swung me round and round like a rag doll?”
    “Do you remember …"
    It was bliss being with David again.

The telephone rang. I let it ring three times, switched on the lamp, and lifted the receiver with a sigh. “I’d better answer the phone. It might be Carlos.”
It was the shift supervisor of C.P.'s computer room; he was sorry to bother me, but a tape had broken and they couldn’t find a backup for the missing data. I opened my suitcase, pulled out a heavy three-ring binder of system flowcharts and sat cross-legged on the bed as I thumbed through the pages.
“Matt? Do you have the accounting system flowcharts available?” I waited while he got the computer room’s copy and came back on the line. “Take a look at page 113. Do you see the disk data set which is output from program FWBX1100?” I walked him through the procedure for restoring the data and began to jot down notes on the flowchart. “This situation will probably never come up again, but I just thought of a better way of handling it; I’ll work on it when I get back.” Matt thanked me and said he’d call if there were further problems.
“Very impressive.”
“Not really. This is what I do for a living. When I joined the accounting project in 1969, the programs took up all of 13 flowchart pages and now they number more than 300. I designed and wrote a third of them myself and I've patched most of the others, so it would be surprising if I didn’t know the system.”
“I hope you’re well paid for your expertise.”
David tilted his watch toward the light and read the time. “Do you realize it’s almost eight o’clock? If we don’t get out of bed pretty soon, we’ll miss the dinner I promised you. I’d take you to Sam’s, but Sam retired years ago and the place isn’t what it used to be.”
I was relieved; I didn’t want to revisit the past. “This hotel doesn’t have a restaurant, but there’s a good one just outside.” We put on our shoes, straightened our clothes, and took the elevator to the first floor.
After the maître d’ had seated us, I glanced around the dining room. “Do you realize no one’s staring at us the way they used to?”
“Naturally. When we met, I wasn’t – to use that dreadful cliché – twice your age, but two and a half times your age. Now I’m only 1.6 times as old as you are. You're catching up to me.”
“At this rate, when I’m 110 we’ll be the same age.”
“That sounds like a variation on Zeno’s Paradox.”
We smiled at each other, happy to be sharing esoteric trivia that few people would understand. I opened the menu, read the list of entrees, and ordered a crab salad. After the waiter wrote down our order and left the table, I took from my purse a plastic bag containing about 40 photographs and set it in front of David.
“These are for you.”
David removed the pictures, placed the stack in front of him, and started going through them one by one. They were arranged chronologically, from the photo of a young, blonde woman holding a baby, to a beautiful boy of about six posed as a ring-bearer in various weddings, the same boy participating in a race, vacation photos and finally, snapshots of the boy – now grown – in his early twenties.
David examined the pictures in stunned silence, and when he had finished, looked up at me. “Can this be … our son?”
“Yes, David, that’s our son.”
“How did you find him? What's his name? How did you get the photographs?”
Out of habit, I glanced around the dining room to make sure no one was listening.
“It’s a long story. One afternoon I was riding a bus in the East Bay and a teenage boy got on in Kensington. A few of his friends were already aboard the bus and they addressed him as 'Roger'. He resembled you so much that my heart nearly stopped. It was just a coincidence, but seeing him gave me the idea of trying to find our son. When I surrendered him for adoption, the Children’s Home Society told me three things – the father had a graduate degree, the mother was a beautiful blonde, and she had only a high school education.”
“Not much to go on.”
“No, it wasn’t. Have you heard of ALMA?”
“ALMA’s an organization dedicated to putting adopted children and their natural parents in contact. I went to an ALMA meeting in San Francisco and learned I was entitled to more information than the CHS had given me, so I wrote to them and asked for additional details. They responded with three priceless facts – our son’s adoptive father was a medical doctor, he was of English-Dutch descent and our son was the first of two children he and his wife adopted.”
The waiter brought our our order and I paused until he’d left the table before continuing my story.
“I went to the Public Health Library at the university and consulted every medical directory they had for the San Francisco Bay Area in 1958 and I made a list of all the possibilities, eliminating those whose last names weren’t English or Dutch, and making a guess about age based on our son’s being their first child. I consulted as many biographical sources as I could find, computerized the information, and came up with a list of 200 doctors. Searching for our son was worse than looking for a needle in a haystack; it was like looking for a piece of hay in a haystack. I realized the odds that one of these men had adopted our son were remote, but the list was my only hope.
“I went to another ALMA meeting and discussed my investigation with one of their search assistants. I don’t know whether I impressed her with my sleuthing, my professional appearance, or what, but she agreed, in confidence, to tell me how to view the birth records at the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder's Office.
“I went to the courthouse in Oakland, followed her instructions and they gave me access to the microfiche. Then it was a matter of looking up the 200 names to determine if one of them was a boy whose birth date matched our son's. That sounds easy enough, but the task was staggering. Just the first name on the list, “Abbott,” had hundreds of babies listed.
“I began by looking up the name I’d used, Bentley – I was reading a book of theater criticism by Eric Bentley during my pregnancy and it seemed as good a name as any – and I found the entry immediately: baby boy Bentley, no parents, the date of birth, and the signature of my obstetrician, Howard Milliken. I was still in the B’s and the office was closing when I came to Timothy Allen Bowen, son of Richard Bowen, one of the doctors on my list. The birth date matched and Dr. Milliken's signature was on the form. I knew I’d found our son.
