A Man Like Me

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Internet was made for a man like me.

Submitted: September 20, 2006

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Submitted: September 20, 2006

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 The Internet was made for a man like me.

I never had trouble getting girls when I was in high school and college. I was fit, athletic, had a full head of hair, "a fantastic personality," the girls told me, and more fantastic career prospects, I told myself.

Fast-forward twenty-five years. Though most of my hair has fallen out, I weigh the same as I did in high school-no paunch like many of my friends. Because of all the tennis and golf at the club plus rollerblading with my kids, most days I feel like I'm twenty-five.

I'm uncomfortable with some extra flesh settling around my jaw. When I turned forty, individual years began to show up on my face as if slathered on two or three at a time. But the Internet doesn't know that. It's a faceless facelift, the perfect tool for finding old girlfriends to play electronic footsie. Women who like to be titillated but don't want to throw over comfortable lives.

Nothing short of plastic surgery could make me look twenty years younger. And I don't want to go that route. I don't need cosmetic intervention or antioxidants or pomegranate juice for a vigorous Internet presence. A technology based on 0's and 1's traveling in octets gives me virtual virility.

So I'm married. I don't want to wreck that. I've provided for my family for years. My wife trusts me; I've given her a good life. I never need to explain my actions. Late hours at the office and frequent travel with wireless devices give me all the privacy I want.

Because of directories published as often as my alma mater does reunions, college girlfriends are easy to locate. The challenge is finding girls I dated in high school-new last names, new hometowns, no alumni directories.

I have great research skills. Armed with tidbits from class reunions, I can track down high school girls. If it takes a little reconnaissance, the end result is more fulfilling.

It's one of two scenarios with these women: They're either single mothers broken by an ugly divorce or by uglier custody battles; or they've been married as long as I have and want to alleviate the drudgery of marriages lasting into double digit anniversaries. I've found the married ones to be more responsive than women on the rebound and lots more playful. Within a dozen emails, they're talking about their sex lives. Innocuously at first, playing at coy.

"Did I just say that?" they ask, wanting me to think they're blushing on the other end.

If they're doing it a lot, they're dying to tell me how much, as if to say, "If you wouldn't have dumped me, you'd be getting a lot, too." If their husbands are selfish lovers, they can't wait to vent their frustration: "It's no good. It's always about him. I wish he thought about what I need."

Once sex is out on the e-table, they offer up particulars like a pure sacrifice to Eros, a guilty pleasure they've earned, these married mothering martyrs.

When I found Daphne in cyberspace, I hit the mother lode. She was primed for me, had been for twenty-five years. She was the most talented girl in high school. She could paint, write, and act. That's how we met, doing a play together during my senior year. A kooky blonde two years behind me with great legs and a tennis game better than lots of girls on the school team, she chased me down like a short lob on a grass court. Once I conceded I was attracted to her, she loved me with her heart wide open. I never asked her to love me that much. I only wanted to have a little fun before I left for college.

She made me love her the summer of 1974. Pouring herself into short shorts, glowing after a hard tennis match, sweat droplets revealing her nipples, twirling her fingers through the hair curling on her neck from the summer swelter-all these things drove me to distraction. I said some things I regret. Why I told her she made me dream about my life with her, that I could see us having children together, I'll never know. Tenderhearted teenage girls never forget anything.

I hated to do it, but I had to dump her. Twice in the 1970s-once after I started college, then after I finished college. I had come home the summer before I left for grad school and found her waiting tables at some déclassé club. We had a little fling, but I made myself clear. I didn't want to do the long-distance dance with her.

Who wanted to be tied down to a girl back home? Not that I knew who or what I wanted. I just knew I didn't want her. Compared to all the girls I'd met in college, she was nobody special.

So when we hooked up again in 2003, she might have sought vindication for those misdeeds. Not that she was a vindictive woman. Definitely flaky, but not vengeful.

Daphne was a right brain, left-leaning, feelings-are-where-it's-at visual artist who saw beauty in everything, even in shadows. She said she needed to see the God-breathed inspiration of the color moonshadow she used in her paintings. One winter evening, she got on a standby to Denver and drove to an isolated mountain region nearby. She waited until the moon rose high enough behind the sierra to cast indescribable purple-blue shadows onto the snow below her. That was the purpose of an expensive trip out West, to see a color that matched a tube of paint.

She needed a shred of validation for the sensitivity she'd clung to despite her lackluster life as a high school art teacher and working mother. Throw in the occasional sympathetic word, and she was moonshadow to be worked on your palette.

An insecure woman with a matched set of family baggage, she needed men in her life, a stream of men besides me. Especially after her father died. Not surprisingly, she made a safe marriage to an older man who would take care of her, a man who would never throw her over for an electronic indiscretion with an old boyfriend.

