I did enjoy making love in his bed, definitely 1000 plus thread count sheets, and satiny pillows in a house that featured a fireplace off the kitchen and a working slot machine from one of his clients. His house had a three-tiered garden filled with olive, lemon, and pear trees. He didn’t believe in flowers. “They take too much work.” During Christmas, he had three mangers arranged on the top of antique dressers including one that he’d bought on a cruise to Fairbanks, Alaska. The manger featured an igloo with baby Jesus awaiting a visit from the Three Kings who were being escorted by a white polar bear. It was lovely. He talked. He never stopped talking, told me about an elderly woman with flaming red hair who over the years had enlisted his services to keep from being evicted. “We were good friends.” Time after time, he’d rescued her and pulled the necessary legal strings to keep her in her house, but this last time, she’d ended up in an assisted living facility with her dog Gretchen, who’d been her only companion. One evening, the lawyer had received a call from a nurse to come quickly. She was dying. He appeared at her bedside, which was rancid with sweat and pee. He insisted, “Why didn’t you tell me you couldn’t pay your rent this last time? I would’ve filed a stay.”
She didn’t want to hear his legal arguments, just to extract the promise that when she died, he’d take care of Gretchen. He promised. She died.
I was impressed by his dedication to his clients. I also learned that red hair had played an important role in the lawyer’s life. An artist with red locks had lived at his compound for three years but had departed with another man. Another woman, (and he did not disclose the color of her hair), chose to live with him for eighteen years, and then left. I had entered his life some time after the second woman had joined her son and grandchildren in another state. He muttered curses about the inconsistency of women, lit a fire for me in the pit adjoining the kitchen and poured champagne in proper fluted glasses, as well as shared his knowledge of walnuts (I had assumed only one kind that appeared around Thanksgiving), but added the Hinds Black Walnut variety plus the Livermore Red. He could quote lyrics to songs going back to the forties and wore an Elvis bowling shirt whenever he had a day off, which was infrequently. The lawyer shared stories about his nieces and nephews and how one godchild had vaulted her way to a scholarship. He talked a lot about himself, but on the other hand, I am a good listener.
He never had time to see me, although as a Catholic boy, vowed that he absolutely did. Several weeks went by. He boorishly didn’t call after we made love. He was busy; he was a lawyer. He would be taking the holidays with family on the upper deck. We couldn’t see each other over Christmas, or at least, made no mention of that happening. Text messaged me every day with good mornings and good evenings and nothing else. When I replied, I received autoresponder messages that he was driving. New Years Eve was out of the question; he was attending a birthday party for a godchild. He always answered my questions with cryptic responses. “But that’s not what I asked you!” Why had I assumed that lawyers were good communicators? When I asked the reason for letting me know that he’d actually been alone on Christmas and not with his family, he replied, “Because you are wise and thoughtful.”
Counselor, I agree.
Which leaves me to ponder that old philosophical adage: I date, therefore I am, (avec sors, donc je suit). Did I need go out on dates to feel alive? Rather than introducing positive energy into my life, I saw how the fires of love were becoming besmirched with thick layers of soot that took entire weeks to wash off with continuous applications of aloe vera. Perhaps I was like Elisa, a mute janitor in The Shape of Water, drawn to a mysterious aquatic creature, gills growing from my voice box, a reverse Little Mermaid who leaves the world of men, men who stick their fingers down other peoples’ throats and back stab each other, which is one possibility, another being that I stop caring, to move past the notion that I cared about my dates at all. 🙁
Instead, I hoped for an intelligent aquatic creature to show up in my bathtub. I’ll bring the kosher salt. 🙂
Octopus Salon reading (Pandemonium Press) January 4, 2018