“Fortunately Dr. Bowen still had a practice in San Francisco; I wrote him a letter – it was so difficult – saying I hoped it wasn’t one he’d been dreading for 25 years, but I believed I was his son’s birth mother. In the letter, I mentioned working as a systems analyst at Central Pacific; two days later I received a call at work from Dr. Bowen's wife. She said she wanted to meet me and suggested that she, her husband and I have lunch together at Trader Vic’s, a restaurant in San Francisco. Mrs. Bowen told me Tim was in his final year of medical school and that he was her greatest joy – then she corrected herself to say he was one of her two greatest joys – and that he was a genius. I think the latter was a bit of hyperbole, but she based her opinion on an I.Q. test they gave Tim when he entered grammar school. The test had a ceiling of 150 and he got a perfect score.”
David smiled. “Unless they’ve repealed the laws of genetics, that’s what I would expect.”
“The night before our luncheon a terrible thing happened. The computer room at C.P. called me around one in the morning with a problem that had to be resolved immediately, so I got dressed and took a taxi to San Francisco. I worked non-stop under great pressure and got the problem fixed about six. Normally under those circumstances I just go home and sleep for the rest of the day, but because I had the lunch appointment at noon, I stayed in the city. I was completely exhausted, mentally, physically, and emotionally.”
David took my hand. “I wish I could have there been with you.”
“I decided to go to the restaurant early and wait outside, hoping to recognize them as they came in. It was a ridiculous thing to do, but I wasn’t thinking rationally. I waited and waited, but the Bowens didn’t show up. Unknown to me, they’d arrived even earlier than I had and were already in the restaurant. When I hadn’t appeared by 12:30, they sent someone outside to look for me; he found me, told me the Bowens were already seated and I followed him in. I felt so stupid.
“The first person I saw was Tim – Mrs. Bowen hadn’t mentioned he’d be there – and while the Bowens were complete strangers to me, I recognized Tim at once.”
“He looks very much like you.”
“Ironic, isn’t it? He resembles me more than my own children do. But I saw more than a reflection of myself – I saw my father and, of course, I saw you. Tim looked at me and saw … nothing.” I turned away from David and a tear ran down my cheek.
“Do you want to wait and tell me the rest later?”
“I’m almost done. I thought if I told you upstairs I’d do nothing but cry. Here in public it’s actually easier. Anyhow, Mrs. Bowen couldn’t have been more gracious; she is a lovely person. Dr. Bowen was polite and reserved and Tim was remote. I know he was judging me and I didn’t come off very well. I think I’m usually articulate, but I was so tired. Mrs. Bowen was the one asking all the questions. Tim was obviously uninterested in either you or me. He’s Tim Bowen, not Tim Rosenau; he’s the son of a wealthy surgeon, not the spawn of some adulterous little slut. Meeting me face-to-face must have been an enormous blow to his self-image.”
“Kate,” David remonstrated, “I’m sure you misinterpreted his feelings. He’s still young …think how hard it must have been for him, too.”
“Next to you, Tim’s the most self-possessed person I’ve ever met. I’m not wrong, believe me. Mrs. Bowen gave me the pictures. Carlos is an excellent photographer; he copied them and made a set for you, so these are for you to keep.”
“I take it, then, your husband knows … about Tim, about me?”
“I told him a few years ago.”
“Do you regret finding Tim?”
“I don’t know what I expected. I never thought I’d play a part in Tim’s life, but when I met him I was hoping we’d feel some kind of bond, and we didn’t, or at least he didn’t, so in that sense I’m disappointed. Mrs. Bowen happened to say that Tim's a big baseball fan; so was Daddy. He could recite every World Series statistic from the beginning of time. I wanted to mention this to Tim, I wanted to tell him your father was a doctor, but the words stuck in my throat. I think they would have sounded desperate, like I was trying to remind Tim of the link between him and us. 
"Am I sorry? No, definitely not. When Daddy retired from the Navy, my parents bought a house in Oakland and a short time after they moved in, their next-door neighbors adopted a boy and a girl. One night the police received a call that the father was running around the neighborhood stark naked. A few months later his wife divorced him and the children turned out badly. I guess I was always afraid the CHS might have placed our son in a similar situation. I’m sure the Bowens wanted to make a good impression, but I honestly feel they’re a loving family, and they’ve given Tim every advantage. They even sold their house in San Francisco and moved to Marin County just so Tim could continue studying advanced Latin when he finished grammar school. He’s a lucky young man.”
“The Bowens are exceedingly fortunate to have adopted our son.”
David’s reaction was so typical of him, and I couldn’t help smiling. He squared the corners of the pictures, returned them to the plastic bag, and put it inside his jacket pocket.
“Are you going to try to get in touch with him?”
David shook his head. “I think meeting Tim would be as painful for me as it was for you. I’m happy to have a resolution to something I’ve wondered about for 26 years, but I’m willing to let it rest there.”