After we traded dozens of safe emails-sports, music, teenage kids, some of her sexual fantasies about me crept into our conversations.

"Midlife for me must be what your teenage years were for you. It seems like I think about sex non-stop."

"What are thinking about right now, Daphne?"

"Umm. I'm thinking about you and me getting stuck in an elevator. You're pressing me up against the side of the car and hiking up my flouncy skirt while your mouth closes on mine. Intoxicated by your sweet, clean smell, I sink to my knees, my hands, wild with expectation, fumbling with your belt, because I can't wait to take you in my mouth."

"Like in Fatal Attraction?"

"What made you think of that, David?"

"Don't know. The elevator scene, maybe."

"That's right. I forgot about that scene. Whenever they replay it on cable, it's always cut out.

"Maybe you should rent the movie. Watch it a few times."

"Would you like me to, David? Would it please you if I did?"

She begged me to tell her everything that pleased me. I told her I liked women who wanted to be on top and who did it on the kitchen floor. That must have turned her on because she tip-typed a stream of sensual nothings I could almost see falling from her glossy lips. Sometimes when we talked, shrouded in the World Wide Web, I pictured Daphne wearing something diaphanous, typing with one hand and touching herself with the other.

I thought Daphne would be good for this kind of cyber-tainment for years.

Almost a year to the day we got reacquainted in cyberspace, she confessed she never stopped loving me. I stirred up feelings in her she had closeted for thirty years. What normal woman would still have feelings for a man she hadn't seen in decades?

I knew she was menopausal. She wrote about hot flashes and mood swings more than once. But I hadn't counted on her emotional insolvency. She'd been married to the same man for twenty years, held responsible jobs, had athletic kids bound for private colleges. What right did she have to melt into an emotional pool on my watch?

She didn't want to get to know the man I'd become. She used the broadband connection I laid to tether herself to her memories of a love-struck high school boy who vanished with my virginity. If she had acted more like other women her age, things might have been golden between us, or at least cadmium-yellow-medium, for God knows how many more years. Five more years? Ten more?

Two months ago, she got all emotional with me on I.M. So typical of her. Trying to gush through a flimsy cyberspace connection.

Pray4Peace: when can i see u, david, i want to see u so badly
Sir_Reptitious: not coming east anytime soon
Pray4Peace: if u won't see me i'll i.m. u every day for my daily dose of u
Sir_Reptitious: you shouldn't need to talk to me every day, that's not normal
Pray4Peace: i know i don't need 2...i want 2
Sir_Reptitious: I can't write you every day
Pray4Peace: u can't or u won't
Sir_Reptitious: I won't okay... for God's sake spend some time with your husband...do something with your kids...take a long break from me
Pray4Peace: please don't push me away, i'm begging u, it took sooo long for us 2 find each other again
Sir_Reptitious: it's never going to be about you and me again...at least not for mePray4Peace: i don't understand....why did u get back in touch with me
Sir_Reptitious: curiosity, with a little nostalgia thrown in for fun
Pray4Peace: itz not fun, itz never fun anymore, u never talk about your feelings for me
Sir_Reptitious: what feelings

There was a long pause, about thirty minutes, until she signed on again.

Pray4Peace: help me understand...why did you leave me...weren't we happy together... don't you remember... you said you'd always love me
Sir_Reptitious: understand this, okay? I'm married. I've been married for twenty years...not to you...I'm never going to be married to you...I don't love you
Pray4Peace: i see what i am to u now...easy entertainment
Sir_Reptitious: no one in his right mind would call you easy
Pray4Peace: when the stable little world u built with little wifey-poo got boring...you hooked up with me for a little cyber-cheating
Sir_Reptitious: don't bring my wife into this...don't ever talk about her like that again
Pray4Peace: i get it...u love her...u don't love me...but i'm not sorry i told u i love you... true feelings need noooooo apology...they are sheer...they are pure...they are beautiful

I'd had about enough of touchy-feely Daphne. She was out of control. I had to cut the cord. What choice did I have?

I stopped hearing from her after that conversation, like she had fallen off the face of her SyncMaster 4NE. With any luck, she gracefully bowed out before I could officially dump her for a third time. One less problem for me.
 
I could search for Linda, who'd always been harder to get to know in high school. Not as talented, but prettier than Daphne. A fresh-faced, buxom beauty. Unlike shapely legs and tight asses that thicken or droop as women age, big breasts never disappear. Swapping emails with Linda would be more fun because Daphne had definitely become a drag towards the end. But I had no idea whether Linda had married or where she might be living. I'd have to wait until August and travel a thousand miles for a solid lead.

Last week at my thirty-year reunion, before the dinner-dance, I stopped in at everyone's favorite watering hole for happy hour. Sitting at the end of the bar was a guy I couldn't stand in high school. You know the type-beefy class clown, his size exceeded only by his boorishness. People can change. I pulled up a stool.

