If only I’d looked for his wedding ring instead of his jeans tag, then perhaps I could have stopped myself this time. I’m self-aware enough to realize that I have a problem when it comes to married men. I tend fall in love with them. Intellectually I know this is bad, but I’m also self-destructive enough to see a gold band as ‘bait’. And I can’t stop myself from nibbling.
I wish I could retrace my steps back to the unfortunate moment while standing on queue at the MotorOil Café, waiting patiently to order my coffee and bran muffin. If only I’d brought a book or a newspaper. Because what else do you do when the line is moving slowly and you have no distraction? You let your eyes wander a bit. It was just unfortunate that Mr. Strauss made it so easy to shop for the right size (for example a faded pair of 32 x 34’s).
MotorOil is decidedly not my usual haunt; it was a bit too “upscale” (i.e. three dollar latte) for me. But at the very least it is a quirky, stylish, local place within walking distance of my apartment. I just can’t support those other ubiquitous corporate coffee places. Whenever I purchase their coffee I feel like I’m contributing to urban sprawl, child labor, death of the rainforest, bad hair or any number of other negative issues.
On this particular Saturday, I figured I’d use MotorOil as my caffeine dealer in order to jump-start my day of errands. It was still early, and thus would not be very crowded. Those famous last words were rattling around inside my head as I took up my position at the end of the line.
There were only two “barristas” (and I use the term loosely) working, both of which would barely equal my age if they were somehow fused together into one competent, carbon-based life form. The more senior of the two was also responsible for the register, which apparently in addition to its normal accounting function was also being used in a prolonged, yet ineffective attempt to split the atom.
I debate whether or not to leave, but my addiction needed fuel. So I took my place in line behind Him. At first I didn’t pay much attention, as I was distracted by Barrista Number Two’s tribulations with the steamed milk nozzle. For a solid two minutes I was thoroughly convinced that she had somehow hooked one of her numerous piercings to the expensive Italian cappuccino maker. It was only after the show grew more painful than entertaining, that I decide to check out the other restless patrons.
The crowd was the usual mix for this type of area. A frumpy, new-age ‘hippy’ in her 40’s who was generally being difficult by ordering some half-caf, half-decaf cinnamon chai thingy, a 20-something biker dude wearing a generally pissed-off-at-the-world expression in addition to his leather Kawasaki jacket, a wealthy, black couple that seemed too well dressed for this time of day (if you consider gold lame being well-dressed), a pretty, Asian grad student with the requisite Hello Kitty backpack, and then Him. Mr. Urban Lumberjack.
His back was to me, so I had carte blanche ogling status. He was tall, definitely a couple inches over six feet, with dark auburn hair that was in dire need of a trim. His broad shoulders were barely concealed by a faded, green plaid shirt, and his back tapered nicely to his well-worn Levi’s. Despite their almost too-faded appearance, the jeans fit snuggly and very, very well. I also noted that the shirt was tucked in, but there was no belt. And he was wearing bad tennis shoes.
“Shit,” I grimmaced. “Straight.”
Now I know that was very stereotypical of me- making these broad assumptions about a person just based on their appearance, but come on. Stereotypes are there for a reason, n’est ce pas? Just like anyone who casually throws in the French phrase “n’est ce pas” in a sentence must be gay. Or French. Hell, probably both.
I found myself becoming fixated on the back of his head. I was actually willing him to turn around so that I could see his face so that I could be thoroughly disappointed by the vapid, mouth-breathing countenance I was sure to find. Then and only then would I alter my focus. Perhaps to Mr. Surly Biker.
Almost as if on command, He turned toward the counter and began studying the chalkboard menu. I found it difficult not to stare, as his profile revealed sharp, intelligent features that were definitely not of the mouthbreather variety. In fact, he had that sort of young, local news anchorman appeal. I was firmly ensconced in mid-drool, when he decided to turn and speak to me.
“So what do you recommend that is tasty but not too mentally challenging to prepare?” he said with a sardonic grin.
Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck! I had been completely busted. If not by my “he’s ever-so-dreamy” expression then by the nearly audible, gear-grinding downshift from shameless ogling to faux urban aloofness.
His eyes were unreal shade of emerald green that made me think immediately that they were colored contacts even though I knew they weren’t. I am such an eye-man, and beautiful eyes typically cause me to lose all capacity for rational thought. Don’t say Mocha… don’t say Mocha… I chanted frantically to myself. Its just too damn gay sounding.
