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The Life of Gloria: 1949 – 2018








Gloria Talcove Woodward was truly larger than life, dancing and laughing through the world with boundless energy and a free-spirited soul. She passed away peacefully on February 13, 2018. Living every day to its fullest, she spread her exceptional good cheer and sunny optimism to everyone she met.

In 1949 Gloria was born in New York City’s borough of Staten Island. She spent her childhood in the New Dorp neighborhood, which she remembered as a magical, idyllic beachside community. She was raised in rented bungalows under humble circumstances with loving parents, Louis and Lorraine Talcove, whom she adored. When Gloria was 12, her beloved sister Lois was born. Gloria helped raise “Baby Be-ho” like her own daughter.

Growing up on Staten Island, “Glo” cultivated an inimitable comedic style from her older brother Freddie, her extended, fun-loving family, and the Italian, Irish, Jewish and other characters she encountered around her neighborhood. Her relatives called her the “personality girl.” Throughout Gloria’s life, her humor was peppered with Yiddish phrases and old-world witticisms that brought delight to all who encountered her non-stop “schmoozing” and “gallivanting.”

Gloria was ever-curious and inquisitive, always striving to learn about everything around her. Her affinity for nature was inspired by long, carefree days playing on the local beach as a child.

As a teenager during the 1960s, Gloria developed a passion for literature, music, and art. In her last written words, she wrote that the arts give “an opportunity to let youth experience their potential.” They “increase understanding among people, thereby increasing respect and peace among the citizenry.” “The arts,” she wrote, “give a voice to the voiceless and a choice to the choice-less.”

A beautiful “brown-eyed girl” with a billion-dollar smile, the forever-young Gloria was in some respects a late-bloomer. Without financial support to attend college, she went to work on Wall Street as a secretary immediately after graduating from high school. Her modest wages helped her parents buy their first house. In her early 20s she moved to Santa Monica, California and worked for Twentieth Century Fox. Around Santa Monica, she volunteered to support environmental and social/economic justice causes.

Maturing in her mid-20s, Gloria discovered she was smarter than her bosses and decided to work her way through college. She returned to New York City and enrolled in Hunter College. She first studied political science, geology, and art history while laboring as a secretary so that she could afford to attend school at night.

In 1979, she met her future husband, Doug Woodward, while living in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. Gloria was an unrepentant vegetarian and one of the original members of the Park Slope Food Coop. In Brooklyn, she continued her political activism, driven to advance world peace, spread human rights, and protect the environment.

In 1981, she moved to Austin, Texas, where she and Doug were married. She enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Texas and worked for the renowned physicist John Archibald Wheeler. In 1982, Gloria and Doug had their first child, Christopher, who was delivered at home by midwives in Austin. Even while raising an infant son and operating with no more than a few hours of sleep each night, she went to school full-time, majoring in Spanish literature and political science. Gloria graduated with a BA from the University of Texas summa cum laude in 1986, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the most prestigious academic honor society in the United States.  She remained a proud member of Phi Beta Kappa for the rest of her life.

In 1986, Gloria relocated with her family to Poughkeepsie, New York, and worked briefly as managing editor for a Spanish literature journal at Vassar College. The next year the family moved to Columbia, South Carolina. In 1987, Gloria’s second son, Andy, was born.

Soon after the birth of Andy, Gloria obtained her certification to teach Spanish in South Carolina’s public schools. With her fluency and mastery of Spanish grammar, she started a career teaching Spanish in middle school and then at Irmo High School. Gloria obtained a master’s degree in Spanish from the University of South Carolina. “Senora Talcove” was an unforgettable teacher, with her own unique style. Her widespread impact on her students was evident in the outpouring of testimonials on social media after her passing. One parent wrote: “Everyone loved Gloria Talcove! She will always be remembered for her unending devotion to her profession and her unfailing support of each and every student she knew, particularly to those who were considered to be members of marginalized groups.”

In 2008, Gloria sponsored the first viable High School Gay/Straight Alliance in South Carolina. She encountered resistance from some in the school and the community, but she persevered, believing it was morally imperative to stand up for the rights and dignity of all her students.

In Columbia, Gloria was an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, serving as president in 1994- ‘95. Her eclectic, hilarious, and inspirational talks before the congregation were legendary.

Gloria retired from teaching after 24 years, and in retirement, she turned to writing fiction and poetry, much of which can be found on her blog, the Talcove Fiction Faction. She spun poetry, raps, and rhymes. She made earrings and handbags. She gave free haircuts to friends and neighbors, along with unlimited and often unsolicited advice.

