Happy Friday

8 July 2011

If I ever get around to writing the movie script/novel that I am convinced lives in some recessed corner of my head, the following text message conversation will make an appearance:

Her: it’s too late for you to come over.

Him: um, ok?

Her: At this hour, a lady should not be receiving company lest the concierge at her building think her less than lady like.

Him: soooo… meet you at the garage entrance?

Her: See you in ten minutes.


The Alternate Ending

1 July 2010

It’s not that I dislike weddings.

It’s that even my reckless brand of optimism cannot pierce the too real veneer of impending failure that accompanies most invitations I receive.

Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself because there is a not insignificant corner of my mind that wishes for a woman who inspires this carelessness.

This, however, was a good wedding… which is to say that there was a small batch bourbon behind the bar, less than 100 people, and a DJ who could be bribed to play a song. Also of note was the fact that the bride and groom were long time friends and their pairing made sense to anyone who’s met them for more than five minutes.

After the dinner and the numerous toasts but before the party had begun, I was making idle conversation with the bartender when I saw Genevieve headed towards me as quickly as her four inch heels and above the knee cocktail dress would allow. Absent the cover of other people at the bar, and lacking clean routes of escape, I decided to hold my position and hope for the best. When Genevieve was within earshot, I said “the lady will have champagne” to the bartender.

I thought you were going to ignore me all night” she said by way of conversation starter.

Ignoring you hasn’t been that effective of a strategy for the past three years, but I am not sure I am changing tactics as much as I am just getting you a drink.”

Ferfuckssake, Refugee, must it always be so, so, difficult with you?”

I wasn’t sure if my half smile was the product of having gotten under her skin, or a defense mechanism used to extricate from what could be a difficult conversation. Either way, I partly curled the corners of my mouth, handed her a glass of champagne and said “enjoy the party Genevieve.”

About an hour later, I was standing under a patio umbrella smoking an H. Upmann Petite Corona while an early summer rain – more annoying than refreshing – steamed the air. Backlit from the doorway, I could only see the frame of the woman walking towards me, but I knew it was Genevieve.

Stalking me now?” I chided.

Shut up and give me light” she snapped back, her words having the distinct feel of bitter candy with a sweet and sour shell.

Whatever you wish, Lady Genevieve.”

Why do you always insist on using my full name when everyone else calls me Genny?”

Our history is sufficiently complicated that I gave real consideration to ignoring the question, providing a meaningless answer, or telling uncomfortable truth. Uncomfortable truth won.

Genevieve, despite my general feeling that your parents did you a disservice by rearing you to be spoiled, overly self-indulgent, and enamored with the belief that the world owes you far more than you have actually earned, I believe that they blessed you with a beautiful name. Lyrical even. And that name should not be truncated for the linguistically lazy who would sacrifice poetry for the saving of a syllable.”

The courtyard lighting was dim, but I could still see Genevieve’s cheeks get flush. She took a long drag of her Parliament Light, and exhaled – not quite in my face but close enough for effect.

Did you enjoy that” she rhetorically began. “Do you take some pleasure in being mean to me? It was one fucking date… years ago. And you’re still hanging on to that grudge like toddler with a rattle. Are you so pissed off because I didn’t just melt in the presence of the mythical Restaurant Refugee charm? Would we be friends right now if I’d been one of those cliché chicks who lets you talk your way between her legs just so you could leave like you always do?”

No, Ophelia, there is not some grand scheme or lingering grudge behind this. I don’t trust you, and I haven’t since that one date of which you are so casually dismissive. It’s the ease of your deception, and duplicity that drives my general discomfort. I know, from too real experience, that I could be as sweet as Chess Pie to you and somehow, someway, faster than you could buy another pair of shoes with daddy’s credit card, the story you would share with our friends would be twisted to paint me a spectacular shade of asshole. So let me add one more problem to the list, you lack discretion.”

Genevieve took a deep breath, a half step towards me, and gently placed her left hand on my right hand that was holding a glass with couple of drams of bourbon. She took the tumbler and downed the contents before saying “You don’t know anything about me” and walked away.

There was a wounded note buried in her tone.

No matter how certain I was that I spoke truth, and spoke in a voice she had earned, I felt a measure of guilt for causing that pain. I took two more puffs of my cigar, extinguished it and went back inside.

