Tollie’s Garden Part 2
I called Janine and asked what she was doing today. I wanted to tell her about Tollie and what was happening but didn’t. She told me about a sale they were having at “Guys and Gals,” a really cool shop at the mall--did I want to go. I knew Tristan was working until five and wondered if we would get together but for some reason I didn’t want to go shopping--which was really unusual for me. I think part of me was hoping I’d spend some more time with Tollie, maybe even help him in the garden-something I knew nothing about so I told Janine I didn’t feel like it.
“Why?” she asked, shocked. “You always want to go shopping?”
“I know. I don’t know why. I just don’t feel like it that’s all.”
“What’s with you, Sarah? You stayed home on a Friday night and now you don’t want to go shopping--what’s going on?”
“Nothing, Janine. Nothing’s going on,” I said, knowing that wasn’t true then said, “Drop it!”
“Okay, okay,” she said. “Call me if you change your mind and I’ll pick you up.”
“Yeah, okay,” I remember saying, but I was anxious to hang up and be quiet.
After I hung up, I looked around my room which was pretty messy so I decided to straighten up, picking up my clothes from the chair, lining up my shoes in the closet, wondering why I had so many pairs of shoes when mostly I wore sandals or sneakers. I took all of my sweaters out of the drawer and folded them, realizing I wouldn’t be wearing sweaters now that it was June, but it felt good seeing them in the drawers so neat and so packed I could hardly close the drawers then wondered how I would ever get all of my clothes to college in the fall. At that time, I wasn’t sure where I was going to go. I had been accepted at University of Vermont and Connecticut College and was on the wait list at Colorado College, my first choice, so I couldn’t make up my mind and I had to see which place offered me the most assistance.
I thought about Tollie’s comments on college and how many people went because there weren’t many options and how bored most people were and how he hoped I’d find out what I love. I thought about how happy and content he seemed and why he dropped out of the PhD program and here he was living in our carriage house, writing and gardening. Suddenly, I thought about my mom and how she had a crush on him and now I did too. I finally admitted it. I had a crush on an older man who seemed so above me and out of reach but there I was.
Tristan called on his break at the market and asked about getting a pizza and a movie and I said I wasn’t sure but call me later and he said, “What’s going on with you,” and I said, “Nothing’s going on” and he said, “Come on, I want to be with you, we’ll have fun,” and I knew he meant he wanted to make out and get in my pants which was tempting. We fucked a lot, but I said I’d call him later and I had to go. I know he was pissed when we hung up and I hated making him feel bad, but I was feeling strange and didn’t know what to do with my feelings.
I glanced at my digital clock and saw it was almost one. I realized I hadn’t put on my music, another rare thing, not having my music on. You’d be surprised what I liked--not loud rock and roll or punk, but I really liked Ani Difranco and The Beatles. I loved, “Let’s do it the Road”
and I’d sing it so loud and laugh. It was so raunchy and funny at the same time. Janine and Tristan always made fun of my taste but I didn’t care. I still like those songs, but my taste changed as I got older.
It always felt good to straighten up my room, something I did when I was upset and felt my life was a mess. Anyway, I went to the window and saw Tollie working in the garden. He had on his cut-off’s, too, and I decided to go and see if he wanted any help. I knew that would surprise the hell out of him because most times when I was outside I was working on my tan and not paying any attention to him or the garden.
I can still see the look on his face when I asked if there was anything I could do and he said, “Sure, help me weed and then I’ll show you how to plant the tomatoes and peppers. He planted in what he called raised beds and he explained what they were, but what was cool was I could work on one side of the bed while he worked on the other. I was surprised I didn’t mind getting on my knees in the dirt or even getting my hands dirty. It was a hot June afternoon and we both got sweaty, but it was nice to pull the weeds and then plant the tomatoes and peppers he had already started. We had a lot of them to plant and he said he was going to make a lot of salsa in the fall and soon would be planting cilantro and jalapeno peppers and pointed to the bed of onions on the other side of the garden. I could tell how proud he was of the garden and he talked about how certain things do better if planted near each other and how he planted the garlic in the fall and pointed to the bed and how the potatoes do well under straw. I listened and loved his enthusiasm and remembered what he said about passion and it made me think about how the only thing I had passion for was shopping and fucking Tristan and before him, a few other guys.