Gloria spent leisurely days in retirement, walking countless miles barefoot along the ocean on Hilton Head Island, where the family has a condo on South Forest Beach. She loved swimming in the ocean, reading by the pool, hiking in the nature preserve, and cycling on the island’s hard-sand beach and tree-lined bike paths.

In Oakland, California the family kept another home near Lake Merritt, a favorite spot for her daily jaunts and random bantering with the multicultural citizens of the city. Gloria enjoyed volunteering to conserve and improve Oakland’s gorgeous Marcom Rose Garden.

Gloria had the good fortune to travel to many places around the world. With her husband, she attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, meeting Nelson Mandela and other distinguished political, business and academic leaders. She charmed the elite crowd with her wit and wisdom.

Gloria relished road trips across America and visited all 50 states. She journeyed throughout Europe, Latin America, and Asia. She explored Peru’s Machu Picchu, floated down the Amazon, surveyed the ancient native American ruins of Mexico and Central America, and toured the pyramids and temples of Egypt. Gloria went on exotic safaris and camped out in the African bush, with the sound of lions roaring at night. She rode trains across Asia and witnessed the wonders of China, Japan, and Korea.

Yet what she treasured were not just the places she went, but the many people she met. In all her travels, across all continents and cultures, she easily made friends, shared stories and laughs, and left a lasting impression with her buoyant optimism and eccentric philosophical musings.

Gloria embraced the serendipity of life. She was sensual, spiritual, and – above all – instinctively enlightened. She had a genuine compassion for all living things and an abiding affection for the small planet that was her home for 68 years.



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Tommy Vee

7:00 am. The name “Tommy Vee” pops up on my text message:

“Hey, Gloria! Are you going to the High School Reunion, too? I just bought my plane tickets!”

“Tommy! How wonderful to hear from you! I didn’t even know we were having one! When and where is it?”

“On October 14th right there, back on Staten Island.”

“OMG! How I’d love to go! Funny thing happened, though; by then, I’ll be in the middle of chemo and radiation.”

“Can you talk for a few minutes?”


The phone rings and my mind seizes on this sweet little 5 year old blond boy, thin as a rail, an animated live wire who talked a blue streak. A real Mr. Personality, he was as charismatic as a 5 year old could possibly have the right to be.

My first conscious memory of Tommy is the two of us walking in a double line together with our first grade class alongside Our Lady Queen of Peace Church. Because we were partners that day, we had to hold hands, which I thought was kind of cool since I’ve always liked holding hands with cute guys, even back then.

Across the street, I saw the funeral parlor that would be, years later, the place where I’d get my last desperate look at my parents’ faces.

I pointed to Hanley’s Funeral Home and said, “They have dead people there, right?”

“Yeah,” he said, setting me up for a joke. “People are dying to get in there!”

I laughed, thinking he was probably the cleverest person I knew. “Did someone tell you that or did you make that up yourself?”

“No, I just dug it up!”

I’m not sure, but I think it was the first time I’d ever heard a pun. I thought he was brilliant!

The Grown-Up Tommy says, “So, Gloria! What’s going on?”

I tell him about climbing the mountains of China, getting short of breath, thinking I was having a heart attack, feeling sick the whole trip, coming back to the US, going to the emergency room, discovering pulmonary embolisms, and oh, yeah, by the way, there’s a mass on your left lung, and it’s malignant and you’ve got lung cancer, adenocarcinoma stage 3b, crossed the mediastinum. Huh! Never even knew I had a mediastinum to cross!

He tells me about his own battle with cancer and how it finally left him alone after wreaking so much devastation upon him. He negotiated a truce with cancer and all the good parts of his life are still his, and how every day he enjoys everything around him. He is a man of great faith and exudes this confidence that everything will be OK. I believe he knows what he’s talking about. And, of course, I’m inspired.

“I hope we keep in touch, Gloria. I’d like to help you get through this.”

I recount to him my memory of the two of us walking along the street and how he had made me laugh, and how I loved that he was holding my hand.

“And isn’t it so sweet, Tommy, that after all these years, you reach out to me…and you’re still holding my hand.”

