Chapter 29: The Man in the Mirror Writes a Letter
When the idea for a book came to me, hours and days I spent writing and rewriting these stories, these snippets, these characters’ lives, summing the entirety of their being into a few short paragraphs, a sentence or two, or an in-depth essay.
At first, I ignored the idea. I had written several books through the years based on research I had done for the paper only to have those articles shortened to almost oblivion. Each book delved deeper into a subject than the paper’s coverage could, hell, would allow. I had a name; was well known; some of these books still sold in the print-on-demand world. But the amount of work needed to write another was more than I could do anymore.
Or so I thought.
Until this day.
Yes, until this day, I had not thought of another book. So why now? Could it be the rain pouring from darkened skies and the wine I kept pouring to comfort my lonely self? Could it be that, to ignore the deep rumblings in my heart by running into the fray, my mind was more open to the possibilities suggested by my subconscious?
I said to myself I shall think of the women I have known and I shall long for them, knowing all the while they are gone and won’t be back, and let’s see what comes up. With that thought I set about getting drunk because a drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts, and I needed to have it all out of me.
I remembered Linda, the girl I gave my virginity to and who gladly took it, though I didn’t get hers. She’s not coming back because she died in a car accident. Passenger. Quarterback was drunk and, thinking he was invincible, barreled through town with Linda screaming for him to slow down. Happens every week somewhere. I cried again for her and for that young boy who thought he had found love, true love.
I thought of Kathy. College sweetheart. Left me for a more exciting man, she said. One who was her soul mate, she said. One who’d raise our child, she said, after I told her to get an abortion. More accurately, I roughly said Get rid of it, as if “it” was nothing. She gave birth to a boy who never knew me but has grown up to be a fine man soon to give me a grandchild I shall never know. It’s the wine that’s making me cry for my son. Only the wine, mind you.
Enough. Move on. This is about women I’ve known. It’s not about me.
I thought of Suzanne. She loved me and tried so hard to be that thing that’d make me happy. She could never do it. One day I made the classic idiot statement: You’re dragging me down, babe. I gotta move on. She went on to marry successfully. By successfully I mean they are still married and happy to wake up next to each other; at least, that’s the last I heard.
That scenario was repeated with Diana, except she’s the one who said I was dragging her down, holding her back, trying to keep her under my thumb. And I did, and I was, and boy, did I try. The nasty green eye of jealousy never stopped glowing even in the dark of the bedroom where I made mad passionate love to her like no other man could — or so I thought. I admit I deserved her leaving.
I thought of the nameless, long parade of women who thought nothing of falling into bed with a stranger — me. What did it say about them? What did it say about me? What about their long parade of nameless, faceless, strangers? Did we all believe we were remembered by the others, as though our body, wit, style, and technique were so good they could not be forgotten? Did we all want to be remembered? Did we all think we were? Were we fooling ourselves? Could it be as simple as that?
Where’s a bottle?
I opened it and poured another glass and let thoughts flow unchecked from my brain through my fingertips, and I wrote honestly, cruelly, brutally about myself trusting all the while that everything I wrote would — I swear! — make it into the book.
Where’s the wine bottle?
Slug the red wine.
Slam the blurred keys.
Damn the fiery consequences.
Fuck it; truth must be told!
The next day arrived and a sober eye cast upon the words made me rethink my position. So with judicious editing I rewrote the passages above about the women. My justification was three-fold. One: What I wrote was more than brutal, it was caustic. Why burn a reader? Two: Hard truths can still be told without cheating. And three: My ego could handle only so much knowledge being made public.
I thought, Hey, at least I didn’t get raped in the divorce, since there was none.
I thought, Hey, at least my girlfriends were never strung-out strippers with three kids in and out of juvie.
I thought, Hey, at least I was never a sugar daddy having to buy affection.
At least I always went for those around my age and never took the shortcut of impressing the young and stupid except when I was young and stupid.
At least I’ve never said to a woman How old do you want me to be?
At least I know nothing and am willing to admit it.
Still, sometimes I could be such a Boy Scout. Eager to be helpful in order to earn a merit badge. Sincerely promising the moon because I needed to feel good about myself and wanted to save someone. That eagerness at the wrong time causing me to jump once or twice when a witchy woman snapped her fingers and kept me going back for more ill-treatment until I drank the potion that took me from under her spell.
