| She had
always wanted to go see a real, live ballet performance but Cathy Mendel
knew that her husband would never take her to one. Harry just wasn't
that kind of a guy. An evening out for him was three games of bowling,
a few mushroom beef burgers, and a couple of cold beers. Besides
that, even though he owned several suits, there wasn't a tux among them.
At least, that was one of his lame excuses for not taking her. She
knew that he absolutely hated both the opera and ballet, so she never even
broached the subject to him.
Henry may not have been an aficionado
of the arts but he was, to give him credit where it's due, a good husband
and a hard worker. The morning alarm never needed setting.
He woke himself up, made his own breakfast, and consistently arrived at
the office early. He only worked late if it was necessary.
The insurance business had been his life and he did quite well as the regional
director of the company.
After twenty-three years of
marriage, Cathy had just about everything she could ever want; her own
new car in a new garage attached to a new house with all the rooms filled
with new furniture and a closet full of new clothes. The one thing
she really wanted was obviously never to be so she counted her blessings
and tried to forget about it.
His tastes were somewhat simpler.
It had to do with having been raised on a farm in Iowa and "growing up
dirt poor" (his words). He was just glad to be finally making a good
income. It gave him a deep sense of personal satisfaction that his
wife didn't have to cut coupons anymore or wait to buy things that were
needed only when they went on sale. It had been like that at the
beginning of their lives together but that was a long time ago. He
still got his haircuts from a barber but he took special pride in Cathy's
expensive visits to the beauty shop. His needs were few but he enjoyed
having a wife who was what he jokingly referred to as "a high maintenance
Yet, something had gotten
lost along the way and Cathy seemed to feel it more keenly than he did.
She wasn't quite sure what it was. Maybe it had something to do with
the long hours and sacrifice of time that it took for Henry to move up
in his work. Perhaps there were scars left over from the frustrations
and arguments that characterized the early lean years when they barely
made it from one paycheck to the next. Also, there was the time and
effort that it took to raise the children. The stresses of guiding
two sons through their teenage years had definitely exacted a toll on their
relationship. It had not been easy. At least now they were
grown up and out of the house; one recently married and the other one in
Whatever it was, the passion
was all but gone and any romance they had ever enjoyed together was
now a thing of the past. In the beginning they would go out every
Saturday night and dance the night away. The only time they danced
together now was at company office parties.
It was probably boredom
that started the whole thing. With both sons gone and him having
to recently work late most evenings, Cathy found that her friends and community
involvement were simply not enough to fill up her days.
Their home computer was more
of a toy. He worked with one at the office all day long and carried
a laptop with him wherever he went. The last thing he wanted to do
at home was to sit down and work with one some more. The boys had
used it while still in high school and now it just sat there collecting
dust on the hutch they called "the office" between the kitchen and the
The sudden impulse to drop that
internet installation disc into the computer was nothing more than a whim
to pass some time. Little did she realize that her life would never
be quite the same again.
She had trouble recalling later,
but it seemed like it was only a few weeks into her having discovered the
chat rooms that he appeared. It was the "Forty-Something" room; one
of the rooms were everyone is categorized by age--and one could be relatively
sure that a few were lying about their ages as well.
It was a cold winter afternoon
and she held a cup of hot tea to warm her hands as she read the chat that
scrolled across her monitor screen. Henry had just left for work and had
kissed her as she sat in front of the computer on his way out.
A number of the regulars, along
with a few newbies, were kibitzing back and forth. She did not yet
have the confidence to join in very much and was satisfied to just observe
from the attic.
She almost jumped when the internet
voice announced that someone wanted to have a private chat with her.
TalnHnsm: You have a very interesting nickname
She had no idea what she was
supposed to do or how she should respond, if at all, so she just typed
Giselle: Thank you
TalnHnsm: Did you know that it is the name of a ballet?
Giselle: Why, yes.
How did you know?
TalnHnsm: Oh, a little bird told me.
Giselle: Must be a smart little
TalnHnsm: Do you like ballet?
Giselle: Yes, very much
Giselle: I took some ballet classes
when I was a girl
TalnHnsm: Have you ever attended a live performance?
