He sank into the outdoor couch and gazed at the stars. The night beach rolled out of sight across the dune. The breeze was low and warm. He lifted his whisky to his lips and sipped. It was rich, and fought its way down his palate, leaving him with a sense of gratitude and pride.
‘Coming to bed, dear?’
He turned his head. His wife was at the sliding door, in leggings and t-shirt. Her greying hair was tucked into a bun.
‘Just finish this,’ he said, holding up his glass.
She was next to him.
‘Doing your fifteen minutes, are you?’
He had told her once that, on average, the husband goes to bed fifteen minutes after the wife. ‘Checking the boundaries,’ he’d said, ‘keeping the tigers at bay.’
‘Me n’ the single malt,’ he said. He took a sip.
‘I’ll be off then,’ she said. ‘Don’t be too late.’
She placed a hand on his shoulder and bent down. She kissed him lightly on the lips. It was more of a peck than a kiss, like a full stop at the end of the day’s paragraph.
‘Peaty,’ she said, and licked her lips.
‘It’s the Ardberg,’ he said.
She tousled the remaining hairs on his head. As she left he held up a hand and it slid through hers. That touch was day’s end. Behind him, the house light went off, plunging his outlook into the dark.
He looked at the stars again. The sky was thick with them. Reds, blues, greens, yellows, golds, silver, like melting flavours on a vast palate.
A bird or bat, a disturbance of some kind anyway, rattled a tree. The surf crumbled and turned in the unseen dark. Some distance away a solitary streetlight worked its luminescence into the night. A piece of light bounced off a car roof, but the rest of the car was not visible. It was the Cheshire cat of cars, he thought, only the light smile on the roof is visible. The rest may never have existed.
He sought the salt air. It struggled to compete with the fragrance of his drink. Whisky to the fore, sea as a backdrop.
He sipped his whisky. He rubbed his jowls. He had not shaved for three days; one of the perks of retirement. He breathed in and out, and observed his various joints for aches. There were none. That was a relief.
He thought, I wonder why old people don’t kiss with their tongues.
Photo by Rick Barrett via Unsplash