Featured Artwork: “Corelation3002” by Kaelin Ian Cooper
I set the hot beef sandwich in front of him trying not to think about how much I like him. Especially the Irish accent, like nothing I’ve heard before, except on TV. He’s older than the men I go out with, probably in his mid-forties, more than twice my age, but still, I like the way his eyes take in my body, soft, like a caress. I can almost feel his fingers on my skin. “Thanks,” he says, smiling up at me. I smile back and leave with an extra wiggle.
“Good for business,” the owner says, referring to him and the other fourteen men at the table. All part of a work crew coming to the diner for three meals a day. They’re set up in trailers, a half-mile outside of town, near where I live. Trucks full of asphalt barreling up the road along the coast, for the next several months.
After the work crew leaves, I clear the dirty dishes from the table, dropping their generous tips into my pocket.
The men bring a welcome change to the town. Beats serving the same old crowd, knowing what they’ll order soon as they walk in.
After weeks of waiting on them, learning their names, standing beside Clifford—the Irish one—while taking their orders, I lean in close enough that my hipbone presses against his elbow. He finally gets the hint and asks me out.
I smile and accept.
At home I take a long rose-scented bubble bath, erasing all traces of greasy deep-fried food from my skin. Standing in front of the mirror I brush my long dark hair and leave it hanging loose, instead of in a ponytail. I put on a tight red top, sexier than the baggy waitress uniform he’s always seen me in. I pull on my jeans and sit by the window, waiting for him, excited and nervous.
He arrives in a white diesel Rabbit, sounding almost as noisy as the trucks at his workplace. Off we head to a tavern, his strong spicy aftershave filling the air. I smile, thinking of how he cleaned himself up, how he’s wearing a well-pressed shirt and dress pants, how he’s not like the young guys I hang out with that put in no effort at all.
I’m on a date! Usually, I meet guys at parties, in the park, at the beach, or at someone’s house. Guys and girls pair off and get to the sex part fast. No one wastes time or money on going to a movie or dinner. That’s how it happens in my world.
So, I feel special, like a girl in a movie.
The Dolphin Tavern is dimly lit with heavy round dark wooden tables and chairs. We sit in the corner where it’s private and quiet. We order beers and fish and chips.
“A pretty girl like you must have a boyfriend,” he says.
“No,” I say. “No one special.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“Well, it’s true.”
The waitress brings our food. I like being on the receiving end.
While we eat, he tells me of growing up in Ireland, of moving to Nova Scotia in his teens. I soak it all in, having never lived anywhere but where I am. I am trying to imagine leaving home and crossing an ocean.
When he opens his wallet to pay, I glimpse a photo of a smiling woman and three children. Why didn’t I think of this before? A man in his forties. What was I thinking? Guess I wasn’t. Now here I am.
“Divorced?” I ask. He closes his wallet, tucks it back in his pocket,
“No,” he says without hesitation. “Married.”
“Really?” I’m disappointed, but try not to let it show.
“Really.” He smirks.
I nod and smile, wanting him to think me cool.
“What the wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her,” he says.
“Nice way of looking at it. I guess.”
“Is it a problem?”
“Good.” He says, we clink our beer mugs in a toast and leave the tavern.
“Do you know of a quiet place where we can go?”
“My place,” I say.
“Don’t you live with your parents?”
“Yeah, but I have my own place out back.”
Once at my place, he wastes no time in getting my clothes off and pressing his naked body next to mine. The sex is over before I even know it’s begun.
I lay in bed and light a cigarette.
“Sorry, I was so quick,” he says, “been a while. Next time I’ll last longer.” He hugs me. “I promise.”
A few days later he comes back to my place. No going out this time. Instead, he brings a case of beer and we sit by candlelight talking and drinking. He tells me about his kids. I tune him out. I don’t want to know. He tells me his wife was his high school sweetheart. I don’t want to know about her, either. It makes me sad that twenty years of marriage seems so meaningless. I smile and nod as he talks. I sleep with him again because I’m just no damn good at saying no.
Sex turns out no different with him than one of the young guys I’m used to. He’s into the typical man on top. Nothing as special as I’ve read about in books. Did I expect too much? I try getting on top, but he pulls me back down. He isn’t as gentle as I thought he’d be. After he finishes, he rolls off, lets out a big sigh, and grins. “Wow,” he says, “that was great.” Like he just finished a large meal, proud for cleaning his plate.
“Don’t you feel guilty fucking around on your wife?” I sit up, my back against the wall, and reach for my pack of cigarettes.
“Why should I?” He turns his head and stares at me. “I take care of her. Why should it bother you?”
“Isn’t marriage supposed to mean something?” I flick my lighter, stick the end of my cigarette into the flame, take a long drag, blow out a long stream of smoke.
He shakes his head, reaches for his shirt. “I think you women complicate things too much.”
“Oh, you do? Do you?” I take another long hard drag, this time blowing the smoke straight at him.
“Yes.” He waves his hand, clearing the smoke from his face. He reaches over, squeezes my thigh. “I do.”
