The Bargain with Lucifer, a short story by Sisyphus. Date added: 2012-04-11. Times viewed: 5449.
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- Intro: Based on the Faust Legend an old English professor makes a deal in order to have his youthful lust revived.
The Bargain with Lucifer
Many afternoons Paul Cantor stood at his office window in the English Department and looked down at the campus below watching the students walking to their classes, some riding bicycles, others romantically holding hands, some sitting on the benches or along the wall of the large circular fountain sending splashing rainbows of water into the air. This day, however, a weary sigh escaped from deep within him before he went back to his desk to attempt reading the papers his students had turned in two weeks ago but which he had been avoiding. Normally, he would have read and graded them, writing extensive comments and handing them back within a week, but now he could not face looking at another paper. He sat back in his black leather chair, reclining, closing his eyes, stroking his white beard with one hand and tapping his red pen on the desk with the other wondering why he was procrastinating, but knowing the lethargic moods that had been darkening his generally cheerful, energetic spirit for the last several months was now unbearable.
He knew he was depressed, tired, frustrated, anguished and fighting off despair. What frightened him the most was thinking about suicide, ending it all, but shoving that thought away, knowing he did not have the courage. Still, it was a thought that had previously never entered his mind and was now lurking in the shadows, poking him from a hidden corner, scaring him with its presence, its insidious whispering in his ear.
He should be happy that his latest book of poetry, his fifth, was on the short list for a major award. He had been invited to give readings at several colleges and was proud of his growing reputation as one of the more important poets writing today. He hadn’t written a new poem in at least eight months and though he had several drafts of a new poem started, he hadn’t looked at the three lines he had in his notebook for weeks and knew he was stuck. He also knew from experience that when he was unable to let the lines flow and pour from him, he was not ready to write the poem and was okay with that. It was part of the process, but this was different. Now he didn’t care if he ever wrote another poem and realized that the passion that made him such a prolific and highly regarded poet for the last thirty years was withering like so many other aspects of his life.
Paul loved women and though he was faithful to his former wife, Evelyn, for most of their twenty five year marriage, in the last few years before their divorce, he had several passionate one night stands while he was off giving readings. “Why not,” he’d think when the opportunity presented itself and his sex life at home had died. He was frustrated, often horny and knew he was getting older. It was flattering to see how a student or even a young female instructor or PhD candidate practically threw herself at him after a reading and so, he would willingly let it happen and have no regrets when he’d hook up and they’d go out for a drink then end up in bed, knowing it was not a relationship but just a hot night of wild sex with no strings attached.
He had married Evelyn when they were both in graduate school where she earned her masters in anthropology but decided not to continue. They met at a party and became immediately attracted to each other and fucked in the back of his car that night and as often as possible after that. She was smart, sexy with long blond hair and a body that made men’s eyes turn, but she only wanted Paul which amazed and gratified him.
For the first three years of their marriage, their sex life was exciting, imaginative and wild, never kinky but definitely daring and on the edge; however, after their two children were born, three years apart, their sex life didn’t disappear but was definitely not what it was before the children. Eve gained weight, in fact, a lot of weight so that by their eighth year of marriage, sex became a once a week event, usually on Saturday nights after going to dinner and a movie.
Paul missed the sexy blonde woman he married and found himself fantasizing about the attractive young students he saw everyday on campus. Though he would never act on his fantasies, he liked how they flirted with him, how they told him how much they loved his last book of poems, how his classes were their favorite. He maintained his professional, distant manner with them, never indicating how their tight shirts, jeans and tiny mini skirts aroused him.
Even their eighteen year old baby sitter, Becky, made it difficult not to look at her now that she was no longer the skinny fourteen year old they had used and who was adored by their two boys, Daniel and Jonah. Paul tried ignoring the dramatic changes that had gradually taken place right before his eyes and now, she was a sexy young woman and not a child. He tried to ignore how her skimpy clothes tantalized him, how her unself-conscious way of laying on the floor with the boys with her ass straining her jeans or her short skirts showing more thigh than they hid made him look away, but then he’d swallow and couldn’t help but look back at her in a way he knew he shouldn’t.
Still, he never indicated how Becky gave him fantasies to jerk off too and had no idea how the distinguished professor and highly regarded poet lusted for her, nor did his sexy female students realize how he looked at their bodies when they walked away, their hips swaying. They had no idea how he had to close his eyes and turn away, knowing he would never cross the professional barrier between teacher and student, though often he was tempted and wished he was not so uptight. Still being around so many sexy young women fed his imagination, often stimulating poems which he never published.
He also found himself at dinner parties with their friends, sitting next to his overweight wife, looking at the wives of people he had known for twenty years wondering what they were like in bed, knowing several of their husbands cheated on them with students or female colleagues, wondering if they knew their husbands cheated or if they also had affairs. Sex was often on his mind and the lack of lust he felt for his wife now made his desire for other women more intense and his fantasy life more vivid, even resulting in looking at porn on the internet. Still, his outward appearance gave no indication what was going on inside. He felt he had a secret fantasy life that both excited and frustrated him.
One woman, in particular, Jenny Davidson, the wife of his office mate, Charles, or Chuck as he preferred being called, often cornered him after she had a few drinks. He liked how close she stood to him, how she touched his arm to emphasize a point, how she smiled looking into his eyes, or commented on a poem of his she read in Atlantic Monthly or, depending on how drunk she was, told him how stuffy and boring Chuck was, though he was kind and generous to her. She had a way of biting her lower lip when she said that, looking into his eyes and he knew she was just flirting and drunk and nothing would happen. Still, he thought she was pretty with large sparkling green eyes. It was exciting to have these private conversations with Jenny, especially because she always wore low cut dresses or a blouse with several buttons undone, practically touching him with her breasts, arousing him and causing him to wonder what he would do if her seductive ways became even more aggressive and they arranged to disappear to a room upstairs or make a rendezvous at the local Super -8 Motel, something he fantasized about but knew would never happen, still he was tempted.
So, here he was, sitting in his office, ignoring the papers he should be grading, realizing he was one year from retiring, now divorced from Evelyn for three years, living in a small but comfortable apartment but feeling empty, lonely, sensing his life was almost over at sixty five. He had a prestigious position at the university, was highly regarded as a poet, yet he was feeling despair and a longing for something he couldn’t quite name. He knew it was related to the lust he still felt for the young sexy students but most of all was the realization that the women who used to look at him, flirt with him when he walked by no longer did.
Painfully, he remembered when he was a younger man with a dark beard, long hair, how the female students looked into his eyes and smiled when they passed, how they came to his table in the university cafeteria to sit with him, ask for his autograph or show him a poem they had written, wanting his comments, or they would come to his office with a question or advice, dressed provocatively and clearly wanting more. Even as he got older, his dark hair turning grey, flecks of white in his beard, his skin showing wrinkles around his eyes and mouth, he could feel their attraction to him, several saying as they leaned forward, how they liked older men, how more experienced and patient they were than the young studs on campus, clearly coming on to him. He enjoyed the flirting and in his subtle, distant somewhat shy way, flirted back, though still not going over the professional line regardless of how tempted he was.
He now had white thinning hair, a much larger wrinkled brow with his receding hair line, a paunch that he had recently developed despite watching what he ate, knowing he should exercise; his walk much stiffer than before. Though he would look at the lovely women he passed, noticing their bodies the way he always had, now, when he looked at them, hoping to catch their eye, it didn’t happen. He was an old man and they didn’t see him.
Sighing deeply, glancing at the pile of papers, he wondered if he was foolish not taking advantage of all the sexual opportunities he passed by because of his professional ethics, and now he was old and what he longed for was impossible. He remembered a line from one his poems, “Sometimes life is like licking honey from a thorn.” The line made him chuckle then shaking his head, “It’s true. My fucking life has been more thorn than honey.”
When he said that, he threw down his red pen, stood up and grabbed his brown tweed sport jacket with the leather pouches on the elbow, thinking again that he looked like a cliché and wished he could be as far from this campus as he could be. He wished he could start over, be a carpenter like his dad, drink beer and watch ball games instead of getting a four year scholarship to Princeton then spending forty five years in the stuffy ivory tower of the university with all its protocol about teachers and students, much of it ignored, he knew, but not by him, at least not until ten or so years ago on reading tours.
Now, at sixty five, no longer attractive to younger women and not interested in the shriveled up older women he met, he realized like a dagger at his back, those days were behind him.
He had to do something. He had to get away. Realizing he left his brief case in his office and didn’t care, he walked, head down across the crowded campus to the parking lot, trying not to look at the sexy young women who ignored him but still hoping one would notice his vigorous walking, his determination to do something about his life, something real, something passionate, but what? He had no idea. He got into his old Suburu and drove away, not sure where he was going but left the small college town with its tree covered streets, remembering Huck Finn’s words about not wanting to be civilized and said out loud his favorite line from the novel, “Civilization, I’ve been there before. I’m lighting out for the territory.”
After driving for miles, getting off the turnpike, taking back roads, not knowing where he was, just driving past farms, through small towns, over hills, rounding bends, listening to music on the classical music station, he saw a bar up ahead with the words, “Luke’s Bar and Grill” written in red letters on a large black sign. He thought it was strange that there would be a bar in the middle of nowhere. Also, just as he saw it, the first thunderous chords of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony came on the radio, filling his car with that ominous sound.
Several pick-up trucks and a half a dozen motorcycles were in the gravel parking lot. He slowed down and suddenly, impulsively, decided to stop for a beer and some dinner, not sure what attracted him to the place but for some reason, he turned and parked next to a black pick up truck. He looked around at the motorcycles lined up in front of the entrance then up at the shabby white building, noticing the black trim around the windows and the black windowless door at the entrance.
“This looks like a bikers’ hangout,” he thought, imagining the black leather he associated with bikers and wondering if he would feel out of place. While sitting there he noticed the front door open and a blonde haired woman wearing jeans and boots clutching the arm of a big man in a black leather jacket walked, actually stumbled out. They stopped and she stood on her toes to kiss him while he put his hands on her ass then, with their arms around each other, they walked over to a shiny red motorcycle. He watched them put on their helmets, get on the bike, her arms around him from behind then drive off in a roar, zooming away down the road.
“Looks like an interesting place. I think I’ll go in, get a beer and just watch the scene,” Paul thought, recognizing his tendency to be an observer, always somewhat detached, his writer’s eye taking snap shots he might use in a future story or poem. He turned off Beethoven, got out of his car and stood in front of the black windowless door looking up at the sign, thinking about the name Luke and walked in.
It was smoky, dimly lit and the smell of cigarettes surprised him. “Guess they don’t care about the law of not smoking in public places,” he thought standing at the door, looking around the dark, smoky room before walking over to the bar on the other side of the room. He heard the loud booming music from the juke box but was also aware that several people looked up at him as he walked towards the bar making him realize how strange he must look in a wrinkled tweed sport jacket with leather pouches on the elbow, brown corduroy pants, thinning white hair and a beard, obviously much older than anyone in the bar.
When he sat down on the red leather stool, touching the shiny brown wood of the bar, looking at the long row of liquor bottles on the counter, then at the pot bellied bartender walking towards him with black suspenders holding up baggy jeans and a black t shirt with the words “Luke’s Bar” in red letters.”
“What can I get you,” the bartender asked, not smiling, but looking him in the eyes.
Paul was stunned by the bartender’s unwelcoming manner, “Just a beer for now,” he said, noticing the bartender’s black goatee and mustache, a silver round earring dangling from his ear, “What’s on tap?” Paul asked.
“Just Bud, that’s it,” he said.