“Well, sir, the Mocha’s aren’t bad….” (SIR? What in the hell was I thinking? Was I twelve? I offered up a quick prayer to God/Buddha/Allah that perhaps the bad Goth music blaring from the speakers above had magically drown out my voice.
“Sir? How old do you think I am?”Nothing wrong with his ears either. But at least his eyes were smiling while he simultaneously feigned a look of mock abhorrence. I began to breathe as my brain finally stopped skidding out.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t really mean ‘sir’, it was just reflexive. I’m not awake yet… and it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting any help with that anytime soon.” Nice. Good deflection of focus.
Hotty McHottness laughed good-naturedly. “Yeah. I’m starting to think I made a mistake in choosing this place. I mean, what are these kids doing? Cold Fusion?”
He used the term “cold fusion” in an everyday conversation. That’s it– I’m as of that moment completely in love. His marriage of sarcasm and pop-cultural references makes me laugh giddily. However, I notice that pissy biker is beginning to stare, so I decide to reign it in a little.
“Funny you should say that.” I reply. “I was just thinking that perhaps they were using the cash register for experiments in nuclear fission. Or has the accepted pronunciation become ‘nucular’?”
This earns me a big smile; the kind of smile that stuns you like a klieg light yet simultaneously suffuses you with the warm promise of camaraderie. One of his top teeth is slightly chipped, I notice. So he’s not perfect after all. But damn it if the chip doesn’t make his smile that much more charming. I find myself imagining what that tooth would feel like against my tongue, a thought which I quickly banish.
The line lurches forward. Damn it, I needed more time! Mr. Nuclear Scientist is next and after he orders he’ll probably be out the door and I’ll never get the chance to use the line “you had me at ‘cold fusion’” and that I am probably definitely in love with him and that I want to get married in Canada and adopt Ukranian orphans and move to Aspen to open a B&B.
The heavily pierced girl asks him what he wants in that ‘I’m-a-bored-teenager’ voice. He glances over at me, winks, and then asks for a “plain, old French Roast coffee of the day”.“For here or to go?” she asks with a tired sigh. Her black lipstick is cracked and uneven, and her eyeliner is smudged. I find myself not willing to breathe as I suddenly realize the rest of my life hangs in the balance of this answer.
“Um, I think I’d like it for here, please.” Jackpot! There is a judeo-christian deity! I promptly tell her that she might as well pour two of them while she’s at it. Too promptly because it almost sounded like we are together.
“Are these together then?” she asks.
“NO! Um, no. I just thought I’d help speed things up a bit, that’s all.” This earns me an icy glare from the Swiss Mistress of Darkness and a chuckle from Dreamboat. I remember that I was going to order a bran muffin too, but I forego the idea because an extra item might cause her brain to explode.
While sliding down to pay for our mugs, I see him eyeing the small dry erase board on the counter with the day’s trivia question. As part of its ‘friendly and hip atmosphere’ the MotorOil Café offers a daily trivia question. If answered correctly, it earns you a whole twenty-five cents off your purchase. Today’s question is “What famous composer won a Pulitzer for the piece subtitled Ballet for Martha?”
Simultaneously, he and I say “Aaron Copland.” We look at each other with a quizzical look of mutual respect and amusement. The boy manager just stares at us blankly.
“That’s the answer to today’s trivia question,” I tell him slowly. “So I guess we each get a quarter off our coffee.” His still-blank expression leaves me very unoptimistic.
“Oh. Is it? Our manager wrote that but, um, never told us who it was. How do I know you aren’t lying to me?” This boy is a complete burnout, yet at this moment I love him because he has managed to provide me with an excellent bonding opportunity with my fellow music-lover.
“Well, for one thing we said the answer simultaneously. How could we both have come up with the same lie at the same time?” asks My Future Husband.
“Um, yeah. Okay. But I, um, don’t really know how to ring up a sale with the discount. You guys can have free refills, though.”
Directly behind satan’s little helper is a sign that says “Free Refills”. Mr. Perfect and I exchange a brief glance of open-mouthed disbelief. Since we seem to be on the same page, we both apparently came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t worth it to point this out. He sighs and pays for his coffee, as do I.