After working in the garden for over an hour, both of us sweaty and dirty, he said, “How about a beer,” and I said sure. Beer is what I usually drink, not wine like we had a dinner. I was under age but we always managed to get beer, and I was almost nineteen now. Anyway, he ran up to his apartment and got us two cans of beer. I remember it was Guiness Ale and not Budweiser which is what my friends and I usually drank. I felt relaxed with him, not like I felt in the kitchen with my mom.
It felt weird when mom came out and stood on the back porch and saw us sitting in front of the carriage house drinking beer. She waved and I could tell she thought it was strange that I had been working in the garden--guess she saw us, but I was glad she didn’t come down and went back inside. I knew she would be leaving for work soon and it wouldn’t be good to have beer on her breath, but I knew she would say something as soon as she got the chance.
We sat there for awhile, drinking beer, enjoying the leisure after working so hard and I liked how he looked at me when we talked. His eyes always seemed to see inside of me in a way I had never experienced with any one. He always had a question that surprised me and made me think and that afternoon he asked me something that changed my life. I didn’t realize it at the time but he asked me if I remembered anything when I was younger that I really enjoyed. I had to think for awhile, but I suddenly remembered I liked making things with clay. I went to a day camp when I was eleven when we lived in Hoboken. I signed up for a pottery class and I remember making a bowl and a mug and loved how it looked when I glazed it and saw it come out of the kiln. It was thrilling. I gave it to mom and she used it for coffee and I even ate cereal out of the bowl. I remember the bowl was blue and the mug was a bright orange and so I told Tollie how much I loved that. It all came back. He looked at me and smiled and I wondered what he was thinking.
He asked me what I was doing that night and I said I wasn’t sure, probably something with my boyfriend Tristan and he nodded and said, “cool” and he told me he was going to work on a story and was in the middle of reading a good novel and was looking forward to doing that, but I also had the feeling he wanted to be with me. I wasn’t sure, maybe it was my imagination working overtime, but then he said something that surprised me. He said he wanted to play me a piece of music he liked, and he wanted to know how it made me feel. I was intrigued and said I would like that and we went up to his apartment and he put on a CD. He opened up another beer and poured each of us a glass since it was his last can and told me it was Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. He told me a little about it. He said it was unusual because most concertos start out with the orchestra and the piano comes in but this one started with the piano. He told me Rachmaninoff had been blocked and unable to write anything and went to a hypnotist to see if that would help and it did. He was able to write this concerto after many years of not composing. I was impressed with how much Tollie knew and I told him I never listened to classical music but wanted to hear this. But then he said he just wanted me to hear the second movement and not the whole thing. “I want you to close your eyes and then tell me what it brings to your mind.”
When he put it on, he sat down on the couch and I sat in his soft chair, noticing his thick notebook on the table. When the music came on, I closed my eyes. It was just a piano and violins and was really soft and slow, really slow. I sat back listening but opened my eyes and looked over at him seeing his eyes were closed so I closed my eyes again. I wondered why he wanted me to listen to this and tell him what I thought then I just let my mind go blank and I listened and I still remember how it made me feel. I felt love. I listened to the piano and felt the music expressing sweet tender love and I was swept up in the soft gentle sound of the piano weaving slowly in and out and around the violins. I had never heard anything so beautiful and somehow I remembered Tollie reading me his poem the night before, but this was different. When it was over, both of us were quiet. He looked at me and I looked at him. I didn’t want to say anything but being with him and hearing that music was something I will never forget. Finally, he asked me what I felt listening to it and I told him I felt love--the music was love, tender love but somewhat sad like longing. I told him I thought it was so beautiful and thanked him for playing it for me then I asked why he wanted me to hear it.
He smiled, his eyes twinkling, “I wanted to know what it made you feel--that’s all. I wanted you to hear that music because I wanted to introduce you to pure poetry--something beyond words, something that expresses the inexpressible, something that would reach inside of you and touch you and I’m glad I did.”
I often think back to that afternoon, listening to that music and how it felt in his apartment and I knew I would never forget what he was giving me. I knew I was falling in love with him.
