|Posted on 2004-12-15 07:57:17 by Denver|
Beyond the sea
I was in bad shape; not that I could really feel it. It was a slow spiritual disintegration connected to working for the largest corporation in the world. It was walking through the same building every single day in which everyone was dressed exactly the same way they dressed yesterday and exactly the same way everyone else dressed. It probably didn't help matters that I was dating a woman who promoted gas guzzling SUVs. I had unconsciously adopted some her blinkered thinking - bending beneath the wheel of profit- devoted to nothing except paying off bills, serving a corporate master whose mission I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about, sleeping seven hours a night, eating a good meal with my partner on the weekend, and spending as much time diluting the purposelessness of my future with drinking, entertainment, and idle chatter with friends. My mother would email each week with a fellowship application or a writer's contest and encourage me to apply. I never did. My sister kept in touch even as her law school schedule tightened and she became less available to travel into Manhattan. She encouraged me to work in a soup kitchen or do meditation to alleviate my spiritual malaise. I couldn't really afford to date the woman I was seeing - I mostly paid for everything and she had expensive tastes; we weren't hanging out in dive bars. Plus, she had stopped kissing me with her tongue and begun addressing me in more.impersonal terms. Her final offer to me; appearing naked in my bed after four months of suspicion and avoidance- had resulted in erectile dysfunction and physical humiliation.
The past weekend I had gone to a college buddy's wedding in San Francisco where I met all of my old friend's interesting, beautiful wives. This made me so upset that I had gotten stinking drunk. The following day I vomited all over the airport waiting lounge at SFO. When I got back to New York City I phoned Cecile, and she offered to take me out to dinner. And that's where I found myself on a blurry Tuesday evening in the east village. She was drinking sauvignon blanc (her favorite) and I was having a whiskey (a drink I was turning to with increasing frequency during this relationship) as we shared our past weeks experiences in typical perfunctory fashion. I skipped the bodily fluid explosion in the airport story. In fact I had gone off on a tangent. I had made a joke. A comment about our waiter's hair. It made me think of her hair, which we had discussed previously as she was considering a new cut, weave, or braid - this was a subject I was greatly interested in; black women's hairstyles. I studied them on the subway every morning and I thought Cecile ought to move beyond the tight, coiled African braids she currently employed. But she was focused on the regurgitation of my wedding experience, and after the laughter faded, she leaned closer with an expectant gaze and nodded her head.
"As you were." she said.
Her grid-like vectoring instincts were attempting to re-adjust the coordinates. I paused. How could the phrase 'as you were' have infected her vocabulary base? It seemed like a term drill sergeants and canine trainers would use. At this point in our relationship, past the four-month mark, we were starting to play roles. I was playing the part of the uncooperative volunteer in one of her focus groups - she would rattle off rote questions about values and costs accompanied by head bobs and a stern gaze. I would try to find a counter rhythm in order to twist her frame of reference so that we sailed west of point B and into uncharted emotional waters. According to her, I was still trying to reach my potential and she was, she declared- "an old corporate dog set in her ways". Clarification was needed. Language meant very little to her so my tactic was to magnify and ignite her descriptives and untangle the inherent meanings. Because when I knew what she meant and she knew what I meant, then her laugh, a low guttural guffaw, made my spirits bob to the surface.
As she sipped her butternut squash puree i could see her calculating me-
"On the one hand-" she started, "You're the happiest person I know. I'm attracted to you, physically. I think you're free, free to feel things and meet people that I don't get to. But, on the other hand- I'm thirty two. I want to have a baby. I want to be married to the father of my child. I want to merge my income with his and live a life where I don't worry about the finances."
"You need a rich man."
"No. I need a man who has goals similar to mine. Who wants a nice home to raise a family and vacation and go out to eat at places like this. Places that I like. And who wants to watch the same TV shows as I do sometimes. And even if he doesn't, he watches them anyway. Are you prepared to do that?"
I could definitely watch 'Sanford and Son' and 'The Sopranos'. I'm sure there
was other quality programming we could agree on. I was blearily trying to evaluate all of these criteria. I wanted to refute this disqualification of my eligibility but I didn't want to appear to be begging. I had felt like this before. Our relationship had changed tonight however. She had done a lot of thinking about it.
"I re-read your story- The Nude Modeling. I read it again and I realized that you weren't expressing yourself as a gay man."
"Yes. I didn't see that in the story this time."
"Well, I'm glad you see that. But I have to tell you that I just had breakfast with my cousin from San Francisco who works at Pottery Barn and she said that her coworkers read it and though I was probably gay."
As she laughed it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't have any gay relatives.
"What do you think of the food?" she inquired. This was one of her favorite restaurants. Butter. It was like eating in a dark airplane hangar with high curved wood ceilings. Twenty five dollar entrees. Our waiter was young, handsome, clean cut, and impersonal.
"What specials do you have tonight?" she asked him.
"We don't have any."
"Mmmm. You should try this butter" I murmured, "It's good. I think it's got honey or something in it."
"I can't. Watching the carbs. Gotta lose those eight pounds I was telling you about."
I didn't say anything. She didn't need to lose any weight as far as I was concerned. Later that evening, at Junnos, she led my hands to her thighs. I was drunk.
"This is where the eight pounds is stored." she said.
I wanted to stick my head between her legs. Penetrate her right there on that barstool. Her thighs felt warm, svelte, and smooth and I pressed as close as I could. Then the bartender shouted my name and I strode up to the karaoke mic. The opening strains of 'Beyond the Sea' wafted through the room and I searched for Cecile's face across the bar - she was looking at me with that same wide-eyed gaze - eyes popped open on alert.
Somewhere beyond the sea
She's there waiting for me
As I prowled the bar, mic in hand, I wanted to approach her stool, squeeze her and whisper the lyrics in her ear, but something restrained me. I thought I might lose her if the spotlight shone too brightly. She sat there tipsily on the barstool, with her white fuzzy v-neck sweater, lavender knee length skirt and black high-heeled boots, smiling, and I forgot about the cold, nodding inquisitor who had begun the night sitting across the restaurant table. All I could see in the naked bar light was her vulnerability. The television blinked and I lost the lyrics on the screen. I turned to the crowd and, forgetting the last verse, kept repeating 'bye bye sailor' over and over again until the song's conclusion. Dropping the mic on the floor with a thud I stumbled toward the bar. It was past midnight. Cecile was stifling a yawn.
"Jerry, one more round please."
One more hour of magic before the darkness closed its mouth, licked its teeth, and spit me out on the sidewalk.
Bye, bye, sailor
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