Coming of Age
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I am certain that I was cussing like a drunken sailor on shore leave. I get that ability from my father.
My mother was the reason I was cursing. Or at least, the values that she instilled in me.
She taught me that charity, and giving of ourselves, is a good thing. And I was being charitable, helping at the chocolate fantasy fund raiser for homeless dogs and cats. Charitable in that the event was mostly a couples thing, there would be lots of happy people together, drinking and eating chocolate, having their brains fooled into thinking that the reason they were so happy was the fact that they were together. In fact, it would be merely artificially induced brain chemistry caused by the xanthines in chocolate.
But there I go, being cynical and sarcastic. Because my jerk ex-boyfriend had dumped me at the holidays for the “It Girl” of his office.
So, I was helping as a volunteer at the fundraiser for couples; then I would attend the evening by alone.
Except, at the moment that I was cursing like the sailor, I was on the floor, writhing in pain from a pulled muscle in my back from moving boxes of supplies and decorations. I wasn’t proud of myself at the moment, but the good news was that it got somebody’s attention.
I didn’t hear Greg some into the room, but he knelt beside me and had a calming effect.
“Let’s check this out and see if it’s serious,” he said. His voice was deep and raspy. “Roll onto your back.”
It hurt to roll and I was ready to swear again, but the presence of another person stopped me. He asked me what happened, sites of pain, and gently moved my hips and legs trying to assess me. He finally helped me sit up.
“Right there,” I yelled, when he pushed on my back. I have zero pain tolerance; I’m not sure which parent that characteristic came from. It really sucks that I can never rate any pain less than an “8” on one of those smiley face scales.
He pushed along my spine, at the hips, on the thighs and there was no pain. But when he touched the meaty part of my lower back, it sent a shock of raw pain through my body.
“Holy fucking shit.”
“That bad huh? So on a one to ten, that’s a what, three or four?”
I gave him a look that I got from my maternal grandmother. Grams was Irish Italian, a wicked merger of ethnicities. I figured out at an early age it was advantageous to keep on her good side. When I was seven I had trampled through her tulip garden, breaking all of the early blooms and buds. She never said a word, didn’t touch me, she just gave me a piercing look from her blue grey eyes that I can still remember. I’ve watched horror movies that weren’t as scary as her stare. I never saw it again; we had a great relationship until she died a few years ago. I think it was because I never did anything to cross her again. And I learned the stare from her.
“Okay, so it’s worse. Let me try a couple of things.”
I wanted to yelp out a couple of times, but didn’t. But after a few moments, the pain abated and actually seemed to get better, no it was gone. He moved his hands from side to side, telling me to inhale and exhale at different times, and kneaded the muscle until the pain dissipated.
“Holy fucking shit.”
“I’ve still got the touch.”
His hands on my back, very professional and nearly clinical felt nice. For an instant, I started to have impure thoughts, like what it would feel like to have him touch me elsewhere, but I did a mental face slap and got professional and polite.
Greg helped me finish moving the stored boxes (which had caused the lower back muscle spasm). It was easier with two people and we had the job done fairly quickly. There were other volunteers there; we set up the room, the bars and chocolate stations for the revelers that were to attend later. It was nearly four o’clock, we were done and both of us sat sipping bottle water after the job.
“May I ask you for help with a delicate problem,” Greg said. He looked embarrassed.
Great, a pervert trolling for women under the guise of good heartedness.
“My daughter is giving me a real bad time about dating her friend’s mother.”
“So you’re dating her?”
“Oh, no. And I don’t want to.”
After a few minutes of background, Greg explained he was divorced, and his daughter had decided that he needed to start dating again. He was happy single, and not dating.
“So, just say no.”
He peered over his glasses.
“You don’t know my daughter. She’s a lovely girl. But she is very,” he paused. After a moment he said “Persistent. Or annoying. Sometimes both.”
He had signed up for a “secret” girlfriend, code for not a real one. He had paid a company to send him texts from a woman. He was having difficulty setting it up on his phone. He really didn’t feel comfortable telling friends what he was doing.
I took his phone and in less than fifteen minutes he had a girlfriend set up on it. He sent a text message and a couple of moments later someone, bonus veren siteler somewhere texted back. They went back and forth for a couple of minutes, neither saying anything revealing; all were “G” rated.