Giselle: No, but I would love
Giselle: I have only seen them
TalnHnsm: Perhaps I will take you to one sometime.
She shook her head quizzically
for a moment. Who was this guy and however did he think that he could
almost ask for a date from a woman he knew nothing about?
Giselle: But you don't know anything
me and I know even less about you
TalnHnsm: Well, then, let's get to know each other.
It was at that point that her
common sense told her to run. She didn't. Whoever this man
was, he seemed safe enough. After all, it seemed highly unlikely
that he was going to leap out of the monitor into her dining room and molest
her. Her mind told her to say goodbye, but her heart just said.....
Giselle: Where do you live?
Giselle: I live in Rhode Island
TalnHnsm: Well, hello neighbor!
Giselle: Hi (smiling)
TalnHnsm: I'm smiling too.
Giselle: Near Boston?
TalnHnsm: Yes, as a matter of fact.
Giselle: Near Providence myself
As soon as she saw what she had
just typed show up on the screen she wanted to shoot herself. Then
she reasoned that as long as the line was drawn there it was still okay.
The thought also crossed her mind that there was only an hour between them.
They chatted for another twenty
minutes or so. He was a perfect gentleman. Not once did he
suggest anything vulgar or pry too deeply. Even though she had only
been experimenting with various chat rooms for a short time,
she had already had a few experiences with some very rude and nasty individuals.
This man was polite and behaved himself throughout the entire conversation.
TalnHnsm: It has been nice chatting with you.
Giselle: I have enjoyed it, too,
TalnHnsm: Perhaps we will meet again here.
Giselle: Yes, I would like that
TalnHnsm: Are you here often?
Giselle: Maybe two or three times
TalnHnsm: I will look for you.
Giselle: Yes, please do
TalnHnsm: Goodbye, sweet lady.
Giselle: Goodbye, dear man.
It ended so pleasantly.
Cathy sat back in her recliner,
with her keyboard in her lap, feeling a little warm and fuzzy inside.
There was a mysterious quality to what had just happened and it only served
to tantalize her more. In the real world she would have felt very
awkward having such a discussion with a stranger. In this new medium
she felt more at ease. Where else could a man conclude a spontaneous
chat with, "Goodbye, sweet lady?" Once more, how many strange
men would she ever call a "dear man?"
Hoping to find him the next
afternoon, Cathy signed on as soon as her husband pulled out of the driveway
to run some errands. She searched for him the better part of
an hour but to no avail. Perhaps he was gone for the weekend or he
just didn't play with his computer on Saturdays.
The following Monday morning
a heavy rain soaked the yard around her house. After the storm
had passed, Cathy noticed a squirrel running up one of the tall oak trees
as she meditated upon the beauty of this early spring day. The only
imperfection she could see were the tracks left by her husband on the grass
by the side of the driveway. He had backed his car out of the garage
when the rain was falling the hardest and had misjudged his turn.
She watched him as he finally got turned in the right direction and pulled
onto the street. The dark gray clouds matched her mood.
The living room needed a good
dusting and the dirty dishes were piled high in the kitchen sink.
She first found her disc of "Swan Lake" and decided to experiment
with the cd-rom drive to hear how it might sound on her computer.
Turning it on as loud as she could, she began her work in the kitchen first.
By the time the kitchen floor was waxed and the bedroom was straightened
up, noontime had arrived. It was time for a hot cup of tea
and then a quick look-see at the day's mail.
Realizing that the music was
no longer playing, she sat down in front of her computer and decided to
play it one more time. Taking a few moments to relax, she gave into
an impulse to log-on to the internet and see if a familiar name might
be available for a little friendly chat. On a whim, she clicked
on her personal message window and typed in.....
Giselle: TalnHnsm, are you there?
She paused, sipped her tea, and
waited. The "Member Unavailable" message didn't seem to come up so
she wondered if perhaps he might be on also. She waited a moment
more and there was still no response. Just as she was reaching to
click herself into the chat room, a message appeared on the screen.
TalnHnsm: Yes, Giselle, I am here.
Giselle: Oh, hello
TalnHnsm: How are you on this rainy day?