Genevieve was standing at the bar closest to the entryway and I chose not to avoid her. As I reached the bar, she looked at the bartender and said “the gentleman will have a bourbon.” The look of fighting back a tear was all over her face.

Looking away from me, she said “Don’t look at me. I hate this. I’m not crying because of you. I cry when I get really angry and you, Mr. Refugee have really made me angry.”

Are you sure you don’t wish to follow that with ‘and you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry?’” I teased trying to lighten the mood and assuage my guilt for causing both the hurt in her voice and the tear in her eye.

I’m tired of feuding with you” Genevieve almost whispered as she dabbed at her eye with the linen handkerchief I had placed in her hand.

Then stop” I said in the same hushed tone.

An hour later, the last dance had been completed, the bride and groom had retreated to their suite, and six revelers piled into a cab to search for a place to continue imbibing. Though Genevieve and I had been true to our promised civility, it was an awkward accident that had her sitting on my lap as we clown-carred to the bar the concierge suggested.

Once inside the somewhat crowded bar, Genevieve and I stood slightly closer than the crowd necessitated as we waited to order drinks for our crew. Just after requesting two bourbon’s, three chardonnays and a glass of champagne, my once nemesis placed her cheek against mine to say “I like that you call me Genevieve.”


Revisiting a Post Requiem on a Woman Past

14 March 2010

The first installment of what may become a regular weekend feature in which I revisit some of my favorite work that new readers may have missed.  This particular bit of fiction had a real world inspiration but is pure flight of what passes for creative writing from me.

“Light me a cigarette and pour me a drink” AB said by way of salutation. She was dressed like a great 1960s cliché – slightly shimmering grey ¾ trench, black seam symmetry running up the back of her legs, and strappy black pumps.

She followed me into the kitchen closing the door behind her.  I pulled a bottle of wine from the rack and AB walked closer to me than needed to get glasses.  I poured wine and she gave me the classic glance-up-look-down-glance-up move.  If I had super powers of resistance, this was kryptonite in a gaze.

“May I take your coat” I offered by way of attempting to change the subject we weren’t discussing.

“I’ll keep it – not sure how long I’ll be staying.”

AB moved deliberately into the living room, striking heel toe against hardwood with precision.  I didn’t need the sound effects; the shoes had already garnered attention.  I watched her, just as she wanted me to do, cross the room, pivot, settle into my chair – the big man chair – in the corner, and cross her legs.  I followed AB to open the window and light her cigarette before sitting on the opposite couch –  wasted movement as I would need to rise to pour her more wine as she had finished the drams I had poured already.

This was everything I had learned in the brief history with AB distilled into a glass with all of the complexity of the wine we now sipped.  At once possessed with unassailable confidence and betrayed by doubt, a glint of guardedness in her eye but permissive in tone, she was easily read but as understood as a Cornell West dissertation.

Bluntness was a dangerous proposition here – it was equally likely to progress or end a conversation – but I risked it anyway.  “Why are you here, AB?”

“What do you mean?” she replied despite fully knowing the answer.

“I mean – we’ve danced this dance before.  Each time the music ends we swear it’s the last time; but here you are knocking on my door on a rainy Monday night.  What do you want?”

AB and I have had a couple of arguments and they both ended with her issuing a sensual olive branch.  She skipped the argument, the defensive posture and did the heal-toe walk to stand before me.  She bent slightly to uncross my legs and position herself between them.  She stood there for a minute – allowing the inches separating us to shrink by gravitational pull – before extending her arms down my shoulder blades.  I drew a breath deeper than most in preparation to say something – exactly what words I am unsure or have since placed them in an unreachable part of my memory – when she preempted me with a whispered command to “stop over-thinking.”

Searching for perspective and a slightly more safe space, I leaned back into the couch.  The third track on the Thomas Crowne Affair soundtrack,Sinnerman, had just started to play as AB loosened the belt knot on her grey ¾ trench.  Her coat opened enough to show me a vertical stripe of lacy black bra, matching panties, garter belt, and smooth skin.

