Adult Relationship - San Francisco Stories # 7, a short story by crankyvic. Date added: 2011-12-27. Times viewed: 3174.
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- Intro: older / young couple, interracial relationship, sex, oral sex, love lost, adultery, travel, Belize, Key West, China, San Francisco
Catherine couldn’t quite recall how they met. John was not from San Francisco bay area, not even California. He had just moved from Maryland.
He said that he was originally from the Midwest, she couldn’t remember where, it could be Michigan, Indiana, or Illinois. They were all the same to her. He had a German sounding last name; he said that his family migrated to the Midwest from Germany in the 30s. He did his PhD in South Carolina. He was a bio scientist. But when Catherine met him, he had moved from being a research scientist to a product manager. He said that money was better there. He worked for a large biotech company in the Upper Peninsula. He was often in Switzerland, Germany and Austria for work.
For their first date, they went out for dinner. He paid. Catherine often paid fifty percent or just simply picked up the tab when she went out, but she didn’t insist on paying this time. She guessed that he was at least 10 years senior than her. She later found out that he was 36. Catherine just turned 23 at the time. On their first date, he took her back to her apartment.
Be a Gentleman - The German Way
At the time Catherine lived in Campbell, in a non-descript apartment building, with her German roommate Monika. Monika was from Stuggart. Monika was a blonde, a very Germanic looking lady in her early fifties. She was plump, friendly, and very formal like you’d expect a German would be. She spoke with a very strong German accent. She had two grown children; she worked as a cashier in J.C. Penny’s in Sunnyvale. She was divorced. She came to this country with her then husband. They divorced years ago. He cheated on her.
Catherine loved her. She was the mother Catherine never had. Catherine’s parents had died in 1989 during the Tiananmen demonstration. They were a couple of moderate communist party members who were arrested, accused of being student sympathizers. They died in prison. She came to the United States under political asylum visa, applied by her aunt, who at the time lived in Los Angeles and married to a Chinese dentist. Catherine had been an only child. By the time she was in college, she left southern California for northern California. She had practically been on her own since she was 17. When she got out of college, she was looking for a place near her first job at a semiconductor firm in the Silicon Valley. Monika took her in. She paid half the rent and kept Monika company. In return, Monika made her sauerkraut and spaetzle all the time. Monika did Christmas seriously, like you’d see in Europe. She took Catherine shopping at Trader Joe’s, where she found German goodies. Monika drank a glass of gewürztraminer every night. While Catherine did not like to drink, she liked the sweet taste of it. She often bought bottles of them and brought home for Monika.
Monika approved Catherine’s relationship with John, in part because he was German, and in part John treated her like she ought to be treated, a lady. She said that he was a true gentleman. He knew Catherine was living with Monika. So on their first date, he brought Monika a bottle of German wine when he came to pick Catherine up that evening. Catherine felt that she needed Monika’s approval. Her last boyfriend was a blond Californian native. He was narcissistic, inconsiderate, and turned out to be a heart breaker. He made her drive to see him; he never wanted to stay at her place. And the worst trait, according to Monika, was that he never opened the passenger side of door for Catherine.
Monika told Catherine that a true gentleman always opened the passenger door for his date. He would take off and put on her coat. He would call on her, instead of having her to drive to his place. John did all that right at the get go.
Years later, Catherine would make a conclusion that guys she dated from the East Coast and Midwest consistently followed Monika’s description of a “true gentleman”, and none of the Californian guys she dated followed the rule. Which of course made her wonder if she had married the right guy from time to time. Catherine’s husband was born and raised in Southern California, but educated in the east coat. She thought about taking her husband to meet Monika, to see if he could pass her test. Yet she never managed to do so, somehow she knew he’d fail miserably.
To impress John, Catherine asked Monika to teach her a few German phrases, of which, she practiced the most was ich liebe dich. She thought perhaps one day it might come in handy with John.
Light as Feather
John knew what he wanted. He was an aggressive man. Catherine found it charming and pleasing that he took charge. After the dinner, he dropped her back at the apartment that she shared with Monika. John said that he’d like to see where she slept. So Catherine showed him her small bedroom that faced the back parking lot. As soon as he was inside, He dimmed the lights, and shut the door.
Catherine had been in short black dress and without any stockings, she had worn a pair of open toe high heels that night. She felt like a very young girl next to him. So inexperienced, so juvenile, she was fumbling for words. Just then John pressed his fingers on her lips, then he leaned down and kissed her. She was all of sudden made aware of how small framed she was against his manly body. He had a musky scent, like a man would smell. He was just over 6 feet tall; he had the soccer player’s built. He was gentle, forceful and purposed, as if he was approaching a science experiment in a lab. This made Catherine become even more self-conscious, so she kissed him back as a way of gaining some reassurance. She felt like a schoolgirl, not because she was not experienced in sex, but because his calmness, his dominance and aggression made her feeling unease. She felt nervous yet was secretively delighted by his imposing ways.