Photo Credit:


Filed under Inspirational, My Very Short Stories, Uncategorized

The Our Little Secret Travel Agency — Chapter 26: The Kiss

Ah! Saturday dawns in all of its enchanted splendor. The sun has warmed the morning dew just enough so that it releases a magical draught imbued with all the longings of incipient life, the kind that makes you regret every moment lost to recriminations, resentment and bitterness due to injustice or just plain, rotten luck, real or imagined. “All is forgiven” is the whispered message carried by the fresh, cool undercurrent of peace.

Not that Morgana is consciously considering anything transcendent, but she awakens to a feeling of hope, and breathes deeply. Even though her nose is ice cold, she doesn’t think of Rain trapped in the glacial crevasse.

Excited to be meeting Percival at 10:00 am, she hurries into the kitchen because nothing is going to happen without coffee. And wouldn’t you know it! She’s out of coffee! Son of a bitch! Quickly readjusting her attitude, she reaches for her emergency jar of instant coffee. When all else fails, lower your standards. She decides that the illusion of real coffee is more satisfying than the reality of no coffee, so she dumps a few spoonsful of the brown crystals into the filter lining the little basket, taps a couple of sprinkles of cinnamon and powdered cloves onto the crystals, and then adds two teaspoons of brown sugar to sweeten the deal.

While the coffee maker wheezes and gurgles unsupervised in the kitchen, she sings in the shower.

She puts on her old “new” jeans, once again paired with Gerri’s cast-off Guatemalan shirt that worked so well the last time she saw dear, sweet Percival. Hopefully, he will not notice this fashion re-run, but on second thought, he’s probably not the kind of guy who would care.

Savoring her hot coffee “compromise,” she admires herself in the mirror. She realizes that she must have lost a pound or two since she wore that outfit just a couple days before. She had to do less wriggling to cajole the waistband over her hips and, come to think of it, she didn’t have to suck her stomach in quite as intensely as before to pull up the zipper. A little victory is so much better than no victory at all. Morgana notes with amused interest this new habit of hers to delight in small things that previously would slip by her unnoticed and unappreciated.

Her nose is still cold and now it’s stopped up, so she doesn’t smell the rank odor emanating from The Rubber Man who is camped out under the lightly-trafficked grey metal stairway of her apartment building. Her staccato steps rouse him from his hallucinatory slumber just long enough for him to take in his favorite sight. A jiggling ass! Oh, yeah!

Morgana gets to the foot of the Cleveland Cascade 15 minutes early and just to kill some time and burn off a few more calories, she walks up and down the steps two times. These are not a simple flight of steps—these steps are a 250-foot long ornamental double stairway modeled after Italian hill towns. The two stairways are separated by a lush garden adorned with huge concrete bowls where water used to flow and cascade from one to the other down the incline. The water pump fell into disrepair, as did the entire Cascade, and when the park was rehabilitated, the huge bowls were filled in with soil, flowering plants, succulents and ivies. Creeping ground cover, irises and orchids filled in the spaces around the bowls all the way to the edges of the stairway. The towering trees all along the periphery of the Cascade shade the steps and the inclined garden, bathing the whole park in the green light of an enchanted rain forest.

Morgana loves this part of this City. Every once in a while, she ducks into the Cascade just to read a book or stare at the skyline reflected on the rippling surface of the Lake. Never overly busy, this little Garden of Eden always seems to have just a few people jogging up and down the steps, or personal trainers putting their gasping clients through their paces. It’s the kind of place where people know not to raise their voices.

She meets Percival coming down the steps just as she’s going up for her third time. She’s a little winded and her face is flushed from the exertion, but Percival sees her as glowing.

“Morgana! It’s such a treat to see you here,” he says, as if they were meeting completely by surprise and hadn’t planned a thing.

She laughs, partly to catch her breath and partly because she is so amused by his sweet reaction to seeing her. His face lights up. “It’s so nice to hear you laugh!”

“I’ve gone up and down the stairs a few times, so I’m a little out of breath,” she says, wishing that she weren’t gulping air like a panicked goldfish who overshot the rim of the fishbowl, winning itself a unexpected one-way trip out of its safety zone.

“Let’s go right over here and sit down for a few minutes.” He leads her up the few remaining steps to the top of the Cascade where they sit on the bench looking down over the entire Cascade and the Lake beyond.

Grateful for the rest, she takes in the cool, green, fragrant lushness of the Cascade while catching her breath. Percival removes his backpack and sits next to her.

“Isn’t this just the most beautiful place? I start every day by crossing this street in back of us, and then I sit on this very bench and drink my morning coffee, right here.”

