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Catch and Release

All my lovers are dead or married, and sometimes I miss everybody. I felt determined to try everything, absolutely everything, so I did. Consequently, if you laid all of them end to end, toe to top of head, they’d reach across the state of Kansas, and it isn’t because they’re all tall. Nonetheless, not one of them lays anywhere near me, end to end or in any other direction. I’m single. For the first time since age fifteen, when my last lover passed away, I became a single woman. Me, who’d never spent a weekend alone! Suddenly I find all the days and nights alone, wondering what in the world will happen next. My get up and go has got up and went, and I no longer have the will to flirt with someone next to me waiting in line at the coffee shop, or to head down to the local dance hall and swing a new partner.

Oh, I used to be wild, as wild as the West wind whipping across this valley at night. I’ve made love in stairways, under bridges, on docks, and on rooftops, and I’ve joined the Mile High Club twice. I loved all of it. I loved every sweet minute of it, and would do it all again in a heartbeat, if only my heart didn’t hurt so much from all the beatings it’s taken.

I couldn’t name a favorite, because each one belonged in a certain place and time. When Brian kissed me on the Great Wall of China, we knew it wouldn’t last. When Brad and I pulled that Persian rug out onto the balcony overlooking Mont St. Michel and giggled wildly under the stars, it didn’t matter that we’d separate at sunrise. When John came riding on his motorcycle, and we sang around a bonfire and swam in the river, it didn’t matter that I wouldn’t see him again for years. That moment alone held everything we needed then. One time I went up to a man on a dock, and we made love all afternoon, and I never spoke to him again. One man leaped from bed after we’d made love for the first time and got on his knees and proposed marriage to me. I laughed and shook my head. They gave me wonderful gifts—fiddles, and their favorite tunes, and so many kisses. All I wanted was the magic of a memorable moment. And it was enough. I stayed with one man for ten years—the marriage, the children—but most of them managed only a year or two before the expiration date invisible on their thighs came due. I warned them all: I’m catch and release. Don’t plan on keeping me for good. I am not the marrying kind, and I won’t be gutted and left, not ever.

Women who live the way I’ve lived tend to run out of time or settle down by my age, which is sixty years old. I’ve become the family maiden aunt, the unattached spinster, the leftover lady. I’ve been released back into my element—freely flowing in this river of life—and it’s wonderful in the spring, summer, and autumn of life—but it gets mighty cold in the winter. Deep down, I miss them all. I miss the man who tore off his clothes as he ran around the lake, exclaiming, “We need a baptism after this wretched week,” and the man who pulled me out his window and onto his rooftop so we could dance on the rooftop under the stars.

My best friend from college used to say, “See you next break up,” and in between lovers—his and mine—we hiked in the Rocky Mountains together and spent an exciting week in a castle in France. When he died, a light went out inside me, too. I clung to my next lover, clung so hard, and when he died, too, I just felt too tired to keep on kissing.

I always preferred older men, at least my age, if not older. Now that I’m sixty, it’s no surprise that the others settled down one way or the other without me. A couple of the wild ones found much younger women— fifteen, twenty years younger than themselves—and started families, or even second families.

I look my age. I have the wrinkles and the sags and circles. No one looking at me would guess in a million years how pert and perky I used to be, hopping in my Repettos along the Champs-Elysées or gliding on cross-country skis through a snowy field. No one who meets me now would believe I ever had the adventures that used to be my everyday reality.

Part of me wants it all back, every minute. I want to dance in the bonfire circle and bang the drum and soar through the skylight. I want to surge and stream and blossom through ten thousand nights, stories bearing up around me like so many butterflies. One of my lovers called me his Scheherazade, for my stories. Another one called me Sweet Pea. Most of them never bothered to learn the correct pronunciation of my name, and I didn’t mind. After they all left, for heaven or marriage or whatever, I still had my dog, my writing, my fiddle. At night, when I wake up alone, sometimes I get out of bed and go look at the stars. Sometimes I pick up my fiddle and play tunes, one for each lover, late into the night, until the dawn rises again.


Kiesa Kay, poet and playwright, fiddles and writes in a cottage in the Appalachians with a view of the Black Mountains from her porch. Her plays have been produced in six states so far.

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