“Look, you don’t know me, but you know something about me even my friends don’t,” he said shaking the phone. “I don’t feel like staying tonight and I’m starving. You want to get dinner.”
I obviously paused for a moment too long.
“What a schmuck, sorry. You’re coming to this party tonight, or something with your boyfriend, I’m sorry.”
I don’t do spontaneity well. That’s from both parents. When I was growing up, if it wasn’t planned for three months and on everyone’s calendars, it didn’t happen. No, without the boyfriend my social calendar was pretty open. Except I still acted like I had to plan weeks ahead of time.
“That sounds great. My treat.”
“No, mine, you set up the phone.”
“You cured my back. That trumps it.”
We were in East Nashville and I didn’t know a lot of places that were close. Greg’s face beamed and he texted me an address. He told me to follow him. A few minutes later we walked into a small, funky vegetarian restaurant. The fragrance of cilantro, garlic, pepper wafted around the room. We found a table in the back and puzzled through the menu. When we couldn’t make choices, we told the tattooed waitress to pick her favorite appetizers and entrees; she nearly skipped to the kitchen to place the order.
Greg was tall, muscular with short brown hair that was flecked with gray. A medic in Viet Nam, he had been a paramedic for the fire department and now taught at a community college. The conversation was light, ebbed back and forth, like we were old friends and not new acquaintances. Then he picked at a scab.
“So why no boyfriend?”
I clammed up and clenched my jaw.
“Sorry, my bad. None of my business.”
I thought about it for a minute. My girlfriends and I have analyzed relationships gone wrong until we could puke. Why not get a guy’s point of view. So I told him. Everything. The good and bad, finally the infidelity.
“You did the right thing. Wipe him off your life. That’s what I tell my daughter. Except, as her father, I have also offered to break the idiot’s legs if he even gets near her again.”
“That’s what my friends say.”
“Listen to them.”
We nibbled through a shared desert. I really didn’t want the night to end. It wasn’t’ romantic, or anything like that but it was fun. I enjoyed the conversations and the company. We parted at the door. He gave me a fatherly hug and a few final tips for my back before he walked off into a light drizzle toward his car.
My Sunday mornings are reserved for brunch with my friend Susan. She’s the older sister that I never had, although age wise she more like my mother. She’s nearly sixty, looks forty, and some days acts like a twenty year old, which may not be a good thing. It was her turn to cook and I poured the last of the wine into our glasses.
“So, you had a nice time with this guy and don’t want to call him again? Some part of your brain turned off this week?”
I hemmed and hawed while trying to come up with reasons. I pushed the last of my Mediterranean omelet around my plate. She finally held up her hand.
“So, how old is he?”
I felt my face flush. Shrugged my shoulders. Whispered into my wine glass as I took a sip. She almost has Grams stare, I think I must have taught it to her.
“Sixty, maybe sixty five?”
“Is that a question or a statement?”
“Susan, I can’t date someone sixty years old.” She glared at me again. “I don’t have a Daddy thing with men.” Wrong thing to say to her.
“So if I date a younger man, it’s a Mommy thing, or a MILF fantasy like some fetish porn movie?” she said.
“Well, no …”
“So how is your situation different? Look, do whatever you want. I’m your friend. But life is short and we only go around once. He sounds like a great guy, or at least an interesting one. If you don’t want to go out, then don’t do it. But don’t let something silly like a number stop you.”
That’s what friends are for. They pick you up when you’re down, and give you a swift kick in the ass when you need one. I called Greg when I got home. I remembered back when I was seventeen and was waiting for a boy in chemistry class to call me. The poor guy muttered and mumbled throughout the call as he worked up the nerve to ask me out that weekend. He didn’t have anything on me. Greg and I talked about the day, and the dinner, and setting up the app and the secret girlfriend. I started a wandering discussion of a new Sicilian restaurant that was having a wine tasting the next night.
“Well, that sounds like fun,” he said. There was a pause, a little too long. “You were calling to see if I wanted to go, right?”
My mouth had gotten so dry that I couldn’t talk. Finally, I was able to say “yes”.
