He tried to look at things from her viewpoint. (Through the eyepiece of a microscope? she wondered.) He watched the ruby rivulets lapse down along the inside curve of the wine glass and he could see how she might have thought that he worked at seducing her.
"The doctor gazes between her liquid thighs," she had said impishly.
"I'm sorry," he said in a pardon-me tone as though he had not heard her, although (like god) he had but had no idea how to answer her simplest prayer. I am more a boy than you can think, he thought, grey hair can't hide giddiness. He was giddy for her (could someone say that these days? He would ask Beth, ask his daughter. He needed to tell her, tell this woman, about his daughter; they each had daughters. He needed to ask her.) and it was nearing Christmas. He longed for a family and red wine. He nodded and the waiter poured the wine, hers and then his.
"Why else would they call them legs?" she asked. She said this in response to his pretended claim that he hadn't heard her, he knew. She knew he had heard and went on.
"I'm afraid I won't sleep with you, tonight at least; however charming you are, doctor."
"My god!" he said, almost fumbling the wine glass, "I haven't asked you to, doctor."
"Ah doctor doctor," she said and smiled. "It used to be my favorite game."
She was somewhere between smart and smartass. Smart in the British sense: stylish. Cerulean pearl eye shadow above sparkling eyes. Though curiously she wore no hose, not even in winter. Smart also in the usual sense: sharp as one of the opal headed tacks on the grey banquette.
Smart like a hurt, a slap, as well.
We learn from our teenagers, he thought, her daughter and mine each teaching us to date again. "Pretend you are a widower, dad, it's more romantic," his daughter had said.
It was a month ago. They began to date a week before Christmas. She wore no hose. They didn't sleep together. "My god," he said, "She knows very well that I'm divorced. She probably knows your mother. It's a small world in a hospital, everyone knows everything."
"Whatever," she said. "A woman likes a man with a story behind him." She was nineteen years old with a ring through her nostril. "You need to get a story, dad. You need romance. Shipwreck and drowning men. Blues songs and lost love." (He thought of a mad woman he had slept with once, Devi, someone else's daughter, a blue mountain and serene thighs.)
At age fifteen she ran away with the carnival, in love she said with a fool. Not Beth, not his daughter, not the mad parenthetical goddess (her name Elli not Devi, a different queen). It was Lee, Lisle, his colleague, a virologist, the woman he had begun dating, his friend. Even so from time to time she mourned for lost love, she said.
"Javier is such a romantic name," she (Lee) had said. "Does it mean January?"
It was a new year. He tried to look at things from her viewpoint. He was a drowning man, speechless and in love too late in life.