Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Second Person: A Short Story

Second Person

A Short Story

Matthew S. Field

Copyright © 2017 Matting Leah Publishing Company
All rights reserved. Published by Matting Leah Publishing Company.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written consent of the publisher. For information regarding permission, write to Matting Leah Publishing Company, 21 Grand Street, Warwick, New York 10990-0265.

Second Person

Matthew S. Field

Only a tiny fraction of people could possibly appreciate the kind of weekend you had. You’re in your seventh year as a widower and a single dad, and your son, now seven years old, grieves and misses his mother and doesn’t even know it. His grief manifests in surprising ways. You have more in common with shell-shocked Gulf War veteran than you do with your former career path peers or even your divorced weekend dad friends.
You walk the quarter mile from your house to the bohemian-style café, buy a cup of free trade, the black stuff, find the only chair that affords no opportunity for company, and begin to read what most people consider to be very good popular fiction. You really don’t care that the café is bohemian style. You just like the relative tranquillity. You don’t care one way or the other that the coffee is free trade. You know the world works a certain way and that’s all right with you. Besides, free trade is probably bullshit and just another excuse to improve the retailer’s bottom line. You do, however, care that the book you’re reading engages you. You hate when you feel obligated to read a novel someone had given to you and it sucks ass. This one doesn’t. It won’t win any literature prizes, but it’s engaging and it’s sold about a gazillion and nine copies. That’s roughly a gazillion more copies than any of the books you’ve written have sold.
          You cross into that meditative state. The pace of your heartbeat regulates as you process the words and engage the fairly well-conceived plot line. You sip your coffee, but it’s difficult not to glance up. Your sixth sense compels you.
A striking woman wearing black sweats strides confidently past you, sits down at a table directly across the room from your solitary cushioned chair, and pulls a laptop from her bag. You return to your reading. You don’t notice the woman looking over at you.
          “Do you know how to connect to the Internet here?”
          You hear the question from across the room, but you don’t acknowledge. It’s part of the white noise you find so comforting. You continue to read.
          “Excuse me. Do you know how to connect to the Internet in here?”
          You realize the woman in the black sweats is asking the question. She looks at you, smiling, awaiting an answer. For the first time, you look directly at her. Your mind quickly processes. Dark hair. Perfect olive skin. A cherubic, perpetually blushing face. A smile that could light a small city. Dark eyes in which a guy could get lost. Thirty-fiveish. No makeup. She’s one of those lucky girls who doesn’t need it.
          “I’ve tried to connect here before,” you answer. “I haven’t had any luck. The girl behind the counter is Elyse. Maybe she can help you.”
          Your eyes move down again. In the periphery, you see the woman stride confidently around the corner and then back again a few moments later with the barista in tow. Minutes pass. You lose track of her progress as you return to the drama you hold in your hands.
          “Couldn’t get it to work.”
          You look up again, realizing the statement is directed at you. You notice the way she talks is very much like the way she walks.
“Yeah. I don’t know what it is about the Wi-Fi here.”
It’s not that you’re not interested in women, or, in particular, this woman. It’s not that you lack confidence. You’re just not really looking for anything right now, other than a little quiet to disconnect from the rest of your world a little, read, and relax. Besides, the woman likely just dropped her kids at school. She’s probably married. There’s just not any chance of anything happening and you don’t feel like making small talk. You return to your book hoping for no further interruption.
“What are you doing here on a Monday morning?”
You’ve read about a page and a half. You smile ironically.
“I had a crazy weekend. I need a little bit of downtime. This is how I spend some of my downtime.”
“I mean, don’t you work?”
“Well, yes and no. I don’t know. I’m a writer. I do other things, too.”
“Oh, wow. What have you written?”
You swallow the last of your coffee. You’d already had two cups at home while you were getting the kids fed, dressed, and off to school. Now your bladder has also become a distraction. “A couple of children’s books. A grown-up novel that will be released in a month or so.”
“Oh, that’s great. So, why was your weekend so crazy?”
Not even one paragraph.
“Ah, just with the kids. I have three. They’re great and I love them, but they’re a lot of work. The older ones are pretty self-sufficient. Of course, they don’t drive, which means I’m a part of their social calendar. I have a seven-year-old son and he’s another story. This weekend was just particularly nutty.”
“Sounds like you’re a stay-at-home dad. Are you divorced?”
“A widower.”
“I’m very sorry.”
“Thanks,” you reply automatically.
Pause. Silence. Okay, that might be it. You try to find the place you left off. After a moment, you pick back up. One page. Two pages. Characters engaged. Contemplative state reacquired.
“I know who you are. You wrote . . . I have that book.”
What are the odds?
You stand up, leave the pulpy novel on the table next to your chair and walk toward the bathroom, which brings you in close proximity to the woman’s table.
“Yeah, that was me.”
You concede. Instead of walking directly back to your chair after you finish in the bathroom, you walk over to the woman’s table. You notice that she’s not wearing a wedding ring.
“My name is . . . and it looks like you’re empty. Can I buy you a cup of coffee?”
“Tea,” she answers.