“Well if that’s all you have, that will be fine. Yes, give me a Bud,” Paul answered, nodding, noticing the grim way the bartender looked at him before moving down the bar, pulling the shiny draught handle, filling the mug but glancing over at him, narrowing his eyes, shaking his head at what apparently looked odd, perhaps pathetic and in fact, was.
“What am I doing here?” Paul asked himself, suddenly feeling he was a stranger in a strange land then quickly turned away from the bartender’s eyes and looked around the room, noticing two of the booths were occupied by bikers, smoking, drinking and laughing. One table in the corner had a man sleeping with his head on the table, holding a shot glass, a whiskey bottle next to it. In the rear three guys were playing pool while two others were throwing darts at a board on the back wall. Four men sat at the bar several stools away from him wearing tight black t shirts, jeans and boots. They all looked over at Paul critically shaking their heads, then went back to talking to each other.
“Here goes,” the bartender said, putting the mug down with a thud.
“Thanks,” Paul said, lifting the mug, taking a big gulp, some of the beer dripping from his mouth. “Damn, I could sure use this,” he added then took another big gulp, nodding to the bartender.
“Oh yeah,” the bartender said, his manner relaxing, looking at Paul, “What’s happening, man?”
“It’s hard to say,” Paul answered, surprised to be asked.
“You’re off the beaten track, ain’t you?” he asked. “Don’t usually see guys like you here.”
“I bet,” Paul answered, beginning to relax, noticing the bartender’s grimness softening.
“So what’s going on? How come you came to a dive like this place in the middle of nowhere? Ain’t you on the wrong side of the tracks?” he asked, moving a small glass bowl of peanuts in front of Paul.
“Well, I guess I am,” Paul said, noticing the chubby faced bartender stroking his short goatee, looking into his eyes. “I just had to get away from the other side of the tracks. I need a change, not sure what kind of change, but it’s not working for me over there,” Paul added.
“You’re frustrated,” the bartender said, still looking into Paul’s eyes, nodding as if understanding.
Again, Paul was stunned by the bartender’s statement, surprised by the perceptive question and how he was looking at him. “Yes, I guess you could say I’m frustrated. I don’t feel alive. I feel disgusted with how I’m living,” Paul said, amazed at the intimate conversation he was having with this bartender in a bikers’ bar.
The bartender continued looking at Paul as if studying him but didn’t say anything.
Paul took another drink from his beer, wondering why the bartender was looking at him like that. Their eyes met.
“You need to meet Luke,” the bartender said after a long silence.
“I do?” Paul asked. “Why do I need to meet Luke?”
“Well, let’s just say he’s an impressive man. He’s the owner but he’s pretty good with helping people get on track. I think you should meet him.”
“Why not,” Paul responded, “Why the hell not?”
“Follow me,” the bartender said, nodding and walked to the end of the bar waiting for him.
Paul took a big gulp of his beer, finished it, then putting the empty mug down, walked past the four bikers who looked at him as he passed. One of the men shook his head and snickered then looked back at his friends, shaking his head.
The bartender led him down a narrow hall past two bathrooms one marked Guys the other marked Gals then knocked on the big black door at the rear of the hall, opened it not waiting for a response. “Hey, boss, here’s someone you should meet,” the bartender said, nodding for me to enter the office.
Behind the uncluttered desk sat a man leaning back in a large black chair, his feet in black boots up on the desk reading a magazine. Paul could see that the cover had a blonde woman wearing a skimpy bikini sitting on a huge motorcycle. In back of him, covering the window was a black velvet curtain making the room dark except for the reading lamp just over his shoulder with a red light giving the room an eerie atmosphere.
The man sat up, flipped the magazine onto the desk, looked up at the bartender, “Thanks, Zach,” he said then smiled at Paul removing his feet from the desk. “Take a seat,” he said, pointing to a wooden chair in front of his desk.
The bartender closed the door and left. Paul sat down and looked around the room then back at the man, noticing his thick black eyebrows, dark eyes, a thin black mustache and long straight black hair that went down to his shoulders. He also had a round silver earring dangling from one ear. He wore a white t shirt with a black leather vest, black jeans and boots. Paul thought he was quite handsome and had a dignified air about him, unlike the others he saw in the bar. He also felt his penetrating eyes when he leaned forward, his head nodding as if he was looking deep into Paul.
“I’m Luke,” he said, touching his thin mustache with his index finger. “And I know why you’re here?”
"You do?” Paul asked then continued, “I don’t know why I’m here. In fact I don’t even know where I am. I just took off a few hours ago. What do you mean you know why I’m here?”
“You’re fed up with your life. You’ve even thought about committing suicide, haven’t you,” Luke said. “I know a desperate man when I see one.”
Paul gasped and felt a shiver shoot through him, a tremble. He swallowed searching for words.
Luke chuckled, seeing Paul’s response. “I can help you if you’re willing to make a deal,” he said, folding his hands in front of him, still looking into Paul’s eyes.
“What are you talking about?” Paul asked.
“I can help you live the way you want to live,” Luke said.
“How do you know how I want to live? This is nuts!” Paul said, suddenly bewildered, not sure if he should be here, the trembling returning. “Who are you? What are you talking about?”
“I can help you if you’re willing to make a deal,” he repeated, smiling, looking into Paul’s eyes.
“What do you mean by willing to make a deal?” Paul asked, shifting on his chair, taking a deep breath.
“Make a bargain,” Luke said. “You know. A deal…make a deal.”
“I don’t get it. What deal?” Paul asked, shaking his head, looking into Luke’s dark eyes.
“You’re upset with getting old, withering away. You’re feeling you haven’t lived,” he said, pausing, narrowing his eyes. “I know what you’re missing and if you’re willing to make a deal, I can give you another chance.”
“Another chance, another chance for what,” Paul asked.“Another chance to have the young women you lust after give themselves to you, only this time, you will not live in denial as you have your whole life.”
“What are you talking about? How do you know anything about me?”
“Intuition,” he said. “Listen, I’ve been around a lot of years. There’s not much I haven’t seen and when I saw you, I saw an uptight old coon who wants to make up for lost time before it’s too late.” He paused, stroking his chin, looking into Paul’s eyes. “I’m right aren’t I?”
Paul scratched the back of his head, puzzled by what Luke was saying, not sure how to answer and sighed deeply.
“Well, that’s a world weary sigh if I ever heard one,” Luke said. “Listen, I’ve seen so many men like you who suddenly realize their best days are behind them. I bet I know one thing that’s bothering you.”
“Really, what,” Paul asked.
“It bothers you that the pretty young women you see on the street or on that campus where you teach don’t notice you.”
“Wait a minute, how do you know I’m on a campus? How do you know I teach?”
Luke laughed, scratching his cheek with his finger and Paul noticed the long sharp finger nails. “It’s not hard to see you’re a college professor with that wrinkled old jacket with patches and I can tell by your eyes--eyes that know books but nothing about life. Anyway, it’s hard to explain how I know what I know and it doesn’t matter because of the offer I am going to make you.”
“What offer? What are you talking about?”
“I can make those young women want to look at you,” Luke said, rubbing his hands.
“This is nonsense. I’m an old man. They don’t even see me when I look at them. They used to when I was younger but those days are gone.”
“Right and that’s what’s bothering you,” Luke said. “And I can change that if you are willing to make a deal.”
“I don’t believe you. This is crazy. You can’t make young women look at me and suddenly want me in their bed.”
“I can understand you being skeptical--an English professor, a distinguished poet, an intellectual,” he said.
“How did you know that? How do you know anything about me?” Paul asked again, alarmed and amazed. “What the hell is going on?”
Luke chuckled at Paul’s questions.
“How badly do you want to be a handsome young English professor again, not so uptight about morality and just follow your carnal desires, your lust. How much do you want that?”
It didn’t take Paul long to know how much he wanted that feeling of being desired, how much he wanted to satisfy the urges he swallowed all those years every time one of the sexy young students came to his office, obviously flirting, looking seductively at him. He knew Luke was right, that’s exactly what was bothering him. He was an old man with white hair and beard and stiff legs and worse, he was single, free, available for a sexual encounter, still lusty, but what could he do. He was invisible to them.
“Tell me more,” Paul asked. “What’s this deal you are proposing?”
“I want your spirit, your soul,” Luke said, leaning forward, looking Paul in the eyes.
“You want my spirit, my soul,” Paul said, bewildered yet curious, sensing who he was talking to. “Who are you?” he asked.
“Well, first of all, my name isn’t Luke, its Lucifer,” he said. “Honesty is important in the matters we are discussing.”
“So why do you call this place “Luke’s?” Paul asked. “That’s not honest.”
“Would you go to a bar called Lucifer’s?” he asked. “Luke was a business decision.”
“Okay, I can see that,” Paul responded. “Now about this deal you’re talking about, I have to tell you something. I don’t believe in all of that. I think this is all nonsense, superstition.”
“I’m not surprised to hear that,” Luke said. “You intellectuals are all alike.”
“But tell me, if I did believe you, what would you do to make what you are proposing happen?”
“I have a potion you will drink but only after you agree to the deal and we shake hands.”
“And what will happen when I drink this potion of yours?”
“I’m not going to tell you what will happen but you will discover my power manifesting its self when more woman than you will ever want, desire you.”
“So if I drink your potion and we shake hands and make this deal, women will suddenly start wanting me. I won’t be invisible.”
“Exactly,” Luke said, “but you will give me your spirit and your soul. I will own you.”
“Well, if that’s what you believe, that’s your business,” Paul said. “I’m a poet, a prize winning poet and I don’t believe in any spirit or soul, there is nothing to own.”
“So you’re an existentialist,” Luke said. “You think you live and you die and that’s it.”
“Right, there’s no spirit, no soul, no afterlife, no God, no Devil, or arch angel named Lucifer. It’s all irrational mythology. The only thing that matters is my life and right now I’m miserable.”
“Paul, I know you’re an educated man, a scholar, a poet, a good poet. You’re a smart man, but not a wise man.”
“Listen, I beg your pardon for being so blunt, but I think this is nuts and you’re delusional. You can’t change my life. The only one that can change me is me and I have come to reluctantly and painfully accept that the days of having young women look and desire me are gone.”
“So you don’t believe if you drink my potion and we shake hands nothing will change.” Luke sat with his hands folded, looking calmly at Paul.
“That’s right, but I’ll tell you what, if it makes you feel better I will drink your potion and shake your hand because I have nothing to lose,” Paul said, shrugging his shoulder, “why not? By the way what’s in your potion? It won’t make me sick will it?”
“It won’t make you sick. In fact it tastes like root beer,” Luke said, getting up and walked to a small refrigerator on the other side of the room. “Do you like root beer?”
“Yes, I love root beer. It’s my favorite kind of soda,” Paul said watching Luke bring a wine bottle to the table.
“Well, Paul this tastes like root beer but it isn’t. I cannot reveal what is in it, but I promise you it will not make you sick; however, it will definitely do what I say it will. Young sexy women--blondes, dark haired, red heads, tall, petite, will be attracted to you.”
“I’m not sure I should drink it,” Paul said. “I don’t like drinking what I don’t know. How do I know I won’t get sick? Why should I trust you?”
“You’re a cautious, skeptical man, Paul. I don’t blame you for not wanting to drink this potion and not know what it is,” Luke said, getting two tall glasses from a cabinet behind him. “So I will drink with you. I wouldn’t drink something that would make me sick, would I? I guarantee it’s safe and why would I harm you if I want your soul and spirit.”
“Well, if you’re drinking it, I guess it’s safe,” Paul said.
Luke removed the cork from the bottle of dark liquid, a small amount of vapor rising, “The recipe for this potion is ancient and I’ve had this bottle for a long time.”