I wonder at all the men who continue to live in suspended animation, daily waiting for the snap commanding them to jump to attention, and beg for permission to ask how high? I wonder about all the women who work so hard to reinvent themselves and be what someone else wants, but they keep getting it all wrong because they cannot identify with any accuracy what those standards are.
And all these things, every one of them, are played out on the battlefield each and every day somewhere in the world. Make no mistake about it – the Dance Floor Wars are brutal and often masquerade as fundamentalist jihad claiming, falsely, to want to protect the little women from the big bad brutish and horny men who can’t control themselves.
In that frame of mind, I wrote a letter to Lucinda. Handwritten. Envelope addressed and stamped. A Real Letter. A letter of a lifetime. In order not to change my mind, I drove to the post office and put it through the slot. Here it is, in rough draft form:
Four in the morning is not a good time to wake up and not have a friend in sight. I think they wrote a song about that. When I woke, I wanted you badly. I know you are thinking “big deal” or “tell me something I don’t know.” But, really, honestly, babe, I needed you with an ache I’ve never felt in my life. I know. You’ve heard that before, too. So this may fall on def deaf ears. I understand. Or you may think I trifle with your heart. I am not trifling with it. I love your heart. Not so. I am no longer a man who plunges into such statements without thinking.
I ask, not for your hand in marriage, but for one week. Get lost with me for one week. Let’s go. We’ll stay naked the whole time. We’ll order pizza and feed each other. We’ll soak in a big tub and shower together leisurely. We’ll drink wine and sleep sporadically. We’ll brush our teeth together. Then at the end of the week, we’ll come home. You to yours. Me to mine.
I’ll smile bravely – I will; and you’ll cry prettily – you will; as we leave our rented love nest and face again the coldness of the front. On the return trip, we’ll hold hands with bittersweet tenderness and hunger as we cleave to embrace in lovemaking’s warm remnants.
Please, Lucinda. I cannot bear asking you this in person. To see your refusal firsthand would be too much for me now. If you choose to ignore this I’ll pretend the letter waits in a dead letter graveyard and will imagine 30 years from now someone will open it and read its contents and write a novel explaining how this letter came to be. Maybe it will make the news. Maybe it will go viral.
I now seek cold comfort and will hug a pillow.
I love you. A man can’t say anything to a woman more powerful and simple than that. But what does it mean? I do not know, yet there it is.
I dropped off the edited and pretty letter at the post office on my way to coffee later in the day. And thus began the waiting game.
Would it turn into the crying game?
Time would tell.
Chapter 30: “But, but, but…”
At coffee I was going to propose to Lucinda a change in our strategy at the battlefield. Instead of us not knowing each other, we should conspire to figure out how to get introduced to one another and then I could take my research up a notch or two.
She, though, had two funny stories to tell me about men she remembered from a year or so ago. She thought I’d enjoy the stories. I shortened their assigned names to Burqa Man and PM for ease of reading.
The Man Who Would Put Lucinda in a Burqa (Burqa Man)
Hailing from Egypt, Burqa Man was adept at spotting premium woman flesh. His job as a doctor in that country, and as a professor in his adopted one, brought him into contact with more than the usual amount of women a man would have intimate discourse with in a lifetime. Smart as a whip, he nonetheless viewed women as things to own at the least, or command at the best. He chose to both command and own Lucinda, who noticed his first-time visit to her favorite dance spot. Normally she did not pay attention to who did or did not watch her dance as she did not care about that intelligence.
Nevertheless, she was sensitive to vibes and Burqa Man’s vibes were of a different sort. Without letting him know it, she watched him through the evening as he stood in a corner.
Ah, Lucinda said, men are the same everywhere. They are afraid to dance and scared to ask a woman to do the same. She determined that should this foreign man ask her to dance, she’d say yes. The spirit of welcome and all that. He did not ask her that evening. The following Saturday, he showed up again. This time he came up to Lucinda, pointed to the dance floor, and walked away.
