It was not only her approach that floored Raymond, but her appearance as well. He remembered as she walked towards him, when he turned the corner at 57th and 8th towards the subway, that he initially thought she was one of those Jehovah’s Witnesses. Her red hair was loosely curled and cropped short. She wore a well-tailored olive green suit, the skirt ending just above cream colored knees, and she carried a bunch of magazines in the crook of her left arm. On that shoulder hung a rust colored purse. In closer proximity, he noted the fresh smile and clear green eyes level with his. He was sure he had met her before. Was she one of the head-hunters from Barlow’s?
Raymond saw a round gold stud in her right ear when she spoke: “Hi. Maybe you would like to see me one night. I live just up the street,” and as he passed her, “I could give you my business number,” he smelled a soft, powdery scent. He smiled in return, raised his right hand and shook his head apologetically.
Hi. Maybe you would like to see me one night. I live just up the street. I could give you my business number. Those were her words — exactly.
Raymond wrote them down as soon as he passed through the turn-stile, as much not to forget them, as to analyze them. And analyze her words he did: through the dreary subway ride, through the 15-minute bus trip from station to home, through dinner and through a restless night, refus-ing to discard the notion that this was a pass and not a proposition.
“Lydia, do I look especially exhausted — needy?” he asked his wife the following morning.
She laughed as she turned on the shower. “A long day ahead, huh?”
“Got a proposition yesterday.”
“No, not Barlow’s. A hooker.”
“A real one? Well, aren’t we proud?”
“Really — do I look desperate?”
“Well, actually from the eyes of a prostitute, any guy looks desperate, no?”
“I can’t understand why she picked me?”
“Maybe she got caught up with your resemblance to Tom Cruise, sweetie, or maybe she just had to pay the rent, Ray.”
“More like someone older—the resemblance. She was about 40, not your typical—”
“Ray, I’ve got news for you. One is never too old to appreciate Tom Cruise.” She turned up the radio and stepped into the shower.
Raymond palmed a clear, wet circle into the fogged mirror and looked at his disheveled image. Damn. He did look needy. Red lines created a grid-lock on their way through the whites of his eyes into the brown. He put his hands under the hot water then pressed them to his eyes. He finger-combed his dark hair, smoothing it back and thought about getting a hair cut.
“Careful with the hot water, please. Don’t just let it run, will you?” he heard Lydia say.
Maybe you would like to see me one night. I live just up the street. He felt the urge to urinate and pressed his hips against the blue-Formica vanity, moving in rhythm to Elton’s latest. He thought briefly about getting it down in the shower with Lydia but didn’t want to start the day with an argument. Instead, he reached for the toothbrush and paste and brushed furiously.
Maybe you would like to see me one night… He remembered sex with Lydia as it used to be: the spontaneity, the easy slide, the pleasure moans, the synchronized orgasms. Now Lydia just says get it over with and doesn’t even make the effort to fake it. He, taking idiotic pride in her honesty, will get it over with, usually in a matter of about 68 thrusts. And that’s okay somehow, just to relieve the built-up tension of the day.
Raymond couldn’t pin-point exactly when sex changed from exciting to tranquilizing but now he longed for the excitement of unfamiliar terrain and heated valleys — even if the heat was synthetic. Although, he told himself, with that smile and those eyes, how could it be anything but honest? Maybe you would like to see me one night.
He lathered up and proceeded to shave, immediately nicking himself just below the right nostril. He reached for a tissue, tore off a corner, and pressed it onto the spot. By the time he finished shaving he had three bits of tissue on the right side of his face but the distraction allowed him to urinate.
“Come to think of it, you do look a little needy,” Lydia said later when she gently peeled the tissue pieces, “Maybe tonight, after I get my nails done.”
Raymond knew the odds of getting it after a manicure were a long shot, but he let it go with as sexy a growl as he could muster and a lip-tap to her right cheek. “See, ya,” he said, as he reached for his attache. “Love you.”
Raymond boarded the bus and took the usual window seat near the rear exit. He leaned his head against the window and lost track of time … He was aware of the soft powdery scent before the light nudge to his left shoulder as she took the seat next to him. He felt the warm pressure to his thigh and saw slim fingers; short nails buffed to a pale pink luster.
“Maybe you would like to see me one night…”
“Why me?” Raymond whispered.
Feldman is a retired high school English teacher. She is working on a novella and short stories and is hunting for an agent — “Aren’t we all!” she notes.