When we finished the meal and David paid the bill, he turned to me with a smile, “It’s Friday on a beautiful summer evening. How would you like to take a walk around Pioneer Square and explore the nightlife? Seattle’s changed considerably since you were here.”
“Daddy used to say Seattle was the world’s largest electrically lighted graveyard.”
     “Not any more.”
We left the restaurant, strolled hand-in-hand up Yesler Way, and turned down Occidental, past antique stores, art galleries and bookstores, content to talk and be together. In Occidental Square Park an orchestra was playing, and couples were dancing on a wooden floor set above the mossy cobblestones. We stopped for a moment to watch them.
“May I have this dance?”
The fragment of a poem went through my head and I recited it aloud, “Dame la mano y danzaremos, dame la mano y me amarás.” (Give me your hand and we will dance, give me your hand and you will love me.)
David supplied the next line, “Como una sola flor seremos, como una flor, y nada más…” (We will be like a single flower, like a flower and nothing more).
“Gabriela Mistral.” We smiled at each other. I listened for a moment to the beat of the music. “It’s not a waltz.”
“No, it’s a foxtrot. Does it matter?”
“Remember when you were trying to teach me how to dance? The only step I ever mastered – sort of – was the waltz.”
“It’s not your fault. If I recall correctly, as soon as I put my arm around you, we started getting other ideas. I don’t think we ever finished a single dance.”
At the memory of the abortive lessons in David’s office, we began to laugh. He gave me his hand and we danced until the orchestra took a break at ten. David went to speak to the bandleader, and returned with a smile on his face. “I told him I’m from Argentina and asked him to play a tango. The only one they know is ‘La Cumparsita’, but that’s fine; it’s an old classic.”
“A tango! Good grief, David, I don’t have the faintest idea how to dance a tango.”
“That’s the old Kate talking – ‘I can’t, ‘I don’t know how’- come on, just follow my lead.”
I put my right hand in David’s left and he held me close against him. David must have been an excellent dancer, for he made even me look good
We continued strolling along Occidental, ate ice cream cones, talked, turned down S. King, stopped for coffee, and talked some more. We were sharing a table at an outdoor café when I asked David the question that had been on my mind all evening.
“Are you going home after you take me back to the hotel?”
On the table in front of him David was making a structure out of paper-wrapped sugar cubes. Instead of replying, he set down his coffee cup and carefully laid a final piece across the top. “A corbelled arch.”
I didn’t say anything, and waited for his answer, trying to keep from remembering the David of 27 years before who would have responded to a question like that with a mischievous leer.
Finally he looked up and our eyes met. “I was planning to.”
“Will you spend the night with me, instead?”
He hesitated for a moment and reached again for the sugar cubes. “I … yes, I can do that. I’ll drive you to the airport in the morning.”
David’s lukewarm response surprised me, and I wondered if he was having qualms because I was married, or if something else was bothering him.
At eleven, David hailed a horse-drawn carriage and we settled into the back seat. He told the coachman we wanted to tour the district for half an hour, and for a few minutes we rode in silence, enjoying the closeness and listening to the clip-clop of the horse’s hooves on the cobblestone pavement. David put his arm around me and I snuggled against his chest.
“You never told me how you and Carlos met. From your letters, I gather you knew each other for only a short time before you got married.”
I didn’t answer his question immediately.
“Is this a subject you'd rather not discuss?”
“No, I’ll tell you. I must have written you I was a pre-medical student at Berkeley; as you know, I always avoided the sciences at Washington because I’m weak in math, so I had a non-stop make-up diet of biology, chemistry and physics at Cal. I met Carlos in the fall of 1960, around the time I applied to medical school. I should have networked with the other pre-med students, I should have developed some sort of strategy for admission, there are so many things I ought to have done, but I didn’t, and I only applied to a few schools because the process was so expensive. I got A’s in my biology courses, B’s in chemistry, C’s in physics and did well on the MCAT, but it wasn’t good enough. Every school I applied to turned me down – me, the Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year, the girl wonder of the anthropology department. 
"Being rejected was the most humbling experience of my life. Maybe I never mentioned before that Carlos is Chilean; he was here on a student visa studying at a small business college when we met. We'd only known each other for a few weeks when Carlos left school to work full-time; immediately he got a letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service telling him he was under “docket control” and had 30 days to leave the country. I was so sorry for him. When I received my final rejection, I dropped out of the university, we got married, and he obtained his permanent residence visa.” I was staring at the carriage floor as I told my story; I looked up at David, who was regarding me intently.
“You married your husband because you felt sorry for him?”
“Marrying Carlos gave me an excuse to leave school without admitting failure. Carlos got his green card. It was a win-win situation.”
“Do you love him?”
“Carlos is a good person, honest, faithful, and hard-working, but … it isn’t fair of me to talk about him, even with you, when you’re only hearing one side of the story.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“Picasso once said that in life you throw a ball; you hope it will reach a wall and bounce back so you can throw it again. You hope other people will provide that wall, but they almost never do. They’re like old wet bed sheets, and when that ball you threw strikes those sheets it just falls; it almost never comes back.     I think that’s how relationships are, or mine, at any rate. With a few people – and I can name them on the fingers of one hand – I throw out an opinion or an idea, and it comes right back to me with a spin on it. With everyone else, the same thing just falls flat. I don’t make friends easily, but in the case of the individuals I mentioned, I knew instantly, from the moment I met them, that they were people with whom I’d forge a lifelong bond.”