Normal behavior for a man in Lucinda’s world, so she thought nothing of it and followed him out. The blouse she had worn that evening was particularly adept at showing off her assets in a polite fashion and the foreign man was like men all over the world. He could not take his eyes off the cleavage, polite though it be displayed. So far, so normal. The dance ended and as per how she usually does, Lucinda thanked him for the dance and turned to leave.
She felt a hard restraining hand on her arm and she was turned back around.
“I have not given you permission to leave,” said the man angrily.
Lucinda stood rooted to the spot, shook his hand off, and returned to her seat. Burqa Man left in a huff only to return the following week where he set up camp, arms crossed over chest, standing next to her chair at the bar, and by inference dared any man approach his property. None did. He did not speak and Lucinda did not look at nor speak to him.
Thirty minutes passed in this fashion with Burqa Man giving Lucinda sidelong looks of ultimatums all of which Lucinda ignored. And as usually happens when Lucinda is dragged into a fracas, the other party blinks first. Burqa Man was no exception and he finally dropped his arms and stepped closer to her to speak.
“Do you not see me?” he demanded though to Lucinda it sounded like whining.
Lucinda turned her head to him slowly and said, “Oh, S—. Is that you?”
“Yes, of course, it is me. You cannot but know that it is I standing here. Why do you insist on not knowing me?”
“I am sorry, S—, but what is it you really want to ask me?”
“Will you not dance with me?”
“Are you asking me to dance?”
“Yes, of course. Is it not obvious?”
“No, it is not.”
“Come. You will dance. With me.”
Now, given that Lucinda doesn’t like abuse any better than any other woman, she decided this was a man acting according to the customs of his country, and was willing on that account to cut him some slack. She followed him out to the floor where he again couldn’t take his eyes off the cleavage. Though it did not show that evening, he remembered it well and his eyes were naturally drawn to the memory of it.
The dance finished. Lucinda thanked him and walked. He again restrained her at which point she whipped around, slapped his arm, and pointed at his face with her best Mama-pointing finger and said, “You. Come with me. Now.”
And as all boys around the world who respect their mothers do, when they hear the mother tone, they instantly obey. Burqa Man was no exception to this either and he meekly followed her off the floor to a place in a corner wherein she spent fifteen minutes explaining to his sorry little foreign ass the best way to act to a lady in her country.
You want to dance with a lady, you politely approach, hold out a hand in supplication, and slightly bowing from the waist, you ask the lady if she’d care to dance.
If the lady declines, you incline your head respectfully, and you back away with a smile, and utter no reproachments.
If the lady accepts, you gently lead the way to the dance floor where you will not take liberties unless you are invited.
If the lady decides to leave at any time during the dance, she is not to be restrained by hand or command.
Burqa Man was nonplussed. He did not like what he heard and even though it was delivered in a mother tone, there came a point where he said to hell with it and walked out. He wasn’t seen for almost four weeks. When he next came it was obvious to all he had given much thought to his actions and proceeded to follow the steps listed above. Steps which meant he was assimilating into the country of his choice.
“May I have this dance with you, dear lady?” Burqa Man said to Lucinda.
Operating on the policy that one should reward good behavior, Lucinda said, “Why, yes; I’d be delighted.”
She thanked him at the end of the dance, and left the floor. He smiled, though it pained him to do so, and thanked her and proceeded to go around asking other women. He was turned down often but Lucinda was proud of him. Each time he smiled, thanked the lady for her time, and backed away to try again.
However, he still wanted Lucinda for his own and hand-delivered to her a letter that read as follows:
You are a wonderful dancer and you are most exquisite. I desire to hire you to teach me to dance. You will dance with me from the hours of 9:00 PM until 12:00 AM, for a total of 3 (three) hours. Please tell me your hourly rate and I shall gladly pay you. We shall meet here and you will dance with me only.
I am most interested in learning: Twirl. Proper hand holding technique. Mutual turn. Footwork for jumping dance you do so well.
Please to see you Friday next at this place and we shall commence with lessons. You shall dance with no other while I have lessons.
She’d be right there.