That night, Tristan came over and we watched some dumb movie. He bought over a pizza. We smoked a joint and hung out, but a few times I went to the window and looked up and saw Tollie at his table writing. Tristan kept putting his arms around me and playing with my tits and I started to get turned on. He was a good kisser and knew my hot spots, but I told him I wasn’t in the mood. He got insistent but I pushed him away a few times and said I was sorry I just wasn’t into it tonight. I felt bad but somehow, as great a guy as Tristan was, something had changed in me and I knew what it was but didn’t know what to do about it. After he left, it was about eleven and I knew he was bothered by how I was acting and tried to be a good sport. Though we kissed goodnight and said we’d talk tomorrow, I heard him slam his car door and drive off and I knew our relationship had run its course.
When I went to my bedroom I looked out the window and saw Tollie in his chair with the lamp over his shoulder reading. I stood there hoping he would look up and see me but he didn’t. I put on my white satin nightie and got in bed, looking up at the ceiling, thinking about the day, remembering mom sitting close to Tollie, how it seemed we were competing and hating that--me being ten years younger than Tollie and mom twenty years older. I thought about working in the garden for the first time in my life and listening to Rachmaninoff. I hated upsetting Tristan and not knowing what I felt anymore, then suddenly remembering how much I liked pottery when I was a kid thanks to Tollie’s question. Anyway, my mind was swirling and it took me a long time to fall asleep.
I woke up late the next morning and saw the sun pouring in my window. I got up and remember looking at myself in the mirror, seeing my long auburn hair, my dark brown eyes, my slightly bent nose, my apple sized breasts, wondering if Tollie thought I was pretty even though I remember him saying he thought I was beautiful and wondered if he cared if I was so much younger. I liked how he looked at me when we talked, but he never tried to touch me except when he kissed my forehead the other night. I thought I would ask him what he thought about our age difference, but then thought he would wonder why I was asking and know that I was getting a crush on him and decided I would pass on that question. If he was interested in me like I was interested him, he would let me know and decided to just be patient, something really hard for me.
I went to the window and panic shot through me when I saw a red convertible car pull up and a woman with blond hair halfway down her back and a skimpy floral sun dress get out and then saw Tollie running out of the carriage house hugging her, picking her up and swinging her around as they held each other. My knees went weak and I thought I’d collapse seeing how happy they were to see each other. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them and watched them walk into the carriage house and then saw them in the window, Tollie showing her around. Oh my god was I freaked out seeing how pretty she was and how happy Tollie looked when he ran up to her. Who was she? Was she an old girl friend, a lover or just good friends? I didn’t know and didn’t know how to find out and knew I had to mind my own business and let go of my feelings about Tollie.
I knew they were going to sleep together. There was only that small bed in the corner--and the thought was agony. I didn’t know what to do or how long she was going to stay and all I wanted was to have her disappear and find out they would never see each other again.
I hadn’t had breakfast and went downstairs. Mom was at the table reading the paper then looked up and I knew she wanted to talk. I poured myself a cup of coffee and waited for the English muffin to toast, staring at it in the toaster, my back to my mom. Finally, she said, “I was surprised to see you gardening with Tollie, is that’s a new thing?” I don’t know if she meant it that way but if felt sarcastic.
“Yeah mom, it’s a new thing. Don’t make a big deal out of it.”
“I’m not making a big deal. It’s just seemed strange.”
I turned around and looked at her. “I just thought I’d help Tollie--that’s all. It’s not a big deal.”
When the bell on the toaster rang, I took out my muffin, buttered it and took my mug of coffee upstairs and heard mom shout at me, “I don’t like your tone.”
I didn’t respond but hated what I was feeling. Mom and I hardly ever had fights or anything. She was a really great mom and gave me a lot of space, but at that time with Tollie’s friend Lark visiting--that was her name I found out later--I really liked that name--I didn’t want to talk to her about what was going on with me and Tollie ‘cause really nothing was going on except in my head.
In my room, I tried to read but all I saw were words and nothing registered. I called Janine and she was at the mall telling me what a cool tank top she bought on sale and I should have gone shopping with them. I started to call Tristan but just before I pushed his number, I stopped and closed my phone.
I got out of bed and went to the window and saw Tollie and Lark in the garden and watched Tollie pointing at things and looking around at the whole property, the trees, the bushes and I remembered being on my knees the day before planting tomatoes with him for the first time in my life. I could see how much they liked each other and how gorgeous she was. Then they got in her car and drove off and I have to admit that was one of the hardest days of my life.