While he poured the dark liquid into both glasses, they could see the foam from the potion rising to the top of each glass. Luke paused, waiting for the foam to settle before pouring more. While waiting, holding the narrow bottle just above the glass, he smiled at Paul.
“See the foam,” Luke said.
“Yes, what about it,” Paul asked.
“It reminds me of how people fall in love, how they fool themselves.”
“How they fool themselves?” Paul asked, somehow remembering falling in love with Evelyn almost thirty years ago.
“Yes, you really don’t know how much root beer you have until the foam settles,” Luke said, watching the foam in the glass settling before pouring more. “People get fooled by the foam and think its love.”
“I guess, I did,” Paul said. “My marriage certainly died after about eight years though we stayed together for twenty-five.”
“Eight years,” Luke said. “Not too bad. Many don’t last that long.”
When both glasses were filled, Luke handed Paul a glass and lifted his up and they clicked glasses, “To lust!” Luke said.
“I’ll drink to that,” Paul said, lifting the glass to his lips, watching Luke take a big drink and he felt the sweet root beer tasting potion swirl around in his mouth before swallowing.
When Paul finished drinking, he put the glass down on Luke’s desk. “Not bad,” he said then stood up.
“Well, let’s shake hands now that we have agreed on our deal. You will see you have made a good bargain, Luke said, extending his hand.
“Okay, if you think so, you know what I think,” Paul said, reaching over the desk, looking into Luke’s eyes, shaking hands, “but I better get going. I have a long drive home.”
Luke came around the desk and walked over to the black door and opened it for Paul and smiled, “Have a good journey. Have fun. Your best days are ahead of you.”
“We’ll see,” Paul said and walked down the dark narrow hall to the barroom, then past the four men, ignoring their glances at him. He stopped and put a five dollar bill down on the bar and nodded to Zach. He stopped at the front door, glanced around the dark smoky room and left.
Paul sat in his car, looking up at the shabby white building and at the black sign over the door, glanced around at the motorcycles and took a deep breath, “Well, I’ll be,” he said out loud, shaking his head. “Now that was strange.” He turned on the car, backed out and decided not to listen to the radio, instead drove in silence, trying to remember his way back to the university and the pile of papers on his desk, thinking about his conversation with Luke, or Lucifer and the deal he made, thinking how delusional people are, some thinking they’re Jesus, or the devil, or wishing they were a vampire or a movie star or a famous writer. “I’m not delusional,” Paul said. “I’m miserable and I know it and no potion or bargain is going to change that.”
It was dark and late when Paul got back to the college. The campus was quiet, practically empty except for a few students walking back to their dorms or a couple sitting on the wall circling the fountain, the water turned off for the night. He walked past the dark library and into the empty humanities building to his office on the third floor. Realizing he had to pee, he went down the hall to the men’s room, turned on the florescent light, causing him to squint and stood there in front of the urinal, holding his limp penis, watching the pale yellow liquid arcing into the white bowl, thinking about the insane idea of women suddenly lusting after what he was holding in his hand, imagining what it would be like if that actually happened, dismissing the idea, but zipped up and went to the sink to wash his hands, glancing at himself in the mirror, looking at his watery blue eyes, his wrinkled brow, the bags under his eyes, his thinning white hair, wondering what he would look like if he suddenly looked younger and sexier, then sighed, shaking his head from side to side, resigned to the reality that he was an old man now, his longing for a return of his youthful vitality an impossible dream. Suddenly, he remembered the song, “The Impossible Dream” from the musical, The Man of La Mancha about Don Quixote and how foolish he was thinking he could win the heart of Dulcinia. Paul wiped his hands with a paper towel and took one last look at himself in the mirror then sighed with deep resignation.
Two days later, his papers graded with shorter than usual comments written in red at the bottom of the last page, he was relieved to know he was now on summer break and could get back to trying to finish the poem he had been working on for several months, hoping he could break though what was blocking him and nail it. He stood at the window of his small apartment in a complex that had a pool and looked down at the people lounging: children splashing, a man with a hairy chest diving off the board at one end, several women wearing bikinis sun bathing, talking to each other, sunglasses, blonde haired, dark haired, their slim tan bodies captivating him, causing him to sigh, something he had been doing a lot lately.
He went back to his notebook and to the poem he had been working on and suddenly, he felt energized and the words started coming like they hadn’t in a long time. Rather than finish the poem he had been writing, new words came to him and he just wrote without crossing out a word. He stopped and read the first line, “I’m getting old because I haven’t died.” The line made him laugh, and he continued reading what he had written. When he got down to another line, he felt tears coming to his eyes, a burning ache when he read,
“And when I think of love,
getting older doesn’t make the longing go away.
It’s just the thought of a lover’s skin
doesn’t fade that easily and comes back
like a waking dream late at night.
When he finished the poem, reading it over several times, he sat back happy that he was able to write, was able to reach where he hadn’t been able to for the last eight months and felt relieved that he was able to get out what he needed to say. “Maybe I haven’t lost it,” Paul thought, holding the pages he had finished in his hand.
He felt a warm glow come over him and suddenly thought, “I deserve to celebrate,” and got up from his desk, glanced out the window at the people around the pool and decided he was going to go to the Gilded Cage Cafe in town, a local hangout that had good coffee, decadent pastries, served wine and beer, light meals a place where students, teachers, artists gathered to talk or use the internet. He hadn’t been there in over a year but today, after finishing the poem, he felt refreshed and wanted to get a cappuccino or a glass of red wine.
When he went into his bedroom to change his clothes, he looked in the mirror and looked into his eyes, noticing, they looked really blue, not watery the way they usually did, though his skin had wrinkles, he had more color, his cheeks had a glow and he thought he looked good, different and thought finishing a new poem had an impact on him, maybe he would go back to the poem he had been working on for months and felt confident he could nail that one too.
Something made him take off the wrinkled white dress shirt he wore and take out a dark blue t shirt from the drawer and slip in on. “I haven’t worn this shirt in years,” he thought but liked the way it looked on him. He turned to side and noticed his paunchy belly was gone. “What happened, I look thinner,” he said and remembered he hadn’t been eating much recently. He hadn’t felt hungry and realized he often didn’t eat when he was tense or depressed. “Guess I’m losing weight,” he thought, then decided to wear the white sneakers he had in the closet instead of the brown shoes he was wearing. “Why not,” he thought as he sat down on his bed and put them on, liking the way they went with the dark blue jeans he had put on that morning. Before leaving, he glanced at himself in the mirror one more time. “Not bad. You look pretty good for a change, not as wrinkled. ”
When he entered the café, he put the New Yorker magazine he grabbed before leaving on the small table against the brick wall and went up to the counter to order. He knew what he wanted and when the young woman came to him, “Oh hi, Dr. Cantor,” she said. “I haven’t seen you here in a long time.”
“Well, that’s because I haven’t been here in a long time,” he joked.
“Right,” she laughed. “That explains it. What can I get you?”
“Well, I was going to have a cappuccino, but I think I’ll have a glass of wine. Do you have Chianti?” he asked, suddenly remembering when he vacationed on the Italian Rivieria twenty years ago and the image of him sitting in a café in San Remo when he was on sabbatical working on his second book came to him.
“Yeah, we have Chianti,” she said. “I’ll get it and bring it over to you,” she said.
“Cool,” he said, surprised. He never used that word but it popped out of his mouth and made him chuckle.
When he sat down, he opened his New Yorker, turning the pages, looking at the ads, stopping at an article that looked interesting then the young woman brought over his wine.
“Here you are, Dr. Cantor, she said. “By the way, I was in your writing workshop a few years ago. I’m Wendy Paquin. You probably don’t remember me.”
“Yes, you look familiar,” Paul said, looking up at her, noticing the stud in her nose, the bright brown eyes, her long dusty blond hair and couldn’t help notice how her breasts stretched the green t shirt she was wearing with the words Gilded Cage written in gothic letters and noticed a picture of an empty cage with the door wide open. “Yes, Wendy,” I remember you.” He paused. “I like your shirt and that image of an empty bird cage.”
“I do too,” she said. “Well enjoy your wine,” she added then paused, looking at him. “By the way, you’re looking pretty good,” she said and went back to her place behind the counter.
“Well, that was nice of her to say,” Paul thought as he watched her walk away noticing her short black skirt, the slight swaying of her hips then took a sip of his Chianti, tasting the sweet thick texture on his tongue, again remembering the bright, warm sun of San Remo.
While reading and sipping his wine, he looked around the café at people drinking, talking, reading, noticed the hanging plants, the soft jazz playing and remembered Luke’s Bar and Grill and the contrast in atmosphere. He looked over at a table in the corner at an attractive dark haired young woman sitting by herself wearing a low cut tight orange tank top. She was reading a book and had a yellow scarf tight lightly around her neck, a coffee mug next to her hand. He could see her cleavage and wondered whether she was wearing a bra. “She looks pretty sexy,” he thought then went back to his New Yorker but glanced over at her a few times and saw she looked over at him then went back to her book. He was surprised that she looked at him realizing how rare it was that any woman looked at him, but a few times their eyes met then both looked away and he knew there was an attraction, but also knew nothing would happen.
When she got up to leave, putting her book in a backpack, he noticed she was wearing grey sweats that were tight on her ass and he wished he had the nerve to talk to her. He wondered what book she was reading and thought he would ask her if he had the chance as a way of starting a conversation. He felt his heart leap when she walked by his table and smiled at him before leaving, their eyes meeting. He noticed how her long dark curly hair flowed over her bare shoulders, her dangling earrings. He was stunned by the way she looked at him realizing it had been years since a young beautiful sexy woman looked at him like that. He could not take his eyes off her as she walked away, and wondered if he’d ever see her again. “Now that’s someone I’d like to get to know,” he said.
After finishing his wine and the article he was reading, he closed his New Yorker, deciding to go home and work on the poem that had been frustrating him for eight months. Just as he got up he glanced over at Wendy behind the counter. She waved at him and smiled and it struck him as odd that she seemed so happy to see him. He remembered her comment that he looked good, then, as he was leaving, another young woman with short brown hair, glanced at him and smiled as they passed, baffling him that for some reason he was being noticed.
“Maybe it’s this blue t-shirt,” he wondered, suddenly feeling he looked attractive but didn’t know why. He still had wrinkles, still had thinning white hair and a beard. His legs were still stiff, but he liked how a few young women looked at him and smiled but wasn’t sure why. When he got back in his car and looked up at the café with its glass door, the sign above it with a the golden gothic lettering, the empty bird cage with the open door, he thought how much he enjoyed being there and decided he would go there again. He liked the vitality, the way people seemed engaged and he also wondered if he would see that sexy woman again and if she looked at him again would he have the nerve to talk to her, ask her what book she was reading, start a conversation.
At home that night, Paul stood at the window and looked down at the pool. No one was there. The water was still, the lights around the pool shining on its blue surface. People sometimes swam on warm summer nights but tonight it was quiet. He had never used the pool, but the idea of sitting out there and getting a tan suddenly appealed to him. Maybe he would do that tomorrow, he thought, remembering he had an old pair of swimming trunks he hadn’t worn in years.
He then did another thing he hadn’t done in years and that was pour him self a glass of Jack Daniels to sip and listen to an old Mose Allison record, remembering he liked his jazz and satirical lyrics. He sat down on his recliner, turned off the lamp making the room dim, sipped his drink and listened to the steady chords and Mose singing in his distinctive southern drawl, “I’m not disillusioned, no I’m not disillusioned, I’m not disillusioned...but I’m getting there.”
That line always made Paul chuckle. He remembered how he had been feeling for the past year or so, maybe longer, hating the idea of reaching the age when he felt his best days were behind him, how painful it felt to see so many attractive women pass him without looking, how, until earlier in the day, he hadn’t written a decent line of poetry for a year and how he felt at the café earlier being looked at by not one but several younger women, and now he was eager to return, hoping the woman in the tight grey sweats would be there.