Giselle: Fine–so glad to find you again
TalnHnsm: I'm glad that I found you too.
Giselle: What are you doing?
TalnHnsm: Why, I am talking to you.
Giselle: I mean, where are you?
TalnHnsm: Well, right here and on my lunch break.
TalnHnsm: Giselle, where are you?
Giselle: At home
TalnHnsm: My name is Leo
Cathy's fingers froze on the keyboard.
She knew what he wanted to know even though he hadn't really asked the
question. What would she tell him? Should she give
out her real name to someone who was still a stranger? She quickly
searched her mind and remembered one of her favorite dancers.
TalnHnsm: It's a pleasure to meet you, Anna.
Giselle: It's a pleasure to meet you,
TalnHnsm: Your name reminds me of someone else.
Giselle: Oh, really—who?
TalnHnsm: The great ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova.
She couldn't believe that he
had picked up on her ruse so quickly. Trying to remain calm, she
decided just to roll through it as if it were just a coincidence.
Giselle: Why, yes–I never thought
TalnHnsm: I sure enjoyed our chat together the other day.
Giselle: So did I
TalnHnsm: Anna, please tell me more about yourself.
Avoiding any tangible personal
information, Cathy spoke to him in generalities. Yet, she couldn't
resist sharing with him some of her personal interests. She spoke
of her love for classical music and her dream to see live stage productions
of her favorite ballets and musicals. His genuine interest and knowledge
of the arts spurred her on. She found herself telling this supposedly
tall and handsome man things she had never felt free to tell her own husband.
Their chat lasted little more
than half of an hour. It was cut short when he mentioned that he
had to get back to work. He asked her for her e-mail address and
again she hesitated. Asking for his understanding, she declined to
give it to him so he responded with.....
Giselle: Thank you
TalnHnsm: Please feel free to drop me a line.
Giselle: Perhaps I will
TalnHnsm: I promise that I will write back if you do.
Giselle: Okay (smiling)
TalnHnsm: Anna, have a really nice day.
Giselle: Thank you–you
Cathy sat back in her chair;
a little stunned as she stared at the ‘X' on the screen in front of her.
Her half-finished cup of tea was cold now and she had forgotten all about
going to get the mail. She was mystified by the strange sensation
that she was feeling. It was a very warm feeling but also a little
disconcerting. What would Henry say if he knew about Leo? She
had so enjoyed her chat with this man. He seemed to know so much
about the one thing that stirred her own passions. It was sort of
like meeting a man without her husband's knowledge and yet not having really
met anyone at all. It was just an innocent chat with someone in the
safety of her own home. What harm could there be in that?
Furthermore, the kiss at the
end of their chat was only an ‘X' but she liked it; almost felt it.
She smiled and then said out loud to no one but herself, "Watch out, girl!
This guy is something else."
After throwing off her coat
and thumbing through the few envelopes that she had retrieved from her
curbside mailbox, Cathy was drawn once again to the computer. The
end of their chat was still hidden behind the bouncing lines of her screensaver.
She glanced once again at the ‘X' and then scrolled back the text to write
down the e-mail address he had given her.
Just as she was about to begin
composing a note to him, it dawned on her that her real name might appear
on his copy if he were to print it out after receiving it. Returning
to her setup program, she discovered a way to add another name on her internet
service account and then transfer her nickname to it. She could still
use "Giselle" and send him an e-mail without giving herself away.
Knowing that she couldn't use the name "Anna Pavlova" she opted to use
"Anna Reardon" instead. Hopefully her husband's boss wouldn't mind
her using his last name if he were to find out.
Cathy's first e-mail to "TalnHnsm"
was well thought out.
It was so nice chatting with
you today. You seem like a very nice man. I want you to know
that I appreciate so much that you have showed yourself to be a gentleman
the few times we have talked.
Your obvious interest in the
arts has been of special interest to me and I would love to meet with you
again on the internet so that we might share more of this common interest
Ever since I was a little girl,
I have loved theater and the dance. I even took some ballet lessons
when I was twelve but had to give them up because my parents were no longer
able to afford them. Although I never danced on stage nor even actually
seen a live ballet performance, I enjoy watching them whenever I can on
public television. My husband has no interest in such things so we
have never attended a live performance.