You sit on your living room couch with the woman. With the exception of her top, she’s wearing the same black sweats she wore the first day you met her. As for her top, it’s on top of her sports bra on the floor next to your family room sofa.
          You see her twice more after that first day. The second time is at the coffee shop again when she tells you a little about the husband from whom she separated about three months earlier, her art, her love for the outdoors, and her passion for Botticelli. She tells you about the framed poster of “The Birth of Venus” in her tea room.
“What’s a tea room?” you ponder.
When you meet a woman for coffee and talk about stuff like that, even if you do it a ten o’clock in the morning, it’s a date.
She tells you about her kids. She’s got four. The oldest is nine.
When she has to retrieve the four-year-old from preschool, you walk her out and give her a hug. The hug feels surprisingly natural. You plan another ten o’clock in the morning date in a week at a nearby state park where she sometimes fishes in her kayak.
The day at the state park is surprisingly cold. You choose fashion over comfort and underdress. She arrives a few minutes late, but that’s all right because you really want to see her. She hops out of a colossal SUV and hugs you. You walk and talk for a few minutes. Then, the two of you sit down at a picnic table. She doesn’t like sitting opposite you, so she positions herself on the table top and straddles you with her legs. You arrange your arms to rest on top of her cute chicken noodle thighs wrapped in stylishly torn jeans. Your hands are perfectly arrayed to encircle her hips. She leans down to kiss you. You kiss as much as you talk.
She explains she hasn’t been the mother of four children, but five. She tells you that the man from whom she is separated is a little too 420 friendly. He was 21 and she was 19 when they married She expected him to grow up with her, but he never really did. She tells you the significance of each of her four children’s names and that each was a caesarian birth. She tells you that she hasn’t had much in the way of marital relations during the past few years and, when she had, it had not been terribly satisfying. She tells you that her friends said she should find a mature, good-enough-looking guy, and get laid. She tells you that’s not her style. She tells you she has to love a man and be emotionally connected to a man to give herself to a man like that. She tells you that she thinks you’re handsome. She tells you that she’s glad you asked to buy her tea at the bohemian style café two weeks earlier. When it’s time to leave, “for being such a good kisser” she gives you as a reward—a rubber frog fishing lure. The gift seems strangely apropos.
You were supposed to have gone to the library this morning, find a book about Botticelli, and research “The Birth of Venus.” You actually start at the library and you actually find a book about Botticelli. As you’re sitting in one of the library’s study rooms with the giant Botticelli book open in front of the two of you, though, you find yourself barely able to keep your hands off of her. You suggest that the two of you check out the Botticelli book and go back to your house where it’s quieter and more comfortable. The library is, in fact, fairly quiet; you actually mean more private. Now her top is on the floor next to your family room sofa on top of her bra. You were right about more comfortable.
“Take your shirt off,” she demands.
Your respond nonverbally.
“You are so good looking,” she tells you.
“And, you are hard on my ego. You are incredible, by the way.”
She is incredible. You’re not ashamed of the fact that you are very visual and she is extremely easy on the eye. Her breasts are beautiful and, by the way she pulls off her shirt and support, she’s very proud of them. When your hands move down below her waist, though, she invokes the Monroe Doctrine.
“I want you, but I just didn’t want to do that today.”
“We don’t have to. I just want to do something for you.”
She’s unresolved. She tells you that she hasn’t been with anyone but her husband for a long time and not often at that. In spite of her friends’ advice, she’s unsure.
“I want to, but I don’t know.”
“That’s all right. I don’t want to move fast, either.”
After you slip the sweats off over her feet, she stands up and pulls down her lacy blue panties. She’s hairless. Her clitoris is swollen to the size and approximate color of a large, ripe cherry.
You say, “Lay down.”
You think, “Botticelli, this is the work of art.”
You come to her and hold her. You take your time. You breath her. You kiss her. You slide down and put her mouth on her. You glance up and look into her eyes. Eyes locked, in your field of vision you notice two, nearly identical scars about three inches in length, one just under each of her breasts.
In moments, you find her rhythm and literally seconds later, she writhes and doesn’t stop until you do. You would have continued indefinitely, but she has to get her son from preschool. She looks down at you in disbelief and an unexpected understanding.
She asks breathlessly and without pretense, “Will you promise to do that any time I ask you?”