John carried Catherine to bed, he undressed her and then he went down on her. It was unexpected. Catherine was shocked by the sensation of closeness, with a man whom she'd just met. The sensation at first felt like gentle waves washing the shore. It started with sense of leisure, and increasingly, it became intense, and then angry, as if a storm was coming, until it erupted dangerously. On one hand, it was the first date, and she had not expected sex; on the other hand, she felt safe and natural. Could it be perhaps because he opened her side of the passenger door to let her into his car that early evening? Perhaps he brought a bottle of wine for her roommate? Or perhaps it was the way he whispered “baby” by her ear? They made love that night. It did not feel like fucking, because it was gentle, it was caring, and she felt the indescribable bond with this man named John, who was either from Michigan, Indiana, or Illinois.
Afterwards, she curled up in his broad frame, and fell asleep soundly. She wrapped her arm around him and felt protected, safe and content. In the middle of the night, he lifted her up, as if she was feather light, he cradled her. Then he said, “Baby, I have to leave now, my children would be awake soon.” He never told Catherine anything about his children. She was too sleepy to register the significance of it, so instead of saying anything, she just lifted her arms and wrapped her arms around John for the last time, and kissed him goodbye.
The next day John emailed. He said that he had a lovely date. He wanted to see Catherine again, but he had to leave town to go to Switzerland. He said that he’d call her and tell her everything when they saw each other next.
Catherine was 23. She didn’t know everything she ought to know in an adult relationship. She had no one to teach her about sex. She had been on her own for so long all she knew was survival. She was not that inquisitive, or judgmental for that matter. She was living day by day; She suspected that John wanted to talk to her about his children, but she did not really know for sure, and she knew that it didn’t bother her a bit that he was a father, or whether he was married.
Dating a Father
Catherine didn’t see John for weeks. She heard from him when he was in Switzerland, he left her a lengthy and affectionate voicemail, but he didn’t leave her with his hotel phone number. So she couldn’t return his call, not that she would. She was not into calling guys. He then called her from Germany. He said that there was another unplanned trip. He said that he was sorry for not able to see Catherine sooner. He apologized as if he broke a date that the he had already set up. But as far as Catherine thought, there was no date set up yet. They had not made any plans. Catherine knew that she missed him, but she also knew that he was a real adult, with family obligations and other important things to do. So she acted nonchalantly and went about her own business, She told herself to be detached and not to dwell. John had fit Catherine’s physical profile of those men whom she could fall head over heels with, so she knew instinctively not to act too rash, and set herself up for failure, just in case John didn’t really care about her as much as she could care about John.
When he returned, they went out for dinner again. John paid, again. Catherine knew that to John, it was important for him to pay. It in a way defined the relationship. She was to submit, he was to dominate and take charge. She liked the dynamics. It was new for her. This time John told Catherine that he was in the process of getting a divorce. He had three teenage children. His soon-to-be-ex wife had moved to California with him, but he now primarily lived in a suitcase, on the road a lot, even though he had a corporate condo. Catherine told him that it was not an issue that he was getting a divorce, or he had children. She liked him just the way he was. John made her feel special, the way he carried her as if she was feather light, the way he took charge in their relationship, the way he dictated how and when they should meet. She liked how he made love to her and how he treated her - like a lady.
Afterwards, they returned to his hotel. He told her that for the night, he had gotten a hotel room in Foster City, his corporate condo had not been set up properly, he told her. He wanted them to spend a night in a nice hotel. Catherine suspected that John had a life outside of his suitcase, or the hotel. She envisioned the condo was packed full with John’s children’s clothes and shoes, even family photos with his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s in them, and she didn’t want to be part of it.
That night they made love until dawn. He told Catherine that he had his children in his early twenties. His wife had been a nurse and put him through grad school using her income. But then they grew apart. Catherine didn’t want to know the details on how and why he was getting a divorce. She knew that he liked her, and that was enough. She also found out that she was the first Asian woman he had ever dated. John gave her career advice, which she appreciated. As much as Monika was a mother to her, Catherine did not have anyone to turn to when it came to her career. By the time she left Los Angeles for college, her aunt had moved back to China. She was all on her own.