I would like to hear more about
you and how it is that you came to be so knowledgeable of this subject.
In the meantime, I will be looking forward to our next chat together.
Cathy clicked the "Send" button
and in a moment the "Message Sent" window signaled that it had been delivered
to it's destination.
Henry worked late that night
and didn't get home until dark. She was sitting on the sofa reading
a novel when he walked into the living room. He greeted her with
a quick kiss and then took a few seconds to search for the television remote
control. As he sat back in his recliner, she looked at his light
baby blue eyes. They were the first thing she had noticed about him
when they had met so long ago. They hadn't changed but the face around
them was beginning to show the years. He had been a lot of fun in
the beginning of their marriage but now he had settled into a daily pattern
of working all day and then watching television every evening. She
set her book on the coffee table and got up to go get him something to
Just before noon the next day
she thought to check her e-mail to see if perhaps Leo had written her back.
She clicked on her "Mail" icon and smiled when the name "Leo Delibes" appeared
as the sole piece of mail to be listed in her mailbox. She clicked
his name twice and the hour glass appeared to signal that the note was
being downloaded onto her screen.
Finding your note made me smile.
I am so glad that you wrote to me after all. You did not give
your e-mail address in the context of it so I took the liberty of taking
it off of a printed copy of your note to me. I hope you don't mind
me doing this as I just wanted to write you and let you know again how
much I have enjoyed our little chats together.
You will notice that there is
an attachment to this e-mail. It is from a poem that I found in an
anthology I recently purchased. I hope you like it.
In the meantime, I will try
to find you on-line again around the noon hour.
Your new friend,
Cathy looked back up t his name
and noticed the line underneath with the "bltdncr.wpd" heading on it.
She double-clicked it and waited for it to download. In just a few
moments a window popped up asking her if she wanted to view it. She
quickly clicked "Yes" and it appeared.
Painted wooden box on her dresser,
The lady is out of sight;
Turning the key to caress her,
She's changing my day into night.
Lifting the lid of her soul,
Her sweet love song begins to play;
Gazing at the little ballerina,
She's dancing my pain away.
So twirl for me, ballet dancer,
Spinning round and round in time;
Does anybody know you're a daytime romancer?
Does anybody know you are mine?
Felt-lined corners of her heart,
Filled with trinkets and gold;
My love's carefully protected,
Locked in the folds of her soul.
Gently bending down to touch her,
She moves so gracefully in place;
Standing on her tip toes to reach me,
She's brushing the tears from my face.
So twirl for me ballet dancer,
Spinning round and round in time;
Does anybody know you're a daytime romancer?
Does anybody know you are mine?"
She scrolled the poem back and
read it several more times. "How beautiful," she thought. Whoever
the writer was, he must have been truly inspired to create such wonderful
imagery with words so carefully chosen. Perhaps it was composed with
someone special in mind. Cathy looked back up at her monitor and
located the word "File" and clicked it. Then she double-clicked "Print."
It was so sweet of Leo to send the poem to her; so special that she could
not imagine allowing it to be deleted. She folded the finished print
in half and placed inside of the front cover of the novel she was reading.
She could look at it again later.
Just before noon she signed-on
to the internet and waited. It only took a few minutes before his
TalnHnsm: Anna, may I have this dance?
Giselle: Oh, Leo, what
a beautiful poem
TalnHnsm: I'm glad you liked it.
Giselle: I really did–Thank
TalnHnsm: You are more than welcome, sweet lady.
The next thirty minutes were
filled with sweet moments of pleasant exchanges. At one point she
asked him about the kiss marks and his response made her laugh out loud.
He said something to the effect that when it came to kissing he was more
"adagio" than "allegro." She recognized both words as ballet terms
for "slow" and "fast." When they finally said their goodbyes
and he threw another "X" at her, she impulsively sent one back his way.
It was meant to be a friendly kiss and she hoped that he would
take it that way. He did.