"I don't think I've seen you since the night we graduated. What's up, Gene?" I asked, hoisting a fish-bowl of lager.

"Not much," he said with an imprecision suggesting he was ahead of me in the count by a fish-bowl or two. "I'm in real estate. It's a living."

"Married?" I asked.

"Nah. Divorced. Long story. You?"

"I'm married twenty years. Two kids."

"Twenty years. Maybe if things had worked out between Daphne and me-,"

"You were married to Daphne?"

"No, no. We went out after you left for grad school. For about two years. I asked her to marry me."

Why would a girl like Daphne go out with a clod like him, let alone get serious with him?

"So, why didn't you marry her?" I asked though I knew the answer. After two years, Gene realized what a head case she was.
 
"She left me. Then she left the area. Married an older guy. I found out later that she turned me down because she couldn't get you out of her system."

"Sounds like an excuse to give you the heave-ho, pal. Do you ever hear from her?" I asked. I wanted to know if she'd found a new footsie partner.

"That's real funny. What are you, a sick son-of-a-bitch or something?"

"I didn't mean anything by it. I just wondered if you heard from her lately."

"Not too fuckin' likely, pal. She died a year ago. OD'd last summer. She'd been drinking and took too many sleeping pills. Of all people, I thought you would have known."

"She died? Last summer?" I asked, through nervous laughter.

Not two months ago, she and I were talking on I.M. I clearly remember the day. It was my wife's birthday. Gene must have had more to drink than I originally thought. I shook my head. Once a drunk, always a drunk.

"You're shittin' me, right?" I said, smirking.

"You think that's funny?" Gene said, stumbling off his stool. "Why, you sick prick."

Next thing I saw was his fist flying at my face. My knees buckled as he connected with my lower jaw, but my right elbow stopped my fall before I smacked my head on the bar. I reeled in agony from funny bone meets formica top or fat-loser-fist meets my face.

"Hey! What the hell's going on out there?" the bartender called from kitchen, then came hurtling towards us.

When the exertion of the punch sent Gene stumbling into the middle of the taproom, I backed away from him toward the men's room, holding my jaw.

"All that happily-ever-after-shit she wanted with you. And you didn't know she offed herself. You're pathetic," he said. Then he reached into a pocket and slapped a twenty on the bar and staggered out the exit, his left hand massaging the knuckles on his right.

"I'm pathetic? Who hauled off and hit who, asshole?" I called after him, nursing my elbow. He mistook my disbelief for apathy. Never had any sense anyway.

"You all right?" the bartender asked.

"I think I need another drink," I said, resettling in my stool. "When I saw Gene coming at me, I must have knocked mine over trying to get out of his way."

"Forget it," the bartender said. "This one's on the house."

The bartender couldn't pour fast enough. The realization that Daphne had killed herself fell on me harder than Gene's fat fist. Why would someone so talented, who had children who needed her and a husband devoted to her, do such a senseless thing?

Two months ago. That's like yesterday. No wonder he got so bent out of shape about it. Then again, maybe he still had feelings for her. I guess I'd be hurting, too, if I cared about her.

I looked up and saw a familiar face walking into the bar, walking toward me. She must have recognized me, too.

"Hey, Cindy, long time no see," I said. "Have a seat."

"Hi, David. I didn't recognize you when I first walked in."

"Probably because I lost most of my hair, right? What'll you have?"

"How about a Dewars on the rocks?"

The bartender nodded, then reached behind him where he kept the good stuff.

Cindy lived a couple doors down from Daphne when they were kids. I didn't want to bring it up right away. I didn't have to.

"I guess you heard about Daphne, huh?" she asked.

"Gene told me. He was...uh...pretty broken up about it," I said, not mentioning his trying to break up my face, too.

"I still can't accept it. I just fall apart whenever I see her mom at the grocery-,"

Cindy reached in her purse and pulled out a tissue.

"You and she were pretty close at one time. Don't be hard on yourself. It's only been a few months."

"What do you mean?"

"Daphne's only been gone for two months, right?"

"She killed herself last summer, David. I should know. I was at the funeral. If you had bothered to come, you might know she's been dead for a year," Cindy said, and downed the rest of her drink. She slid off her stool and headed for the ladies' room.

There had to be a logical explanation for this. Somebody, her husband maybe, must have found a backlog of emails from me on her computer. Maybe he thought it would be funny pretending to be Daphne after she killed herself, to punish me. It's not funny. It's sick. Leading me on like, making me think she's still alive when she's been dead for a year. Why would anyone do that to one of her oldest friends? For vengeance? Just to be cruel?

Some things in this world can't be understood, not even by a man like me.


© Copyright 2018 Gale Martin. All rights reserved.

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