John also told Catherine that he had a place in Belize, he would go there on his own, sometimes with his friends, a pair of married college professors, who lived in Austin. They would meet up in Texas and then fly down to Belizes and vacation there. He did not invite Catherine to go with him, and she did not ask to be invited either.
He was a father figure to Catherine. She thought of him fondly when he was on the road. He is a father, she would say that to herself. How cool it was to be with someone who was a father, someone who knew how to raise children, who was a real adult.
Catherine did not demand anything. She fit the typical Asian woman stereotype. While she did the most chasing, and often insisted on paying her way, once she was in a relationship, she was quite low maintenance. She demanded very little, she was not assertive as those American women John was accustomed to. She was obedient, agreeable and quiet. She liked John; in fact she thought she could be in love with John. Yet, she was a fatalist who was somehow convinced that there would not be any future, especially with John. She didn’t get a sense that John was that interested in marriage. Certainly it couldn’t be with her.
Their encounters had become regular, but sporadically at the same time. He would make a date, and then cancel last minute – sometimes it was because of his children, and other times there were unplanned last minute business trips that came up. He seemed to be traveling a lot, at least that was the story Catherine was told. She often got his email just as she was taking off from work to see him – “Sorry baby, I have to leave for Germany again. Sorry for ruining our date. I will call you.” John called, sometimes, but most of the time, he would disappear for a week or two and then resurface again.
Strangely enough, Catherine never got mad at John. By then she had thought that she loved him. Unconditionally.
It would later dawn on her that she was often attracted to men who traveled a lot. Men who were never around, just like her father was when she was a little girl, before he was arrested and put in jail, before he was dead. He was never home. Her mother practically raised her on her own. Her memory of her father was a bit muddled by the time she was a young woman. She rarely remembered her dad. It was a way of life back then. She didn’t question it. She never got a chance to wonder, and then both of them were gone. She did not like to think that she was an orphan, it sounded so tragic, like the Little Girl with the Matchsticks from Hans Christian Anderson’s novel, which she refused to be compared with. Catherine thought of herself an independent young woman, who always knew what she wanted and went after it, and was relatively successful in her pursuit of happiness and freedom, the real American way.
Later on Catherine would start seeking professional help, to help her deal and cope with these unresolved childhood issues and trauma. To start, her therapist had helped her to look at her dating patterns. John’s name came up often. Her therapist told her that perhaps she was not just looking for a father figure with John; she was also trying to repeat her sad, lonely childhood with each man that came into my life, so that she could relive it, knowing the ending would be unfulfilling as it once did with her own life.
John certainly fit the mode.
Catherine liked to SCUBA dive. She liked the feeling of being in the deep ocean, all-alone, surrounded by fish, kelp and rocks. It was therapeutic, peaceful and utterly transformative. She felt belonged in the deep sea. For a while she flew to Key West to SCUBA dive on weekends, mostly on her own, although she would invite others male companions along. None went with her except for John. John was a diver himself. He was in Miami for a business trip. So he flew down to see her on a trip. They stayed in a diver's motel. They made love, ate fresh oysters and then dived together. In the evening John took her to a tropical outdoor restaurant. He ordered them umbrella drinks, ate fresh Mahi Mahi, and John told Catherine how beautiful she looked under the stars. She was pleased that she had worn a white dress.
Back in San Francisco, everyone wore black. So when Catherine was heading to Key West, she packed only white dresses. She liked white; it reminded her of her childhood in China. Where children often wore white in the summer heat. That evening, they gazed at each other under the shining stars, so far away from the main continent, so far away from reality. Catherine told John that she liked these get-away trips, away from home.
What John did not know, was that Catherine did not plan to meet up with just him. She casted a wide net. She simply planned her excursions and invited different men along, in case they could join her. John was one of those people who received the invitation and he just so happened to be available and in the area. Catherine was always spontaneous, resourceful and managed to keep herself busy by dating multiple men at the same time, even though she loved John. She always believed that one could have multiple relationships with multiple people at the same time, albeit the emotions ran a wide range and her attachment with different people varied in degrees. That way there would not be any disappointment, when one fails, the other(s) moved into the center stage.
Later on her therapist would tell her that she had deep unresolved abandonment issues resulted from the premature death of parents. Her coping mechanism was to never be in a situation where she was ever truly alone.
By the time they met up in Key West, Catherine had left the semi conductor firm, on John’s advice, and started working for a national consulting firm, earning twice as much. She purchased a townhouse in the Upper Peninsula, not far from the San Francisco airport. Even though the place was nice, she felt that she did not really have a home; she began to live in a suitcase just like John, often traveling for projects. She regarded herself a bohemian. She felt that she finally understood John; they both longed for a home but didn't know where to find it.