I’d never felt a stronger physical attraction to her than this moment.  Her attire was sexy, but her method even sexier.  Following the not-thinking admonition, I let my hands reach for her at the spot where thighs met stockings.  She let me stay there for long enough to enjoy knowledge of the thigh-highs.  AB leaned me back into the couch and braced herself against my thighs as she kneeled down.

Never breaking eye contact, she unzipped my trousers and searched for a firm grip before releasing me.  We were locked in a staring contest though I am not sure why.  AB traced my cock between her left thumb and fore finger until she had its full attention while she used her right hand to keep me firmly pressed to the couch.  She placed her mouth close enough for me to feel the heat of her exhaling onto me, and with one final look took me into her mouth.  She used her whole body in the effort – heaving her bosom against my legs, left hand preceding her mouth in motion and right moving from my chest to my torso and back again.

Nina Simone is still singing – disapprovingly in my mind – in the background as I opened my eyes to find AB looking at me.  I didn’t know if she was enjoying her mouth or her power over me more.  I am not sure I cared.

I tensed inside of her and AB allowed the only words since “what do you mean” to escape her lips.  “Yes” she said lustily and repeated twice more for effect before she willed me to explode.  She drank thirstily until I was spent.

She pushed herself prone and away from me.

“Thanks for the wine” she said as she heel-toed towards the door, tying her coat as she went.


Second Chances with New Vintages – Part III

11 January 2010

This is Part III of a series of short fiction that may become a regular feature here.  Subsequent installments will post on Wednesday or the following Monday.  This will not make much sense without reading Part I and Part II first.

Cynthia never understood the appeal of roller coasters, couldn’t understand the enjoyment of building anxiety in the pit of your stomach, refused to find pleasure in the subsequent crashing fear.  At this moment, having been on this strange ride – talking in unfamiliar ways, saying uncharacteristic things, drinking champagne in a hotel bar on a school night, and speaking to a stranger in a language she never learned – for several hours, suddenly Cynthia made the connection to roller coasters.

She was shaken by the surrealism of it all, and now she found herself in the Ladies Room of the Fairway Hotel, having rushed from the bar without excusing herself.  She splashed some cold water on her face, and tried to steady her legs.  Uncertainty reigned in a disquieted mind as Cynthia alternated between staring at this mirror image which she only loosely recognized, and looking for proof that this was some sort of dream.  She was more than a bit afraid by it all… and kinda liked it.  Her enjoyment scared her even more.  It took almost ten minutes of water splashing and starring before she convinced herself that she should go back to the bar, that she needed to go back to the bar.

Cynthia dried her face, touched up her make up (another first for her,) swallowed as much air as her lungs could hold, and made her way back to her champagne and the stranger who was next to it.  She ignored the little extra sway in her hips.   The tall Frenchman at the bar did not as he eyed her from the moment  she stepped out of the bathroom door.

He stood as she took her seat and said “I hope I did not offend you to have you run off so suddenly?”

“No, no, it wasn’t you, I felt a little light-headed and needed to get some air” Cynthia replied.

“If you are lightheaded, perhaps I should not have ordered you a fresh glass of champagne.”

“That is very kind of you and I don’t think I’ll ever have my fill of champagne.”

“I am Nicolas Cousteau, and no I am not related to Jacques” the tall Frenchman said with a devilish grin.

“Cynthia, Cynthia Trueblood” she said while extending her hand to meet his.  She continued “Oh, this must go over big when you’re in the States.”

“Excuse me?”

“The French, the tall, the good looking, the smile, the accent – it must be very easy for you to meet women here.”

“Mademoiselle Trueblood, that may be the case for some, but I am gay” Nicolas replied to Cynthia’s surprise.

“Oh, I’m… forgive me, I just assumed… I didn’t mean… I just…” an obviously flustered Cynthia stammered.

“You just thought I was flirting with you?” Nicolas asked with a wink.

“Yes.”

“I was flirting with you, I am flirting with you.  I just thought it would be funny.  Not… how do you Americans say… ‘not that there is anything wrong with it’”

The two strangers shared a smile if not an outright laugh as Cynthia wasn’t sure she actually found Nicolas’ joke funny, though she was charmed by it.  They continued their conversation for more than an hour, and another glass of champagne when they were interrupted by one of the hotel’s managers.

“Excuse me, Mr. Cousteau, you’re suite is ready.  We apologize again for the delay.”