“I guess we’ve never bumped into each other here, since I’ve never been here earlier than, say, 10:00 am, but this is also one of my favorite places in the whole city.”

He takes a thermos from his backpack. “Well, I’m glad we both agree on that! Oh, and I hope you like black coffee,” he says, pouring the steaming coffee into a blue ceramic mug.

“Oh, yes! I certainly do,” says Morgana, delighted. She takes the mug and wraps her hands around it, enjoying its warmth on this crisp morning. “Ah, real coffee! And it’s good!”

“The road to success is always under construction – Lily Tomlin,” says Morgana, reading the cup. “That’s clever, but you could substitute ‘success’ with just about anything, like love, happiness, fulfillment, enlightenment, and on and on.”

“I think about that every time I use that cup. You know, if people focused on love or happiness with the same intensity that they focus on success, there would be a whole lot less misery in the world, but easier said than done. To pursue your dreams and make them happen, you have to invest every ounce of your energy, and meanwhile, when you finally get a chance to take your nose off the grindstone, you just might notice that your personal life is in a shambles.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be that way, does it?,” asks Morgana as she watches Percival pour himself a cup of coffee, smiling at the way he does simple things with such precision.

“No, it doesn’t, but it’s hard to avoid. Being successful in school means getting A’s. It’s so much easier to get B’s but once you start settling for B’s, you can’t be surprised if you start getting C’s. So you see the problem? If you want to excel, you can’t relax and get too comfortable. It’s the same for a career—it seems as though there’s no such thing as reaching that sweet spot of just coasting. In my business, I have to continually seek out new clients, each project presenting new problems, each problem a potential catastrophe or breakthrough. It’s fun and exhilarating, but it consumes you. It can drive you to drink!”

Morgana nods her head. “My poor boss, Charlie, is consumed by our newspaper, The Pregonero. He practically lives in his office. I just love him—he’s the greatest boss, but he drinks like a fish. He has that kind of stress, too.”

She notices Percival’s mug. “And what does your mug say?”

He turns the cup so she can see it. “Originality is nothing but judicious imitation – Voltaire.” He raises the cup up as if making a toast to Voltaire. “I like this quote a lot because it reminds me that whatever anyone of us creates, the result is always an amalgam of bits and pieces we’ve snatched from grab bags filled with other people’s ideas. It keeps you humble. Huh! I just realized that the two quotes have an awful lot in common.”

Morgana is just about to say “Like us,” but she doesn’t.

“Really? How do you mean?”

“Well, Sir Isaac Newton just popped into my mind. You know that famous quote of his attributing his vision to having stood on the shoulders of giants? Well, he was about as original as they come, but even he got his inspiration from the scientific discoveries of his day and from questions posed by the ancients. He was such a genius, but, like most geniuses, he was pretty quirky. He was a real loner and didn’t fraternize much with his peers. Some say it was to protect his own discoveries from being stolen, but others say that he couldn’t bear criticism. The latest is that he had Asperger’s Syndrome. Who knew? But he invented the calculus and then kept it to himself! Can you believe that? At any rate, he was so successful in taking bits and pieces of information deemed irrelevant and turning them into mind-boggling discoveries like the Laws of Physics that he’s considered to be the architect of the modern world.”

“Well, I’m not much of a scientific thinker, but what I remember most about Newton was his Third Law of Physics—For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction—even I can understand that one! It’s even true in politics, relationships, gardening, and in the kitchen.”

“Good point,” says Percival, “and that alone ties the two mugs together. Science was his entire focus—Truth was always under construction, but personally, he was isolated and miserable—no friends, lovers, relatives, nobody. His personal life was just about non-existent, no construction taking place there. And more than once, the poor guy was on the brink of madness—either his depression or heavy metal and mercury poisoning from his alchemical experiments, or both, finally got to him. But miserable or not, he lived to the age of 85, which was a real accomplishment in the 17th Century.”

Morgana laughs. “I love these quotes! Let me take a wild guess! You got these cups at one of your conferences, right?

“Of course I did!” He settles back to get comfortable on the bench. “Anyway, as I was saying….I start each day right here. It’s right across the street from where I live! No matter what’s going on, this little corridor of paradise is always right here. Every once in a while, when I can’t spare the ten minutes to sit here, I feel cheated all day long.

The idea of heaven is starting to seep into her consciousness. The peace she feels sitting here with Percival is palpable. She breathes deeply, closing her eyes, enjoying the luxury of just relaxing in the comforting presence of another person. She feels happy. What a nice feeling!