“Norma, Rosemary, you, of course, and … someone else I met a few years ago.”
“But not Carlos?”
“No. He’s like… no, not Carlos.”
The carriage drew up in front of the hotel and David asked the coachman to make another loop.
“Do you want to tell me about the ‘someone else’?”       I regretted my slip of the tongue; I should have known David would question me. But was it really a slip of the tongue or had I mentioned the other person intentionally? I’d always felt a need to confess to David, to unburden myself to the one friend from whom I had no secrets. Confessing to David was like a test of his love; if he could still care for me despite my transgressions, then my sins were truly forgiven.
“I shouldn’t have brought up the subject. It’s like when you and I were getting to know each other and we were talking about all the sadness in our lives – my mother, your marriage; we were torturing each other and ourselves. Was there any point to it?”
“There was for me; I wanted someone to confide in and I think you felt the same way. Yes, our conversations stirred up a host of emotions but sharing our loneliness brought us closer together. If you don’t wish to talk about him, that’s fine, but I have the feeling you do want to tell me; the ‘someone else’ is a man, I assume?”
      "Yes. David, it’s too painful.”
      “For whom, you or me?
      “For both of us, but especially you.”
      “He meant a great deal to you?”
      “Once. Not any more.”
      “Then tell me. Did you write and suggest we meet after 27 years just so we could mouth platitudes?”
I shook my head. “A few years ago when Carlos and I were going through a particularly difficult time in our marriage and he’d moved out of the house, I met a visiting professor at Cal, a Danish physicist named Helge. Helge was witty, he was charming, he was brilliant - and he'd just separated from his wife. We hit it off immediately – and as I said before, that’s only happened a very few times in my life. We'd still be friends if I’d been satisfied with his companionship, but I wanted more. I wanted him to be you, David, but he could only be himself.”
“Were you in love with him?”
“No, I wasn’t in love with Helge, but I was in love with the idea of Helge, with the fantasy I constructed about him. To tell the truth, he had many qualities I didn’t like. He used people and he was so contradictory. He’d suggest something we could do together, or a trip we could take, I’d get enthusiastic about the idea, and then he’d turn around and, without explanation, say he’d changed his mind. His vacillation drove me crazy, but somehow I kept hoping against hope that he'd change.”
“And he didn't?”
“No, but it was my fault, not Helge's. The biggest problem was that he never wanted a sexual relationship with me. It’s probably fair to say I seduced him, but in bed he was the anti-you.”
“What do you mean, ‘the anti-me’?”
“Helge didn’t like sex. For him intercourse was satisfying an urge, like scratching an itchy nose. But it was more than that – I mean he really didn’t like sex, the act repulsed him. He said I was the first woman he’d ever met who enjoyed making love; considering his only other point of reference was his wife, that's not saying much. And when he told me this, it wasn’t a compliment; I disgusted him … “
“Oh, Kate, come on … “
“No, really. Whatever we did – and it was nothing kinky, not even remotely as exuberant as what you and I used to do – he agreed reluctantly and only to placate me. He told me he’d wanted to, but his wife was unwilling; I think it was the other way around. The last time I saw Helge he was yanking the sheets off his bed and stuffing them in his washing machine because the odor of sex nauseated him. After I left his apartment, Helge phoned his wife and told her he planned to commit suicide. She drove him to a psychiatric facility on campus. A few months later his year at Berkeley ended and he returned to Denmark.”
“Was he gay, by any chance?”
“It’s funny you should say that. Norma asked me the same thing. Helge said himself that some of his colleagues in Denmark spread a rumor he was. I told him his sexual orientation didn't make any difference to me, but he denied it. He has two children … I don’t know.”
David put his hand on mine and squeezed it.
“I’m sorry; I shouldn’t have told you.”
“I’m a big boy; I can take it.”
“In the long run breaking up with Helge was a positive experience. Years ago do you remember my telling you I was directionless, always waiting for something dramatic to happen in my life to give me a focus?”
“Yes. You said you were like St. Paul on the road to Damascus.”
“Helge was that dramatic event. At first I was so happy – it was almost like reliving Seattle with you - but in the end I was miserable. I remember going to the bank to cash my paycheck right after we broke up and I couldn’t see to endorse the check because of the tears in my eyes. I know this will sound totally nuts, but I wanted to get away; I’d read somewhere about people being needed to pick coffee in Nicaragua, so I went to the Berkeley Co-op, where all the left-wing organizations in the East Bay post their notices, and on the bulletin board was one recruiting volunteers for Nicaragua. The coincidence was extraordinary – we broke up in December and I had no idea what time of the year they harvest coffee in Central America. I picked coffee for three weeks; then I returned with a technical volunteer organization a few months later and used the rest of my vacation doing computer analysis at an agricultural bank in Managua.
