Eric called Charise’s cell phone; big, and beautiful Eric. In the beginning she followed him around like a kitten that was taken off the breast too early and still looking for her mommy.
She chased him around the city meeting him at his place for sleeping over and sex and sleeping over and sex, for over a year. One morning, after loving and snoring for hours she simply said, “I love sleeping with you.” Not that she loved him, even though she did, and not that she wanted to marry him, which she did, but that she simply loved spending the night in his bed.
His big body against her thinner and smoother and softer skin was delicious. He smelled like a sweaty working guy. He was at first distant and aloof. And she was okay with it as the city crawling journalist working the streets and the phones to get the answers she needed for her work, left her with very little time for a real man in a real relationship.
But just those simple words one day changed everything. It would have been better if he had said nothing. Smiled, perhaps and just gotten out of bed and went to the bathroom and did his daily male thing that he did so well in his poorly ventilated apartment. When she said it a second time… “I love sleeping with you…” he said, “I like sleeping with you,” he said.
She got quiet. Still. If her arms would have been in the air they would have crashed landed to her sides. If she were a man with a big erection it would have gone soft in a second: Down, gummy-worm floppy flat. “Like,” resonated in her head…”like” … You “like” sleeping with me?
His “like” was so carefully chosen. So guarded that he didn’t want to say what he loved about her. Screw her for a year but don’t say you love anything about her. One “likes” their dog near them, they “like” street fairs, cheating on their diets, shopping for shoes. They “like” their neighbors, the door people, the nice people who deliver their mail and the laundry service workers who clean the sheets, iron the shirts, and clean the drawers. “Like?” and then the race was on.
The next day when he called, she didn’t answer. She ignored his calls at work, on her cell and on her home phone. She just didn’t “like” the time that he called, and didn’t feel that they were very much alike at this time and therefore it was unlikely that she would be seeing him for awhile. It just was not “like” her to be this angry at one word…one word pissed her off so much that Eric had to call Tom McLaughlin, the tuna fish with pickle eating on rye Managing Editor, just to find out if she was ok.
Tom didn’t know rocks from sand when it came to dating so he said she was great and was just in h is office a few minutes ago. Eric took it upon himself to show up at the Times. Security wouldn’t let him go upstairs to see her. The guard didn’t know him and in fact they had a loud argument in the lobby about his gaining access to the 7th floor where she had her meetings and office when she was not running in the fields of the City. She didn’t know that he was downstairs and had heart that ther was a difficult man, big and blond and really German looking, downstairs and that security had to call 911 to get him out of the building. He left before they got there though. He didn’t like the way he was treated, like a second-class citizen.
After six-weeks she finally answered his call one day when she was actually off and cleaning a table in her apartment.
He began: “I had to call Tom to find out how you are and that was three-weeks ago. Why won’t you take my calls? What are you doing?”
“Truth be told, I just think we are after different things at this time. I will still see you, but for now it’s best for me to focus on the trip and the writing projects that need to be tied up before I leave.”
“What trip?” he said.
“It has been awhile, hasn’t it? I’m going to India.”
“A piece needs to be done.”
“Is it because your mothers going?”
“Why would she go?”
“Because she’s Indian?”
“I don’t need a chaperone, no Eric, my mother is not going.”
“So why haven’t you answered my calls?”
“There’s more to it than ‘busy’…”
“I just told you we are at different places and we can still see each other, just not so much…I know you understand.”
“I am no happy with this.”
“You’ll learn to like it.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because you‘re an adaptable guy and you can learn to like anything.”
Eric was quietly pissed. “I want to see you,” he said.
“Not this week.”
“Give me a day.”
“Next Thursday, Benihana’s on 55th Street.”
And he was there. Waiting for her as she walked up the street in her loose, but low cut aqua greens ilk dress. He loved her legs and loved when she showed them even for the world to see. Her hair lightened in the front; she looked toned with tight muscles around her upper arms. He loved her. He missed her. He could smell her from where he was standing about two stores away.
She wanted to like him but for a moment had disdain for his inability to be honest with her. She knew she was supposed to be honest too, but how could she be when she had opened herself up so often to him and wasn’t getting what she wanted in return from him. How could it be that they could be close in bed, and then so far away once they put their feet on the floor.