Lucinda laughed out loud, crooked her finger at him with her mama stare and he meekly approached the corner where she had pointed. By now he knew he had screwed up royally. After making the point she’d dance with whom she pleased when she pleased, she further made the point she was not for hire. Furthermore, if anyone ever found out she was hired by him to dance they’d think she could be hired for other services of a personal nature and she was not available for hire for that either and did not want that thought to get out and she suggested various schools to which he could go and pay a teacher and practice with other students the fine art of jumping around in time together.
Did she make herself clear?
She did and Burqa Man took his letter and slunk away. He did not show up for some time, then he reappeared. He was now well-schooled in the art of dance. He still did not have any rhythm and it was a chore to dance with him. But at least Lucinda avoided wearing a burqa. She didn’t think she’d look so good in one.
Proprietary Man (PM)
Though from Boston in the good ol’ U.S. of A, Proprietary Man was the same as Egyptian Burqa Man: He wanted to own Lucinda.
Over a period of several weeks he dogged her using every ounce of charm he could muster. He stroked her back. He smiled. He bought her a drink when she’d allow it. He told her he loved her. He said he was willing to wait until they got married before he’d make love to her and he, don’t you know, never waited on sex. His women (his words) either did it now, or forget them.
See how special she is, he declared. I shall wait!
Waiting was hard for him, he let her know. He was a lusty fellow. Never could get enough of the good stuff, oh yeah. But she, Lucinda, was by far the cream of the crop (All puns intended!) and he’d wait, wait, wait for her.
Eventually, though, PM was told to not approach her again until he got some manners and stopped acting liked he owned her because he did not. He was sorrowful hurt and went around telling everybody she had thrown him to the wolves and broke his heart and a bunch of other blah, blah, blah bull crap. They were lovers he had told several people who were so shocked at the news they each and every one came to Lucinda and asked if it were true. She then had to tell him publicly and loudly where everyone could hear, to stop his damn lying.
He did not show up for some months, but one day, there he was again. Lucinda could tell from his face he had given much thought as to how to repair the damage.
“Oh, I’ve missed you.” Oh, that’s nice.
“Another wine for the little lady, barkeep.” No, thank you.
“Oh, how I’ve missed you.” Oh, that’s nice.
“I have a girlfriend now but I’ll throw her over in a second if you will only take me back.” Oh, deeeeaaarrr…
“I am keeping her satisfied, though. My arms are so sore from holding myself up as I do her.” Crickets.
“I do stuff for women no other man does!” Oh, that’s nice.
“I—,” he says looking around to make sure no one else hears, “go down on a woman.” He leans back and raises his eyebrows at her.
At this point Lucinda laughs. PM wants to know what is so funny.
Lucinda, barely containing her spittle she’s laughing so hard, says, “Uh, I pretty much think every guy does that.”
He was shocked. Shocked! He says it can’t be true because no one but him does it. Lucinda, shaking her head, mouths Every man, and nods affirmatively.
PM then says, “Well, I cuddle afterwards. All night long.”
When informed other men do that, too, he was again shocked and his little world was rocked. He then lost control and, wailing his grief, spread his arms wide and shouted, “Oh, Lucinda, why did you throw me over? I love you so. Will you take me back?”
“Can’t take back what I never had.” Lucinda had no sympathy for this drama queen.
“But…but…but,” he couldn’t continue, slugged his brandy, and walked out.
Chapter 31: Going Public
Ron’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, as well as Don’s 3 and 7, Glen, Tom 7, and Ted, all had the same problem. They loved to dance, but they wouldn’t dance but once in an evening with Lucinda because they were afraid of a performance failure in her presence. After dancing with her, when they were fresh to the fight, they’d then after choose quiet and retiring women, the sort who hung out in corners and pretended they weren’t there, but if you forced them to, might get out and dance — maybe even get a little tipsy and give you what you came for, if you know what I mean.
There came a point where everyone knew Lucinda wasn’t the going-home-with-you kind of girl and, frankly, they were afraid they’d die servicing her, so they went for the drunk, or shy type who was grateful for whatever she got, and wouldn’t tax their abilities to serve.
Lucinda learned not to expect any more from them than that and, truthfully, was content with it. She began to realize people come together for various reasons. As a song said —
Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to be used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused
Lucinda did not fit in any of those categories and so was glad when the men put her in their safe category. One-Dance Lucinda was what some named her, though they did not know she knew. It was a badge of honor from them and she wore it proudly. Then Peter showed up.