“Working in Nicaragua was a fantastic experience that stimulated my interest in the region, so I applied to the master’s degree program in Latin American studies at Berkeley. Carlos agreed with my decision completely, even though going back to school meant giving up my job, and I’ll always be grateful for his support. I graduated last year with departmental honors, applied to the doctoral program in history, and they accepted me. Carlos encouraged me to enroll, but studying for a Ph.D. would have been a huge drain on our finances and I couldn’t ask him to make that sacrifice. I knew we had to save for retirement, so I went back to work for Central Pacific.
“I can’t tell you what getting that degree meant to me. When I finally received my B.A. from Cal, I called my parents to invite them to my graduation. If I’d reached Daddy first, the outcome would have been different, but Mother picked up the phone and, in a bored voice, she told me she wasn’t interested in attending. Her response hurt me so much I didn’t even go myself. Last year at the ceremony, when I heard Pomp and Circumstance, it seemed as though they were playing the music for me; graduation was the happiest day of my life. I knew so many intelligent, ambitious young women at Washington who went on to graduate school, to Fulbright’s, to study abroad – and I went home in disgrace without a degree. Earning the M.A. was a triumph, a personal best; it expunged the past, it erased the shame. And I never would have gotten the degree if it hadn't been for the experience with Helge.”
The horse continued its steady clip-clop over the cobblestones and we rode for several minutes in silence.
“What about you? After I left … did you find someone else?”
David shook his head. “The last month you were at the university tore my heart out. I couldn't have risked going through an experience like that again. It’s strange, but after Arlene was diagnosed with cancer our marriage improved considerably.”
“In what way?”
“In 1976 Arlene developed a persistent cough and started to loose weight. She had a chest x-ray, followed by blood tests and a biopsy, all of which showed a malignant growth. By then the tumor had already metastasized, so there was really no hope, but we – the doctors and I – decided not to tell her the gravity of her condition. She had chemotherapy. After she became ill, Arlene changed a great deal – she needed my support and accepted it gratefully. She wanted to be held and comforted so … well, it was all right. I don’t mean this in a sexual sense; that was over, but it didn’t matter. I’ll always be glad I was there for her. If I’d had a relationship with someone else, the situation would have been impossible for me. Arlene wanted to go to Paris, and after the chemo, when she was feeling better, we took a trip to Europe; we spent three weeks in France and she was very happy. She died four years after the initial diagnosis.”
“Arlene never realized she was dying?”
“Never. I’m not saying that’s the solution for everyone, but it was the right one for her.”
“Then what?”
“Our children were already grown and gone; I sold the house, moved my books to the office, and went to live aboard Sturmvogel.”
“Do you still sail?”
“Yes, but I don’t go beyond Puget Sound any more. I wish ….” He stopped and didn’t complete the sentence. “When Frank comes to Seattle we take the boat out occasionally.”
“How is he?”
“Very happy. He and Kathleen have three children and a fine marriage. Frank’s an associate professor of biochemistry in Eugene now. I talked with him shortly after I received the letter saying you were coming to Seattle; he sends you his greetings. Have you kept in touch with Norma?”
“She’s a full professor at SUNY in Stony Brook. Teaching at a university is the life she always wanted.”
“Still single?”
I laughed. “Of course; there’s no room in Norma’s life for a man.”
“And Rosemary? You mentioned in one of your earliest letters that she married and moved to the Bay Area.”
My eyes filled with tears. “Oh David, Rosemary is dead. She was killed in an automobile accident about ten years ago, together with one of her little boys. Yes, we saw each other frequently after she moved to California. Thanks to the woman at the Student Health Center, Rosie – and everyone else in Blaine Hall - knew why I left the university, and she guessed you were the father. She didn’t approve, but at least she accepted that we loved each other. Rosemary, her husband and three sons were driving up to Washington to spend the Christmas holidays with her family when …” I choked up and, seeing David's grief-stricken face, couldn’t continue. We both fell silent, remembering Rosemary’s tinkling laugh, her gifts, all in the past. I wanted to change the subject from Rosemary, and David’s mentioning Frank gave me the opening I was looking for.
“David, speaking of Frank, I need to tell you something, something that's been on my conscience for years.” I drew a deep breath. “Do you remember what took place – I know you must – between us when I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa?”
“Yes, I remember. Frank told me long ago what really happened in his apartment.”
I was stunned; I struggled to recall the story I'd told David on that terrible day so many years before.
      “What did Frank tell you?”
      “Kate, we don’t need to go into this.”
      “Yes, please, what did he tell you?”
      “He said the two of you had sex." David stopped and searched my eyes. "Is that true?”
      I sighed. “Yes.” We were silent for a couple of minutes. “When did he tell you?”
“After Spring Break, when he returned from Spokane, while I was still in the hospital. He talked to a priest when he was home. At this point I don’t remember if the priest told Frank to speak to me or if he felt he had to because he thought I was dying. In any event, he was remorseful and asked me to forgive him. We’ve never mentioned the matter since.”
“Then you know I lied to you...and you've know all along.”
“I realize it’s not an excuse, but I lied because I was afraid of losing you. Is it too late for me to ask for your forgiveness now, to tell you how sorry I am?”