“Thank God for the weekends,” says Percivil. “Don’t get me wrong—I love my work, but that’s the problem.

“You mean because of how much time it consumes?”

“Yeah, and besides the actual time you spend working, it can keep you up at night worrying about mistakes you might have made in overlooking little details here and there, and if don’t consciously just shut the door and turn the key—on both the office and your mind—it can consume your entire life.”

“Well, I’ve never been that dedicated to any job, but I guess that’s because I’ve always been just an employee, never a business owner or a boss.”

“It sounds great to have your own company, but believe me, there’s a lot to be said for being what I used to call a ‘wage slave.’ The way a bad boss will or can exploit you is nothing compared to how you can and will exploit yourself—there’s no end to it,” he says as he drinks the remains of his coffee.

Taking her cue from Percival, Morgana finishes her coffee, too, and hands him the cup. “That was just what I needed! I didn’t have any real coffee at home, so this was great! Thanks!”

Percival wipes out the cups with a paper napkin and puts them back into his backpack. He stands up to throw the napkins into the trashcan. “Now that we’ve had our coffee, are you ready to move on?”

“Sure! Where to now?” asks Morgana, feeling suddenly revived by the coffee.

“Well, I thought we’d walk over to the Rose Garden. It’s about a 20 minute walk from here. Have you ever been there?”

“Been there? Absolutely, but not often enough! Let’s go!”

As they progress down the long stairway, Percival offers his arm to Morgana. Without hesitation, she loops her arm through his, delighted by this unexpected gallant gesture and by the physical contact that suggests to her that they have just crossed a small but important threshold. She represses a giddy urge to giggle by squeezing his arm and he squeezes back. He looks at her face, blushing with a big goofy grin. She looks back at his face and sees the same thing.

“We’d better watch where we’re going,” warns Morgana, feeling lightheaded being this close to Percival. She’s not thinking about Jack dreaming of her sister in his comatose purgatory, nor of Jerinda who is closer and farther away than she thinks, nor of Rain suspended in the crevasse, nor of Rain’s Mystery Man creating cybernetic holograms, nor of the Rubber Man held hostage by his own hallucinations.

All she can think of is Percival and the right here and the right now of happiness. She can feel his heart beating. They take a few more faltering steps down the staircase, and she feels faint. She stops and so does Percival.

And they kiss, a kiss that is as sweet as a spring breeze. And then, they kiss again. Every few steps, they stop and kiss yet again. They laugh at how ridiculous they must look, and so they kiss again.

And again, just because there is no good reason not to.

Illustration Credit: “The Kreutzer Sonata,” 1901 painting by René François Xavier Prinet, which was inspired by Tolstoy’s novella of the same name published in 1889, which was inspired by Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata of 1803. (See,

Music Credit:
Herb Alpert, “This Guy’s In Love With You”

To Be Continued in Chapter 27

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The Our Little Secret Travel Agency – Chapter 15: Tangled Up in Tango

maxresdefaultIt’s been such a good day! Morgana, tired from a productive, fun day at work, still remembers to stay in regal countenance mode with her head held high and her shoulders back. She reflects on the benefits of trying just a little bit harder to look and feel better.

Instead of taking the elevator, she opens the door to the gray, gloomy stairway to tackle the six flights up to her apartment. As she schlepps up the stairs, her footsteps echo and bounce around her in the cavernous void. As exhaustion takes center stage in her mind, her mood begins to flag and a sense of foreboding seeps into her spirit.

Morgana fumbles with the key to open the door to her apartment. Uneasiness washes over her as she realizes at a very visceral level that Jack is not there and that she is alone, really alone. The emptiness feels so very big.

Out of habit, she heads to Jack’s room, and opens the door with a feeling of dread, knowing that she will still be shocked to see exactly what she expects to see: The room devoid of Jack and his hospital bed. The only thing that remains is a resounding sense of loss, together with small flecks of paper, bits of fuzz and hair and an errant paper clip or two suspended among the springy loops of the new Berber carpet. The tracks in the carpet made by the rolling hospital bed being pushed, pulled and cajoled out of the room bear silent witness hours later to Jack’s retreat to the even-further estranged margins of her life.

