The Casual Thinker

Many consider Samantha to be my best girlfriend since we’ve known each other for at least five years and, most weekends in Los Angeles, we are inseparable.  She is the prettiest girl to me, I will admit, and her new breasts are round and perfect and her face is sleek with sharp angles at her cheeks.  There were times in those younger days when one is victim to instant crushes that I found her to be attractive and completely personable.  Some may even say I was obsessed with her.  But I look at her this evening in this club and in this lighting and, well, . . . I don’t know.   

“Girl, I have not seen you in weeks,” she says as she taps my wrist with her long cerulean blue fingernails.  She holds a purple martini in her other hand, the expanse of the club spread out behind her.  Lights of all colors sweep across the bar and dance floor.  Men and women mostly in their twenties chat and throw down drinks.  Go-go boys – Samantha’s favorite wild animal – jiggle their packages in tight fitting underwear while they dance around on various speakers or dance box things.

            I am still a little jet-lagged.

            “Your face is puffy,” Samantha says as she sweeps a strand of hair behind my ear.

            “Nice to see you too.” 

She laughs it off.  Then she tickles my wrist, getting dangerously close to smudging my new sterling silver bracelet.

“Tell me about that guy you met,” she says.

            “He was exactly what I needed.”

            Samantha and I texted daily while I was in Australia, but the extra cost of international SMS limited it to simple superlatives and facial expression emoji’s.

            “You heard from him?  Any pics?” Samantha says.

            I blush.

            “My god, you are totally smitten,” she says.  There is a drop of sweat above her left eyebrow, which is painted red.  Her hair and lips are both red today.  So is her dress.  She knows the bartenders here are straight, so she’s vamping.

            I take a long drink of vodka soda with lemon.  I make sure my bracelet does not get a spray of flop sweat.  It’s still June, and it’s boiling.  The humidity levels are crazy, even for L.A. 

I can only imagine what my hair is doing.  So curly and shaggy and, likely, in a bird’s nest.  I have my father’s hair.  I didn’t even think to cover it – I was in such a rush to get here.

            “Come on, girl, talk,” Samantha says.

I catch a glimpse of my silver nail polish.  Everything today is silver.

            That was his name.  Jason Silver.

            “I only had a couple of free days in Sydney,” I say.  It’s true.  I spent most of the week visiting various locations for work.  Trying to implement the international marketing push for a new food chain of American fried chicken.

            “How’d you meet?” Samantha says, tapping the table.

I feel a wave of lethargy.  For some reason something so interesting seems so tiring.  Maybe it’s just the smell of sewer coming from the bathrooms at the back of this club.  Maybe it’s the non-stop rhythm of the go-go boys with their semi-erect penises.  It’s too much. 

            “Ok.”  I try to lose myself in my thoughts as I tell her everything, but I also can’t help but look around to see if anyone is staring.

            “I stayed in the Four Seasons down by Sydney Harbor.  It’s a good location.  Easy walking distance to the Opera House and Harbor Bridge.  Sydney is a beautiful city this time of year, even though it’s their winter.  The crowds are big, but not huge.  I mustered up the strength to do the Harbor Bridge Climb all by myself.”

            “Hopefully not in those heels,” Samantha says.

            I look down at my shiny gray stilettos.

            “It was the night after I saw a dance show at the Opera House,” I say.  “Some indigenous dance troupe, which I found inspiring.  So many muscles and slipperiness.  I decided to have a drink after, at the Opera Bar right outside on the water.  The people there were international and sophisticated.  Beautiful, well-dressed.”

“Preach,” Samantha says.

“I guess you could say I had a few vodka sodas there.  Well, vodka lemonades, which is what they call them.  After the third or fourth round I was tired of being by myself, so I got on Tinder.  The guys there are mostly abs and veins, but so damn hot.”

            “Sooo damn hot,” Samantha says.  She winks at a go-go boy as he lumbers past our table.

            “Jason Silver wasn’t my first choice.  He was third or fourth.  But he showed up first, even though it was forty minutes later than he said.  It must’ve been after 23:00 by then.  He wore a navy-blue suit.  Very sophisticated.  His beard well-groomed, his brown hair perfectly long.  He was over six feet tall.  Very thin, but still with presence.”

            “I’d climb that tree,” Samantha says. 

            “We hit it off instantly.  His Queensland accent was thick but not obnoxious.  The way his large hands rested on my thigh.”

            “Girl, I’m gonna need another cocktail.”

            Luckily the shirtless waiter has one coming.

            “You fuck him?” Samantha says.

            “Not yet.”

            She looks around the club.

