Eager beavers from twenty to seventy responded to the ad I posted for an "attractive, mature, sophisticated man unafraid to show his feelings in a long term relationship with potential for growth on both sides." Since the majority of my in the flesh meetings with wannabe lovers had headed south, imagine my delight when age appropriate Desmond materialized. Straightaway, unlike most men on Craigslist who grudgingly pay for coffee, Desmond invited me to dinner in a Zagat-rated Japanese restaurant. That he lived in Chelsea, a nearby neighborhood, racheted up his allure.
I posted my ad two months before New Years. Once again, like a Pavlovian rat adhering to previous behavior my anxiety level, as the days ticked toward the big night, escalated. Whether or not I had "plans," as well meaning friends inquired solicitously, became a hot button. Desmond's appearance made it unnecessary to scavenge the woods for a suitable companion. It was taken for granted that we would be together when the ball dropped. Meanwhile, we attended art openings, concerts, plays and dance events.
Had we dined exclusively on burgers at McDonald's, I would have been content. In the engineering field, Desmond had traveled the seven seas for business and pleasure. His conversation segued from Proust to Stephen Hawking's theories without a trace of pretentiousness. Of Greek descent, tall and slim like an athlete in Classical times who competed for prizes in Olympic games, his body moved across the floor with amazing lightness. Daily workouts at a local gym kept off extra pounds apt to puff out men in their mid-fifties—his age. A lascivious twinkle, that hinted of expertise in the bedroom, danced in his eyes.
Desmond's savoir-faire—uncommon in American men—made me wonder if he'd ever made an awkward move. Most striking, he listened to whatever I said with utter concentration as though I were the Greek Cybele predicting the outcome of the Persian War. Meanwhile, he kept me off balance by tender gestures: a peck on my nose as we said goodnight; his gift of a love lyric—he copied onto tinted paper bordered with golden hearts—by the Greek poet Giorgos Seferis. Desmond's slow, deliberate courting made me impatient for total intimacy.
During November, we went out every other night. For Thanksgiving, he invited me to a lavish dinner with his sister's family in Westchester. The next evening, at his apartment on Central Park West, we became lovers. His first passionate kiss sucked up my lips making them his forever. Prolonged embraces ecstatically joined Desmond's yang with my yin, fitted our bodies naturally together like twins entwined in their mother's womb. "I give you my sperm, I give you my soul," whispered Desmond. Afterward, as we lay together, Desmond discussed our projected trips to Europe and farther flung locales. Confident, I let my emotional drawbridge down—in truth, sawed it in pieces.
Never had I looked forward to a New Years Eve so expectantly. Outfits were selected, discarded, then selected again. I spent my month's clothing budget on a black dress with a neckline that plunged nearly to my belly button. Black silk pumps with heels that made me teeter and totter put me in the holiday spirit sober. Tricked out, I felt like a mature version of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City armored to rampage around New York.
To avoid the Times Square congestion, we dined at a quaint restaurant in the East Village. Over dessert, Desmond's conversation took an unexpected turn. Tacitly, up to now, we avoided any discussion of former romances. Such musings could rip the romantic fabric we had stitched together so carefully with gossamer threads. Therefore, it surprised me when Desmond lapsed into a long dissertation about his ex-wife. As his words burst in the air like bubbles from the celebratory champagne on hand to toast the New Year, my face lost its glow.
Animated like a young boy recalling his first date, Desmond relived the spring day—alive with chattering crowds in cafes and charcuteries—he escorted his ex-wife to an exclusive lingerie shop on the Parisian Left Bank. His mission: to find Claire the perfect bra to bewitch her wealthy lover—CEO of an international corporation.
Desmond, as he enumerated the assortment of featherweight bras made of laces, satins, tulles, taffetas and silks which contoured the breasts without "inhibiting them or cutting off their circulation," or "pinching in the back" (a fault of cheaper brands), became rhapsodic as though the fabrics were caressing his skin. Sighs escaped his lips, his hands stroked the air, a slight spasm contracted his neck.
Inside the fitting room, as Desmond explained in excruciating detail, Claire tried on practically all the examples on hand. Eventually, she selected a sea foam green, underwire design in eyelet cotton by Chanterelle. Definitively, Desmond rejected her choice, along with an array of other styles—demi and full—in primary to the subtlest of colors. Fortunately, the Holy Grail of bras could be made to measure—a feature of the boutique which employed two top-of-the line seamstress accomplished at whipping up divine creations in forty-eight hours.
Making sinuous motions with his hands while outlining Claire's contours and nipples, Desmond did his best to approximate her colossal cup size. In the U.S., he fretted, only specialty stores carried a decent selection of bras for truly abundant mammaries. Instinctively, I clutched my thirty-four A's which, compared to Claire's melons, were seeds. Now my black nylon lingerie, purchased on sale at Filene's especially to arouse Desmond ardor, struck me as the ultimate in tacky.