We then both mosey to the designated cream and sugar area where we each doctor our mugs in silence. He uses a lot of sugar, I mean a LOT. So I say, “You know, studies have shown that using THAT much sugar causes cancer in lab rats.” I get a half smile and a ‘fuck you very much’ look. I feel my chances for further conversation and/or freaky circus sex slipping away, so I shift to a new tactic.
“You in town for business or pleasure?” Nice and blunt. New tactics are decidedly not my forte. “Because yous obviously ain’t from these here parts.” Perhaps my use of a false, southern hick accent camouflaged my obvious intentions. Although I must admit, at this point I feel about as camouflaged as a baboon’s ass. “I’m stuck in town for a few weeks for business… but its Saturday,” he says rather cryptically.
He’s weakening me with those Kryptonite eyes again. “By the way, my name’s Mitch.” He extends his hand, which I grip firmly. His hands are thick and strong and they remind me of my uncle Dale’s, who farms for a living.
I tell him my name. “So where’re you from, Mitch?”
“Pittsburgh,” he says over his shoulder while heading toward a pair of overstuffed chairs by the front window. I take this as a sign to follow.
“And what business brings you to our fair city, Mitch, if I may ask?” I love saying his name. Mitch. Mitchie. Mitchell. Very masculine and preppy all at the same time. A good lacrosse player name. I imagine saying it again and again during an extended mattress durability test. No no no! Dead puppies! Mother Teresa! Square root of Pi to 9 decimal places!
We sit in the café club chairs, facing each other. I am amazed at how easy and seamless it was to chat with a completely hot stranger in a coffee shop, especially because I’ve never managed to do it before. I become increasingly confident that he has to be a team member, and I’m feeling that coffee may turn into room service. Perhaps my notoriously faulty gaydar has come through finally.
Mitch leans forward, elbows on knees. He’s handsome enough to make my stomach quiver with butterflies. “I’m doing software and computer systems installation and troubleshooting for one of our new branches here in town. We’re in the midst of getting them up and running, so there’s quite a bit of electronic groundwork to be done. However, today I am a free man and I was kind of hoping to run a few errands and have a fun day. Coffee is just the prelude to me getting a haircut; I’m getting fairly shaggy.” He says this last part with a sort of self-conscious grin and a touch of the hair behind his right ear.“And I was hoping to maybe do a bit of shopping as I didn’t even pack a decent belt.”
Jackpot! He has crossed off two of his straight boy traits (poor grooming and bad fashion) in one fell swoop. It was time to be brazen.
“Who are you kidding? You know perfectly well you look good as-is,” I manage to say before my throat completely closes up with panic. He smiles and blushes slightly, and I can tell he’s read me as easily as the chalkboard menu.
He then leans back into the chair and sits with his legs comfortably apart and his arms on the armrests, just so. His gaze is directed out the window, like he’s pondering my comment. I feel myself begin to shiver even though I’m not cold, and I’m thankful that I don’t have to look him in the eye. His crotch is completely presented for what I’m sure is my benefit. So I decide to take that benefit, but only briefly as I can feel him studying me out of the corner of his eye. I’m suddenly embarrassed. I let my gaze crawl off his package (package? Hell, more like cargo!) and move toward the window, and that’s when I see it.
That goddamned plain little band of gold was just winking there in the sun, mocking me. Shit, fuck, damn-it-all-to-hell, motherfucking piss ass! He was married. How had I been so careless? How had I missed this? Because his left side was hidden from me at the goddamn counter, that’s how. I began kicking myself.
I know the rules, fuck I MADE the rules! Rule Number One: Just say NO to married men because they are nothing but trouble, heartbreak and despair. Sexual starvation and emotional unavailability is never a good combo, especially when you toss in geographic undesirability or a big P.U.S.S.Y. (Psycho Unrelenting Spouse Stalking You).
I try to change course immediately, but I’m like the Titanic and the iceberg is approaching. “So, how does your wife handle your being away on business?” I say, barely concealing my bitter disappointment.
“Oh… she manages,” Mitch sighs. “Truth be told, I doubt she really even misses me. She keeps so busy with the church and teaching and everything. Even when I am home, I barely see her. Once I accused her of cheating on me with three guys– the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. She was not amused.”
Mitch’s face has clouded over and he remains lost in thought for a few moments. But then suddenly he brightens back up, leans forward, and touches my knee. “So, what do you do for a living?”