            “Jason and I shared at least two drinks.  I was probably a little messy by then.  I regret that.  I had on my four-inch red heels, and my gray dress was a little too business, but it did the trick.  Jason offered to escort me for a walk along the Harbor.  He was a perfect gentleman.  We walked all the way back to the Four Seasons.  He kissed me on the cheek, then turned me over to the door man.  Texted me as I got in bed.  He wanted to continue the date the next morning.”

            “He’s like that cheerleader you dated in college,” Samantha says.  “What’s his name?  Jake?”

            I have another sip of my drink.  Then continue.  “The plan for the next day was to meet at a restaurant in some hipster neighborhood – someplace known for hotcakes.  I got there at 10:00, which was a little late, but he didn’t get there till almost 11:00.  He thanked me for having a table.  Actually, he was surprised I was early.  Isn’t that funny?”

            Samantha caresses the waiter’s bicep as he sets down her new drink.

            “We had a nice meal,” I say.  “Then walked around the area.  There were shops and weird colorful paintings on the sides of buildings.  Somehow, we ended up back near the business district and the Four Seasons.  Then he surprised me.  We got in a cab and crossed the river.  Ended up on some cliffside with an amazing view of the city.  We had tea and laughed.  He said he was in finance, but his family owns a winery north of town.  He’s been in Sydney for four years.  He’s just a little older than me – 27.”

            “When did you fuck him?” Samantha says.

            I stare at my vodka.

            “Anyways, the days went by quickly, and soon it was my last night.  We agreed to have one more evening along the Harbor.  I bought a new dress at the hotel boutique – way over budget.  It was hunter green and fit my curves nicely.  Well, not too nicely.  There are certain curves girls like us don’t need to show.”

            Samantha laughs.

            “He took me to Mr. Wong’s, a wonderful Chinese restaurant nearby.  They played jazz, and the servers – all men – wore tuxedos.  I felt like a princess.  Then we took another walk along the Harbor.  Ended up on the Bridge.  It was dark, and the lights kept switching on and off.  It was chilly.”

            “Aaand that’s where you fucked him.” 

Samantha’s not even looking at me anymore.

            “No, we didn’t fuck.  He took my hand, and we walked to the center of the bridge.  That’s where we watched the fireworks over the Opera House.  It was nice.”

            “Speaking of fireworks.”  She waves at the bartender.   

            “He then turned to me and said, ‘Sorry.’  He was shaking.  I thought he was cold, so I said ‘Sorry about what?’  He leaned in and kissed me.  Took off his jacket.   I felt the curves of his muscles under his shirt, very nice.  He kissed me again, and we explored each other’s chests.  His hands carefully slid down to my waist.  Soon I turned to face the Harbor again and guided him inside me.  It was perfect, and gentle.”

            “Sounds messy,” Samantha says.

            “I felt like such a lady, the whole time.”

            Samantha’s green eyes are moist – either from emotion or the cigarette smoke from this patio.  “And he had no issue with, you know?” she says.

            “Of course not.”

I don’t look her in the eye when I say it.

                                                            #          #          #

            I am not a fan of the Fourth of July.  I have always been afraid of loud explosions, and the idea of my brothers throwing firecrackers into the air with their hands seems stupid and a reflection of myself and my family.  Just stupid.  But Mom and Dad insist that I come here every year, even though it’s a three-hour drive north to San Luis Obispo and the traffic is horrible and the sun is so damn hot.

            I’m sitting on the back wood patio of my parent’s house looking in the direction of the ocean, although you can’t see it from here.  This is hill country, and all around us are vineyards and trees and dirt.  It’s pretty, yes, but nothing as diverse and exhilarating as that view from the Harbor Bridge two weeks ago.

            Mom is sitting next to me on a wood patio chair that matches the gray, weathered color of her skin.  She is sipping a large glass of iced tea.  My sister Jean is on the outdoor loveseat, which has red and gold striped pillows that I picked out for Mom and Dad many years ago.  They are now faded and dull.  Dad is on the far side of the patio cooking Italian sausages and hamburgers on the propane grill.  My three brothers are running around in the yard chasing each other with long crooked sticks.  They are high-school aged with middle-school maturity.

            “That was a nice photo on Facebook you posted during your trip,” Mom says.  Her hair is soft and thin and blows around her head in the breeze. “The one with you and the tall guy in front of the cooking pots.”

            “What was up with that guy?” Jean says.  “He looked so confused.”

            I hate my sister Jean.  The past couple of years she has been so mean and competitive.  She’s been spoiled all her life, for sure.  Ever since she was born, I have known my parents favor her.

            “It looked like you two were hitting it off,” Mom says.

            “What did he think of your little fried chicken?” Jean says.

            Stupid bitch.

            “Now, Jean, I think it’s nice that Kendall met someone on vacation,” Mom says.  “They say the Aussies are quite friendly.”