Later on in life, Catherine would realize that while she was forever attracted to men who traveled a lot for work; those who traveled a lot for work were also attracted to her. Perhaps they all had similar longing of escaping from wherever they were meant to be; perhaps they form a symbiotic relationship, one that fed off each other - they kept each other alive, somehow.
That evening John told Catherine about his failed marriage and his love for SCUBA diving. He told Catherine that that was why he bought a place in Belize, because it had amazing, untainted, unspoiled dive sites. "Like you, untainted and unspoiled". He would say, brushing his hand gently across her forehead, his other arm held tight around her tiny waist, they walked like that for a while after dinner, in the quiet cobble stoned streets of Key West, feeling the warm salty breeze of a typical Caribbean evening. Catherine was half hoping that he'd invite her to Belize, it was about time, she thought to herself, but that topic never came up.
She knew that she was in love, with this man, this man who seemed to see the best side of her, who compared her to the dive sites in Belize.
The Last Time
Then summer became fall. It was an Indian summer evening. She had gotten an email from John early that morning. “Baby, I’m back in town for a night. Can we meet?” By then Catherine was staffed on a project in Folsom, just outside of Sacramento. Three and half hours later, she drove into Peninsula, where John had a hotel for the evening. A few weeks ago, Catherine had just bought this beautiful two-piece red lingerie, which she had never worn. She was wearing it for him that evening. John ordered room service but they couldn’t eat. There was a sense of urgency. She found herself kissing John passionately, as if this was the last time. John responded back the same way, he stripped her clothes and took her furiously, soundlessly. Their lips were locked the whole time he was inside of her. After he came inside of her, he went down on her, brought her spasm of orgasm, for the second time. She felt depleted after, and yet, unlike other times, she felt incomplete and nostalgic. She was also restless, even though she should be falling asleep, as she would ordinarily be doing after two satisfying orgasms.
“I was his girl. Part time girl, anyway.” Catherine thought to herself, lying awake next to John quietly. John held her tighter than usual; he was also quiet but alert and awake. Catherine found herself finally saying ich liebe dich. It was more of a whisper that was met with silence. But she knew John heard it, because he responded by tightening his grip. He squeezed her so tight she barely could breath. Then out of nowhere, all of sudden Catherine was wailing. Instinctively, somehow, she knew that this would be the last time.
John seemed to agree. He wiped away her tears, and as he did the first time they slept together, he cradled her. He then said, “I know that I couldn’t give what you want. You are still young. You will get married one day, have family of your own. I’m not your guy. I’m so sorry.”
Catherine wanted to say “No I don’t ever want to get married or have children. I just want to be with you”, but she didn’t say anything. She knew John would not take no for an answer. He would not change his mind.
To John, Catherine was not a party girl. She never was. Unlike the other men whom she had encountered in the past, and subsequently after John, who often called her “the party girl”, who claimed that she would never settle down, who only went out with her to have some sexual fantasy fulfilled, John saw this responsible, serious career girl, who was sweet, considerate, and accommodating, who would one day be married and have children of her own. Catherine had never met a man like him. For that she was grateful. She cried not only because he couldn’t give her what she wanted, but also because John saw the best of her, the side she didn’t even know existed. She cried because she felt that she was indebted to him, for giving her the faith she didn't have for herself.
They fell asleep in each other’s arms, John held her tight, she could feel that he was saying goodbye with his tight grip. The next morning she left in a hurry, before John was awake, she had to drive for three and half hours back to Folsom. She forgot to pack her underwear. The red bottom piece of the lingerie was presumably left in his hotel room. Catherine kept the bra for a long time, and never wore it again. Whenever she saw the bra, she thought about John, and how he embraced her and cared about her, and treated her with respect, and envisioned a future for her that she couldn't even picture at the time. A normal future. A hopeful future.
After John, Catherine didn’t meet anyone who saw that side of her for several years. She continued to maintain her party girl image, and dated many men at the same time. Though she always kept in touch with John. They emailed and did lunches. But John never caressed her the way she craved. John treated her as this young career woman, respectable and motivated, someone whom he cared deeply as a friend.
Catherine sank into a deep depression one year after yet another failed romantic relationship. She was out snowboarding in Lake Tahoe one day, and she saw John. He was with his three children. His truck parked just in front of her Audi. She almost thought of saying hi to him, but she wondered what he’d think of her, or rather, what his children would think of her. So she just walked away.