Almost reverentially, she slowly sinks to her knees and runs her fingers through the tracks on the carpet, as if trying to wrest from the carpet’s fibers the essence of Jack’s departure. She can almost feel the jostling of the bed’s dense rubber wheels kneading the carpet, the small vibrations waving through and rocking Jack’s almost-lifeless, debilitated body. She wonders what he was thinking, if anything, as he watched the ceilings and the tops of the door frames slide over him. She wonders if the morning light had kissed his pale face and warmed his heart, lending him the hope he knew he couldn’t keep. Her elbows dig into the carpet and she rests her head on her forearms. Big, hot tears of remorse spill onto her arms and hands. She stretches out her legs and, now flat on her stomach, surrenders her sobs directly onto the carpet’s tracks.

After half an hour or so, she gets up and feels not only light-headed but physically lighter. Back in her own room, she hangs up her blue outfit and puts on some floppy grey sweat pants and a grey hoodie. Not a good look, but who’s looking?

In the kitchen, she picks up and reads a note propped up against the wooden pine tree napkin holder.

“Dear Morgana, Jack’s doing just fine. We’ve got him downstairs, all set and ready to go. Just a reminder not to worry—he’s in good hands. See you tomorrow morning around 10:00AM. His new room number is 504. Get a good night’s sleep! As ever, Rocky.”

Everyone acts as though Morgana still loves Jack—even Morgana. She wishes she could stop loving him as he had stopped loving her so many years before. She actually thought for the longest time that she was so over him. Then he just had to have this stroke, he just had to become this helpless person who still has the power to stake a claim on her present, her future and her emotions. And she can tell no one how trapped she feels, how not in control of her life she is, sitting at this long, interminable red light forever, stuck in the local traffic of The Void, the resentment building inside her as she continues going nowhere, doing nothing—she can tell no one how she feels, except Jerinda. And Jerinda! Oh, God! What’s up with Jerinda? Oh, how she misses Jerinda, her emotional right arm! Where is she, other than somewhere in Switzerland? Is she dead? Is she alive? Well, maybe she can talk to Dr. Valenzuela…

“I know,” she thinks, “I’ll make tomato soup.”

Tomato soup is the one thing that always makes her feel better. She opens up a large can of crushed Italian tomatoes, and empties it into a pot, along with a can of water. She turns the stove on, and proceeds to throw in a few whole cloves of peeled garlic with about 1/2 of a teaspoon of salt and about ½ of a teaspoon of black pepper. Usually, she pours in a few tablespoons of olive oil, but thinks better of it considering the calories she’s now hell bent to avoid. Once she brings it to a boil, she whisks in a few shakes of curry powder, onion power, and a little lemon juice. She sets the timer for 30 minutes, covers the pot, and turns the burner’s temperature down to “simmer.” Her mother used to say, “When in doubt about how high to crank up the burner, just remember that ‘simmer’ always knows what you want, even if you don’t.”

Her cell phone’s harp sound alerts her to an incoming text. It’s from Gerri!

“Hi, Mom! Working late tonight, but just in case you need me, text me and I’ll call you. Otherwise, see you this weekend.”

Morgana smiles. That Gerri! How did she ever get such a great daughter? Just knowing that Gerri is always looking out for her is such a relief. Morgana does her best not to be a burden to her daughter, but the trust she has in Gerri never fails to fortify her wounded soul.

She taps out a quick message: “Hi, Sweetie! All’s well! Not to worry! I’m all set to visit Pop-Poo tomorrow at 10:00 AM. I don’t anticipate anything new to be happening, but I’ll give you a quick update then. Don’t work too hard!”

The soup was just what she needed. Two big bowls later, she soaks in a nice hot bath, clearing her mind of everything except that warmth that smooths the kinks out of her tensed-up muscles, gently untangling the knots of her emotions.

She eases herself into bed, swaddled in her lumberjack nightie, grateful for the toasty comfort of home, even if she is alone.

Her thoughts gravitate back to Jack. She exhales a long, pent-up sigh, and admits to herself for the umpteenth time that she no longer loves him, that it is only her guilt that is holding her hostage. But what does she have to feel guilty about? What does she owe him? Keeping up appearances for the kids’ sake as the dutiful, long-suffering wife? She’s already done that for way too many years now. The marriage is dead—it’s been dead for almost forever. His fault, her fault? At this point, who gives a rat’s ass?

She’s tired of thinking about it, but not too tired nor disillusioned to focus on something a little more indulgent. After all, she still has a life to live, doesn’t she? Some other voice in her head obviously agrees—she can almost hear it shouting, “Yes, you do have a life to live, goddammit, so stop futzing around and get to it, already!”

