He woke a little before 5am Sunday morning.
The weather had finally turned cold and so was his apartment this morning. He lay in bed, refusing to leave the warmth of the covers, wishing Her body was next to him.
They were on a “break.” She is complicated and fragile and wonderful. Her fragile reached its limit at the end of October and they decided to take a break until after the holidays. She needed time to be alone, regroup, read and sleep.
This morning He longed for the feel of Her skin.
They had shared many intimate times. Some of the most intimate had nothing to do with making love. They were travelling, experiencing joys and hardships, joking about Rick the convenience store attendant who called him “Boss” and her “Honey.” Debriefing the day and the week.
But for him the most intimate experiences He had with Her focused on just touching Her, feeling the warmth of Her skin beneath His hands.
When He woke in the mornings, She was usually facing away from him. He would put his arm around Her waist and caress the skin of Her stomach. When they made love, He would caress Her entire body with his palms.
He had told Her “touching your skin nourishes my soul.” This morning, He longed for that nourishment.
The plan was for Him to come down Friday for the holiday weekend. She had been at a conference and out of touch, coming home in the late hours of Wednesday. He thought She would need an evening alone to recuperate before He arrived.
He had missed Her. They had been spending the vast majority of nights together, but it seemed to make Him miss Her more rather than less. They had been apart less than a week and His chest ached for the feel of Her pressed into Him.
Her text surprised Him:
Her: When are you coming? I feel a coma coming on. I miss you. 12:12 PM
Him: I’m sure you need one. I can come any time. Up to you. I have to go home Tue morning kinda no matter what. 12:15 PM
Her: Why? 12:15 PM
Him: I miss you as well, for the record. 12:15 PM
Him: I have a kinda huge week next week. 12:16 PM
Her: You’ve used kinda twice now 12:19 PM
Him: Kinda. It’s my Hordor 12:19 PM
Her: Will coming tomorrow be better? 12:19 PM
Him: Are you asking me to come today? 12:19 PM
Her: I have to work – 230 meeting then I hope to be out. 12:20 PM
Him: You’re great at indirect answers 12:20 PM
Her: Kinda. But really I just want you here for selfish reasons. I need to curl up. 12:21 PM
Him: Geez. I hate that. You’re so demanding. 12:21 PM
Him: Let me get back to you. I would love to come today, but I need to think it thru 12:22 PM
Him: I’ll let you know before 2:30. 12:22 PM
Her: Okay but don’t stress yourself 12:33 PM
Him: Thinking about seeing you is never stress. 12:34 PM
Him: You know how you like to tell me you love me when you are really feeling it? Yeah, I love you always but especially right now. 12:36 PM
Her: ❤️ I love you too right now… Can’t commit to tomorrow… 12:38 PM
Him: Of course not. 12:39 PM
So Thursday evening He drove the 100 miles to Her’s. When He arrived He pushed Her against the wall and kissed Her deeply.
Then again, more passionately.
When we last left our intrepid gourmands, they had just been seated at Stir, that fascinating new restaurant in downtown Chattanooga everybody who is anybody is ignoring. If you missed part I, you can read it here.
Max and Erma arrived.
Max is larger than life in every meaning of the word. He is physically large, he’s loud and always mugging for the invisible camera crew following his every move.
Erma is petite, I think she’s about 5’2″ or so, though I have never seen her in anything but impossibly high heels. I see hammer toe in her future.
They sat down across from us, Max placing his “Wine Tote” on the table. He started drinking only a couple years ago, but has made wine his “thing.”
Brian arrived to take our appetizer order. Max asked if they decant. Brian cocked his head like the RCA dog.
“Decant? You know, decant the wine I brought?”
“I don’t know sir, I’ll have to check.” You would think knowing that kind of thing might be important if you work at a high end restaurant targeting high end drink aficionados. I was guessing Brian’s last name was probably not Einstein. Maybe Trump or Cruz.
Max mugged and shrugged his shoulders for us and the camera crew. He’s an entertaining guy. He may have missed his calling when he went to law school rather than Ringling Brothers.
Apparently decanting was a managerial issue because Brian returned with his. “I’m sorry sir, we don’t decant.” “Well, can you bring us one of these water carafes so we can pour it ourselves?” “Um, no, sorry sir.”
Max mugged again, this time for the manager’s benefit.
The manager receded and Brian asked for our drink orders. I had finished my martini, so I ordered a Maker’s – neat – with ice on the side. I purposefully did NOT say artisanal or even artis-anal. I just wanted “regular” ice – or as it is known outside the artisan universe – “ice”.
I enjoy bourbon. I typically enjoy it straight, but you have to activate it with ice. If one orders bourbon with ice, it is typically filled with ice and you end up with watery bourbon. Watery bourbon is the Devil’s enema.
So I order neat with ice on the side. Which I did. At Stir. The place that specializes in drinks.
Brian returned with our drinks and placed before a small tumbler with my Maker’s and a huge bowl with a single iceberg. I did not order any fucking artisanal ice, yet somehow the hipster gods had seen fit to impose it upon me.
It was massive. 4″ on each side. Much too large to fit into my bourbon glass. It was so big I heard Celine Dion singing “My Heart Will Go On”. I considered asking for an ice pick.
I took a spoon, removed a bourgeois cube from Waco’s water and activated my bourbon.
To be continued…
“Dinner and bar hopping Friday night with Max & Erma?” asked Waco‘s email. “Sounds like a plan.” I replied.
Once I opened the attached PDF menu, I knew I was in trouble.
I stifled a giggle when I read the words “Artisanal Ice.” I imagined a walk-in freezer filled with bearded artisans, all man-buns and tattoo sleeves, sipping Budweiser from Mason jars, using dental picks to carefully craft the perfect cube.