“Huh.” I take another drag, exhale quickly. “Wasn’t I do what you once said to your wife?”
“Oh Barbara, when my crew packs up and moves on, I’ll never see you again. She’ll never know. So how will this ever hurt my wife?”
“Have you done this before?” I ask, suddenly realizing how stupid I’ve been, thinking myself the first.
“Sure.” He stares like I shouldn’t need to ask. “What did you think?”
I don’t answer. I lean over, crush my cigarette in the ashtray.
“Look, every time I’m out of town I find myself a girl.” He rolls over and tickles my side. “It’s always easy finding someone looking for fun.”
I pull away. “That’s what this is? Fun?” I roll over, light another cigarette.
“Isn’t it for you?” He sits up, grabs my hip, and pulls me back around, trying to kiss me. I break free, my cigarette almost burning him.
“Sure,” I say, sitting on the edge of the bed, “this is definitely fun.” He doesn’t seem to get my sarcasm, just as he doesn’t seem to get a lot of other things. I set my cigarette in the ashtray and stand. “It’s late.” I pull on my jeans. “I work in the morning. You do too,” I pause, the say, “You should go.”
I pick up my T-shirt from off the floor. Slip it on and sit back down on the bed and pick up my cigarette. What did I think? He was going to fall in love and marry me. Ha! He’s already married. Guess there go all my dreams of something different.
He treats me like I’m nothing special, like a plain old burger and fries. I’m as ordinary as putting socks on in the morning. I could throw a tantrum, but I hold the storm inside.
I am no longer drawn to his dark dancing eyes. The spell’s been broken, even his Irish accent can’t pull me back in. My prince is nothing more than a tarnished piece of silver. He pulls me close, but I push him away. He finishes dressing. I open the door for him to leave.
“What would your wife say if she found out what you’re doing?” I ask the next time he comes over.
“She’ll never find out,” he smirks, eyes twinkling. “Never has…never will.
Cocky prick. Wish I had her phone number. I’d give her a call.
His hands on my body make me want to throw up, but he doesn’t seem to notice, or he doesn’t care. I let him do what he wants to do like I’m a dead fish on a serving platter.
When he finishes, I pull away and say, “I’m open-minded, but married is married. Something in life must have meaning. I want marriage to be that something.”
“You’re young,” he laughs, nuzzling my neck. “You’ve got a lot yet to learn.”
“And I guess you’re going to teach me?”
He grabs my crotch. “Sure trying.”
I pull his hand away.
No longer does he even want conversation. He’s in a hurry, wanting only one thing. He wants me as convenient as a drive-through.
I sleep with him because I don’t know how to stop what I’ve begun. And I now hate serving him three meals a day when the work crew comes to the diner.
“Whew, hot stuff,” he says, when I set down his chicken and fries. “And I don’t mean the food.” He chuckles. The guys laugh. He looks at me and winks. I offer a fake smile. I’d like to drop the food in his lap. Burn his balls. I’m sure he’s told them all about the hot piece of ass he’s getting up the road. I want to scream at how dumb I’ve been, but instead, I keep smiling and come back later to clear their plates and offer them pie. He says, “I’d rather have you. You’re the sweetest dessert I know.”
I take it all in stride, biting my lip, not wanting to be rude, not wanting to lose my job.
My strategy is to avoid him as much as possible, so I don’t need to laugh at his jokes. As much as possible, I get another waitress to serve their table. Even though I hate losing out on the good tips. I’d rather not have to keep pretending I still like him.
Anger fills me. I could kick myself for being so wrong about him. Why did I think I could be more than a living, breathing sex toy, or more than his wife, waiting for him at home? I think of her and wonder if she’s aware she’s married to a lying cheating bastard? This whole thing makes me sad and fearful of ever becoming like her.
He persists in wanting to set up a time to meet. I ignore him. When I do answer, I tell him I’m busy. I come up with any excuse I can without pissing him off and losing the diner business and having the boss mad at me. She’s aware I’m sleeping with him. She’s told me, “You mess around all you want, but don’t make trouble with my customers. I’m not losing money because you don’t know how to handle a man.”
He persists, parking his car at the end of the road, facing towards my house. He flicks his headlights on and off. The signal. If I am at home, I’m to turn the house lights on and off, in rapid succession, then head out to meet him.
I like to sit and stare out the darkened window at him sitting in his car, blinking his lights, like an SOS. I imagine the hard-on in his pants, his desire for release. It gives me pleasure that he won’t be getting any from me. I enjoy playing him for a fool, even if he’s not aware he’s being one.
He would never dare come knock on my door unless he’s sure I’m there.
I look through the phone book for his name in the town he’s said he’s from. I find it and pick up the phone to call, but then decide I don’t want to tell his wife.
Eventually, he drives away. I imagine him going back to his bunk to jerk off. Does he think of his wife or me?
In another month he’ll be leaving town and I will be free of him. Next time I won’t be so quick to strike up a relationship with a customer, for I don’t want to be the special of the day.