It is the end of another long night at my bar. I am spitting out orders to the closing staff, and swallowing the last sip of my single drink of the night. A medium sized man approaches me. Despite the late hour he is unlike the other drinkers who linger. His calm surrounds him in a cloud and I want to step into it.
I can’t quite tell which celebrity he looks like. But one of them. It remains just on the outskirts of my brain as we talk, and I am distracted by this and his forearms while he asks as many questions as he answers. The lines in his dark skin make him seem older than his age. So do his quiet voice and still soul. I wonder if I will corrupt him or he will fix me. In either case there will be a equalization of our energy. He talks to me about green building and takes me to his modest handmade house by the stream. It is starting to seem like all of the guys at my cosmopolitan bar live in houses made of gently worn wood. I offer myself a quick “that’s what she said” and laugh a bit as I am looking through his book shelf. He wants to know which title I found funny and I search for one, but they are all as serious as he is so I let the laugh linger, unexplained.
As he sets the table I remind myself that it is unlikely to be bear like the last failed date. In fact it is actual chicken, not just something that tastes like it. I imagine myself here, sharp edges warn down in a lovely way. Acid replaced by base.
I am still pulling out the dead dad story to make myself seem less like a privileged priss. I lived my childhood in his reflected glow and now I live my adulthood in his shadow. He created actual art not just renovated restaurants. My description is t is relevant not just animated. My father’s collection is being showcased at a museum in Montreal that is prestigious and less than two hours away. We make a date to drive to the opening together and to go to the celebratory dinner that follows.
He picks me up in a coat and tie, an anathema in Vermont and more so on him. A lump forms in my throat that I never swallow down. At first I think this is attraction, but realize that the way I can’t breathe feels bad. At the museum I feel even worse. I look at the pieces that I lived with growing up. They are separated by glass, lit too brightly, they are as apart from me as I am from my escort. In the gallery I can barely hear the curator’s talk through the rushing sound in my head. He reaches for my hand to offer comfort and I tell him I am drowning under waves of grief which might not actually be a lie. He drives me home in silence after we beg off of the fancy dinner which puts out our French speaking hosts. I barely talk as we cross the border.
I am thinking of my father, of the art that is timeless yet somehow no longer mine. Breathing is still hard until I bring to mind the man from the dog park who will one day become my husband. I wish it was him driving the car.
As I climb out of the car I have no idea that he will be the last. I know that it went differently, that I didn’t either let him or force him to sleep with me. That this one final time I didn’t ponder the power play. I froze. I sent him away. I stepped out of his car and into my new life, where I didn’t always spit all over people, but I would take my medicine and swallow my fury until I could reabsorb it into some semblance of self.
I did all of this with Steve. But that is another story.