After a more traditional date, the kind that happens at night and involves getting dressed and going out and ends with intimacy, you realize that the two of you have a rare and beautiful connection. She seems to realize it, too.
          The following week, she starts to spend the mornings, during which her four-year-old son is at preschool, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and her other three are at their respective schools, in your bed. You make raspberry tea and have it ready for her every day before she arrives. From the start, you make love to her and she makes love to you with a passion, an intensity, and a familiarity that most people never achieve. She is generous. She is uninhibited. She is appreciative.
          She tells you, “It turns me on when you do to me exactly what you want to me.”
“I met this woman for the first time three weeks ago,” you silently muse with some incredulity.
          The beautiful rut you create in your bed includes some variety of patient, but intensely satisfying mutual release; followed by conversation; followed by patient, but another intensely satisfying, mutual release; followed by making the bed and getting dressed.
          During one naked conversation, she tells you, when she was three years old, her father left her mother. She tells you that she fears abandonment, which is probably the reason she wordlessly consented to the two decade codependent relationship with the father of her children. You tell her in excruciating detail the story of how you lost your wife. You tell her about your fear of loss, which is probably the reason you haven’t yet allowed yourself to open your heart to anyone.
          You observe, not without a measure of irony, “I think this woman might just be my kind of crazy.”

          She asks you to recommend a book the two of you can read when you are naked. You choose Steppenwolf; “There are always a few such people who demand the utmost of life and yet cannot come to terms with its stupidity and crudeness.”
Sometimes when you are physically spent and satisfied, you sidle next to her under the sheets and read. She adores you for it. She calls it the “Naked Book Club.” Your second selection is Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan. “‎A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
          You tell her, “I love you.”
          She answers, “I love you.”

You become convinced that she’s your kind of crazy. Sure, like every woman you’ve ever known, she’s a lunatic. Somehow, though, her brand of lunacy is okay with you. Your pet name for her is MKOC, short for “My Kind of Crazy.”
Sometimes, she blames herself for what she believes is her father’s abandonment of her. The internal struggle manifests in peculiar ways. As a child in her mind’s eye when she sees her father, he is spending time with other, different women every time instead of spending time with her. She fosters a jealousy uncommon in the animal world. Although perhaps not as profound inasmuch as you have some perspective, your fear of loss originates from the death of your wife. For you, anyway, the relevance of the practical loss of a spouse, considering your responsibility for three children, is at least as great as the void created by the removal of a loving and emotionally supportive partner. She doesn’t want to be abandoned. You don’t want to lose her.
          Your kind of crazy.

          “Look at me,” she says, straddling your hips under the sheets. A fire’s smoldering in the fireplace. A tepid cup of tea and an empty Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrapper sit on the nightstand next to the most recent selection of Naked Book Club, a tattered hard-cover copy of The Grapes of Wrath. “There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do.”
          She loves the story. She adores you reading it to her in a way that only a woman who’d been abandoned as a three-year-old girl by her father could. Like only a mother can, she identifies with Steinbeck’s description of Rose of Sharon, who gives a starving man life with her breast milk that had been intended for a child, now miscarried.
          “Look at me,” she repeats. “I love you and I will never leave you. I know that. I don’t want anyone else.”
          You nuzzle tenderly into her breasts and fall asleep.


As always, thank you for reading The Single Father's Guide Blog.  I hope you have enjoyed the preview of my short fiction, Second Person: A Short Story. Please support the blog; click the banner below, order the ebook version on Amazon Kindle for only $1.49, and read the conclusion of the story. Thank you.
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