Even the bed wasn’t really rocking lately. It seemed to be all for him. She rubbed him down and caressed him. She massaged his muscles for hours some times until he was ready then it was on. Put the stick shift into gear and drive. It felt good. He was heavy in between her thighs until she was aching the next day.
“Why Benihana’s” he said.
I like to watch while they cook.”
“I like to watch too,” he said, “I’ve missed you. He wanted to put his hand on hers as she picked up the stem of the glass filled with Dubonnet red. The ice had melted and it was sweet and watery the way she liked it with just enough chill. “Where in India are you going?”
“The border of Myanmar where there are problems with importing and exporting.”
“There’s not a lot of protection there. They’re still holding Aung Sang under house arrest. Everyone knows about this.”
“Well, they may know about the history of the Stilwell Road construction from WWII, but the insurgents on both sides is where the story is. It’s not just in Myanmar, but I will need to g there to the borders. The road connects India and China and most of it runs through Myanmar. By keeping it unfinished it keeps the Kachins and the Naga’s in their illegal businesses. In the end, it’s the children who get hurt the most. The flow of supplies is limited, basic things for health care and nutrition and the smallest are the ones most vulnerable”
“Just another day at The New York Times…”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Exposing the bad guy, that’s your job, right?”
“And you’re a…?”
“Come on now, I didn’t mean…”
“No, just shut your mouth, let me zip down my pants and do your real job, right?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what? I think that forty-plus year-old men who sell ad copy are really selling shit to people.” She got up, pulled he dress down and left the chair out from the table. “Fill this seat with someone else,” she said. She mumbled that he was an “asshole” under her breath. And she thought that this is why it’s so hard to meet a man in New York City. What woman in her right mind is going to put up with that degradation? The god damn gall of him to make fun of what I find important, and what did he think that I was going to laugh and say it’s so funny the way you say things…oh, dear, you are so right. It is a silly job to expose criminals who are not just stealing, but killing families in powerless parts of the world. He can kiss my ass.
Eric ran after her. In two days she would be half way around the world. She would be watching the invisible wonders of Asia slip into cracks of mud, while American’s cried over poorly tuned televisions and out-dated sneakers. She grabbed a cab knowing he was on her heels. By the time she arrived at her apartment building on East 21st Street, he was there. He opened the cab door for her.
“Why are you here?” she said.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I just don’t know what to say sometimes and then I say the wrong thing.” She walked inside her building and they got on the elevator together.
“We just have sex together. That’s all we ever do. We get together, stay overnight, watch TV, eat and then sleep with each other. I need more. I need different.”
“We can do that. We can do different things together. I love sleeping with you…not just like it. I love having you at my place. I love coming to your place. The Dubonnet hardly made a dent in her feelings. She wanted to feel drunk so she could feel differently. She dropped her bags and kicked off her shoes once inside. She looked beautiful in her exhaustion, her confusion, and her dark mood.
She stripped down to nothing and went into the shower. He followed her in. The shower was warm and trickled down her body. Her skin was smooth and tight and he loved to touch her, He took the soap and rubbed it on her back. Massaging his hands with power into her shoulders released a lot of her pain. He loved her and touching her was his prime connection outside of his words.
“Why don’t we think of making our lives permanent together?” he said.”
“Like live together?”
“With bands of gold around our fingers.”
‘That moment is now here. Why is he asking me this now, she thought. What do I say? I’m taking too long to answer. Do I want to talk about it? Do I want to say let’s talk about it? My mother will be so happy, but I don’t want children, I don’t even want to adopt children. We never talked about that. We just slept together.’
Then she said, “You don’t know me; you don’t really know me. I am obsessed with details. I write into the morning hours at times, I am on the phone with people on my cell phone, it goes off all the time, even when I am sleeping. Are you ready for that?”
“I am in love with you and I hope you are in live with me.”
“Yes, I am.” And she was and she felt it all over her body and so she kissed him and felt wanted like she had never felt in her life by a man. He rubbed her arms and the water wet her light hair turning it dark brown. They kissed deeply and held each other letting the water massage their heads. They went to bed that night without making love. They held onto each other until the morning. She woke up with her hair still wet from the shower. “When I get back we can talk further bout this.” But it didn’t seem to matter. They both knew that it would be different between them from here on in. The guard was dropped and they both admitted their love for each other. What else was left? Dinner at Benihanas?