I was a wreck for the next twenty eight hours (not that bedava bahis I counted them). I thought about what to wear and to talk about. I’m a teacher. I stand in front of a room of kids all day, nothing fazes me. But that Monday, I was a mess. I dressed and changed my clothes at least six times before putting on a really cute, flirty blouse and short skirt that I had started with on the ensemble search with an hour earlier. When I got to the restaurant, I was a mess.
“Wow,” Greg said when he saw me. He grimaced and looked around the room. “Sorry, didn’t mean to be rude. I meant to say you look really nice.”
“I’ll take a ‘wow'”.
He looked pretty good himself in a black turtle neck, khakis, a jacket. If dinner Saturday was very good, this one was great. We talked and laughed as we wrote notes on our sheets about the wines that we tasted. The tasting provided hors d’oeuvres; we added a meal to the tab and split an order of spaghetti with garlic and olive oil. It was nearly eleven o’clock when the wait staff started to look put out that we were still there. Greg grabbed the check and we stepped into the early February air. He walked me to my car, and before I could anticipate how to end the evening he kissed me on the top of my head and walked away.
It was nearly midnight before I got into bed. Thirty minutes later, I was still awake, tense and excited thinking about every moment of the night. I also had a sexual tension that I hadn’t experienced in months. Hell, I was depressed when I got dumped: my sleep was interrupted, I ate poorly, and getting off was the last thing on my mind. I sat still in the warmth of my blanket and comforter layered bed. My hand brushed against my hard nipple and it shot a spark to my pussy and a delicious feeling. I rolled my nipple between my fingers while I circles my clit with my other hand, dipping into my wet pussy, smearing my juices on my clit, gently at first and then harder and faster until a wave of warmth washed over me sending tingles into my butt and down my legs. I collapsed into the mattress with a sigh and fell asleep in seconds.
I didn’t hear from Greg for the rest of the week. I was tempted to call him several times, but just didn’t do it. I’m not sure why. Maybe I wanted to see if he would call. I had talked to Susan a couple of times, I told her about the wine tasting, and we talked about what to do. She makes her own future and never waits for the call; if she is interested and wants something, she’ll go after it. We’re clearly not related in that behavior. But after a long Friday I finally dragged home and literally had dropped onto my sofa with a glass of wine when Greg called.
“Sorry, late call,” he said with any prelude.
“Hello to you too.”
“Well, yeah, Julia, hello. Like I said, late call, and well, a friend had tickets to a traveling Broadway show, and then had to bail on it, and he offered them to me, and I usually don’t go to things like that, and then I thought about you.”
“So, are you asking me if I want to go?” It was my turn to hear his discomfort. He was normally very confident and it was interesting to hear a little anxiousness in his voice.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Guess? Or asking?” I enjoyed the tease.
The problem is that he had waited so long to call that we only had an hour before the show; we agreed to meet at the theater. Five minutes to show time I walked into the outer foyer to find Greg. He was dressed in a black suit with a starched blue shirt and pink tie. His broad chest and shoulders filled the clothes and he looked luscious.
“Hey sailor, buy me a drink.”
His head snapped back when he looked at me. I only had ten minutes to dress, but I maximized my efforts. I had pulled my hair up and back and used some make up for the first time in a year. I finally got to wear a hand painted silk jacket that I had bought at an arts fair. I thought I looked good, his eyes said I was right. He stood still, the house lights flashed, and I grabbed his hand and started pulling him through the entrance.
We saw “The Buddy Holly Story”. If it had been a real show, like one with plot and characters and real conflict I would have been in trouble. We sat next to each other; I contorted in the seat so I could push my shoulder and leg against him, and swayed and bopped to the music, a series of Buddy Holly songs loosely linked by a bare thread of plot to the next song. Everyone stood and clapped and sang along with the cast during the encore. Greg’s muscled hand found mine as we left the auditorium.
I don’t know how he worked it but we went to an intimate restaurant near the auditorium, Etch, and launched into a wonderful meal. Each time we were together we removed another layer of our lives to the other. Greg had tried to avoid service in Viet Nam, but a low number and no money for college got him drafted.
“A trip to Canada felt like a one way ride. And my brother had served, and I didn’t see a way out of it.”
So he enlisted, deneme bonus got into the medics corps and ended up with two tours, in the thick of it, but he made it. When he got back to the States, he got a paramedic job, retired after thirty years, after a month was bored, and started teaching.