Peter, Peter, Muffin Eater (Peter)
Lucinda was mightily attracted to Peter, Peter, Muffin Eater, or as she says, “my hormones liked his hormones, and how.” Related to a famous crime family, he chose not to go to work for them. He moved to another state and quietly worked for a large company in sales.
Peter’s first question to Lucinda was: How long has it been, baby, since you’ve been fucked?
For an opening line, it was boring, and she said so. He then said, yeah, he knew that. Instead, says he, he knew exactly what she wanted. Yes, said Peter, he knew she wanted to be licked…
Blah. Blah. Blah. Oh, stop it, Peter, Lucinda said, you can’t know what I like. He affirmed he did know and whatever opinion she had about what she liked was only because she had never experienced the talented application of his tongue on…
Blah. Blah. Blah. Oh, stop it, Peter, Lucinda said again.
But he had his needs. And he had his wants. And Lucinda wasn’t ready for those yet without being in a sure-enough relationship; she told him so. He could not understand this woman; he told her so.
“Look, Lucinda, I don’t think you understand. If I tell a woman to drop to her knees, she drops to her knees. And if I want to go down on her, I tell her spread it, and I do it. I mean, nobody ever complains. Everybody likes it. I could have it right now” — He snapped his finger like a good mafioso would — “just like that, with any number of women.”
“Ah, Peter. You poor boy. You haven’t got out much, have you?” Lucinda patted his hand as they sat at the bar eating their dinners.
‘What? What does that mean? I’ve been there, baby. I’ve done that.” He proceeded to enumerate how easy it was and how much and exactly what. Lucinda allowed him to foam at the mouth a bit and when he stopped talking, she kissed him on the cheek.
“What’s that for?” he said. As if on fire, he held a hand to the spot on his cheek her lips had touched.
“Peter, Peter, Peter. You keep talking about all these easy and ready and willing women you’ve…serviced…and how you are used to this, that, and the other, and you want no commitments. And yet…it is me you are sitting next to, begging.”
Peter stared at her in the bar mirror, sipped his beer, and then said, “Hell, woman.” He slumped in his seat and then grinned at her.
But Peter, Peter Muffin Eater didn’t have staying power either and he went away, though truthfully much to Lucinda’s relief because he did the same as ninety-nine percent of all the other men she ever met.
One: They say Lucinda is great
Two: They say Lucinda is wonderful.
Three: They proclaim they’ve never met anyone like Lucinda.
Four: They say she is fun.
Five: They say they feel so alive in her presence.
Six: They say they only want to please her.
Seven: Then they lay down the parameters on how they will please her.
Eight: Those parameters never consider what she likes.
Nine: They say she doesn’t — and cannot possibly — know what it is she likes.
Ten: They say she will be a better woman if she will only shave this, suck that, take it here, and take it there, stop talking to other men, don’t laugh so loud, stop this, stop that, start this, start that.
Eleven: Oh, and by the way, if you will be what I want, then you will be perfect, a fantasy come true.
Of course, said Lucinda, I’ll get right on that whole changing myself to become what you want. Give me a call in a week and let’s see how that’s going, okay?
Two hours passed while she told me these stories and we laughed and laughed. I don’t know if Lucinda was, but I was unaware of anyone else around me so focused was I on her stories and her face as she spoke. It came time to go. We threw our cups in the trash and walked to the car. It was there I remembered my plan and asked her about it.
“What do you say we try to get introduced Saturday night?”
“For what purpose?”
“Oh, I think it’d open up possibilities of information coming my way. Maybe people will tell me things because I am your friend or something like that,” I shrugged.
“Okay. Sounds like a plan. I’ll enjoy meeting you for the first time Saturday night. What fun!”
I hugged her and she hugged me back and we didn’t let go so easily or quickly. I kissed her cheek quickly and ran like a scared rabbit.
“See you Saturday night, stranger!” she hollered after me.
I kept plowing toward my car, but threw an arm up in the air by way of answer. Now our relationship would become public.
Whoa, there, big boy.
Nothing carved in stone yet.
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