The manager placed a key envelope on the table and said “I’ve spoken with the bartender and told him that your champagne is compliments of the Fairway this evening.”

Nicolas thanked the manager before he redirected his attention to Cynthia and asked “Would you like to finish this champagne in my suite?”

“Aimer à n’est pas pertinent comme je ne serai pas. Le fait de vous voir n’a pas appris beaucoup de patience depuis que vous êtes d’abord arrivés au bar (Would I like to is not relevant as I will not be.  I see you have not learned much patience since you first got to the bar)” Cynthia replied firmly through her smile.

“I suppose not” Nicolas sheepishly said with the tone of a man who knew that he had moved too aggressively.  “Peut-être vous pourriez m’enseigner certains sur le dîner demain (Perhaps you could teach me some over dinner tomorrow?”)

Cynthia looked the tall Frenchman in the eye, took a final sip of champagne and said “Au revoir, Monsieur Cousteau.”  She gave him a kiss on the cheek – just long enough for him to feel the heat of her skin – and left the bar.

She felt his gaze as she walked away but did not turn around for confirmation.

Nicolas stopped watching when the doorman opened the oversized door for Cynthia.  When he finally turned his gaze back to the bar, Cynthia’s business card sat next to his glass.


Second Chance with New Vintages – Part II

6 January 2010

This is Part II of a short fiction project on which I have been working.  I had planned to post continuing pieces on Mondays but… well I changed my mind.  For this to make complete sense, you should read Part I first.

Cynthia had all of her legs firmly underneath her but still couldn’t understand that voice she just heard from her own mouth, or process the mélange of unfamiliar emotions in her head.  She took the glass of champagne that Mini offered her, and took a seat on what appeared to her to be an antique chaise lounge – fitting since she was dress shopping in Second Chance Vintage shop.

“Freddie was born around the turn of the century – the prior turn of the century, I mean” Mini began by way of explaining the story of the former owner of the blue halter cocktail dress that Cynthia was wearing more comfortably with each passing second.

“She was one part socialite, heiress type, but two parts scholar, rabble rouser, philanthropist, and ingénue.  She graduated from Smith at 19, owned a Speakeasy during prohibition, was a patron saint to half the artists of a generation, and was also one hell of a dancer.”

Cynthia just sat slightly wide eyed while Mini continued with the story.

“There’s a rumor that Picasso painted a nude of her from memory… and then gave it to her as thanks for the memory.  She would dance all night at some Harlem juke joint, and then lead board meetings of the family trust in the morning.  Gentleman chased her and women wanted to keep their husbands away from her even as they wanted to be closer.”

“Did she ever marry” Cynthia asked despite suspecting not.

“The rumor was that she and a sax player in Duke Ellington’s orchestra fell in love; but that was a bridge to far for her father who was generally tolerant of Freddie’s habit of painting outside the lines.  Their courtship was a partially open secret in Harlem, and a closely held one in lower Manhattan.  When he died in a car accident, Freddie was devastated – devastated because she couldn’t attend the funeral, devastated because theirs was an unordinary kind of love – and though she was with other men… and a couple of women too, she never was with anyone else long term.”

“That’s so sad” Cynthia remarked while finishing the champagne in her glass.

Without asking, Mini began pouring another glass of champagne and one for herself this time too.  “I don’t think Freddie would have thought it sad.  She lived the life she wanted, the life she could live, and helped a generation of artists along the way.”

Cynthia paused for a moment before raising her glass.  “Then to Freddie” she said.

Mini and Cynthia toasted and then chatted for a good while on all manner of subjects.  After some time and a few glasses of champagne had elapsed, Cynthia took her feet and announced “Mini, it has been a delight to meet you and chat all this time, but I am afraid I have monopolized your evening.  I’d love to buy Freddie’s dress, and take my leave of you.”  Once again, Cynthia was struck by the phrasing which was so unusual for her.

Cynthia changed back into her Khakis and sweater.  She noted how silly the heels, worn only to try dresses, look with this outfit.  When she emerged from the changing lounge, Mini had her dress wrapped in plastic at the small desk she used as a counter.  Cynthia placed her credit card on the desk… still not knowing and mostly not caring how much she would be charged.  To her surprise and delight the dress was 20% under her budget.  She hugged Mini and promised to stay in touch as she walked out the door.