Over the next three weeks they
met daily except for weekends; always at noon and always for just a half
of an hour. Everyday there would be at least one e-mail from him
to her and visa versa. Most of them contained sweet little poems
or a quote from some philosopher or poet about love, music, and the beautiful
things of life. There was never any attempt on his part to flirt
with her or make her feel uncomfortable with him. He was a gentleman
and he treated her like a lady. For someone who thought of herself
as nothing more than an everyday housewife, it felt good; very good.
Why couldn't Henry understand this. She didn't even know what this
man looked like but he understood–and that seemed so strange to her.
Soon April's rains were replaced
with May's sunshine and Cathy Mendel still found herself waking up each
day looking forward to her moments with her tall and handsome friend.
She felt no guilt toward her husband. Everything had been innocent
enough, even though she had decided not to mention her noontime friend
to Henry. Perhaps it was a contradiction but, for the life of her,
she just couldn't see how.
On this particular morning,
Henry sat across from her at the breakfast table and mentioned in passing
that he had a business trip coming up in a few weeks. It seems that
the home office in Hartford needed him to drive down for a few days near
the end of the month. He mentioned to her as he was going out the
door that he had already marked the dates on the calendar next to the wall
phone. She kissed him goodbye and watched him get into the car.
Just before he did, he looked up at her and smiled. There were those
baby blues again. She smiled and waved at him. He smiled back
and drove off.
TalnHnsm: Hi, Ballet Dancer.
Giselle: Hi, Leo
TalnHnsm: Guess what?
TalnHnsm: The Boston Ballet is presenting Swan Lake
TalnHnsm: I ordered two tickets through the internet
TalnHnsm: Thursday evening, May 27, 7:30 p.m.
TalnHnsm: I had one of them sent to you by e-mail
Giselle: Leo, you can't do that
TalnHnsm: Well, Anna, I just did.
TalnHnsm: Please say that you will come.
Giselle: But we haven't even
TalnHnsm: Yes we have–here–many times already.
Giselle: I know but it's not
the same thing
TalnHnsm: Swan Lake–live performance
Giselle: No, Leo, no
TalnHnsm: Promise me that at least you'll think about it.
Giselle: I'm sorry, Leo–I
He changed the subject and she
was glad that he did. She was also a little upset with him.
Their little computer relationship had been so innocent up until now.
How could he ever imagine that she would be able to tell her husband that
she was driving up to Boston to go to a ballet performance with a man she
had never even seen before? She was also tempted to go ahead and
do it and that bothered her even more.
Later that day she remembered
to check the dates that Henry had circled on the calendar for his business
trip: Monday, May 24, through Friday, May 28. Leo had told her that
the tickets were for Thursday evening of that same week.
Cathy stepped back and let out
That afternoon she checked her
e-mail and discovered an attachment from the Wang Center in Boston.
Her ticket for "Swan Lake" from Leo had arrived and it not only indicated
the details of the performance but also the number and location of the
private balcony box that he had reserved for the two of them.
The temptation was beginning to overpower her.
Over the next few days Leo asked
her if she had made a decision yet. He was encouraged to see that
she had gone from a definite "No" to "I am still thinking about it."
She appreciated that he didn't press her for an answer but only asked.
Recently Henry had been giving
her more attention than usual. Instead of looking for the remote
control when he came home, he looked first for her. She found it
sweet that he would hug and kiss her and then ask her how her day had gone.
Still, though, he would revert to his old habits after dinner was over.
As he enjoyed the wonders of movie special effects or yet another major
sports event, she quietly sat and read her novel. Every once in awhile
she would unfold the piece of paper with the first poem Leo had sent her.
Perhaps she would use the ticket he had mailed to her after all.
TalnHnsm: Only two weeks to go. Have you decided?
Giselle: Yes I have
Giselle: Will you behave yourself
as a gentleman...
Giselle: if I come?
TalnHnsm: You have my word on it.
Giselle: Then the answer
TalnHnsm: Wonderful! Alright!
There, it was done. She
had made the commitment and she never went back on one when she did.
Of course, there were some second thoughts but she repressed them.
"Swan Lake," Wang Center, Thursday evening, May 27, 7:30 p.m., Box 7–she
would be there.