Hmmm….Maybe this would be a good time to transfer to Rain? Maybe?

A thrill wells up inside her, just like the feeling she used to get on a Friday afternoon, before she married Jack, when she would suddenly remember that the work week would soon be ending, and that she’d be out that evening, laughing hysterically with her tipsy girlfriends, roaming the city in search of adventure, magic and romance, decked out in party clothes, the languid night stretching out before them, beckoning them to partake of the pleasures that were hopefully lurking just around the next corner…

And just like that, she activates the transfer by concentrating on her password.

She awakens as Rain, just as she left her last time: In her cute little white chemise, her gorgeous hair splayed out all over the pillow.

This time, there is nobody sitting by her bed. She’s surprised to find that she’s on her own, but given that she already knows something about how to proceed, she is unperturbed. She gets up with deliberate, smooth movements, walks to the foot of the bed and looks in the mirror, just to reassure herself that she’s still Rain, that Rain is still perfectly stunning in her little white chemise. She twirls slowly in front of the mirror, and smiles coquettishly at her incredible reflection.

The image of her Mystery Man flashes in her mind’s eye and once again, a hot, steamy sensation works its way up her spine. A sense of joy steals upon her as she makes a beeline for the closet. The only thing hanging there is a black cocktail dress just made for dancing—an uneven hemline with a dramatic split that would free one’s right leg to pin down a passing love interest just as a black widow spider might nail down the object of her desires. She smiles at the absurdity of imagining herself as a black widow as she locates her lacy black panties and her matching push-up brassiere in the lingerie drawer of the dresser. She also finds a pair of black fishnet stockings. Ooo-la-la! A little kinky, she thinks, but why not? Kinky never made it into her first 47 years, but the next 47 aren’t spoken for yet, so…. She perches on the edge of the bed and guides the stockings over each foot and eases them slowly over her long, silky, shapely legs, wondering how they will stay up without something like a garter belt—not that she’s ever had one of those! Oh! She doesn’t even need one—the stockings stay up all by themselves, gently hugging her non-jiggling, firm thighs. Now, that’s a nice pair of stockings! Back to the mirror. Oh, my goodness, she thinks. What would my life have been like had I ever looked like this? She probably wouldn’t have settled for Jack, that’s for damn sure, but she’s sure not thinking of Jack right now, even if she were able to remember his name!

She slips the black dress over her head and wriggles into it as it slithers down her slim, smooth body, coming to rest at all the right places. She can only assume that this marvelous dress was made just for her. She slips on the shoes—a pair of strappy, black, open-toed dancing shoes with 3 inch heels! Oh my, she thinks, I wish I knew how to dance!

Back to the mirror. As Rain regards her image, she becomes impatient to leave the room, and see what the day has to offer. Before leaving, she wonders if she needs any makeup, then laughs at the thought! Ha! Makeup! Why bother improving something that has already surpassed “perfect”?

She heads straight to The Lounge, enjoying the sexy stride and the rhythm of her hips, this new posture and gait courtesy of her high heels. In her real life, she’d be concerned about a devastating fall, developing plantar fasciitis, and future bunions, but thankfully, no such problems will ever be an issue for Rain. She practices holding her head high with her shoulders back, restricting her arms to a slight swing, tilting her pelvis just so in order to walk like a model sashaying down a runway.

Opening the heavy, smoked glass doors, she finds herself in a crowd of people all learning the Tango! She quickly finds herself a place in line with the women who are wearing different colors and styles of dance dresses and high heeled shoes. Facing them is a line of men who are wearing suits of different colors and styles, but all with white shirts opened at the collar. The two lines watch each other through the dim light. Excitement crackles through the air like an electric current frantically seeking a lightning rod.

The first melancholic strains of accordion music send a collective shiver through the crowd as the women step forward in unison to meet the line of men. The two lines dissolve into pairs, each couple locked in an embrace which is at once formal and sensual. The man who is Rain’s partner leads her expertly through the Tango, and she is amazed at how she already seems to know the dance. Her mother from her real life had always told her that with the right partner, you could be a total klutz and no one would ever know that you had two left feet. Once again, her mother was right!

She and her partner do not speak. She notices at the beginning of the dance that although he is a pleasant-looking fellow, he does not seem particularly attractive to her. But now, as he holds her tightly, guiding her while her feet glide, tap, cross over and trace deft figure eights, their eyes lock into a closed-circuit communication that seems to generate a searing heat between them.