Twenty five minutes later, just before eight o’clock, Cynthia was sitting on her couch absently trying to read some work report.  She just couldn’t stop thinking about the dress still wrapped in the light grey plastic with Second Chance Vintage scripted on the front.  She pushed some formerly frozen food around the plate sitting on the coffee table… and thought about the dress.  She read the same paragraph three times… and thought about the dress.  She made a deal with herself: try the dress on one more time and then get back to work.

She undid the knot at the bottom carefully because she fully intended to place the dress back under the plastic.  Once she got the plastic over the shoulders of the hanger, Cynthia saw it.  There was a small satchel dangling from the metal part of the hanger; there was Mini’s card with a handwritten “just in case” on it.  The other side of the card read:

Dearest Cynthia,

I thought you should have these earrings as they look lovely with the dress and they were part of Freddie’s estate too.  Bring them back after your party, or just send me a check sometime.

Love,

Mini

Inside the satchel there were a set of gorgeous sapphire and diamond teardrop earrings.  “Surely they’re costume” Cynthia reasoned.

She kicked off her slippers, removed her sweater like it was woven with poison ivy, and wiggled the pants past her hips.

“This bra will not do” Cynthia said to her image in the mirror.  She rummaged through her panties drawer for one of her two strapless bras.  Neither of which got much use.  As she slid the dress over her head, she knew instantly that she had to see it with stockings too, and the heels… and earrings as well.

Cynthia stood in the mirror for a pregnant moment and thought “Just a little make-up maybe” before wondering “Where is this voice coming from?”  She didn’t spend much time on the notion before applying the very conservative shade of lipstick that is the only one she wore, and running a brush across her cheeks and eyelids.

Back in front of the full length mirror, Cynthia loved everything about this dress and the way she looked in it, and then she was overcome with an irresistible urge to have a glass of champagne.  There was none to be had in her one bedroom midtown condo.

“Let’s go to The Fairway Hotel” she told her slightly unfamiliar mirror image.

Cynthia paused for just a moment to contemplate this voice that sounds like her own but keeps saying these unfamiliar things.  The pause didn’t stop her from grabbing the smallest purse she owned, which still wasn’t quite small enough for Freddie’s dress, and shoving a few essentials in it before walking out the door.

A cab ride, a few turned heads in the lobby, and Cynthia was sitting at the terrifically elegant bar at the Fairway Hotel.  The bartender smiled and offered her a glass of water and a cocktail list.  She couldn’t read it without her glasses and it didn’t matter because she knew she wanted “a glass of Pierre Jouet, rosé if you have it, please.”

A few minutes later, a tall gentleman made his way to the bar mumbling in a mix of French and English.   “I cahhnnot behlieve zhat my room iz noht readie” the tall gentleman murmured loud enough for Cynthia to hear.

“Il y a des choses pires qu’est forcé à avoir une boisson, peut-être vous devriez trouver quelque patience (there are worse things than being forced to have a drink, perhaps you should find some patience)” Cynthia said.

“Your Franch is very good, whar did jou learn?” the tall gentleman asked.

Cynthia turned a particular shade of lobster red… she doesn’t know French.


Second Chance with New Vintages – Part I*

4 January 2010

Since the first humans capable of having feelings walked the earth, empaths have walked among them.   Cynthia never knew that she was one…

For most of her painfully shy 29 years, Cynthia lived in an introspective house of mirrors in her mind.  Maybe it was the mother who showed love through back-handed compliments, or the father who only showed emotion to a bottle of Ballentine scotch, but Cynthia always seemed to be looking into the mirrors that distorted her slender frame and middle class life.  She never developed many social skills.

The cum laude graduate from a small state school found happiness and professional success in balance sheets and accounting formulas.  Had Cynthia been more outgoing, friendlier with her colleagues, or in possession of the people skills necessary for management her accounting acumen might have moved her past the lowest associate level at her firm.  In her seven years at the office, one of the administrative assistants was her only “work” friend.