When he finished his Jack Daniels, the Mose Allison record over, he put on Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” turned off the lamp in back of him and sat in the dark listening to the vitality of the music, and heard himself humming the lovely melodies, moving his hands as if conducting and feeling he was not as depressed as he had been. The thought of getting a tan, maybe getting his bicycle out and exercising, taking bike rides along the river appealed to him. He remembered how he enjoyed having house plants around and decided he was going to do that again but this time he wouldn’t let them turn into wilted brown leaves. He would start over, get cuttings from his neighbor, Veronica and buy some from the garden center, remembering how he loved African Violets and Begonias.
When the Vivaldi ended, he lay back in the recliner, looking into the darkness of his living room, enjoying the silence, suddenly liking how he was feeling and now knowing he wanted to change the downward spiral of his life. He remembered the conversation he had with Luke before drinking the potion, remembered saying, “the only thing that can change me is me,” dismissing the notion that the ancient brew he drank had any power and that the deal regarding Luke owning his spirit and soul was nonsense. It was up to him to turn his life around, not a potion, not a bargain.
Paul woke up at dawn the next morning, laying in his bed, realizing lines of poetry were coming to him, surprising him, reminding him that this is the way he woke up years ago when he was determined to be the best poet he could be. He thought about the poem he had been stuck on for so many months and now the words were coming to him. He jumped out of bed, went to the bathroom to pee and wash his face then he’d get down to work. He looked in the mirror, looking into his eyes and again noticed they seemed bluer, not as watery, in fact, had a little twinkle and noticed that though he still had bags and a wrinkled brow, for some reason his skin looked smoother, not as pale or pasty looking. He wondered what he would look like without his beard. “I’ve had this beard since I was twenty-five,” he said, remembering how brown it was, also how long his dark curly hair used to be, how it gradually got grey then white. “Well, maybe I’ll trim it, make it shorter, or maybe I will just shave it off, wondering how it would feel to see his face without it, the face he hadn’t seen in forty five years. His beard, now so much apart of his identity, made him wonder if he had the courage to do that. “What would people think, or say?” he thought. “So what,” Paul said to the man in the mirror. “What does it matter what people think?” but knew he wasn’t ready to shave off his beard.
In the kitchen, he flipped on the electric coffee maker, remembering he always got his coffee ready the night before, filling the reservoir, putting in the four scoops of coffee, but this morning he added a few pinches of cinnamon, something he used to do but hadn’t done in years. He sat down at the small kitchen table, grabbed a pen and turned to the page in his notebook where the stagnant unfinished poem sat, read the lines then scribbled over them, crossing them out. “That sucks,” he said and started writing the words that came to him in bed.
He wrote them down, stopped for a minute to pour himself the coffee, put in a little honey and took his first sip, releasing the huge “Ahhhhh” he always did after the first taste, only this time, he savored the taste, looked down at the black liquid, “Wow, that’s so delicious,” he said out loud, then went back to the kitchen table and continued writing.
Just like yesterday when he finished writing the new poem in under an hour, today the words poured from him with few cross outs. But what he was writing was different than what he had been trying to say months ago. He remembered how stuck he was, how he couldn’t break through the barrier that had been blocking him when he was feeling so dark, so pained, so exhausted, but now he couldn’t write fast enough. When he finished the draft, knowing he would go over it and refine it later, he picked up his notebook and read it out loud, walking into the other room.
Choosing an illusion doesn’t make my life less real,
and if I care to sing
instead of crawling on my hands and knees
holding up a bleeding heart
the sunrise still will sparkle on the lake
and through the trees.
Morning has no pity as it marches through the sky.
The choice is ours to shrink
behind a rock,
complaining until we die
or to let the imagination wink
and look the passing heavens in the eye.
Noon comes fast and bright
and shadows disappear at this hot hour.
What mist that was on the lake at dawn
will surely come again at dark.
And so I dream: The sun that shines
now on your lovely face
will rise tomorrow from my lyric heart.
Paul read the poem over four times liking it better each time, but what surprised him the most was how positive he felt and realized this was a love poem. Why was he writing a love poem? He had no idea whose lovely face he was writing about, but he knew he hadn’t written a poem like this since he was in his thirties when he was protesting the war inVietnam, when he was enraged after theBay of Pigsfiasco and realized how the CIA and secret organizations really ruled the country. Maybe he was remembering Evelyn or maybe it was truly about someone he hadn’t met yet, maybe it was the woman he saw at the café, he didn’t know but he loved the line about his lyric heart, the heart that hadn’t felt lyrical in years.
When he finished reading the poem, he took a deep breath and went to the window, looking down at the pool. He glanced up at the clock and saw it was already after ten. He had worked on that poem for over three hours and had no idea it was so late. He was hungry now and wondered if he should make himself a nice breakfast to celebrate his new poem, then go down and take a swim, sit in the sun, start getting a tan. He knew he wanted to go back to the Gilded Cage later. Rather than feeling lethargic like he had for so long, he now didn’t know what to do first. He felt energized. He had written two poems in two days. He suddenly felt youthful and when he went back to the bathroom to pee again, he looked in the mirror and saw twinkling blue eyes looking back at him. Also, his brow didn’t look as wrinkled, his white hair now looked darker, grey, not as thin and for the first time in a long time, he liked what he saw in the mirror
“You know, you’re not a bad looking guy, you look pretty good,” he said, remembering Wendy saying that yesterday.
Rather than oat meal, he made himself bacon and two eggs up with toasted whole wheat bread spreading butter on it, poured another cup of coffee and devoured his delicious breakfast. After finding his old maroon bathing suit in the back of a drawer, he put it on, glanced at himself in the mirror, noticing his paunch practically gone, “I must be losing weight,” he said, then grabbed a towel and walked barefooted to the pool, remembering how much he used to love walking around without shoes or socks.
It was now after eleven and people were already around the pool. He threw his towel on one of the lounge chairs, went to the edge of the pool, stuck his toe in to see how cold the water felt and then without hesitation dove head first and swam underwater to the other side of the pool then immediately turned around and swam back, surprised at how well he could still swim after probably ten or more years of not being in a pool. He climbed out of the pool, lifting himself up by his arms, dried himself off and looked around at the others, noticing the group of women he had seen before on the other side talking, but saw two of them stop talking and look over at him before turning back to their conversation, one lifting her sun glasses.
When he laid down on his lounge, he could feel the warm sun on his skin, how soothing it felt, how relaxed it made him. He closed his eyes and felt himself drifting into a nap then heard someone speaking to him. He opened his eyes but it was hard to see in the sunlight then gradually, he saw one of the women from the other side of the pool standing in front of his lounge chair. She was wearing a yellow bikini and had a tube of sun lotion in her hand. He would have to be blind not to see her breasts barely covered by the skimpy top, her smooth tan skin, her long auburn hair.
“You better be careful. You’re going to get a bad sun burn if you don’t put some of this lotion on,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind my concern.”
“No of course not, thank you, that’s very considerate of you,” Paul said, looking down at his white pale skin, the grey curly hair on his chest.
“Here, you can use this,” she said, bending over, handing him the brown and white tube.
“Australian Gold,” he read then looked up at her.
“So who are you?” she asked. “I’ve never seen you around the pool. Do you live here?”
“Yes, I do. I’ve been here for almost a year. That’s my apartment over there,” Paul said, pointing to the second floor, “Apartment2. This is the first time using the pool though.”
“Funny, I never noticed you before today,” she said, pausing, “and I live on the second floor too,Apartment5, but when I saw you stand by the pool and immediately dive in and swim under water I was impressed. I was sitting over with my friends. We sit around the pool every day but I just noticed you. I hope you don’t mind my being concerned about you getting a sun burn. I know how painful that can be.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Paul said, suddenly feeling his penis twitching and stirring while looking up at her, his eyes roving over her smooth tan legs, her tiny bikini, her barely contained breasts, her long auburn hair.
“I’m Alicia,” she said. I’ve lived here for two years since my divorce.”
“I’m Paul. Paul Cantor,” he said, still surprised that this attractive, sexy woman just came over to let him use her sun tan lotion.
“Are you Paul Cantor, the poet?” she asked. “Are you?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I am. Are you a poetry fan?”
“I am, sort of,” she said. “I wasn’t sure but I thought that was you but wasn’t sure. I heard you read a year or so ago at the Leaves of Grass Book store and I even bought your book, Living in the Shade and you autographed it. That’s why I came over to give you this lotion. I wondered if that was you. I loved your book.”
“Thank you. I’m glad you liked it,” Paul said, feeling himself getting aroused but wanting to hide what was happening and put the towel over his bathing suit.
“Mind if I join you,” she said, sitting down at the end of his chair, causing him to move his feet aside to give her room. “Ever since my divorce over two years ago, I’ve been reading books and even started writing poetry, it’s not very good but it’s a release.”
“I understand, we all need a release, sometimes,” Paul said feeling Alicia’s leg against his leg, a sensation he hadn’t felt in many years as she sat next to him, felt his arousal getting him hard, surprised that this sexy woman was sitting with him.
“I can’t stop looking at your blue eyes,” Alicia said. “And you have such a nice smile.”
“Really, maybe it’s you making me smile,” he said, realizing he was flirting, speaking in a way that was so unlike him.
She smiled at him then glanced down at the towel covering his erection and Paul knew he was not able to hide what was happening. She looked into his eyes, then back at the tent he was making.
“Is that what I think it is,” she said looking at the towel.
“Yes,” Paul said, then looked into Alicia’s eyes.
She looked at the bulge in the towel then at Paul’s eyes and bit her lower lip and surprised Paul by suddenly moving her hand up his leg, slowly making her way along his inner thigh, under the towel and placed her hand on his hardness.
Stunned at first, he watched her hand and relaxed. “That feels so good,” Paul said, moaning, closing his eyes at the way her hand rubbed then gripped him. “Oh my god what’s happening,” he thought, as the sensation made him lift his ass off the lounge, wanting her hand to keep doing what it was doing.
“I’m so wet, Paul,” she gasped, rubbing him harder, feeling him lifting himself from the lounge chair against her hand, feeling the throbbing in his bathing suit under the towel. “I want you,” she said.
The hungry sound of her voice got Paul so hot, he boldly put his hand on hers as she rubbed his hardness. She then leaned forward, “Listen, I don’t want those women to see what’s going on, so I’m going to go up to my apartment. Wait a few minutes then come up to Apartment Five, just down the hall from your apartment. I’ll leave the door open.”
She got up and walked away, glancing back at Paul, not believing what was happening, as he watched the woman, her yellow skimpy bikini barely covering her ass cheeks, her breasts barely contained by her top, her hips swaying, her long tan legs, her auburn hair. Had she really invited him to meet her in her apartment? And was this him, hornier than ever, knowing he was going to take full advantage of her offer?
Even though women had stopped looking at him several years ago, Paul had never stopped feeling lust for the young women he saw every day on campus, but this was new. Not only had she looked at him, she seduced him, she wanted him and now he wanted her more than he could say.
After a few minutes, he left the poolside, glancing over at the women across from him, glad that they were so busy talking, though he noticed a dark haired woman look over, lifting her sun glasses, then went back to the conversation. He held his towel in front of him, knowing his erection would be noticeable but walked quickly into the building, up the stairs, past his apartment and pushed open the door with the number five and knowing where the bedroom was since this apartment was identical to his, there she was sitting on the bed, leaning against the headboard, her legs wide apart, fingering herself, then sucking her finger while Paul slipped out of his bathing suit, her eyes widening at the sight of his erection and without a word, he was on her bed, between her legs, kissing her, their tongues swirling then without hesitating thrusting deep into her with one hard thrust, her screams filling the room.
