Character Study: Bruce Boxer
Bruce Boxer: The War Tourist
Bruce Boxer has the sort of neck and head that make fat men want to buy starched striped shirts and dotted silk ties, that is, elegant without being model-pretty, a man’s man, one who has the grace to make the sharing of your own Dance Floor War battle something in which Bruce is truly interested, thereby making doable the stripes and dots so that even tubby men believe the fashion will look good on them and when they look in the mirror they see the manly curve of Bruce Boxer’s graceful neck and the refined lift of the tip of his nose over a full mustache and strong lips and the shopkeeper tallies and bags the order of two shirts and four ties and the next day he walks into the office with a swagger and all the women smile and a couple of them feel sexy when he smiles back though they know not why and his boss suddenly feels impelled to invite him into the big meeting.
For all that, Bruce was bored. Bruce’s wife is a lovely woman with whom he’s never been displeased and he does not want his marriage to end. In his late forties, Bruce was a practical man, staring old age in the face, his death expected early like his father and his father before him and so on back as far as they had traced the family line. So Bruce only had eleven more years to live and Bruce wanted to go out of this life like a rodeo star: Leather-clad hands gripped tight around a rope, holding on as the horse systematically bucked beneath him, flying through the air, landing on his feet, and walking away to the applause of the crowd and the announcer yelling his score.
“Five score and nine! He almost made it as long as his father. Let’s give it up for Bru-u-u-u-u-u-u-uce BOXER!” And the crowd goes wild.
In practical terms, Bruce had to crush as many experiences as possible into the time he had left without a negative effect on his wife and children. His job made that possible. He travelled from one state to another teaching rescue operations involving helicopters as the primary method of wounded exfil. So, any state with a large wilderness area featuring rugged terrain, he was there.
Bruce looked good in a bomber jacket and he had a head full of awesome hair he studiously ignored. When he took off his helmet, he never ran fingers through his hair. Helmet hair was not an ego problem for him, and men admired him all the more. He was tall and fit. His eyesight was excellent and his reflexes trained to automatic hair-trigger accuracy.
You would think with such a dangerous job he wouldn’t need the added excitement of pussy chasing. Though if you were to accuse him of such a chase, he would flatly deny it, not because he was deluded but because he didn’t view the activity of sleeping with a woman not his wife as chasing pussy because chase he did not do. And if he was chased, he turned cold eyes to the woman who would, naturally, recoil, so problem solved right there.
No, no, no, no. Bruce Boxer didn’t engage in the unsophisticated and trivial and easily forgotten slap-and-tickle. He did not lightly choose his female experiences. He saw a flyer in the hotel lobby for a Jazz club. The pictures looked like the band could attract females of the species. Where better to find a new experience than at such a place? Bruce would be certain to find a seriously unattached Jazz Kitten. One who not only watched the players on stage and knew most of them, but who had judged most not to be worthy of her time because — and this was key — she would be choosy in the extreme. Her favors would never be granted for the mere technician, the self-described horn cat whose rapid-fire notes had no more heart and soul in their delivery than a quickly choked chicken in a public bathroom.
These women were easily spotted. They were never dressed flashy or trashy. They never had boob jobs. They were often in their forties and fifties. Superficially one would mistake them for the newly divorced soccer moms and the childless career women. Superficially, that is. But the man of discernment, who never operated by sight, who let himself be guided by the invisible and silent vibes, yes, that man — of which Bruce was one of only a handful in ten thousand — that man would always pick out the seriously unattached Jazz Kitten of exquisite discrimination.
Why, that man could feel it when she wasn’t in the room and would turn around and leave. Why stay? There was nothing there for him.
On this night Bruce was not to be disappointed.
