Summary

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 601

“The Moor” tells of a man and a woman whose paths cross again after thirty years. Warren Low, a middle-age plumbing supplies sales representative, and two buddies, one in real estate, the other in car sales, are heading for drinks after taking part in an induction ceremony at the Masonic Hall. Warren’s face still shows traces of the makeup he wore for his role as an Arab prince. His red-painted lips and black-smeared cheeks elicit teasing racial slurs from the two, which the narrator, self-admittedly less prejudiced than they, dismisses as just idle, unthinking talk.

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On entering the Greek restaurant, they head to the bar in back, enjoying the comfort that comes from being regulars and ordering the usual. They pass a table of celebrants, with an elderly, lively eyed woman, four dour but dutiful adults, and a bored teenager. A spark of recognition passes between Warren and the woman, but she is old, with thin silvery blue hair, liver-spotted cheeks, and wattled jowls, and he cannot imagine any kind of acquaintance with her. He checks to see if the bartender knows her, but not even the information that the men are named Fortunata and they are celebrating their mother’s eightieth birthday helps.

The three men have their drinks and talk about the weather and their wives and former wives and grown children, comfortable and familiar with one another, out late and guiltfree, and then prepare to leave. Warren passes the woman, who tugs at his sleeve and clears up the mystery. She is Gail Fortunata, the woman with whom he had shared a few months of love when he was a twenty-one-year-old plumber’s apprentice and she a lonely fifty-year-old housewife.

At her urging, he stays behind to have a quick drink after promising her sons that he will drive her home shortly. They talk hesitantly, almost shyly, at first, but then she dares ask the question that has been on her mind all these years: Was he a virgin when they met? She reassures him that he does not have to answer, that she had not asked at the time because he was so insecure about what they were doing and she had not wanted to embarrass him. He pauses, they laugh, and then he gives her a gift of an answer: Yes. She is clearly delighted and confesses that both at the time and whenever she recalled those days, she had imagined that she was his first sexual partner. He was special to her, so sensitive and filled with potential, and she had wanted to encourage him with her love and their shared conversation about the theater and his possible acting career.

The lateness of the evening and the growing storm force them to finish their drinks and head for home. They drive silently for a while; the snow is more forceful, and most people are already out of the elements. Then Warren asks his question: Had she otherwise been faithful to her husband, both before and after him? Without hesitation, she says yes. She had loved just two men in her life. He is sure that this is not true, but he understands the answer. At her door, he kisses her, gently at first, but then, spurred by the power of memory, with greater warmth. They stand there in an embrace, each remembering an earlier time filled with life and promise. Then he leaves, beginning his lonely drive home. Close to crying, he looks into the storm, aware that the past is gone, the present fleeting, and that all he has is what lies ahead.

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Themes