Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day
THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE
I was doing everything I could to keep my focus in the present. That was my lifestyle strategy, and I had adopted it like a belief of faith. With three years of practice, it had proven again and again to be the sturdiest foundation from which to conduct the adventures of my life. But like all faiths, it was being tested. Ache and self-doubt emerged after Andre disappeared. On our last night, he had looked me in the eye and made it crystal clear he wanted me. How could that not feel like a mindfuck?
But that’s what people did, and by now, I knew they did it all the time. It had shattered me with Toni, and it had confused me with some of my email suitors. I was determined to be a Buddhist bachelor, eschew all suffering, recalibrate my heart, and respect the reality of the situation. My time with Andre had been a delicious way station, but that train had traveled on without me. My faith directed me to accept it, and I wanted to be grateful for the lessons it had brought me. It was a test, and I set out to ace it.
I kept busy with the activities that made me feel vital: dancing at the Century, sex with Lamar, and I left town for Florida to promote my art at Art Basel Miami. The trip instead became a miserable reality check. A part of me was enraged by how Andre had treated me, and I only found out because I could no longer suppress it. I had an exaggerated hated for everything about Miami, starting with the lousy service at the price-gouging hotels and restaurants, then spilling over to the art festival with its emphasis on speculation, wealth and elitism. And I especially hated the arrogance of the young man I’d met online, and tore into him with a finger pointing rage next to the pool at the Delano Hotel that was completely out of line. It took a five-day train wreck in Miami before I hit the wall, and finally shed buckets of tears over the loss of Andre Cassidy. When I came home I made a beeline for the Matador, my heart set on roasted chicken soup and the affection of my bar family.
The place was packed when I threaded my way to the bar, and caught Mike’s shining smile. “La Rosa Roja! Welcome home!” I saw he was mixing a long line of drinks, so I blew a kiss, and waited my turn. I looked around to see if I recognized anyone in the thick crowd, when I immediately saw someone I wanted to meet.
Tall, dark and bald, he was wearing a tight, teal-blue T-shirt with an X-rated, white graphic across the chest: the profile silhouette of a naked woman, on her back, legs spread, inviting all attention to the pot between her thighs.
“What is that?” I said, poking his chest.
“Isn’t it great?” he beamed with his oversized mouth. “I found it in Boston. I wear it when I want to shake things up.”
His answer shook me up. I liked his energy and his boldness. I also liked the sparkle of his brown eyes burning into mine, and I liked how those black biceps contrasted with those teal-blue sleeves.
“Nobody wears a shirt like that, especially a brother in über-white West Seattle. Who are you?”
“Well, I do sweetie! But that doesn’t make you wrong.” His laugh was easy. “My name is Wouter—from Cleveland. I live here now, in West Seattle.”
“Wou-ter?” I was used to hearing the unique names invented in African American culture, but this was clearly Germanic in origin.
“And where does that comes from?”
“Get out of here,” I was intrigued, and I also couldn’t keep my hands off of him. I pushed into his broad chest with both hands for emphasis. He snagged my right hand and held it to his chest. “Explain to me exactly how a black man from Cleveland gets a Dutch name.”
“My mother. She had a girlfriend from Amsterdam when she was in college. They were best friends, and when I was born, she asked Haidy to name me.”
“You’re telling me that your mother let her best girl from college name her son?”
“Her only son,” he added. My feminist heart did a happy dance.
“Your mother is one cool chick.” I smiled. “Are you as cool as she is?”
“She thinks so.” And with that settled, we spent the rest of the evening, enjoying the hell out of each other.
Our first official date was a week later at Ama Ama, a new oyster bar that had opened in West Seattle. We sat in the bar, the western light streaming in, with a platter of oysters on a bed of ice between our drinks. He had a way with words, and I ate them up along with the appetizers. He was friendly and inclusive, charming the bartender, volleying commentary with other customers, and flattering me seamlessly. I liked his social style, and I liked his shameless penchant for putting his face close to mine, turning up that megawatt smile, and whispering lines into my eyes.
“The oysters are lovely, darling, but I can’t wait to taste your salty sweetness when I set out to find the perfect pearl that lives in your pretty, pink oyster.”
Wouter was forty-two and childless, a refugee from Ohio’s sinking economy. His career in financial marketing had almost died there. He told me stories of residential ruin in the housing industry, of entire neighborhoods boarded up, of industry slowdowns and layoffs. This was 2007, and my Northwest economy was smoking hot. I lived in the Emerald Kingdom of WAMU, Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Boeing. Working for commission in a boom business climate made my work-life dynamic and my wallet thick. This had been my best year of sales, and everyone else I knew was at the top of their game too. What Wouter described was shocking to me. I was naïve about the problem, and presumed it could be explained by an industrial shift, a rust belt hangover. It would be another eighteen months before the global recession gave way to massive foreclosures and TARP bailouts, and the whole bloody planet went the way of Ohio.
“So, how come no kids?”
“Well, I was engaged, we were living together, and my fiancé had three daughters, so I had kids, in a way.” He laid down his napkin and interlaced his fingers, turning toward me.
“Oh, baby, that’s terrible,” I reached out and touched him, knowing there could be no comfort from my words. “I’m so sorry.”
“Thanks. Yeah. It was unbelievable.”
Wouter and his lady had been together for almost three years, living together for two of them, and he was the resident papa to three baby girls under seven. His fiancée, Sarah, had been an MD, and she also worked for the United Nations, involved in projects in Equatorial Africa. She flew to meetings quarterly, and in 2005, she was in a plane that went down. There were no survivors. The kids’ father had been intermittent in the girls’ lives, but showed up after the tragedy to claim his rightful custody. Yet in one of those arrogant adult actions that overlook the needs of children, the ex-husband denied the girls contact with either Wouter, or his mom, the doting grandmother they knew as Nana.
Sadness touched my gut. I could scarcely imagine the loss of his beloved, followed by the three girls. My memory of suffering after Jon and Toni was effectively re-categorized as an emotional hiccup. What did I know about loss?
“My mom still has pictures of Sarah and the girls on the piano,” he told me. “It ripped her up.”
TOMORROW: Chapter 63
Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.