Paul pounded her as hard as he could, knowing he wouldn’t last long, feeling her tightness gripping his piston like thrusts as he drove into her faster, deeper, each thrust harder than the last, knowing he was on the verge of exploding when he felt her body tensing, trembling then convulsing, her voice screaming, her wetness pouring out of her forcing him to thrust even harder before he too, erupted into a huge overwhelming orgasm.
“Oh! Oh! Oh, ahhhhhhh!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, writhing in ecstasy before collapsing on her, gasping for air, his panting limp body laying heavily on her soft body, her breasts crushed against his chest
After a few minutes, he slid off of her and rolled onto his back, looking up at the ceiling, Alicia turned on her side to face him, draping her leg over Paul’s limp penis, rubbed his chest, playing with the curly grey hair, smiling into his eyes, “Well, I think we’re going to be good neighbors,” she said.
Still astonished at what had just happened, he smiled at her, “I think I’m going to like being your neighbor,” he said.
“You better be careful, mister, I’m insatiable,” she said
“Is that so,” Paul responded. “Well, maybe you’ve met your match.”
“Oh yeah,” Alicia said. “I like challenges.”
“Yeah, well watch yourself, young lady,” he said, “I might be more than you can handle,” he added, playfully.
Paul could not believe how he was speaking to her, how she was looking into his eyes. This was so unlike him, but looking at her tan smooth skin, her leg over him, her breasts pressed against his body, aware that he was now in bed with a sexy young woman who had just seduced him and here he was bragging in a strangely macho way. “Is this me,” he asked himself while she lowered her lips to his and kissed him.
“I’ve got to keep you to myself and not let those cougars around the pool know about you,” she said.
“Really,” Paul said, remembering the woman who lifted her sunglasses when he left the pool. “Well, good luck. I’m not a one woman man,” he said, again feeling he was speaking like someone else.
“Well, I’ll see what I can do to keep you busy,” she said. “I have my ways.”
Glancing over at the digital clock and seeing it was after one he thought about the Gilded Cage and the dark haired woman he saw yesterday. He took a deep breath, looked up at Alicia smiling into his eyes, not sure what to say in order to leave without hurting her, or, more accurately, not burning any bridges behind him, squirmed away from her.
“Well, I have an appointment downtown, so I have to get going, but don’t be surprised if I want to come over and borrow some sugar from you,” he said, again, surprised at the teasing playful way he was speaking.
When he got out of bed and picked up his bathing suit from the floor, she leaned on her elbow looking at him putting it on, “Aw, do you really have to go,” she said, pouting, and tilting her head to the side.
“I do,” he said, flipping his towel over his shoulder, “Thank you for the sun lotion,” he said. “Maybe I’ll see you at the pool tomorrow.”
“Why don’t you come back here tonight, I’ll make you a nice dinner,” she said.
“That sounds like a tempting invitation,” he said, standing in the doorway of her bedroom.
“Come at six,” she said, looking into his eyes, biting her lower lip. “We’ll have a good time.”
“Six it is,” he said, his eyes roving her smooth naked body then left.
Once in his apartment, Paul poured himself a big glass of water and leaned against his kitchen counter, still in a daze about what had just happened to him in the last hour, exhilarated by how he had just been seduced by his insatiable neighbor and wondered if his life was turning a corner. He felt energized and confident, remembering how Alicia screamed at his powerful thrusts, surprised at his vitality and when he walked into the bathroom to pee, his legs no longer felt stiff. He looked in the mirror and though he still had his white beard and hair, his skin looked smooth and radiant and he saw the ruddy complexion he remembered when he was in his forties. He turned his face from side to side, admiring how he looked, compared to how he looked just a few days ago.
“Think I’ll take a shower and go to the Gilded Cage for a bite to eat and a glass of wine,” he said, turning on the water, slipping out of his bathing trunks then got in under the warm cascading water. He shampooed his hair, letting the hot water steam up the shower stall, enjoying the sensation of the water on his body. While soaping himself, he felt the urge to masturbate rising, surprised that he could get an erection again so soon after his recent wild episode with Alicia but soon found himself imagining she was with him in the shower, bent over, pressing her hands against the tiles, wiggling her ass, offering herself to him and with his soapy fist jerked off vigorously, shooting his white semen into the air, his orgasm ripping through him, his heavy breathing from the wonderful release thrilling him and thinking about Alicia and how he wanted to take a shower with her and make his fantasy real.
When he got out of the shower, trying to see himself in the foggy mirror, he wiped his hand over the glass and saw, slightly blurred, his wet hair looked grey, his beard more salt and pepper, his face glowing from the hot water. The difference was subtle, not so dramatic as to make him look like a different person but clearly, he didn’t look like the world weary poet and English professor of a week ago. Rather, he looked like he had just returned from a vacation, well rested and robust.
“Interesting,” Paul muttered, looking at the slightly darker hair on his chest, his stomach flatter. “I wonder if Luke’s potion is actually doing something,” he thought drying his back and legs, not feeling quite as stiff but then dismissed that notion as irrational. “It’s me, I’m just feeling better because of the new poems I wrote and its summer and I’m not teaching” but added, “maybe there’s no rational explanation.”
Walking into his bedroom, he slipped on a pair of boxer shorts, then another pair of jeans, a pale blue sport shirt, leaving the top buttons undone, revealing a little of the hair on his chest then, instead of the white sneakers, put on a pair of Birkenstock sandals he hadn’t worn in years, picked up his New Yorker and drove to the Gilded Cage, feeling like he did when, in his forties, he was invited to be writer in residence for the spring semester at Berkley. Evelyn and the kids stayed home but visited him a few times and he returned for Jonah’s birthday during a break, but the atmosphere in the San Francisco area seemed freer, more liberated, more laid back than New England and though he went to a few parties, had some dinner and theater dates with women, had several tempting opportunities after the readings, he remained faithful to Evelyn.
He remembered Jane, a smart, sexy, graduate student, who came on strong, letting him know she wanted him and how his resistance frustrated and confused her. He sat parked in his car reminiscing, remembering the night in her candle lit apartment, after several glasses of wine, how she tried seducing him, how they kissed and held each other, tearing at each others clothes, then for some reason, he suddenly shoved her away, “What’s wrong with you?” she yelled. Now, sitting in his car, he closed his eyes at how stupidly foolish he was to walk away from such an amazing sexy woman in the name of fidelity. Why wasn’t he like Lord Byron or other poets he knew who threw morality to the wind? Now, however, with the youthful way he was feeling and looking, he sensed he was getting a second chance and was determined not to waste it.
When he walked into the Gilded Cage, taking the same table as the day before, he noticed the young woman he was attracted to sitting in the corner. She didn’t notice him at first, standing at the counter, but when Wendy looked up at him, her eyes widened, “Wow, Dr. Cantor, what happened to you, you look great.”
“Nothing happened to me,” Paul said, delighted at her reaction. “I just got a little sun today and I’m eating better, maybe that’s it.”
“Anyway, what can I get you,” she asked, looking at him with what seemed like adoring eyes.
“I think I’ll have another glass of wine, do you have chardonnay?” he asked, surprised at her reaction.
“Yes, I’ll bring it over to you,” she said, looking into his eyes, smiling, flirting with him.
Before taking his seat, he glanced over at the woman reading her book just as she looked up and their eyes met. She glanced back at her book then back at Paul, her eyes lingering and he decided to be bold and went over to her table, “May I join you,” he asked.
She looked up at him, startled at first then smiled, “Sure, yeah, it’s cool.”
“I saw you here yesterday and wondered what you were reading,” Paul said, surprised at how she spoke, but noticing the low cut tank top, revealing quite a bit of cleavage.
“It’s kind of trashy,” she said, lifting the book to show him the cover with a dark haired woman with one breast exposed being kissed by a dark haired man. “Dangerous Love,” he read, surprised, yet somewhat disappointed she was not reading something more substantial.
“Looks enticing,” Paul said.
“It’s not great literature but I like romance books,” she said, putting it down on the table. “It’s pretty erotic,” she whispered, leaning forward, drawing his eyes to her breasts. “By the way, my name is Mindy, what’s yours?”
“I’m Paul,” he said, reaching over to shake her hand. “Glad to meet you Mindy, I noticed you here yesterday.”
“I noticed you too. I thought you looked distinguished.”
Just then Wendy brought his wine to him, “Enjoy it, Dr. Cantor,” she said, “I’ll bring your magazine over from the other table if you’re going to be sitting here,” she added, glancing at Mindy.
“Dr. Cantor, she called you. Are you a doctor?”
“Well, I’m a professor at the university,” he answered. “Not that kind of doctor, not a medical doctor.”
“Oh I work for a doctor, a dentist. I’m an oral hygienist,” she said.
“Oh so you look down in the mouth,” he said, joking.
“Of course,” she said, not getting his joke. “How else would I clean someone’s teeth?”
Paul nodded, aware his joke went by her, remembered another joke, a clever pun he once heard about dentists. “So do you think tooth is stronger than friction,” he said, certain it would make her groan, but she just looked at him.
“What do you mean?” she said. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Strike two,” Paul muttered to himself, realizing his humor was going over her head. He glanced at the cover of her book, knowing they would not be talking about literature and disappointed by her response to his jokes, and began wondering if his physical attraction for this sexy young woman was dominating his reason. Would he regret seducing her, taking her to his apartment or the Super 8 Motel if he played his cards right?
“So, Mindy, do you come here much?” Paul asked, taking a sip of his wine.
“Nah!” she said. “Just started coming here a few weeks after work. “I just broke up with my boyfriend about a month ago.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Paul said.
“Don’t be,” she said. “The jerk didn’t deserve me. Anyway, that’s why I started coming here instead of to his place after work.”
“I haven’t been here in over a year,” Paul said.
“Yeah, yesterday was the first time I saw you. I thought you looked interesting. I’ve always been attracted to older men, not sure why,” she said, taking a sip of her coffee, looking into Paul’s eyes over the rim.
“Well, I’m flattered that you thought I looked interesting. I thought you looked interesting too,” Paul said, looking into her eyes. “In fact I came here today hoping I would see you.”
“Oh really,” she said, putting her mug down, smiling at him. “Really, you did?” she repeated.
“Yes, and, if you want to know the truth,” Paul said, pausing to take a sip of wine, glancing at her breasts then back into her eyes, “I thought you looked very sexy,” Paul added, emboldened by the way she looked into his eyes and his recent conquest of Alicia. .
“Well, thank you, kind sir,” Mindy said.
“So are you lonely without your boyfriend,” Paul asked.
“Not lonely, exactly, but I started coming here ‘cause I thought maybe I’d meet someone more interesting. He didn’t appreciate me. He wanted one thing, if you know what I mean and I wanted him to treat me special, like I deserve.
“What do you mean you’re not lonely, exactly?” Paul asked, sensing what she meant but wanted to hear what she would say. “What’s missing?”
“You know what’s missing,” she said, leaning forward, smiling, looking into his eyes, revealing more cleavage.
“I think I do,” Paul said, trying not to look at her barely contained breasts but knew he was caught and their eyes met.
“If you want to know the truth, I have my needs,” she said. “So are you attached?”
“No, I’m not attached,” Paul answered.
“I’m surprised,” she said, “A good looking distinguished man, like you.”
“Thank you, Mindy,” Paul said. “I’m not attached, but I have my needs too.”
“Sounds like we both have needs,” Mindy said then picked up the book and looked at the cover and showed it to Paul. “This cover gets me so hot,” she said.
Paul glanced at the cover of the two lovers kissing passionately, the man’s hand on the bare breast.