His hand remained for that fraction of a second too long before it was removed. I could feel the heat of his palm through the fabric covering my leg. Thank God/Buddha/Allah that I have done the “what do you do” small talk on so many bad dates recently that I can launch into my spiel automatically. He listens rather intently and nods politely in all the requisite areas. I could be telling him that I enjoy burning children and old people for all I know, because I can’t seem to think of anything but the warmth and weight of his hand touching me.
Most of the rest of the conversation went by in a blur. Through the course of two free refills, I believe we discussed the merits of our relative cities, politics, recent Pulitzer prize fiction, the new line of Nissan cars, the Steelers, and restaurants. Talking was light and breezy as I recall, although I was continually aware of the weight of his gaze and the brilliance of his smile. As our last refill became dregs, I sensed we were reaching a critical juncture.
“Despite your earlier compliment, I do need a haircut,” Mitch says with a sense of finality. “Do you know of any good places around here—somewhere with a competent staff perhaps?” he adds the last bit quickly and with a chuckle.
I can think of one fairly decent place, about 7 or 8 blocks from our current location. So I say, “I can think of a place, about 7 or 8 blocks from our current location.”
“Great. How about you show me where it is? But first, let’s swing by my hotel room so I can grab some stuff, ok?” Like it wouldn’t be ok. We get up to leave.
I start to feel dizzy because now I’m fairly certain he wants something more than coffee and a haircut. I begin the mental checklist for ‘am I ready to do this’. Shower, shave, ‘other’ all accomplished earlier this morning. Teeth and breath? Well, we’ll both have coffee-mouth, but I can remedy that.
“Gum?” I offer him a stick of the Big Red that I always keep on my person for just such occasions. He accepts and briefly mentions that this should help his ‘coffee breath’. God, I love him.
His hotel turns out to be a short walk from the cafe. Obviously his corporation has some major bucks, as he is staying in the downtown Pierce Pointe hotel. This is basically the kind of hotel that even supplies thick, terrycloth bathrobes for your pets. The doorman holds nods as we pass through the automatic doors.
While crossing the opulent lobby he matter-of-factly invites me up to see the room. In the elevator, though, I can tell he is getting nervous as he now refuses to make eye contact. “You gotta check out this room, man,” he gushes with a sort of affected frat-boy machismo. “Its killer and it has the biggest bed I’ve ever slept in! And the bathroom… well, you just won’t believe it.”
Suddenly we’re there. Room 712. My throat tightens and my mouth gets chalky. One swipe of the key card and we’re inside the muffled darkness of the room. The door latches behind us with a resonant click.
“I’m gonna take a leak,” he announces. “Go check out that bed.” Naturally he leaves the bathroom door open while he goes. Of course, why wouldn’t he?
I walk to the bed and stand helplessly next to it, opting to look at the floor instead. The entire time I can hear him urinating in the next room, as the sound of the hearty stream reverberates throughout the tiled bath area. I find that I am very conscious of my hands and the fact that I don’t know exactly what to do with them. They seem like restless, foreign children that I can’t communicate with. I shove them in my pockets and try to look casual. The flush of the toilet is deafening in this mausoleum of a room.
“Pretty incredible, huh?” Mitch asks. Did I detect a slight quiver in his voice? I raise my eyes from the burgundy Persian carpet pattern to discover that his jeans—the wonderful, faded, snug denim armor that he was wearing—were nowhere to be found.
“Hmmm, boxers…” I managed to croak before meeting his eyes. They flickered with desire, even in the dim light of the room. * * * The sex was definitely good. Nothing profound or earth-shattering by any means, but Mitch had definitely had some experience in the area. It was intense to be sure, and wholly satisfying. Because he was married and this was somewhat of a “when I’m out of town” novelty for him, we naturally had to spend the rest of the day and evening purging his desires. And the chip in his tooth was noticed by more than just my tongue.My favorite part of the whole torrid afternoon, however, occurred after the second session when we reached the eye. The initial fucking was stormy- all flash, crash, rumble, and roll- and it happened in a “God/Buddha/Allah, what the hell am I doing?” sort of way. And the second fuck grew immediately out of the aftermath of the first, like some deranged gay phoenix. But after the second series of climaxes, we finally relaxed enough to attain that post-coital languor.