Rain suddenly remembers the time in her other life as a teenager when she once giggled from the sidelines as she watched a rather unattractive couple in a dance contest take the floor. They stood watching each other, and as the music started, they embraced and began a highly choreographed, torrid Tango. As the dance progressed, the tension between the two increased as their faces grimaced slightly, betraying an intense passion that transformed the pair into an instrument of the music itself. She found herself wishing that she were that woman, locked in the throes of this libidinous conversation spoken by rhythm ignited with desire. All of a sudden, the same man, who had seemed so unattractive before, now exuded an animal magnetism that left her stunned and incredulous. How could it be that a dance had this kind of power?

For how long does Rain dance the Tango? Who knows? All she knows is that they dance and dance for hours that she wishes would never end, and although she doesn’t laugh once, she has the best time she’s had in years. It is so extremely satisfying to dance with such passion and synchronicity! How she has never before experienced that particular joy, she does not know.

The music finally stops, and the couples split apart, as if an electromagnet has been abruptly shut off, instantly releasing everyone from an invisible bond. The whole chattering, excited crowd of dancers moves on to the Piano Lounge, where pizza is being served. Oh, pizza! How she loves pizza!

Rain finds herself a seat in one of the little circles of armchairs and sinks down into the soft cushions. Unbidden, the waiter brings her a glass of red wine—he must have remembered her preference from the last time!

“So what did you think of the Tango?” asks the red-haired beauty to her right, who also hands her a slice of pizza from the small round table in the center of the circle. Rain smiles and thanks her as she accepts the pizza.

“I loved it! I can’t believe that I learned it so easily! It must have been the partner I had. He just seemed to push me in all the right directions–but that doesn’t explain how I knew how to move my feet. I’ve never had dance lessons. What about you?”

While the red-haired beauty answers, Rain savors her first bite of pizza! It’s soooo good! In her real life, she would have scarfed it down in two minutes, but the pleasure she is taking from that first bite needs no intensification. She sips her wine with the same pleasure.

“No, me neither! I thought it was great! In my real life, I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time! I’m really loving this! I wish I could stay here forever! By the way, my name is Graciela.”

Rain takes her hand and says, “My name is Rain. I feel the same way. How long have you been coming here?”

“I’ve got another ten visits and then that’s it.”

“I’ve only been here once before, so I guess I’ve got 29 more visits.”

“So you probably don’t know much about this place yet, do you?”

“What do you mean? How much more is there to know?”

“Oh, quite a bit. But I don’t want to spoil it for you! You’ll discover everything on your own. The more you discover, the harder it will be for you to give it up. Or not! Who knows?”

“Alright then, one question, Graciela….How do you think we learned to dance the Tango so fast?”

“Well, that’s easy—Have you ever heard of ‘machine learning?’ That’s what it’s all about! As you must know, we are like robots, right? We’re transhumans!”

“So this is all programmed?”

“Well, yes and no. This experience is not programmed—it’s real and we are really here in real time…but, you already knew how to dance the Tango before you tried it because someone else has already danced the Tango in your tenem—while you weren’t in it.”

“What?” Rain puts her pizza down in the middle of the table. It hasn’t occurred to her that anyone else would be inhabiting her tenem, at least not for the duration of her 31 visits! She feels the sting of being scammed, as if she’s just bought the Brooklyn Bridge from Peaches O’Day.

A light tap on the shoulder distracts Rain from Graciela’s unsettling revelation. She looks up and is instantly captivated by the mesmerizing gaze of her Mystery Man! He holds his hand out to her, and with as much grace as she can muster, she puts her hand in his, rises, and without so much as a backwards glance at Graciela, she allows herself to be led away from the Piano Lounge.

The two walk hand in hand in silence down the glass hallway which leads them to a large empty room with bare floors, which is dimly suffused with a magical twilight glowing through a wall of windows. As the door closes heavily behind them, he takes her in his arms, and they stare into each other’s eyes.

From only God knows where, beautiful Tango music permeates the room and Rain is swept off her feet by the sexiest man in the world. This would be a swoon, but not exactly—she is dancing in a trance from which she hopes to never emerge.

Video Credit: youtube, Tango Sexy Dance Santa Maria HD video HQ audio, by Gotan Project: “Santa Maria,” (

Photo Credit: Dancers Mauro Caiazza and Daniela Kizyma


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