“Why does the cover get you hot?” Paul asked, looking at the cover then into Mindy’s eyes, waiting for an answer.
“Sometimes I have a need to be ravished like that,” she said.
“Interesting,” Paul said, getting hard from the conversation. “So you have a need to be ravished?” Paul asked, smiling and looking into her eyes.
“I shouldn’t be telling you this,” she said. “You might get the wrong idea about me.”
“What do you mean the wrong idea about you?” Paul asked, “
“You might think I’m a slut,” she answered. “I’m not, you have to know, I’m really a good girl, but my boyfriend just didn’t appreciate me. He treated me like shit, just wanted to get into my pants, if you know what I mean.”
“I know what you mean. You didn’t want to be taken advantage of. You wanted to be appreciated, treated special.”
“Yeah, exactly,” she said, looking at the cover of the book, “Even though I sometimes want to be ravished, I want a man who thinks I’m special, you know, doesn’t treat me like a slut.”
“I understand,” Paul said, feeling his hardness straining against his jeans, suddenly feeling like he wanted to ravish her.
“I feel funny telling you this, Paul, but yesterday when I saw you I thought, now that’s a distinguished looking man, I bet he would appreciate me. Make me feel special. You just had that look about you.”
“Thank you, I told you I came back here today hoping I would see you. I was attracted to you,” Paul said. “But I have to admit this conversation is turning me on.”
“Me, too,” Mindy said.
Encouraged by Mindy’s words, thinking about the word slut and feeling emboldened, Paul finished his wine, leaned forward and said something he never thought he’d have the nerve to say. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Yes, let’s,” she said, picking up her book, throwing it in her canvas bag and started walking to the door.
Paul picked up his New Yorker, holding it in front of his bulge, seeing, as she walked in front of him, her tight faded jeans straining her round ass. “Damn, I want to fuck her,” he gasped.
As he followed her, Paul noticed Wendy looking at the two of them leaving, her mouth opened in startled surprise. When their eyes met, he got a sense that she also was attracted to him and that without much effort he could get her in his bed.
As soon as they got into Paul’s car, Mindy leaned over and started kissing him, her hand immediately going to his crotch, rubbing his bulge while his hand went between her legs cupping her mound through her tight jeans, their tongues swirling madly.
Feeling his lust growing, he pulled his mouth from hers, gasping and reluctantly took her hand away. “Let’s go. My place is five minutes away,” he said, not believing this was actually happening.
“Hurry,” she said, moving away so he could drive.
Pulling out, driving around the block then towards his apartment, weaving around cars, he looked over at her, their hungry eyes meeting; her long dark hair looking wild; her breasts stretching the tank top. “I don’t believe what’s happening to me,” he thought looking at Mindy, remembering how she said she wanted to be ravished and now he was going to be the man giving her what she wanted.
“Almost there,” Paul said, stunned when he saw her hands grabbing her breasts, rubbing them hard, thinking how hot she looked, how erotic this whole scene was, astonished how his life was changing, how miraculous it seemed being with Alicia earlier, now Mindy and lurking in the back of his mind Wendy’s slender sexy body came to his mind, as well as the cougars around the pool.
Parking in his reserved spot, both hopped out of the car. Though Paul was tempted to push her against the car door and take her right there in the parking lot, instead he nodded with his head. “Follow me,” he said and they rushed to the entrance, opening the door, letting Mindy follow him up the steps to the second floor then down the hall to his apartment. He quickly glanced atApartment5, hoping Alicia would not suddenly step into the hall. He then opened his door, letting Mindy in and immediately slammed her against the closed door, lifting her hands above her head, their mouths kissing fiercely, her legs apart, his body slamming into her, grinding, humping her, their lust out of control.
Suddenly, she bucked him away, squirmed from his arms, turned him around and pushed him against the door quickly unbuttoning and unzipping his jeans, then getting down on her knees, looking up into his hungry eyes, took his hardness in her mouth then started licking and sucking the head before moving her hot wet mouth up and down faster and faster, devouring him, his hand gripping and pulling her hair, while his thrusts filled her mouth.
Feeling he was on the verge of exploding, he pulled her mouth away, lifted her, grabbed her arms, taking her to his recliner and pushed her down on it. “Take those jeans off,” he yelled while pulling his off. She lifted her ass and started squirming out her tight jeans. Paul leaned over her and helped peeling them from her legs, her eyes fixed on his erection sticking straight out.
Looking down at her laying back on his recliner, Paul grabbed Mindy’s legs and put them over the arms of his chair, spreading her legs wide apart, completely open to him. On his knees he dove into her wanting to ravish her with his mouth and tongue, drive her crazy before ravishing her with the pounding of her life.
With her wide open legs hanging over the arms of the chair, Paul’s mouth devoured her, loud hungry growling sounds coming from his throat as he savagely thrust his tongue into her, almost swallowing her flooding pussy..
“Oh my god,” she screamed lifting her ass to his mouth reaching for his head, grabbing his hair then suddenly convulsing in huge spasms, “Ohhhhfuck! I’m cummming!” she screamed.
Her convulsions and loud screaming made it impossible for Paul not to pounce on her and thrust into her hard and deep, wanting to take her, wanting to fuck her into oblivion. He was crazed and more energized than ever before, somehow feeling powerful and strong, not knowing where his strength was coming from, his adrenaline soaring through him, causing him thrust harder and faster and deeper.
“Fuck me! Fuck me you little slut!” he shouted, surprised to hear those words, feeling he was someone else, using words he never heard come from his mouth. He was out of his mind with wild primal lust.
“Don’t stop! Don’t stop!” she screamed, lifting her legs over his shoulder, her ass rising from the chair while he pounded her harder and harder, driving her back. “Make me your slut!” she yelled.
No woman had ever shouted those words at him before. This was his chance to live every fantasy he’d ever had, to release every carnal desire he had suppressed all those years of lusting after sexy women. Now he wanted to take full advantage of the opportunities that were now coming into his life, now all he wanted was to fuck Mindy’s brains out and have the orgasm of a lifetime and that’s what was happening as he felt his body tensing, his need to explode reaching the place of no return and then the ultimate explosion swept over him erupting like a volcano shooting hot lava into her, both of them writhing and screaming before he collapsed on her panting body, neither able to budge.
When he came back to earth, feeling the wetness between them, still panting, dazed with the reality that under him lay a sexy young woman he had ravished. Suddenly, he remembered Alicia in Apartment Five inviting him for dinner, realizing that in one day he had more sex than he has had in the last four or five years.
“Well, here we are,” Paul said, panting, lifting his head from her shoulder, looking into her eyes.
“Yeah, wow, I’ve never been fucked like that,” she said.
“That was pretty hot,” Paul said, looking down at her flushed face, her disheveled hair.
“Now what,” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Paul said. “This took me by surprise.”
“Me too, you surprised me,” she said. “You looked so distinguished, but man, you know how to fuck a girl. You have more energy than any guy I’ve been with. You’re amazing. I’m not going to let you get away.”
While hearing Mindy’s flattering words, Paul glanced over at the digital clock glowing in his dimly lit living room, seeing it was already after four and he and Mindy had been ravishing each other for over an hour. He remembered Alicia, wondering if he should ask Mindy to leave, saying he had an appointment and go to his neighbor’s apartment or should he just keep Mindy in his place, have some dinner with her, listen to music, have a stimulating conversation, spend a lust filled night in his bed then she could leave in the morning after fucking each other silly and he’d apologize to Alicia.
And that’s what he decided to do but after putting on his jeans, he put on his favorite Oscar Peterson CD and asked Mindy if she liked jazz and sighed when she said, it was okay, she didn’t get jazz but she liked a band called Hot Potatoes.
“Never heard of them,” Paul said, listening to the intricate piano music playing.
“They’re pretty loud,” Mindy said. “You probably wouldn’t like them.”
Though he enjoyed having mind blowing sex with Mindy, he felt the words “Strike three” lurking, but pushed it aside for the moment, hopeful there was more to her than a sexy young woman. “How about having a bite to eat with me,” he said. “I have some soup I can heat up.”
“Yeah, that sounds cool. I’m hungry now,” she said, laying back in the recliner wearing only her tank top.
Paul went into the kitchen to heat up the soup, listening to the Oscar Peterson playing. He was wearing only his jeans and no shirt. Stirring the soup, getting some bowls down, he thought about Mindy, hoping he could learn more about her and see what she was interested in, probe her mind, now that he had probed her body.
“Well let’s have some soup,” he said, bringing the bowls to the table.
She sat down across from him at the kitchen table. “This is a treat. A man who can cook and sweep a girl off her feet,” she said.
Paul chuckled, looking at her, aware of how strange it was to have a sexy young woman in his apartment, sitting in his kitchen wearing a tight tank top and nothing else.
“So you’re an Oral Hygienist?” Paul asked, trying to think of what they could talk about.
“Yeah for now,” she said. “It’s okay. I like it, I guess.”
“What would you really like to do,” Paul asked. “Is there anything you’re interested in?”
“Not really,’ Mindy said. “I like hanging out with my friends, going to clubs on the weekend, you know, dancing, meeting guys. Sometimes, I think it would be cool to be a model.”
Paul sipped his soup, looking at Mindy sitting across from him, thinking about what she was saying about her interests, thinking she was sexy but pretty empty headed.
“Is that it?” Paul asked.
“Well, I like sex…you know that already,” she said.
“I know,” Paul said, suddenly feeling his erection growing but also wishing they could talk about something more substantial and strained to think of something that would be stimulating, but suddenly, she surprised him by putting her bare foot between his legs and on his growing erection. He looked at her, sitting with nothing on but her tight tank top, her long leg stretched between his legs. He was barefooted and following her lead did the same thing, pressing his foot against her wet mound, turning each other on.
“This is so hot,” she said, closing her eyes, pushing herself against his foot.
Suddenly, his lust rising he got up from his chair, quickly moved the bowls to the counter, came back to her then roughly lifted her from the chair, pushed her down on his kitchen table, spreading her legs, looking at her round luscious ass, her wetness dripping down her thighs and without hesitating drove into her, the sound of her screaming exciting him, her hands gripping the kitchen table.
Paul leaned over her back, thrusting as hard as he could, “Take it, you little slut!” he yelled, pounding her, his body slamming against her ass, pushing the table forward with each thrust. He felt her pussy gripping him, her body tensing, trembling then suddenly convulsing in a huge orgasm, “Harder! Harder! Don’t stop!” she screamed.
Her shouting and his relentless ramming brought him to the verge of orgasm and suddenly a bolt of energy shot through him giving him more strength and power than he’d ever known. Amazed at his stamina, he kept thrusting harder and harder, aware that Mindy was lying under him unable to move when he gave his final thrust before collapsing on her panting body, feeling dizzy but exhilarated by the lusty wildness he was experiencing now.
“Wow, you’re pretty hot for an older guy,” Mindy said, once he let her up.
Still gasping for air, Paul sat back on the kitchen chair, his limp deflated penis dangling between his legs looking at Mindy now sitting across from him, her long dark hair a mess, their mingled juices on her thighs, realizing he enjoyed their wild afternoon, but also realized he didn’t know what to say to her now that they had fucked like animals.
“Maybe it’s time for you to go,” he said.
“Oh, are you kicking me out,” she said. “I was hoping to spend the night in your bed.”
“Maybe some other time,” Paul said. “I told you I had an appointment tonight,” he added. “Don’t take it personally,” Paul said, seeing she was pouting.
“Let me stay here and I will be here after your appointment,” she said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Paul said, realizing Alicia probably had plans for them after dinner. “Maybe we can get together tomorrow. Would you like that?”