Desmond explained further how, on the spot, he made a sketch of his fantasy bra of bras: A flesh tinted affair in moody grey voile so fine as to be almost invisible—part of her skin. He added a ruffle of maroon lace to spice up his creation. Desmond bragged that his design encompassed the naughtiness of a can-can dancer, the poetry of a muse, the deadly charm of a Femme Fatale added to the icy allure of an aristocratic woman on a pedestal. Tipsy from champagne, I blinked to erase the mass of bras dancing in a chorus line before my eyes.
I almost gagged over the creme brule, my favorite dessert. Then, as rapidly as superman changed outfits, Desmond reassumed his normal, discreet persona. What did I think of the new building design at MOMA? Did Kant's categorical imperative make any sense in a world beset by terrorism and greenhouse gasses? Despite my reservations, his dialogue engaged—no captivated—me all over again. Like a trained seal in a circus, I jumped for the fish.
At Desmond's ground floor apartment, two matching couches and low tables in Art Deco designs were judiciously placed to establish an intimate mood. A vaulted ceiling gave the living room a Parisian flavor. Fresh air drifted in through curtained, slightly ajar bay windows, behind which a large garden outside—fenced in by a high wall—dozed throughout the winter season. Scented candles were cleverly positioned in niches to create a magical effect. A sound system wafted a Chopin nocturne throughout the several rooms, into alcoves filled with bookcases as well as nineteenth century sculptures and paintings.
Spontaneously, I raised my lips for Desmond's kiss, my arms to embrace the Janus faced devil whose smile wiped away any negative impact his words might have. At the stroke of midnight, we made love on the couch—unable to restrain ourselves till we got to the bedroom. Could Desmond, perhaps the entire neighborhood, hear the bomb detonating inside me? The auspicious hour added a sacred dimension to our coupling. That we consecrated this New Years together, our first in each other's arms, buttressed my hope that many more would follow.
Stretching contentedly in bed, sleep about to overtake me, I reached out to kiss Desmond's fingertips. Abruptly, he pulled them away. Then he sat up and began to speak in a low tone. By now I hoped for the best but instinctively clenched my toes to prepare for the worst. Again Desmond's monologue was Claire centered.
This time Desmond filled in more of the backstory on his marriage, parts of which harked back to the Story of O. Panting, Desmond explained how both he and Claire would wait for her favorite lover's phone call. Ting-a-ling, husband and wife sprung into action. The protocol never varied. While Desmond masturbated, Claire selected an outfit for that night's rendezvous. Winter or summer, she wore nothing underneath. Gentlemanly Desmond found her a taxi to the Lower East Side, then "twiddled his thumbs" in her absence.
At home again, en famille, so Desmond could share her rapture, Claire provided full and juicy details about the ingenious ways her lover improvised to degrade her. Then Desmond took his cue and carried on with the second shift. For the rest of the night—or morning—husband and wife copied the positions Claire assumed with her lover.
Why and how, I wondered, had this marriage worthy of a kinky porn film dissolved? That Claire had several affairs going on simultaneously struck Desmond as fine and dandy. There was no opportunity to inquire, for Desmond's motor mouth could not be silenced—other than with a bullet. He sweated, groaned and farted while paying tribute to these bygone, halcyon romps.
Limp, I wanted to crawl away like a animal whipped within an inch of its life. However, Desmond had a few more surprises in store. On Craigslist I had posted my ad in the relationship section—not "intimate encounters"—clearly stating that I desired a longterm monogamous connection. Therefore Desmond's next suggestion made me wonder what kind of game he was playing, or if he were terribly nearsighted and posted in the wrong category by mistake?
Would I, he begged, getting up from bed to drop down on bended knee, be his escort to swing clubs like Trapeze where men alone were not allowed? If we went in together mucho "hot" action would come our way. Frequent visits with Claire had taught him the protocol which, he assured me, cut the risk of catching STD's way down. Additionally, security guards mitigated against trouble from rowdy patrons. Did I, he inquired solemnly, have any cute girlfriends who'd like meet an almost divorced, very available man like himself? Would any of my chums be up for a threesome? Then, throwing his arm across my belly, he fell asleep abruptly.
New Years Eve developed into a night of the long knives that threatened to go on forever. While Desmond slept like a happy infant after being given its bottle, I stayed awake staring into the darkness with aching eyes. Not once did I doze off. The champagne in my stomach threatened to spout forth like a geyser. Finally, at six A.M., I crept out of bed and threw my clothes on willy-nilly. Not using the bathroom, I tiptoed out of the apartment. No taxis in sight, I ran like a maniac down the street toward the closest subway.
New Years day service was so slow that I had to wait what seemed an interminable amount of time. My rumpled condition matched that of a shopping bag lady with whom I shared a bench. Too exhausted to cry, mucus poured out of my nose. The freezing cold outside matched the temperature in my heart, which painfully thumped in my chest.
At home I leaped into bed, hid under the covers and tried to block out the grotesque image of Desmond masturbating over Claire's lover as he bit her black and blue. Finally, I slept all of New Years day. If the rest of the year went like this, a trip to the North Pole or Madagascar became an appealing prospect.
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