David put both arms around me and hugged me close to him. “All three of us behaved badly. You and I apologized to each other years ago.”
     "And what I told you about Helge?"
     "Dearest Kate, let it go."

Our carriage passed by the hotel for the second time just before midnight; David paid the coachman and we took the elevator to the fourth floor. Once inside the room, I turned on the bed lamp and we looked at each another with embarrassment. When I reached up to loosen David’s tie, he pulled back slightly; his reaction surprised me, and I dropped my hands. Conscious that David was watching me, I took my clothes off and slipped between the sheets. I expected him to do the same, but he remained standing by the bed, fully dressed, with a forlorn look on his face.
I stretched out my hand to touch him. “Is something wrong?”
David sat down beside me. “When you asked me to spend the night with you I should have invented an excuse to go back to Sturmvogel. Better yet, when you wrote, I should have foreseen this possibility and said I was too busy to meet you.”
I searched his face, trying to guess the reason for his anguish. “You can't mean that. I don’t understand.”
David bent over and covered his face with his hands. “Kate” he whispered, “I’ve never wanted to make love to you so much as I do at this moment, but I can't.”
David’s confession went straight to my heart. I put my arms around him and started to sob.
“I’m terribly sorry. I’m sorry to disappoint you," he said. "Please don’t cry, dear.”
“I’m not cr-crying because I’m disappointed. I’m … you were going to sh-shut me out of your life rather than te-tell me this?”
“I don’t feel like a man anymore. You told me about your humiliation. I assure you this is far worse; it goes to the very soul of what I am as a human being. I hate euphemisms - I’m impotent. Yes, I'm ashamed to tell you. I want you to remember me as I was when we were lovers, not the way I am now.”
“We are still lovers. David, don’t lock me out of your heart. What we had years ago was wonderful; if it’s over I can accept that, but I can't accept your rejection. I love you for your kindness, your humor, your understanding, your intelligence, and because you love me. None of that has changed.” I put his face between my hands and brought my lips to his. “Dearest David, there’s no reason for you to be ashamed. You’re still you – the man I’ve loved all my life.”
I started to unbutton his shirt and this time he didn’t stop me. David turned out the light. He was right about the sex, but we were as intimate and loving as two people could possibly be.

I dozed for a while, and when I awakened, David was lying on his back, staring up at the ceiling, with his hands clasped behind his head.
“You’re not asleep? It must be two o’clock.”
“I’ve been thinking.”
I propped myself up on one elbow and began running my fingers through the hair on his chest.
“My furry beast. You know, one of the first things I noticed about you when you took me to the HUB for coffee was how the hair on your wrist peeked out from the edge of your cuff. I couldn’t help wondering about the rest of you. It was such a turn on, but I was so naïve I couldn’t put a name to what I was feeling."
     "Do you really prefer me this way? I was thinking of waxing my chest."
     Knowing he was joking, I started to laugh. "I don't find hairless men even remotely attractive; they're like Ken dolls, so ... androgynous. Speaking of fur, though, there’s one part of you which needs improving.” I ran my finger along his eyebrows.
“Impossible. You always used to tell me how perfect I am.”
“Well you are, but David, with those eyebrows you’re turning into a sheepdog. Before long you’ll be walking into walls. Here, let me trim them for you.”
I got out of bed, turned on the light, found my cosmetics case and took out a pair of manicuring scissors. Sitting astride David, I bent over him and started to snip the unruly hairs. He raised his head and tried to touch my breast with his tongue.
“Behave. Keep your eyes shut.”
“You know what this reminds me of?”
“When you wore your hair long and you used to lie on top of me – in a rather more intimate fashion than this – and spread your hair around us. It was like being in a tent.” David reached up and took the scissors from me. “That’s enough, remember Samson.”
“Delilah cut the hair on his head, not his eyebrows.”
“With me it’s eyebrows. I’ll be completely emasculated if you don’t quit.”
He took my hand and kissed it.
“Are you happy, David?”
“At this moment or in general?”
“I’d be less than truthful if I didn’t admit that seeing you again has been an emotional jolt and more than a little stressful, but yes, Kate, at this moment I couldn’t be happier or, in the words of a dear friend, I’m content. In general … if you’d asked me two days ago, I would have said I’m not unhappy.”
“And now?”
“Now … I realize how empty my life is … without you.”
I lay down beside him. “Do you think we can salvage something from the past?”
“Yes, but only if we have a future; otherwise what's the point?”
“What kind of future were you envisioning?”
“For the two of us?”
He turned to look at me. “Will you close out your life in the Bay Area and come to live with me here, in Seattle? You can work in data processing, get that Ph.D. in history, pursue whatever goal you set.”
I had come to Seattle wondering if David even remembered me; his proposition took me by surprise and I didn't respond immediately.
"Let me ask you something. When I was a student at the university, would you have left Arlene to marry me?"
"It was impossible; back in the 50s you couldn't get a divorce without the spouse's consent."
"Suppose you could have."
"Kate, I loved you, I wanted so much to make a home with you, to have children ..." his voice trailed off.
I put my hand on his.  "You don't have to tell me; I already know the answer."
"And yours?"
