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My slim cut extra medium T-shirt felt sloppy on me, sitting across the table from his dark blue suit. A blood red tie slashed his white shirt down the middle, and he caressed the lip of his glass of whiskey with a manicured index finger that hasn’t seen manual labor since high school.
“You sound like you’re ready to call it quits,” he mused.
“Well, now I wouldn’t go that far.”
“How long you been together?”
I stuttered on the number. “Hm… nine months, year. Somewhere around there.”
“Yeah, she’s all right.”
He took a slow sip and eyed through the back of his glass a young blonde with an aggressively arched torso sitting at the bar. “Marriage?”
“Ha. Funny. I’m just enjoying it in its pristine condition at the moment. What about you? Any slowing down?”
“I didn’t know this was a race.”
“You know what I mean. How much longer can you play the field?”
“How much longer can you go on breathing? You see the absurdity in your question.” He flicked a mosquito off his arm sleeve. The rooftop was buzzing with liquored career girls and blues music trapped in humidity.
I exhaled words through my lips, “I admit there are times… a lot of times… when I miss the chase.”
“You can still have that.”
“No, not really. Technically, you can. But in reality the feeling is never the same.”
He leaned forward and crinkled his brow. “How so?”
“There’s no freedom in cheating. At least, not the sort of freedom that makes your brain feel like it’s on helium. Cheating is exciting, but no matter how you compartmentalize it, you’ll always have to deal with that tiny pang of guilt.”
“Sure, but it’s worth it when you consider the alternative.” He shivered from an invisible north wind. “Monogamy.”
“There’s more to it than guilt, which was never much of a disincentive for me, anyway. When you know you always have that fallback lover, that girl who will be there at home, waiting for you, the victories taste less sweet. Where’s the challenge? A well executed seduction as a free man is a very different experience than one as a taken man. Failure means more when you’re single, and so success means more as well.”
“Beautiful words. But your virtue won’t last. You’ll be back. I know you.”
He pressed forward over the table once again, and for the first time that night his tie went askew.
I studied my mischievous friend waiting for me to invite him to speak. “What?”
“You remember Adele? That girl you took back to her place from this very bar… twice… for one night stands?”
“Adele. Yeah,” I reflected.
“She had a nice place, didn’t she? Big bay window in her bedroom. You were about to fuck her, condomless, in the deep of the night, and right before penetration you looked down and admired her thatch of honey blonde pubic hair. Shards of streetlamp light shone through the window and illuminated her pubes. Her tuft glittered, you said. You were surprised that her rug was as brightly blonde as her hair.”
“All natural, too. She was a Vikingess.”
“Mmm, hm. The optical geometry of that night is scorched forever on your retinas. In old age, you’ll forget everything but moments like that. You’ll forget your kids’ names but you’ll recall with perfect clarity the night of that dance of streetlight, bed, and pubes. And the others like it.”
“I know where you’re going with this.”
His lip curled. “Do you?”
“She had a boyfriend. Which I found out about later. I met him, briefly. Shook his hand and everything just to make her uncomfortable. She didn’t know if I was crazy enough to mention our tryst. Of course, I didn’t. But I loved that spectacle. It’s not often one gets a chance to smother a woman so thoroughly with her clandestine evil.”
“Yes, there was that, but that’s not what I was going to say.”
“What does it feel like, knowing that should you follow your goodness to its conclusion, you will never again enjoy the discovery of new pubic canopies? To forever shutter the windows on that bay window of your adventurer’s soul?”
“Poetic. But I love the pubes of the girl I’m with now.”
“One pube color, until you die.” With that, he and his sharp dark suit rose and glided to the bar blonde with the bitchy back. I could overhear their conversation.
You have excellent posture. Very masculine. I don’t think I’ve seen marine sergeants sit as ramrod straight as you.
Thanks. I try not to slouch.
Posture like that could be intimidating to some men. Let me guess, you love the power rush.
Doesn’t seem to be a problem for you.
I’m quaking in my boots.
I finished my drink and watched a cocktail napkin slide from one hand to another. Old-fashioned and personal. That was his style.
At home, a scribbled note greeted me on the coffee table. “I bought you OJ. Feel better!”
I fumbled around my jeans pocket, found what I was looking for, and sent a text.
interesting… meeting you, general sherman. I might call you.
I burned the tattered tissue paper in my hand with a lighter and mixed myself a screwdriver. My thumb hovered over the delete button.