I practiced saying “artis-anal” out loud several times. I reminded myself to not use that particular pronunciation while there.
We arrived early, parked in the adjacent garage and walked into the faux “industrial” space. It was massive and every inch of the floor was covered in people. Waco flashed me a smile of excitement. I threw up a little in my mouth.
Max and Erma had not yet arrived, so Waco put us on the list. “You want to get a drink while we wait?” I muscled my way over to the bar, positioning myself next to an attractive middle-age woman. I held out the traditional $20 to get the tender’s attention.
Reappraising my surroundings, I added a second $20 and I was no longer invisible. A tiny bar maid moved to me. I could see just her nose and eyes above the level of the bar. Looking down I noted she had an incredibly straight part.
Two martinis, Tito’s, extra dirty. Waco, standing behind me, mouthed “like a Catholic school girl.” The Oompa Loompa stood on tiptoe to appraise me and asked “is the second for her?” motioning toward Waco. I nodded yes. “OK, I don’t need to see ID.”
There are some things you don’t do. You don’t notice when your girl gains a few pounds. You don’t start a land war in southeast Asia. You don’t mess around with Slim.
And you never consider carding a woman then deciding she looks so old she doesn’t need to be carded.
Stubby Jr. disappeared behind the wall of bartenders. Waco cursed under her breath. The woman next to me flashed a knowing smile and nod. It said “bitch” in the universal language of people who are too old for this shit.
After a 13 minute eternity, she returned with our drinks. As she handed me the ticket I asked “How much?” “It’s on the ticket.” I pushed my glasses up to my forehead to read the print.
“I didn’t know I needed to be your eyes for you.”
Apparently when you order $12 martinis you also get a free helping of fun-sized feculence.
I paid and our table was announced. We tucked our drinks and Heismaned our way to our seats.
She was special.
She wasn’t perfect, neither was He. He knew and accepted She was appropriately flawed. He was as well. But maybe special meant someone whose flaws somehow matched up with your own. You could both accept and even appreciate the flaws. Maybe the flaws made special even better than perfect.
She was certainly special.
He had never met someone so complicated. Determined, smart, funny, introverted, stubborn. Somehow even the things She saw as Her flaws endeared Her to Him.
It was confusing and made no sense and was…perfect.
He wanted someone strong. Stubborn. Self-directed and self-determined. Even He had to rise to the occasion. He respected Her. He admired Her. He adored Her.
She piloted Her own ship. The most He could hope for with Her was to be at Her side – not directing Her, not “telling” Her, but occasionally advising and encouraging Her on Her voyage.
Partnership not dictatorship.
Monday night they had done the mundane. He sanded discarded furniture She would eventually paint while She walked the infinity of the treadmill. And it was wonderful for both of them. Somehow even the mundane took on a special magic when they were together.
Tuesday night they had navigated together the improving relationship with his son and his growing pains. She advised. She encouraged.
Tuesday He left to return to his ramshackle. He had work to do and tarried a little to long at Suess. But tonight, after they had texted and said their “LYB”‘s, He missed Her. Retiring to His fresh bed, complete with linens he had laundered at Her’s with Her special scent, seemed empty. He wanted to be holding her, feeling her, hearing her occasional half-snore that woke both.
He had spent more nights at Her’s in the last month than at His.
He was encouraged thinking about the weekend, and how they would be together again. He needed once again to savor Her, explore Her, experience Her, truly “see” her. It was His joy.
He went to bed early and woke up to a cold bedroom at 4am. He had left his window open and the 40 degree breeze had overwhelmed any heat. He pulled the pile of blankets up over His face.
The cold made Him think of Her this morning. She, being Texan, loathed it. He knew She was still asleep – her first of several alarms each morning didn’t chime until 6:30 – but that when She stirred She would curse the coming winter.
He wished He were there. His body radiated heat and She loved the warmth. She would curl against Him, His arms firmly around Her, Her face buried under covers against His chest. It was a comfort to Her, but also to Him. He missed it. In truth, He missed it every day.
But it wasn’t time for everyday yet, He had changes to make. She was already making some Herself.
But…this weekend They would fight the cold together
What is intimacy?
I’ve been thinking about this for the last week because of something I experienced and it surprised me.
Last weekend I was in Chattanooga with Waco. She was having a significant health issue. We were in bed, it was the middle of the night.
Over the last year we have shared many exciting, intimate moments. Talking, texting, laughing. Camping, shopping, visiting malls while she pretended to work. Inside jokes. Meeting her kids. Wrapping our feet together in bed. Saying we were “running” when we did the 5K.
This night was different. It wasn’t “fun” or “exciting.” Her body was giving her fits. I was next to her, trying to provide any help I could. Getting crackers and peanut butter. Juice. Setting my alarm every 15 minutes to remind her to check her vitals. Being prepared to take her to the hospital if need be.
I didn’t mind. It didn’t occur to me to mind. I just wanted to care for her completely in any way possible. I knew I couldn’t “fix” things, but I could be there. Lessen the pain at least emotionally. Let her know she wasn’t alone.
She recovered like she always does and bounced back. We made love the next morning before she showered and put on that amazing blouse of hers I love before heading off to work.
Pondering the weekend after I returned home caused me to realize something about myself I hadn’t realized before: Lovingly caring for another person is more intimate for me than almost anything else. More than shared experiences, more than sex. It’s something I need in my life.
I don’t need to be with someone who has chronic health issues, but I need to be with someone who can tell by the things I do how much I care. Providing them with meaningful experiences. Loving experiences.
It nourishes my soul.
Maybe real intimacy is not about the good times. Not about the sex. Not even about the verbal communication. Maybe real intimacy is when you know someone has your back, no matter what, and is going to be there for you.