Later mom went to work and I heated up the chicken casserole she made and just zoned out in front of the TV. I fell asleep on the couch and woke up with the news on and picked up the remote and shut it off. I heard the car drive up and park about eleven that night and went to the window and saw Tollie and Lark looking up at the moon. It was a starry night and I just stared at them hating how jealous and foolish I felt sensing their closeness then watching them go up the stairs to Tollie’s apartment.
I went into the kitchen and grabbed two chocolate chip cookies, something I always do when I’m upset and was about to take a few more but caught myself. I stood at the kitchen window and looked up at his apartment and saw the lights were on but couldn’t see them. I couldn’t stop sighing and hated how I was feeling knowing she was in his apartment where I wanted to be. I went upstairs and got undressed, putting on my satin nightie then went to the window and saw it was dark and knew what was going on.
I picked up my science book and tried to study for a quiz but that didn’t last long. I fell asleep and when Janine picked me up the next morning for school, Lark’s car was still there and Tollie was not in the garden as usual. Janine asked me why I was so quiet in the car and I just shrugged and mumbled, “It’s nothing and I don’t feel like talking about it,” and Janine just said, “Okay, whatever,” but she kept looking at me and it was pissing me off.
Lark left a few days later and I wanted to ask Tollie if he had a good time and not appear jealous, but I was so busy with school and Tristan was trying to find out what was going on with me. I was trying to act like everything was cool with us but it wasn’t. We held hands and we hung out and he drove me home after graduation practice and he was being sweet, but whatever was once strong in our relationship had faded and we both knew it.
I was glad that Lark had left. A week went by. I was so busy with school and getting ready for graduation, I didn’t see Tollie, but he wasn’t far from my thoughts and in my mind I kept seeing him and Lark together seeing how close they seemed and that thought kept going through my mind like a dark cloud until I squeezed my eyes closed, shaking the image of them away. It happened a lot.
Finally it was graduation and Tollie came with my mom and then we went for a nice dinner. Mom kept talking and leaning against him and that bugged me. Tollie told us the only graduation he ever went to was his from Harvard and he said it was nice seeing me in a cap and gown, but then said he thought the speeches were boring and he could hardly stay awake.
I went to a big graduation party that night, drank a lot of beer and danced like a wild nut for awhile, but then got bored and asked Tristan to drive me home. I know he wanted to come in and continue our celebration, but I said I was exhausted and that was that.
After he left, I went to my room. Tollie’s light was on in his apartment and I saw him standing at the window and he saw me. He opened his window and I opened mine and he shouted he wanted to show me something and for me to come down and meet him.
I couldn’t imagine what was so important but was excited. I noticed it was after one and mom wasn’t home. I know she didn’t work but probably went out on a date. I knew she had an on-line friend and that they had met a few times and I was sure that’s where she was and wouldn’t be home until the next morning. I thought it was cool that she did that even though I know she had a crush on Tollie.
Anyway, he met me at the bottom of the stairs from his apartment and we went into the garage part of the carriage house. It was dark and he turned on a light and there it was--a potter’s wheel like we had at camp. I couldn’t believe my eyes and was thrilled that he bought me that for my graduation present. I wanted to cry but instead hugged him with all my strength and wanted to kiss him I was so overwhelmed.
“Why did you do that?” I asked after calming down.
“I’m not sure but I remembered you telling me you loved pottery when you were a kid and thought this might be a nice gift.”
“Wow, you’re amazing--that’s so cool,” I said looking at it then went over and pushed the petal and saw the wheel spin slowly.
He then invited me upstairs for a glass of wine to celebrate my graduation. He even lit a a few candles and we sat on the couch. I looked around his apartment, seeing the shadows on the wall from the candles and was still feeling high about the potter’s wheel and told him that was the best present I have ever been given and I knew then I wanted to learn how to be a potter.
He poured us the wine and we clicked glasses and he said, “To life, friendship, poetry and pottery,” and when we clicked glasses, his smile, that sweet smile melted my heart. We drank the wine and then he poured another glass.