It was at this point that I truly noticed the magnificence of the bed. It was large enough to sprawl upon in either direction, and the sheets were satiny smooth. He lay unashamedly on his back, in the middle of a rumpled mess of bedspread, and I pressed up close to his right side. Now that the sex was out of the way, we could concentrate on deeper, more intimate things.
We snickered and spoke to each other in semi-hushed voices of what we wanted to be when grew up, our favorite music including our in-depth analysis of Aaron Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’, our first times, most favored vacation spots, and our most embarrassing collegiate moments. With the richness of the room and the muted light from the window, it was almost as if we were in a cathedral. We even talked about his family.
His wife Mary, whom he loves very much and who has no idea about his proclivities, is industrious and independent, yet has become rather frumpy in the middle years. And his children (Chase, age 7 and Jennifer, age 5) whom he also loves very much (and who also have no idea about his proclivities) are rambunctious and whip-smart. I found he spoke easily of his children and their foibles while resting naked with me at his side.
We eventually grew quiet and contemplative. In the silence of our sanctuary, every intellectual fiber of my being vibrated with the knowledge that Mitch was a grave and dangerous mistake. But intelligent thought was washed away as my lips pressed into the skin at the base of his ivory neck, letting me almost taste his pulse. In the span of two heartbeats I knew that I had fallen helplessly, hopelessly, deeply, madly in love with yet another married man.
Like all good things, however, this pure moment of love came to an end, and we churned back into a tempest of wild, freaky, crazy sex. * * * I spent every non-working hour with Mitch during his all-to-brief stay. Most evenings were spent in his hotel room in case his wife called… which she did quite frequently. I often heard her raised voice bleed around his ear and into our space as she bitched about lord-knows-what. I did, however, manage to coax him to spend one precious night with me at my apartment. I think that is my favorite memory when I look back. Or at the very least it is the one memory I visit most often in my daydreams. Waking up in familiar surroundings yet seeing Mitch’s marble-colored torso draped in my charcoal sheets, his auburn hair tousled and his dark lashes casting feathery shadows on his pale eyelids. His shallow breathing was just enough to draw attention to that magnificent chest of his, while a polite snore escaped his nostrils.
I rarely heard from Mitch after his return to Pittsburgh. I received a few brief phone calls early on, but our conversation was always superficial and stilted. And there were one or two emails containing the unfulfilled promises of a return to upgrade the software used in the branch he spent those weeks opening. And then, like so many times before, there was silence. * * *The last correspondence I got from Mitch was a letter. It showed up in my mailbox one cold, drizzly Saturday three months after all communication from his end had ceased. The timing could not have been more perfect as I had just about progressed past my destructive sexual behavior phase caused by my relentless pining away for a married man I could never have.
I don’t remember the letter exactly, nor can I produce any good direct quotes as I threw the pages away as soon as I finished reading it. I do, however, vividly remember the paper. His hand-written letter was on floral stationery quite obviously borrowed from his wife’s supply. I remember it, I think, because it was strking to see his masculine script against a backdrop of lavender colored paper with irises blooming in the corner.
The first portion was devoted to small talk in the vein of ‘I’m fine here and I hope you are doing well.’ He then spoke of our time together longingly, while lamenting the fact that he couldn’t be more true to himself. Oh how he wished things could be different and that we could be together, blah blah blah, etcetera, etcetera.
The letter then abruptly mentioned that he and Mary were expecting their third child and that he was taking a job that didn’t require any travel so he could help with the new baby. However, if he found himself in my neck of the woods, he would definitely look me up. He signed it (and this I do remember perfectly) “Love Always, Mitch”.
And there it was… the coup de grace. I had forgotten that men are capable such subtle irony. How cruel to toss the word ‘love’ about in such a glib manner. I think married men like Mitch are the worst offenders, as they get so used to saying what they don’t really mean.
I did not let the rain that afternoon deter me from walking to the Motoroil Café. What’s a little rain when you desperately need another fix? Yes, I am an addict- but not yet at rock bottom. Everyone knows that you don’t hit bottom until you can no longer lie convincingly to yourself. I was still harboring that kernel of hope that I would somehow arrive to find Him waiting patiently in a club chair with a steaming mug of French Roast in his hand. Mr. Urban Lumberjack. Hotty McHottness. Mr. Nuclear Scientist. Dreamboat. My Future Husband. Mr. Perfect. Wearing faded size 32 x 34 Levi’s.