"The same. I can't leave Carlos any more than you could have left Arlene. My children would never forgive me. And Carlos ... he deserves better than that. I just can’t purchase my happiness at their expense. It’s too late. ‘The time is out of joint,’ as Shakespeare said.”
David sighed and put his arm around me. “After our son was born, I took for granted you’d return to the university – to me; it never occurred to me you wouldn’t. When I got your letter saying you were staying in California, I was in shock. Why didn’t you come back?”
“For so many reasons. I was still a minor, so I had to live either at home or in approved housing. I couldn’t return to the dorm … everyone knew. But that’s not it, really. David, I just couldn’t go back to my life at the university, always worrying about becoming pregnant, always saying goodbye to you.”
      "We could have been more careful. Half a loaf wasn’t better than none?”
     “Not for me. Was it for you?”
     “I coped. I think out situations were very different.”
     “Exactly. You had a full life. I only had you. I didn’t want to become another Iris Williams. Remember Iris?”
      David chuckled. “Of course I remember Iris. They’re living in Hawaii; I had a card from them a few months ago.”
      “Can you guess what happened to her?”
      I pictured an Iris in her fifties, with her little teeth, gray hair falling over her wrinkled brow, still hunched over a desk in the Biochemistry office, typing at a computer. “No, what?”
      “Irving’s wife divorced him. He accepted a position at N.Y.U. and they got married.”

            For a long time we lay beside each other in the dark without talking. I thought about Iris and wondered what would have happened to David and me if I hadn’t gotten pregnant. David always said I would leave him eventually, but I knew better. After graduation I would have found a job in an office; I would have rented an apartment and seen David a few nights a week; maybe we would have sailed on Saturdays. Half a loaf, David had called it. Instead, I’d stayed in California, married and had two wonderful children. 
     Even with Carlos’ moodiness and hair-trigger temper, would I have exchanged the four of us backpacking in Yosemite, traveling in Latin America, graduate school, my job at C.P., for a lonely apartment in Seattle, for some tenuous hope that David and I might eventually share a life together? No, I wouldn’t.
      I was reconciled to the past, but not to the prospect of a future without David. In the space of a few hours he had drawn me back into his orbit as surely as the sun changes the course of a passing comet, and the thought that I might soon be saying goodbye to him forever depressed me more than I wanted him to know. I turned away from him and stifled my sobs in a pillow.
      David touched me on the shoulder and realized I was crying; he sat up, switched on the lamp, and turned to look at me. “You’re crying; what’s the matter, dear?”
     “I can’t bear the thought of leaving you. I don’t know what to do.”
     He took a corner of the sheet and gently dried my eyes. “I saw a coffee-machine in the bathroom. I’m going to get up and make us a pot.”
      “At this hour?”
     “Neither of us can sleep; a bit of caffeine won’t make any difference. Besides, we need to get this problem resolved before morning.”
      While David was in the bathroom, I went to the closet, took out my nightgown, and slipped it over my head; there was a terrycloth bathrobe hanging beside it which I carried to David. “Here. I’m getting cold and thought you might be, too.”
      “Is this yours?”
      I pointed to the hotel’s logo embroidered on the breast pocket and he slipped his arms through the sleeves; the hem fell to slightly below his knees and the sleeves were too short by nearly a foot. David prepared the coffee and brought it to where I sat curled up on the loveseat, covered by a blanket we’d taken from the bed. He wedged himself beside me and put his arm around my shoulder.
     “I saw a movie once,” I began, “in which the hero’s wife dies before he does. Years later, at the end of his life, he sees her running toward him. That’s how the movie ends – with the two lovers running to embrace each other. I don’t believe in an afterlife any more than you do, but I'd like to think that’s how it will be for us.”
     “I was hoping for a more corporeal future than that.”
     “Do you have something in mind – other than what you've already suggested?”
      "Kate, this isn’t 1958 and we don’t need to make the same decisions we did then; the old constraints are gone. It doesn't have to be a question of living together or never seeing each other again. Look, dear, here’s the answer, if you can accept it. My duties at the university are light and I have time to travel; in October I’m planning to attend a biochemistry conference in San Francisco…”
      “October! That’s just two months from now. Are you serious? In January I’m taking a business trip to the CSX Railroad in Jacksonville, Florida. Do you think you could …”
      “Yes, I could.”
      “And there are letters …”
      “… and telephones. It’s less than 700 miles from Seattle to San Francisco, a little over two hours by plane. That’s feasible, don’t you think? Kate, I’m offering you half a loaf; this time will you take it?”
      I squeezed his hand and my heart sang. “This time I’m never saying goodbye.”

      We fell asleep on the loveseat, me with my head on David's shoulder and David with his head resting on mine. He awakened about an hour later and nudged me. “Come on, sleepyhead, time for bed. If we sit here all night, by morning we'll be too stiff to move.”
“If Arlene had been willing to divorce you and we’d gotten married, do you think it would have worked out?” Naturally, I expected him to say we would have lived happily ever after. When David replied simply “no,” his answer stung me.
"No! Why not?"
