The cell phone pulsating wildly on the glass table shot its vibrations across the room, startling me into semi-consciousness. Awakened now from my nap but without light, the darkness confounded me. Had I really napped so long?

I fumbled around for my glasses and not finding them, squinted out just enough of the darkness to make out the message, “Will you have a glass of wine with me tonight?”

I was still fighting off sleepy remnants of my abruptly abandoned nap, but I rapidly cycled through the calculations. It’s her? It is the middle of the week and it is night. I’m not dressed. She lives across town. I couldn’t get there until late. She’s always in bed by ten.

Her message told no alarm on its surface, but something beneath radiated a faint uneasiness. Her present behavior belied all I had seen before. She was an enigma, near a recluse who rarely revealed anything about herself. In times past I had been able to extract only the most trivial details of her life. The mysteries remained intact.

It had been her steadfast custom to refuse my routine invitations, usually offering an empty promise to get together another time soon. Her reversal of habit tonight was justifiably reason for wonder.

I searched for answers but logic is often lost amidst the chaos of emotion. I decided answers would have to come later. For now I bought the pervasive notion: She already sampled the wine and the courage in it brought her this far.

“Sure. When?” I messaged, changing my clothes and steeling myself for an intriguing night-time adventure.

“Now,” came her reply.

I parted the drapes and peered outside. Seeing no one there assured me I hadn’t slept through the door bell. I was relieved to know I hadn’t kept her outside waiting.

“I want to try this new Cabernet – thought you would like some as well,” she messaged again.

“OK.”

I felt her pull, the moon tugging the sea at high tide. I wasn’t resisting. I wouldn’t. Maybe she was hurt and needed someone. No. Not someone. Me.

She wanted a sympathetic ear and I listened well; she said so often. And now I had only to listen and comfort her and she would know I understood. My closeness would reassure her and she would be trusting.

Still rushing to get dressed, I threw on clean Levis and a slightly wrinkled shirt. I slipped into my sandals then sat back to await the details of our rendezvous. My imagination was running unfettered, resisting any effort I made to keep it in check.

Seconds tore by. Then minutes. Tantalizing apprehension gave way to unsparing agony as I fought off all notions she might be having second thoughts.

“Maybe I should message her,” I thought. But I hesitated, dreading the kind of news that flows from a doubting heart.

Still more minutes, then this, “Ready for another?”

“Sure, I really enjoyed the first glass,” pressing the “send” button intuitively and just as quickly spotting the pinch of sarcasm I hadn’t intended.

She had given flight to reality, maybe owing to a head start on the wine she wanted to share. Or maybe she was socially inhibited and uncomfortable with a physical presence. She wanted intimacy, maybe even longed for it, but not at the expense of imperiling her virtue. Not yet anyway.

I reasoned that she contrived this make-believe wine tasting to answer her lagging confidence. She wanted to play, but not before knowing all the rules. It had to be safe, an enchanting fantasy in which she could feel without touching. She had designed a method to overcome the torture of not knowing who she was. Or who she could be. Rehearsing her role backstage would ready her for the moment the lights came on.

Visualizing that moment delighted my sense of wonder and I had to play along. I poured myself a glass of Shiraz, then quickly a second just to know it was the real thing. Under the circumstances, I thought anyone would have wanted the reassurance.

Then I settled in to wait for her next message. This time the wait was short. “Well, I’m off to bed. Thank you for keeping me company.”

And there was no more.

Alone again, I filled my glass a third time and pondered whether to resume my nap — and wondered whether it was ever interrupted

~ ~ ~