“Yeah, I guess, if I can’t stay here we can meet up tomorrow,” she said. “That’s okay I guess,” she added, still seeming disappointed, still pouting.
Just then his phone rang and he lifted his finger to Mindy indicating he’d be a minute. He picked up the phone and heard Alicia asking if he was coming for dinner.
“Yes,” Paul answered, turning his back to Mindy. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes. I’m running behind here,” he said, feeling a little self-conscious standing in his kitchen with no clothes on.
When he hung up, Mindy was shimmying into her jeans, putting on her sneakers, looking at Paul. He walked her to the door, feeling anxious for her to leave so he could get ready to go down the hall toApartment5. She stood close to him, putting her hand on his chest, looking into his eyes, “We’re going to have fun together, mister,” she said then kissed him.”
“Yes, we are,” Paul answered with his hand on the door knob. “I’m looking forward to seeing you tomorrow and continuing where we left off,” he said, knowing he wasn’t being honest.
When she left, Paul looked over at the reclining chair where he had ravished Mindy, still finding it hard to believe what was happening to him and now he had to gather his wits and get ready to have dinner and what might follow with Alicia.
After a fast shower, remembering his shower fantasy from earlier in the day, he dressed in a pair of tan khaki pants, a green and white striped golf shirt, open at the collar, a hint of his chest hair showing, and went to Alicia’s, noticing the room was dimly lit, candles flickering on the table, two plates on the table and soft music playing. Clearly, Alicia was creating the setting for a romantic evening.
“My, my, don’t you look handsome in that shirt,” she said.
“Thank you,” Paul responded, looking at Alicia dressed in a short floral sun dress, cut low, revealing a hint of cleavage and a good portion of her tan legs, her long auburn hair flowing over her shoulders. She came to him holding two glasses of wine, kissed him on the cheek, handing him his glass.
“I’m glad you could come and I promise you we will have an enjoyable evening,” she said, clicking his glass with hers, looking into his eyes, letting Paul know she wanted him and she was going all out to make this a memorable night.
And she did. After having a delicious fillet of salmon with a tangy topping and a simple but elegant salad with cherry tomatoes and marinated artichokes, she topped it off with a dense chocolate torte she brought at the gourmet bakery down town and espresso she served in small white cups. After moving to her sofa, it wasn’t long before she pulled him on top of her, kissing him madly, their bodies grinding and humping before she pulled him into her bedroom, both ripping off their clothes before falling to the bed for a night of mind blowing sex.
The next morning, after delicious coffee and toast with orange marmalade, Paul returned to his apartment seeing the remnants of his dinner with Mindy on the counter, the salt and pepper shakers and napkins on the floor next to the kitchen table where he remembered taking Mindy like a madman.
“I can’t believe what’s happening to me,” Paul said, shaking his head in awe at the mystery that entered his life, how he felt, looked and, most baffling, how women were looking at him, desiring him and giving themselves to him. He put the Oscar Peterson CD away, picked up a CD of Brahms Intermezzos and put that on while he went back to the kitchen to wash out the soup bowls, wipe the counters, straighten the kitchen chairs, thinking about Mindy’s taste in music, shaking his head at the name of the band she mentioned, The Hot Potatoes, wondering if he wanted another hot afternoon with her or whether he should call, “Strike three.”
Alicia was a little different and he remembered all the positions they tried during the night, dozing off then waking up, rolling around the bed, how she shouted, “Fuck me, stud!”
“No one ever called me stud before,” he thought, “but I never gave women the chance,” he said, then remembered his few lapses several years ago just before separating from Evelyn. He sighed, remembering Evelyn, how their sex life died, but remembered they still had great conversations and what a great mother she was to their two sons. She made him laugh with her quirky sense of humor but then he remembered the sudden flair ups where they argued and called each other names, how days would go by when they didn’t talk, how sullen and distant they became, but then they would start talking again, having conversations about a book she was reading, how she was studying herbal remedies and how she responded when he read her some of his new poetry, how she nodded, smiled, make astute observations about a line. “Too bad about us,” he muttered, shaking his head, shoving his memories of Evelyn away and returned to the present. “That chapter is done,” he said, walking to the window and looked down at the pool, noticing three women in bikinis on the lounge chairs, talking to each other.
Deciding to go down and really work on his tan, he put on his maroon bathing trunks, glancing at himself in the mirror, surprised to see his hair didn’t look as thin or as white. He grabbed a towel then went bare footed to the same lounge chair he sat in the day before. Rather than taking a swim, he lay down on the chair and closed his eyes, determined to not complicate his life, certain Alicia would be coming down soon to join her friends. He felt the warm sun on his body, enjoying how relaxed he felt and glad none of the women on the other side of the pool seemed to be paying attention to him.
He must have dozed off but was awakened by the little boy tapping his thigh. He opened his eyes and saw a blond haired boy smiling at him.
“Who are you?” the boy asked.
“I’m Paul, who are you?” Paul responded, surprised by the sudden intrusion, but smiled at the boy.
“Alex,” he said. I’m five. How old are you?”
“How old do you think I am?” Paul asked, not wanting to say his age but curious what the boy would think.
“I don’t know,” Alex answered. “You look kind old but I just heard my mom say she thinks you’re cute.”
“She said that,” Paul responded. “That’s nice.”
Just then a woman in a white bikini ran over to where they were sitting and took the boy’s hand. “Alex, you shouldn’t be bothering this man,” she said, looking at Paul then at her son. “I’m so sorry. Alex just likes talking to people.”
“Oh that’s okay, I don’t mind,” Paul said, looking up at the woman, noticing her green eyes, her straight long blonde hair, her tan face and body, her breasts spilling out of her top.
“Mommy, you said he was cute,” Alex said.
“Come along Alex, we can’t bother this man,” she said, closing her eyes then looking at Paul. “I’m sorry he’s bothering you,” she added, obviously embarrassed.
“That’s quite alright. Kids will be kids,” Paul said.
“Well, we will be going,” she said. “I’m really sorry,” she said again, “by the way I’m Tricia.”
“Hello Tricia. I’m Paul,” he answered.
“Glad to meet you. Well, we’ll leave you alone, now,” she said, taking Alex’s hand and walking away but after a few steps turned and smiled, looking into his eyes. “You are cute,” she said, startling Paul, surprising him that a woman with a son would be flirting with him.
He watched her walk away holding her son’s hand, her white bikini barely covering her ass cheeks, her long blonde hair halfway down her back, and Paul wondered if she was married, divorced, like a lot of young women, raising a child alone, but flattered by her words and how she was flirting with him. “Interesting,” Paul thought, “I wonder what her story is,” he said, laying back on the lounge, closing his eyes, imagining being seduced by her, not knowing anything about her. Did she have a husband, or boyfriend? Was she one of the cougars Alicia wanted to hide him from?
Fifteen minutes later, feeling baked by the sun, noticing his chest and legs were getting a little red, he decided to go back to his apartment and not over do it with the sun. Just as he opened the door to his apartment, he saw Alicia coming out of hers wearing her bikini top and a short green skirt, revealing her tan legs, their eyes meeting. She came over to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek, “I had a wonderful time, last night,” she said, softly.
“Me too, we’ll have to do that again sometime,” he said.
“I’d love it,” she said. ““What are you doing tonight?”
“I don’t know,” Paul answered, opening his door. “Let’s play it by ear,” he added, wondering about Mindy and then the possibility of Wendy came to him then even Tricia popped into his mind, remembering how she flirted with him. “I’ll give you a call later.”
“I’d like that,” she said, winking at him as he entered his apartment.
In his bedroom, looking at himself in the mirror over his bureau, seeing his face had more color than it has had in years, his eyes seemed bluer, his chest not as pale, noticing he looked slimmer, “You’re looking pretty good for an old guy,” he said. “What’s happening to me?” he questioned, thinking about the women that were now in his life after so many years of longing for something he felt he would never have.
“I wonder if that potion had anything to do with this,” he thought, then remembered the bargain he had made with Luke when he agreed to drink it, again dismissing the notion of his soul and spirit belonging to Luke, but then, baffled by how women were suddenly wanting him, Paul closed his eyes wondering what Luke meant when they shook hands and he said, “I will own you.”
At the Gilded Cage that afternoon, he was disappointed to learn that Wendy was off when he asked, but then Catherine, the freckled faced girl behind the counter, said, “She’ll be be coming in to pick up her check in a little while. It’s payday.”
“Oh, Paul,” responded, surprised how glad that made him and wondered if she would join him for a coffee or glass of wine if she came in while he was there.
Just as he finished his glass of chardonnay thinking how much he liked indulging in an afternoon wine, he closed his New Yorker and saw Wendy coming in the café wearing a short denim skirt and t shirt, a small red backpack hanging from her shoulders. When she saw Paul, she came to his table and sat down in across from him.
“Hope you don’t mind if I join you?” she asked, having already sat down.
“No, of course not,” Paul said then added, “So this is your day off.”
“Yes, this is my day to paint,” she said.
“Oh, are you an artist?” Paul asked.
“I am or I’m trying to be,” she said.
“If you’re painting everyday, you’re an artist, not trying to be one.”
“Okay, I’m an artist,” she said and laughed. “I like how you said that,” she added, leaning back in her chair, looking at Paul, biting her lower lip, smiling, their eyes meeting.
Paul noticed how her t-shirt strained at her breasts, her nipples showing but then he looked at her eyes, not wanting her to know where he was looking.
“I’ve always loved to draw and paint, ever since I was a kid.”
“What kind of paintings do you do? Is it realistic or abstract? What style do you work in?” Paul asked, feeling her passion for art, sensing her seriousness.
“I’m all over the place--abstract, realistic, sometimes I combine collages in a painting sometimes, photographs are worked in. I’m pretty free, experimental--kind of wild, do you know what I mean? ”
“Yes, I know what you mean,” Paul responded, nodding, struck by her description, wondering if she was as wild in bed as her art work. “Can I treat you to something,” he asked, “a coffee, a wine, anything?”
“No, thanks, I just came into get my check, but I’m glad I saw you. I remember when I had you for that creative writing class, how excited you were about writing but you didn’t look like you do now. Something is different.”
“Really, what do you mean? How did I look then? What are you saying?”
“You seemed distant. You looked distracted, like you were someplace else, like you weren’t being you,” Wendy said, staring at him. “Now you seem different. When I saw you the other day, remember, I said Wow, you look great!”
“Yes, I remember. I was surprised,” Paul said, fascinated by what Wendy was saying, knowing what she said was true, struck by how perceptive she was, how honest and spontaneous, something he wasn’t.
“Listen, Paul, I have an idea,” she said, pausing, hesitating, “how about coming to my studio and I’ll show you my paintings, how about it?”
“I’d like that,” Paul said, surprised but delighted by her idea, wondering if she was seducing him, but at the same time, he felt she genuinely wanted to share her art with him.
“Cool, I really want you to see my work. I’ll be right back,” she said, jumping up. “I’ll get my check and we can go. My studio’s not too far, we can walk.”
While waiting, he thumbed through the New Yorker, glancing at a few cartoons, chuckling at the humor and remembered the cartoon he tacked up in the English Department office a few years ago because of the whole publish or perish pressure that dominated academia. In the cartoon, Jesus is being taken down from the cross after being crucified and the caption read, “He was a great teacher, too bad he didn’t publish.”
A few minutes later, Wendy returned, “Okay, Paul, let’s go,” she said and walked next to him to the entrance when Mindy walked in and saw them, her eyes glancing at Wendy then at Paul.
“Oh no,” Paul thought when he saw her surprised face then angry eyes.
“I was just coming to see if you were here,” Mindy said. “But now I see you’re a bastard like all the other guys I know.” Before Paul could say anything, she looked Wendy up and down and then sped past them to a table.