There she was. Sitting at a table for six. One old man to her right, clutching a horn. One very old man to her left, applauding with a spoon to his coffee cup. Both men leaning into Jazz Kitten as one told a story of that time he played with Al and they did a ten-minute freeform riff on his current hit that drove the audience to wild paroxysms of ecstasy. And that time he went on tour with Wynton early in his career and helped him coalesce his sound. Oh, and that sad time his friend died on stage in front of five-thousand people on the night of his seventieth birthday just as the last song of the evening ended. A tarted-up, late-twenties Jazz Kitten wannabe, feeling sorry for the old Jazz Kitten across from her, listened intently to the old men’s stories of the Jazz World At Its Peak, studying the language of the men so she could speak it to her next target. Another man hitting on the wannabe, arm around her shoulder, hand sliding down her back kneeding her taught muscles, knee pressed against her outer thigh, fighting his stiffy. Also fighting a stiffy, another man, hang dog face, staring with jealous malice at Jazz Kitten. The old men had only memories of their stiffies, often telling Jazz Kitten Why, if I was thirty years younger you would have to watch out, baby!
Bruce saw men attempting to make their courage get them to walk across the room and offer her a glass of wine or a quick dance at the back of the room. He saw them sit with their helpless futility: She was out of their league and they knew it.
Bruce took it all in in an instant, but did not approach Jazz Kitten. He took a seat at one of the three bars around the center of the room. His view of the stage afforded him a site line to her without being overt. He watched as men and women came by her table and spoke. He saw her notice a few friends and get up to speak to them. She went to the bathroom. He saw the many eyes, male and female, that followed her unbidden, no matter who was on the stage.
They couldn’t help themselves. Some were confused and questioned why they were unable take their eyes away from her. Some simply accepted their role to worship from afar. But none of those strangers approached her.
Bruce saw and understood all this. And thus one-hundred and fifty minutes passed until the old men left and the wannabe was squired to her car and the malevolent watcher hauled his jealous self away and emptied the table leaving Jazz Kitten able now to fully turn her attention to the music. The last two songs of the evening were always the best since the house band played with every musician who remained. Everybody got a solo. Duplicate instruments played tag-you’re-it, challenges were issued and answered.
The thinning crowd of die-hard fans or those just waiting for their check from disappeared servers, screamed and clapped at the controlled raw power on stage. This is what Jazz Kitten had been waiting for all evening and Bruce Boxer enjoyed with her. Ah, their first shared moment. Sweet.
Jazz Kitten blew kisses at the stage and kisses were blown back. She waved to others and carried herself to the exit. Bruce, reflexes on point, was at the door, holding it open for her. She thanked him kindly, slipped through, and began her long-legged walk.
Bruce slipped in beside her with a you’re welcome on his smiling lips. He followed with, “May I walk you to your car?”
“Thank you, but no.”
“It’s late. Might be dangerous to walk way out there in the dark.”
“Ah, yes. Danger. My car is just there.”
Jazz Kitten continued to walk as she pointed. Sure enough, they were at her vehicle.
“Oh, well,” Bruce smiled and laughed. “So much for my hero routine.”
“Yes.” But her yes, not unkind and delivered with a smile, simply was an acknowledgement that Bruce had, in point of fact, attempted to hit on her, missed, and tried again. Jazz Kitten appreciated self-deprecating and humorous efforts at reengagement. This became self-evident a moment later when her questions were delivered all at once in a single statement. “I’ve not seen you here before.”
Therefore, her embodied questions were:
Should I be interested in you?
Are you wanting a one-night stand?
Will you prove to be wearisome?
Can you keep up, Big Boy?
His implied answers were:
Yes, but let me explain why that’s not a bad thing.
What Bruce Boxer did not understand was this: What was a new state of consciousness to him was old stuff to Jazz Kitten. His approach to her was predicated on three things.
One: Boxer’s understanding of what constitutes new and different always falls within a narrow spectrum involving simply something he’s not seen before, that is, a stranger’s unknown talents, or put most crudely — The Surprise of Strange. Two: He cannot imagine those spectrums existing in his wife. Three: Like the tourist who plans the exotic long-weekend vacation with all the sites crammed into his short itinerary, who takes loads of photos and calling them memories, Bruce did not want to move to the exotic locale, he simply wanted to claim he was an expert in it.
BRUCE BOXER THUS FAR. MORE COMING.
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