By then John had moved into a house in Foster City, he was fully divorced, and traveled practically all the time. Catherine emailed him the next day. “I saw you in Sugar Bowl, you and your three kids.” He returned her email right away, “Why didn’t you say hi? I’d love to introduce you to my children.” Catherine told him that she didn’t feel comfortable being seen by his children, all were taller than her and not much younger. He said that they were overdue for a lunch date.
That lunch date did not come until a year later. John emailed Catherine over the course of that year, he made plans, and then canceled them last minute, just like when they first dated. Catherine reacted the same way as she did before, nonchalantly, never made a fuss, never complained, and she always replied politely, “Have a great trip, let’s do it another time”.
Then a year passed and he finally made the lunch date happen.
They went to ABC Seafood, a dim sum place in Foster City. Catherine sat there, dutifully, waiting for John’s arrival. He was running late, and was walking briskly towards her when she saw him. He walked over to her side of the table and apologized furiously and then gave her bear hug. Catherine thought that she would crave and long for his touch but that feeling didn’t come. She felt relieved at that moment.
They carried on small talks. John asked how she was doing. Catherine told him that she met someone. “It could be serious. I might marry him.” He said, “That’s great!” He seemed genuinely happy for her.
He told Catherine that he had met a Swedish woman himself, through an online dating site; she had been divorced and had three children of the same age as his own. She was his age, and they had gone to Belize together, with all six children.
Catherine realized at that moment that she was never the Belize material. She was feeling disappointed and sad, yet she knew that this was an outcome to be expected. He was not looking to be serious with her; she was not the type to settle down with. But there was something special with him, an invisible bond. “Maybe I was the only person who was bonded to him.” Catherine was feeling melancholy. “I trusted him implicitly and I loved him.” She was feeling all of sudden angry with herself, that anger rose unexpectedly, and she found herself shaking under the table.
“It was the best experience I had.” John said suddenly. Catherine thought he was referring to the Belize trip with his girlfriend, so she responded by saying, “That’s wonderful!”
“No, Catherine, I meant what you and I had.” He said solemnly.
She stopped trembling under the table and temporarily forgot about her anger.
“You were the first person I knew when I first moved here.” He continued.
“I loved you. But I couldn’t give you you wanted. “ He was getting misty eyed.
Catherine felt awkward. She looked around just to make sure that no one was listening in on this conversation.
“You need a family of your own. I knew that I couldn’t provide that for you. Thank you for being so wonderful and so considerate. I was a jerk. I came in and out of your life, often canceling on our dates. I was not in a good place then. But I loved you. I always will, I think.”
She looked at him, this time, with bravery, still tentative; she raised her eyes to meet his. Catherine detected for the first time that he had those impossibly green eyes, sandy brown hair, a square jaw, and prominent nose. He looked very Germanic. She felt a little physical tug, that intense feeling that she would later feel whenever she saw someone who looked like him.
When Catherine started to see her therapist later on in her life, her therapist told her that we didn’t control whom we were attracted to. It was sort of a genetic DNA imprint. We got imprinted by a certain type. We might not end up with our type, but we all had that type, the type that caused a stir, the physical pain, whenever we met our imprint, or when we were apart from that person, or when we knew that it was never meant to be, yet we felt that magnetic pull. It was not a feeling that we could suppress or control. It’s the action that we could control. Catherine would then counter by telling her therapist, that actions were not often controllable either, if the feeling was strong enough.
To John, Catherine was never the wild party girl whom no one would marry. He thought that he was not good enough for her. Yet Catherine thought he was so much more superior. She thought SHE was not good enough for John. How strange. Millions of different feelings came up at the same time.
They never saw each other again.
Never Light as Feather again
Catherine married the man she told John about. She now had two children of her own. She still loved Germanic Midwesterners. Whenever she met them, she felt a physical pull; it was not something that she could rationalize. It was involuntary. She had stepped out of her marriage for those moments. She couldn’t control those impulses. She maintained a separate life outside of her marriage, one that allowed her to indulge. Each time she attempted to recreate the same experience she had with John. She found solace in knowing that she had a release valve, one that she pulled whenever she felt angry with herself. That magnetic pull to those men would stay with her, for the rest of her life. She knew that much.
Catherine wondered about John from time to time. He must have been in fifties, perhaps retired to Belize, married to his Swedish girlfriend. All of their children would have been out of the house by now. They would live an idyllic life in Belize, SCUBA dived to their hearts' content. They would hold hands, each day, walk on the sunny beach, John’s arms around hers, breathing in the tropical air, as she once did with John in Key West, happy as a clam, happy as any American early-retirees living in Belize would be.
Despite her trying, she had never been carried away by anyone like John again, the way he carried her as if she was feather light.
She wondered if she would ever feel that way again…
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