“Wow, what was that about?” Wendy asked. “That’s the girl you left with yesterday, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. We had a little fling,” Paul confessed.
“Oh, I see, well I guess it’s none of my business,” Wendy said. “I didn’t know you were such a Casanova. Maybe I better watch myself.”
“Don’t worry,” Paul said. “I just want to see your art.”
“Cool,” Wendy said, “I really want to know what you think.”
As they walked out, Paul turned and saw Mindy sitting at the table where they sat yesterday, suddenly feeling how complicated his life was becoming, remembering the lust filled afternoon they had yesterday, his evening with Alicia, Tricia flirting with him and now here he was walking to Wendy’s studio.
Once in Wendy’s third floor studio which was also her apartment, he saw canvases on all the walls, many leaning against the wall, an easel in the center of the room, splatters of paint on the floor and could see she was productive. He noticed how the late afternoon light came in the window, casting a warm glow on everything.
“You sure seem productive,” Paul said. “You have a lot of work here.”
“Yes, when I’m not working at the Gilded Cage, I paint. My art means a lot to me and guess what, I’m having my first show in September at the Leighton Gallery.”
“I’m impressed,” Paul said, walking around the room, looking at the paintings, stopping in front of each one, seeing the variety, all of it vibrant, bright swirls of color, energy. Some of it landscapes with trees, rocks, water, others of intricate lines and bold strokes, some pen and ink drawings.
Wendy walked in back of Paul as he looked at everything then he stood in front of the unfinished painting on the easel. Standing back, looking at what looked like a portrait of a man with a white hair and a beard, blue pensive eyes but noticed a lot of the face was in shadows. He looked at it, stunned at what he was seeing then turned and looked at Wendy.
“Is that me?” Paul asked.
I think so,” Wendy answered. “I just wanted to paint a portrait, something I don’t do but then after I saw you the other day, this is what happened.”
“I’m flattered and surprised,” Paul said, “but why?”
“I don’t know, but when I saw you the other day, I not only liked how you looked, but I also sensed something wasn’t right. You don’t know me very well, but I am empathic. I can sense things about people and that’s why half your face in shadows. Something dark is happening to you. I know it.”
“Something dark,” Paul asked, looking at Wendy then back at the portrait. “If anything, the opposite of dark is happening. I feel better than ever. I feel youthful, strong and you saw that woman get angry at me in the café, that’s what’s happening, suddenly women desire me. I have had more sex in the last couple of days than I’ve had in years. Excuse me for saying that to you, but you’re wrong, nothing dark is happening.”
“Why do you think that this is suddenly happening to you?” Wendy asked, looking into Paul’s eyes. “What’s different?”
“I can’t explain it but until a few days ago, I was in bad shape. I thought my life was over. I felt life had passed me by, I was getting old. I don’t know why I am confessing this to you, but I was sexually frustrated. You’re going to think I’m crazy but I wanted young sexy women to look at me and desire me. Something I avoided when I was married and I was determined to be ethical as a teacher even when I had golden opportunities and now, I have more women after me than I can handle.”
“You’re a little devil, aren’t you,” Wendy said, playfully, smiling, looking into his eyes, nodding. “So you’re taking advantage of your new lease on life.”
Wendy’s mentioning the devil startled Paul and he suddenly remembered Luke, or Lucifer and the potion he drank the other day, “Yes, I have a new lease on life, you could say that,” he said, dismissing the incident in Luke’s office as irrational. “I just decided to take the mask off and let my hair down,” he paused and chuckled, “my thinning hair.”
Wendy laughed and stepped closer to Paul and smiled, looking into his eyes, “So you took control of your life and now you are suddenly a stud,” she said.
“Well, I wouldn’t put it that way. I mean, it’s true, things have gotten pretty wild.”
Wendy put his arms around Paul’s neck, pulled him against her, lifted her lips to his and kissed him, gently on the lips, moved one hand to the back of his head and kissed him harder, slowly opening his mouth. Paul kissed her back, wrapping his arms around her but sensed there was something different in the way she was kissing him, something warmer, tender, caring, unlike the way Mindy and Alicia kissed him.
“Do you believe in angels,” Wendy asked after their lips parted.
“Angels?” Paul asked. “I don’t think so. I don’t believe there is such a thing as angels.”
“Maybe you will find out there are,” she said, then kissed him again, then took his hand and led him to the bed on the other side of the studio. She lay down and pulled Paul down next to her and kissing him, wrapped her arms and legs around him, embracing him in a tender, loving way that made Paul feel he was being made love to and not seduced. “I want to make love to you,” she said. “You are a beautiful man, a wonderful poet and teacher. I could see by the way you looked at my paintings you are a lot more than a stud. You deserve a woman who can love and appreciate you.”
“Really,” Paul respond surprised and moved by what Wendy was saying, “Thank you for saying that.”
“I mean it,” Wendy said, smiling. When I saw you the other day at the café, I felt something and I haven’t stopped thinking about you. That’s why I started this painting, but I also sensed a dark shadow was over you.”
After she said that they kissed each other, their lips opening each other’s mouths, their tongues touching; their bodies moving as their passion grew. Wendy stopped and pulled her t shirt off and Paul did the same, also removing his jeans, while Wendy removed her denim skirt and panties and they were back in each others arms making sweet, tender love, moving slowly but soon, their passion grew more intense, moving faster, harder, building like the crescendo at the end of a symphony until they both had simultaneous orgasms that Paul knew were unlike anything he had ever experienced.
“That was wonderful,” Paul said laying on the bed, holding Wendy in his arms as they cuddled, her head on his shoulder, feeling the warmth of her soothing body and knew then, strike three had happened with Mindy. He also knew he didn’t want to be in Alicia’s bed. He wanted the feeling that Wendy was giving him and though he didn’t quite believe it, he wondered if she was right, she was an angel letting him know what is possible.
For the next two weeks, Paul and Wendy were always together. She came to his apartment. He came to hers. He read his New Yorker at the café, enjoying watching her work. He wrote poetry every morning. He was happier than he had ever been and though he was cordial to Alicia when he saw her at the pool, she got the message, Paul was no longer interested in being seduced by her.
Rather than going to the pool, Paul began sitting in the park not far from the café, a place he had recently discovered and liked going there while waiting for Wendy. He liked sitting in the shade, reading, writing in his notebook, feeding pigeons, watching people.
One day, he thought he heard the sound of a motorcycle drive by and looked up and saw it stop by the entrance and recognized Luke walking towards him, saw his swagger, his long hair, the black vest and then he smiled and sat down next to Paul.
“Remember me,” Luke said.
“Yes, I remember you. How did you find me?” Paul asked.
“Don’t ask stupid questions,” he said. “I’ve been keeping track of you and know what’s been happening. Did you doubt my potion would work?”
“Your potion,” Paul said. “I never believed in your potion.”
“So you think you suddenly became this hot lover by yourself,” Luke said.
“I have to admit my life has changed since I sat in your office,” Paul said.
“Do you remember our deal?” Luke said, smiling at Paul.
“Yes,” Paul sighed. “What about it?”
“Well, I think it’s time for me to collect. You had your fun, now it’s my turn,” Luke said.
“What’s there to collect?” Paul asked. “You know I don’t believe in any of your idiotic notions about my soul and spirit.
“Is that so,” Luke said, “Is that so,” he repeated then laughed. He then stood up and looked down at Paul. “Well, I’ll be on my way,” he said and started to walk away then stopped and came back to the Paul. “Don’t be surprised if that woman you’ve fallen in love with, the one who thinks she’s an angel, breaks your heart.”
Paul watched Luke walk away, stunned by his statement but then dismissed it as nonsense. He felt the bond that had developed with Wendy was strong and though she was twenty five years younger, he knew she loved him and he was more in love with her each day. He felt lucky to have her in his life and the thought that she would break his heart was ridiculous.
However, that night at dinner, Wendy told him she had news. She had to go back home toOhio. Her mother was sick and she probably wouldn’t be returning. She canceled her show at the Leighton Gallery. She then took his hand in hers and said, “I think its best that we break up. You have your life here, your job and I don’t think I can handle a long distance relationship. Really, Paul, this is for the best.”
“No, I don’t want to lose you. You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
“I understand how hard this is for you. It isn’t easy for me either, but it’s the right thing,” she said, holding his hand. “I’m having all of my paintings shipped home. I don’t have much else. I’m leaving in two days.”
“Two days,” Paul said. “This is all so sudden.”
“I finished the painting of you and I want you to have it,” she said.
“Thank you, Wendy,” Paul said. “But I want you not the painting.”
“I know,” she said then kissed him, took him in her arms, embracing him and they made the most passionate love of his life. It was as if all their feelings for each other had been squeezed into a ball and she said she would always love him.
“Wendy, I am determined not to lose you,” he said. “I will write, email, call you. I will always want you in my life.”
“I won’t respond, Paul. This is the end. This is the way I want it. This is the way it must be. Let’s just have this memory.”
That was the last night he saw Wendy. Two days later when he opened the door in the morning to get his mail, the painting was leaning against the door without a note. He looked at the finished painting and noticed that more than half of his face was in the dark shadow, but when he looked closer at the blue eyes in the light, there was a tear rolling down the cheek and a sudden sadness overwhelmed him and he felt his throat ache, holding back the tears that came to his eyes.
As the weeks past, Paul wrote letters but got no response in fact they came back undeliverable. When he tried to find her phone number, he couldn’t find a number for a Wendy Paquin anywhere inOhioand now all he had were the memories of the month they had together and the painting she left him. He felt his despair returning. He tried writing poetry but nothing came. At his feet, he had a wastepaper basket filled with rolled up sheets of paper. He stopped going to the pool and his tan became pale skin. When he saw Alicia in the hall, she smiled cordially, said “Hello Paul” but walked by him. He went to the Gilded Cage a few times and was glad not to see Mindy, but he also missed seeing Wendy at the counter and remembered that first day when she seemed so happy to see him.
That fall, he gave notice that he was retiring from the university. He said he needed more time to write even though he knew he hadn’t written a poem in six months and didn’t care any more. He knew the muse had left him. He didn’t have the passion to be moved by anything enough to write about it. He felt tired, old, the world weariness that he felt the day he drove into the country and stopped at Luke’s Bar and Grill was now dominating his days. Often he kept the curtains closed, the room dark, he never listened to his jazz or classical music, though he did indulge in many glasses of Jack Daniels. He had a pile of New Yorkers that came week after week but other than look at the cover, or thumb through to see if there was a cartoon that amused him, he didn’t read the magazines and more often than not, fell asleep in the recliner, the empty glass in his hand.
He still thought about Wendy, remembered her passion and talent then the pain of her disappearing from his life made him want to shove the thought of her away. For some reason lines of poetry kept coming to him, lines from Mathew Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” and he found himself reciting them out loud in the darkness of his room:
Ah love, let us be true!
to one another! For the world which seems
to lie before us like a land of dreams,
so various, so beautiful, so new
hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
nor certitude, nor help for pain….”
He still loved poetry, even though he could no longer write it. He had lost his desire to be looked at by young women and when he did take walks and see someone he thought was attractive he didn’t care whether she looked at him or not. It didn’t matter. Though he rarely remembered dreams, he started have a reoccurring dream that woke him up. In the dream he was walking on a beach looking at the ocean, he was alone and he heard himself saying out loud lines from a T.S. Eliot poem: “I have heard the mermaids singing each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me.”
Those lines haunted him and he recognized that whatever romance, sex and love he longed for, those days were behind him. Now he was resigned to his empty existence and though he couldn’t explain what had happened to him or what brought him to this place in his life, he knew he would never forget the afternoon he shook Luke’s hand or the potion that tasted like root beer.
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