I was so happy being with him and getting the potter's wheel, I was hesitant to ask him about Lark, but after the second glass of wine I asked, dreading the answer, “So, how was your visit with Lark?”
“It was great,” he said, looking at me. “We had a wonderful time.” He took a sip of wine, lifted up the bottle and saw there was just a little left, poured a little more in my glass then into his and I was desperate to find out more. I know he sensed why I was asking and took a sip of his wine. “We’re best friends and we love each other, but there is nothing romantic in our relationship. She grew up on the farm next to ours in Ohio and we’re like brother and sister. She’s an amazing person and we will always be best friends.”
I was stunned finding out I was wrong and stopped breathing, “Really, I thought for sure you were lovers.”
“Nope, we’re definitely not lovers,” he chuckled, knowing why I had asked. “We haven’t seen each other in over two years, but she had some time off from work and wanted to visit to see what I was up to. She’s the one who encouraged me to drop out of graduate school and just write and now she is engaged to get married to another friend and I’m going to be best man at their wedding in August.”
“Wow, that’s so cool,” I said.
Well, you can imagine how hearing that on top of getting a potter’s wheel made me the happiest person in the world and I surprised myself by telling him I was jealous of Lark. I was embarrassed when he laughed and said, “Really” like he was surprised.
He then did something that changed both of our lives. I will never forget this moment. He put on the second movement of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto. I was surprised at first but loved that he did that. We listened quietly to the slow soft second movement and I knew it was going to happen. We kissed. He took my hand and we kissed gently then he put his arms around me and we kissed more passionately as if the music was speaking to us, leading us somewhere we would never return from. I wanted him like I had never wanted anything, my whole body aching to feel him in me.
He gently unbuttoned my blouse, touching my breasts sending shivers throughout my body, our lips kissing gently then harder, then more passionately, our tongues swirling while he slipped off my shirt and I unbuttoned his pants, lowering the zipper reaching inside, taking his warm hardness in my hand and we lay down on the couch, sinking into the soft cushions, his body hovering over me, my hands sliding my skirt off, his hands helping then lifting my ass feeling him slipping off my soaked panties then taking off his jeans and pulling off his tee shirt and there we were making love, sweet, gentle love, the Rachmaninoff playing softly, the perfect music for our first night and he entered me so slowly, so gently, his movement like the bows on the violins, his hard cock moving in and out going slowly and deeper, filling me. We were the music and the music was us, our bodies so in harmony moving faster with the music then harder, faster, deeper our bodies trembling, the music rising, taking us closer to exploding, the music rushing to its climax, our need growing, the music soaring and suddenly we were there reaching for the highest notes, climaxing, coming together; it was a miracle how our first night of making love would be something we would never forget. I was sobbing and he held me close and we lay together on the couch. The music had stopped and it was quiet, no sound or movement other than the candles flickering in the dark.
That night was five years ago. I went to the University of Vermont that fall and we talked on the phone and e-mailed every day and he sent me new poems and I told him I was spending most of my time in the pottery studio at school and had a great teacher. I had a few other good courses but my main interest became learning how to be a potter. I loved it and learned that he was right. When you find what you love you are seldom, if ever, bored. My pottery teacher said something to me that I never forgot. “Though I am a master, when I look at a piece of clay I am a beginner.” When I told Tollie that, he said that he learned that about poetry.
I did the same thing that Tollie did when he dropped out of the PhD program to write poetry. I didn’t go back to college the following fall and came home and for awhile shared his apartment, but we also spent a lot of time in the big house. We turned the whole downstairs of the carriage house into my studio and Tollie still used the apartment to write. Mom was not jealous of me and Tollie once she saw how much we loved each other. We had a lot of good meals together and when mom died last year from breast cancer at fifty-two, I couldn’t have survived without Tollie. It was a nightmare. I inherited the house. I have to make money to show on my income tax in order to have it be matched by the trust and we get by just fine.
Tollie and I never married. We didn’t need to, but he is the love of my life and we grow most of our food and several places sell my pots and bowls. He started sending out his poetry to small journals and had several poems published then won a competition where he got a thousand dollars and they published his book. He gives readings at various libraries but he doesn’t care that much about being published. He’s not famous at all. He just loves to write. He planted a lot of fruit trees and loves watching me making pottery and I love seeing how happy he is in his garden.
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