The waiter brought the grilled cauliflower appetizer and beets and berry salad just as he flicked through his phone to find a picture of his daughter.
“Nurse by day, matchmaker at night. She’s the one trying to fix me up with some friend’s mother.”
“So what are we?”
Greg fumbled with the phone as he thought about an answer.
“I don’t know. Two people who seem to enjoy each other’s company.”
“For now. Is that all right?”
I studied his face. The two small scars near his left eye. The top of his left ear gone. A happiness to his eyes when he smiled.
“It is, I think. I like you. A lot. And I’ve had a lot of fun going out with you.”
“So?” he said
“I guess we play it by ear,” I said. I’m not sure that is really what I wanted, but at the time, I was committed to trying it.
Restaurants make their money turning over tables. I learned that when I was in college and waited tables during the summer to make ends meet. I felt guilty again as we lingered over the remnants of our meal as we watched the place empty and discovered we were the last to leave. Greg walked me to my car at a lot near the Ryman Auditorium.
“Call me when you get home. To let me know you’re there, okay.” I nodded and he stepped away, turned and walked back. “I’ve had more fun in the past week than I have in the past year. Thanks.” He leaned toward me and kissed my lips, a chaste kiss, polite and measured. I closed my eyes, tried to lean forward to savor the contact for a minute longer, and he stepped back and walked away.
The next morning, Saturday, I was up early and out running as the sun was cresting over the trees. I love my days off, love to sleep late, savor the morning paper and a cup of coffee. Greg had ruined the morning for me. I had thought about him, dinner, the show, and that one stinking kiss all night. And I was reminded whenever I turned in the bed that I slept alone.
“You’re a normal young woman,” Susan said as she smeared cream cheese and chives over her toasted bagel. “I’d worry about you if you liked being alone.”
“By choice. For right now. That could change tomorrow. Look, I’ve been married four times. Always thought the next one was the one for me. He wasn’t. Or I wasn’t. I’m no prize.”
“You are the sexiest woman I know, and that’s coming from a straight girl,” I said.
“Yeah, and sexy only gets you so far in life. I have OCD, and inadequacy issues, and I’m a bitch to be around in the morning. I like where I am in my life. If I like someone, and we want to couple, then fine. If it’s me and my Hitachi vibrator, that’s fine too. I’m happy. But my life style isn’t for everyone. When I was your age, I wanted to be in love, be loved, get laid, and be married, not necessarily in that order.”
I guess I’ve been passive in relationships. Taking what was offered without really thinking through what I wanted. And I have had four long term relationships that just broke down after a while. Maybe I didn’t put enough into them, but when I was in them, I thought I did. But with school, graduate school, low level teaching jobs and now a great teaching position, I probably made priorities that were different. Maybe I was ready to make a change in my life, and then Greg showed up.
“And the age thing?”
“What age thing?”
“Well, that’s good to hear.”
“Never think about it. He’s a guy, a friend that I hang out with. At this level, it’s not an issue.
“And if the relationship changes?
“I’ll cross it when I get there.”
Greg texted me that afternoon and a few moments later called me. He had more tickets to another show. He offered to pick me up. I tried to turn away the offer, but agreed.
Then, I needed to clean my apartment. And take a shower. And find the right outfit for the night. I finished everything just a moment before he rang the bell. He looked good and gave me a hug when he entered the apartment. He asked for a tour and I gave him one and then we were out the door and to the show. It was at a small theater in town with a local cast but the show was excellent. We went to dinner and had to wait for a table. We were standing near the bar with wine when Greg walked away and gave a young woman a hug and lead her back to me.
“I don’t believe this. Julia, this is my daughter Kerri. Kerri, this is my friend Julia.”
At that moment, I thought that Kerri might actually be an unknown cousin, long lost in the family because she had Grams look that bored into me and gave me a shiver. Greg went to get another drink and Kerri stepped closer.
“So are you Dad’s girlfriend that he’s been talking about?”
“No, we’re not …”
“Listen, bitch, stay away from him. He’s too old for you, you’re too skanky for him, find someone your own age that you can hang onto but get the fuck away from him. Do you hear me?”
I felt as if I had been slapped and kicked. I felt nauseous and pulled away from her.
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