Henry threw his single suitcase
into the trunk of the car and hung his suit bag from the roof hook
in the back seat. The laptop computer was still sitting on the passenger
seat where it had been left the night before. He gave her a nice,
long goodbye kiss and backed the car out of the garage. Cathy felt
a tinge of guilt but was able to successfully force it out of her mind.
As her husband drove off, she waved and then closed the garage door.
She would miss him.
Just like clockwork, Leo met
her at noon for their half-hour chat. They talked about Thursday
evening and her anticipation was beginning to build. Finally, she
was going to attend a real, live ballet performance. She could have
gone alone or with one of her lady friends, but the appeal of experiencing
it with her tall and handsome new friend made it seem all the more exciting.
Thursday could not come quick enough.
It did come quickly. She
took out the teal-colored evening gown that she had worn for her son's
wedding just six months previously. It still had the plastic cover
on it from it's recent trip to the cleaners. Matching shoes, handbag,
and jewelry were all lain out on the bed as well as the undergarments she
had chosen to wear with them for that evening. Her appointment
with the beautician was at 1 p.m. and she would have to hurry to get everything
done on time.
Later on that afternoon she
scarfed up a yogurt and a can of diet soda and headed for the bathroom.
It took the better part of an hour. The lady in the mirror
looked back at her with a big smile and she looked absolutely elegant.
The other lady looking at her told her so.
As she placed the key into the
ignition of her car, she sat back for a moment to catch her breath.
This was it. She was actually going to do it. Just as
the gearshift went into reverse it dawned on her that she had not yet opened
the garage door. The "Oh, god!" that came out of her lips was less
of a prayer and more of an admission of feeling foolish.
It was a beautiful evening as
she made her way up the highway to Boston. Instead of having to drive
by the theater like so many times before, she was driving to it this time.
She looked at her wristwatch and estimated that she would arrive a good
fifteen minutes early. Since they had a private viewing box, having
to be there early for a good seat was not a consideration. She started
At first, the loud popping sound
seemed to come from the car that was passing her. That was until
she began to feel the stirring wheel pull to the right. When the
car was safely stopped on the highway shoulder, she got out to see what
was wrong. It was the back right rear tire–completely flat.
Changing a tire in an evening gown can be both a challenge and a
dirty chore. She knew that keeping that old pair of garden gloves
in the trunk would come in handy someday.
Already late, it took a few
extra minutes to find a parking place in a nearby lot. The entrance
hall of the theater was almost empty. She could hear the first movement
of Tchaikovsky's prelude and had no doubt that the first of the four
acts was well under way. She wondered if Leo might be thinking that
she had gotten cold feet.
Making her way up the stairway,
she tripped on one of the steps but the handrail caught her just in time.
The tension of being late had overtaken her. She had no time to stop
by the ladies room to check herself. She was already too late and
it was now or never.
The narrow hallway that led
to the private boxes was empty. She could hear the live symphony
music swelling up from the orchestra pit below. Her nerves were causing
her to start shaking inside.
There it was–the doorway with
"Box 7" marked on it.
She knocked once and then waited.
There was a pause and then it opened in front of her.
A gasp filled her lungs and
forced it's way out.
Standing in front of her was
the most tall and handsome man she had ever seen in her life. He
was dressed in a black tuxedo and immediately grinned at her as she stood
dumbfounded in the entrance way.
"How's my sweet lady?" he said,
as he took her by the hand guiding her into the little room overlooking
the stage beneath it.
Still in speechless shock, he
placed his arms around her and softly whispered, "Cathy, it's about time
that we start all over again and, if you will let me, I would love to be
the new man in your life."
She looked deeply into those baby
blue eyes that she had memorized over twenty-seven years ago and felt a
very old but warm, feeling well up inside of her. Her nervousness
began to disappear.
Henry smiled and said, "You
know, it's amazing how many entries there are for the word ‘ballet' on
On the stage below as Prince
Siegfried caught the leaping Odette in his arms, Henry and Cathy Mendel
sat next to each other holding hands with his arm around her.
New love is wonderful but old
love is better.