When Katie got engaged to her attorney boyfriend, the invitation to the engagement cocktail party felt more like a burden to Cynthia than an opportunity to celebrate.  It’s not that she wasn’t happy for Katie, or disliked her fiancée; rather, Cynthia disliked the social tumult of parties, the awkwardness she felt around strangers, and was terrified with the prospect of flirting with men.  There was also the matter of finding a dress on her condo-poor budget.

Her discomfort and credit phobia aside, she was going to attend because despite not having many, Cynthia was a good friend.  She went to a fancy department store in hopes of finding a dress, but the sales staff was off-putting in their over eagerness.  A trip to their rivals on the other side of the mall didn’t bear fruit because they were too busy with customers who looked like they already shopped there.

Despite her increasingly lowered spirits, Cynthia went into a swanky couture shop on the way to her car.  Once inside she was immediately comforted by a late 40s woman with a very soothing voice and incredible accessories.  The sales woman offered champagne and a gentle ear.  Cynthia took advice, tried on dresses but declined the champagne – she was a very light drinker.

After four dresses, Cynthia found a black A-line that flattered her shape and made her smile… until she looked at the price tag.  It was four times what she had planned to put on her credit card.  The sales woman seemed to be able to read Cynthia’s mind – not that she had much of a poker face – and struck a pitch perfect tone in saying “You know dear, you have one of those faces and frames that would look great in vintage.  I’m going to give a call to a friend of mine who runs a vintage shop around the corner.  Give her my card and tell her I sent you… I think that you find exactly what you need there.”

Cynthia thanked her for all of her courtesy and went back to her car.  It only took a few minutes for her to arrive at the parking lot of Second Chance Vintage; a time spent dwelling on the words “I think you’ll find exactly what you need.”  Why need; why not want she wondered.  There was not much time for that question because as soon as she opened the door and before she could even introduce herself, a 50-something woman who could have been the sales woman’s cousin or aunt gave a cheery “You must be Cynthia; I’m Mini… it’s short for Minerva but nobody calls me that.”

Something about these two women placed Cynthia at ease despite their slightly outsized introductions.

“So we had a long discussion – well not really long because it only took you a few minutes to get here – about you, and I am pretty sure that I have two dresses that would look lovely on you.  Would you like some champagne?”

Once again Cynthia declined the champagne but was really eager to try the dresses.  She went into the dressing lounge and saw the first dress, a Navy Blue Halter dress just below the knee.  She felt just a touch lightheaded as she stepped out to have Mini close the zipper.

Mini held a steadying hand as she brought the zipper to its close.

“You look stunning in that dress dear, are you sure you wouldn’t like a glass of champagne, that dress really deserves champagne” Mini encouraged.

For some reason and despite a strange feeling about her head, Cynthia suddenly heard herself saying “Looking in the mirror, it seems that a glass of champagne wouldn’t just be prudent, it’s downright required at the moment, thank you.”

Champagne in the afternoon was out of character for Cynthia, but so was the phrasing.  This was a different Cynthia.  As Cynthia removed her spectacles, Mini handed her a glass of champagne and said “Now let me tell you about the woman who once owned that dress…”

________________

* This is the first part of a series of short fiction that may become my regular Monday posts.


Sunday Dreaming / Sunday Scheming

17 November 2009

I adore our conversation until they end and I can’t seem to refocus my mind on anything but her for hours.  I find myself hanging mental pictures of her watching me make Sunday breakfast.  She’s wearing the French blue shirt I had the night before in the first picture.  The silver cufflinks are still hanging from her wrists as she clutches my NPR coffee mug in the corner of the kitchen.

When that image goes back to the fantasy closet of my mind it gets replaced with another scene.  I let her sleep while I pick-up clothes scattered about the floor and allow the smell of coffee and bacon to wake her.  She comes into the kitchen and wraps her arms round my waist; I close my eyes when I feel her lips on my neck.  This time she’s wearing that Agent Provacateur Dressing Gown that cost too much but was worth every penny at that moment.

Just when I think my mind is done wandering, there she is again on a Sunday morning.  As we’re getting dressed for brunch with friends, I see her in a set of knickers and a bra that I just knew was designed to make us late.  There is no more satisfying sound than the low moan of excitement… whether you’re hearing it, making it, or both.

There is something about this woman, something about Sundays, and something I’d like to know about the two together – though I doubt they’ll ever meet.


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