“Because you wouldn’t have been happy; ergo, I wouldn’t have been either. You’re not like Arlene. She had no ambition, professional or intellectual. She was content to be my appendage, to live in my shadow, to be ‘Mrs. Dr. Rosenau’. But you’re different. When you were a student you were so competitive that you simply mowed everyone else down. You didn’t just want an 'A' – that was a given – you wanted the best 'A'. How would you like to have attended a party with me and heard me introduced as ‘David Rosenau, the biochemist who won the whatever prize,’ followed by ‘and this is his wife, Kate’, with the subtext ‘she irons his shirts’?”
I smiled.
“You would have hated it. You may not have known what you wanted to do 27 years ago, you may not have had a goal, but you damn well weren’t going to be satisfied as a bit player in someone else’s life. You had to grow up, to affirm yourself, and you never would have done that with me. I’m proud of you. You’ve become the woman I hoped you’d be.”
I laid my head on his chest.
“Do you think we can be happy now?”
“I know we will be.”
      I put the blanket back on the bed and David turned out the light; we stood for a moment in the darkness, holding one another. He took off the bathrobe and tossed it on the chair, followed by my nightgown, which he unbuttoned and slipped over my head. David picked me up and laid me on the bed. “Do you remember?” he asked, and even in the dark I could tell he was smiling.
      “Yes, I remember. We won’t ever say goodbye again, will we?”
      “No, Kate. This isn’t the end of our story; it’s the beginning of chapter two.”

When I awakened, sunlight was just starting to outline the edges of the heavy damask curtains and creep across the rug. I was lying on my left side and felt David press against my back; he was kissing the nape of my neck and stroking my breast with his right hand. I stirred slightly and snuggled against him.
“Kate,” he whispered, “sometimes, first thing in the morning ….”
I understood. I rolled over to face him and ran my fingers along his forehead. “Your eyebrows grew back during the night.” David laughed and clasped me to him.
He was still asleep when I woke up at eight. I tiptoed around the room collecting my clothes, packed my suitcase, and sat down in a chair beside him. David was lying on his back, and as I studied his face, I remembered what I’d told him years before, that he would always be handsome because it was in his bones. I was right. In repose his face was smooth, and a slight smile was playing around the corners of his lips.
I bent over to kiss him and David opened his eyes. “I like this hotel’s wake-up call. Thank you.”
“For this?”
“For this morning, for last night, for coming to Seattle, for everything.”
I kissed him again. “You don’t need to thank me. It’s mutual.”
David stretched and yawned. "Have you showered yet?"
     "I was waiting for you." As soon as I spoke, I regretted my words. When we'd gone to bed, he’d turned off the lamp before undressing and it occurred to me he might be sensitive about my seeing his body. The curtains were still drawn and the room was dim.
      “Do you want to keep the light off?" I asked as we went into the bathroom.
      David flicked the switch and gave me a knowing smile. “I'm not that decrepit; if we're going to make of habit of meeting like this, you might as well get used to me. Besides, in the dark how can I enjoy looking at you?”
While I was drying my hair, David inspected his face in the mirror. “I’ll be arrested for vagrancy if I go out on the street with stubble like this. Did you bring a razor?” I handed him mine and he ran his fingers along my cheek. “I’m sorry, your face looks sunburned where I rubbed against you. I should have thought of that earlier.”
He began to shave and then stopped to look at me in the mirror. “The first night we spent together at the motel – I went out to buy a razor because I forgot to pack one, do you remember? Did you have one with you?”
“I think so”
"How come you didn't offer to let me use it?"
My face reddened. “I didn’t want you to know I shaved my legs.”
      David guffawed. “I’m a scientist, remember? I’m aware women have hair on their legs. Next you'll be confessing you shave your armpits.”
      "My God!"
      We looked at each other and laughed, happy to be teasing one another, to be silly; the pain and tension of the previous night were gone. It was as though we'd been parted for just a day, and we picked up the threads of our life without missing a beat.
It was only during the drive to Sea-Tac that our conversation faltered. We were both sobered by the memory of the last time David had driven me to the same airport 27 years before. He parked his car, took my suitcase from the trunk and we walked across the skybridge to the main terminal.
“Your flight’s with Alaska?”
“Yes, it leaves from Concourse C.” I went to the Alaska counter and checked my bag.
“I’ll have to say goodbye – no, not say goodbye, see you off - at the security checkpoint. The procedure's changed since 1957 when I could practically accompany you to the door of the airplane.”
I gave him a final kiss, put my purse and briefcase on the x-ray conveyor belt, and stepped through the metal detector arch. Before going to the boarding area, I turned to look back at David. He mouthed “October,” and I nodded. I pretended to take a ball from my pocket; I dusted it off on my sleeve, held it up to the light for inspection, and threw it to him. A big grin flashed across David’s face. He leaped in the air, grabbed the imaginary ball above his head, and then he hurled it back to me. I gave him two thumbs up and walked toward Concourse C.

I have saved Daddy’s letters for my children, who hardly knew their grandfather, and I have saved mine for my grandchildren, who hardly know me. Like the friends who corresponded with my mother, many of the people I wrote about have passed away, and I am a last witness to the experiences we shared so many years ago, but when I, too, am gone, these memories will live in the letters to my mother.