            I stare at Jean as she twirls her perfect brown hair in her fingers.  It’s long, fully conditioned, and shiny with the reflection of the sun.  Jean is a hostess at one of the local wineries.  What a waste of a college education.

            “Come on, Ken,” Mom says.  “Tell us all about it.”

            Jean laughs.  “Start with how much you had to pay him,” she says.  “And end with the look of O.M.G. on his face.”

            Stupid bitch from hell.

            “What was the photo all about?” Mom says.

            “It was a cooking class.  Some local restaurant not too far from the Four Seasons.  Oddly the chef taught us various forms of dim sum.  We made little baos and dumplings and stuff.  I thought it was cute.  I wanted to try some authentic Australian food, but for some reason they didn’t have a class on that.  I asked this little old lady while rolling tortillas for the dumplings to describe for me the perfect Australian dish.  She couldn’t come up with anything.

            “‘Cottage pie,’ the chef said.

            “‘That’s English,’ the lady said.

            “They went around the kitchen and asked all the locals to supplement.  They couldn’t come up with anything other than British dishes and meat pies.  ‘Isn’t there anything Australia is known for?’ I asked.  Everyone shrugged.”

            “No wonder he looked confused in the photo,” Jean says.  “This story is lame.”

            “Hush, Jean,” Mom says.

            I roll my eyes.

            “How did you meet this young man?” Mom says.

            I think of the guy with the goofy smile in that Facebook photo.  The sharp pink edges of his cheeks and the big white teeth.

            “A colleague of mine at the Sydney headquarters introduced us.  They knew I was looking for a date to this dance show at the Opera House, and Jason Silver – that’s his name – was a friend of a friend.  Supposedly my age and interested in dance and showing a lady around town.  He was, actually, a perfect gentleman.”

            “That’s wonderful,” Mom says.  She finishes her drink.  Dad walks by with a plate of sausages – I cringe at the look and smell – I hate meat.  He takes them down to my brothers, who are now wrestling in the dirt.

            Boys are stupid.

            “Tell us everything,” Jean says, staring at me while still twirling her hooker hair.

            “He wanted to show me around Sydney and make sure I had a good time.  We went to an Australian football game – the Sydney Swans versus a team from Melbourne.  I was so confused.  There were, like, fifty people on the field, mostly just standing around chatting.  Someone would kick a ball now and then at these four goalposts, but there was no passing or tackling or touchdowns.  It wasn’t even like soccer.  It wasn’t football at all.  They just stood there.  I guess Australia isn’t known for being overly active.  Or fast-paced.”

            “Lame,” Jean says.

            Mom looks at me with eyes filled with support.  She’s very supportive.  I love her for that.

            I couldn’t have made it through the past few years without my mother.  I am a momma’s child, through and through.

            “So, did you actually go on a date?” Jean says.  “Or was he just your tour guide?  Did you have to tip him?”

            “Hush, Jean,” Mom says.

            “Of course not.  He wanted me to meet his family, so one of the days we drove up north of Sydney to the wine country, and he took me to their vineyard and we sipped red wine and ate crostini.  His family was lovely.  There were actually brown kangaroos lounging amongst the rows of grapevines.  Can you imagine that?  Kangaroos on a vineyard.”

            “Sure beats rattlesnakes and deer,” Jean says.

            Mom shakes her head.

            “When are we going to meet this stud?” Dad says as he walks past us with an empty plate.  Dad has a gut and a bald head, and he really is the most unsophisticated person I know.  Seriously.

            He never has treated me like my brothers.

            “Do you even know his name?” Jean says.

            “That’s enough.  I told you, his name is Jason Silver, and we really hit it off.”

            Mom looks at me with those supportive eyes.

            “Let’s call him and say hello,” Jean says.

            “He’s asleep.”

            “Of course he is.”

            Jean and I used to be the closest of all my siblings.  But now . . .

            “How did you end it?” Mom says.  “He sounds wonderful.”

            “We took a walk along the Harbor and then did the Sydney Bridge Climb.  You know, the one where you climb all the way to the top of the Harbor Bridge railing.  Oh my god it was so steep and high but the view was incredible.  It was the perfect way to say goodbye.  He even gave me a little kiss.”

            “That’s so sweet,” Mom says.

            Jean rolls her eyes.

            I look at Dad.  He holds one of those stupid Italian sausages in a pair of tongs.  His face is red, and he looks completely flabbergasted over everything.

            My family is simple.  They are all just so damn simple.  I hate it.

                                                            #          #          #

            I can’t believe it’s already been a month since my last visit.  The office still smells like cherry cough syrup, and the large purple chair made of felt is just as uncomfortable as ever.  I look out the foggy window to see a glimpse of Beverly Hills and the mountains in the distance.  Los Angeles is hot and sweltering.  On fire, literally, in some parts today.  I don’t really feel I need this session with Dr. Grambling, but my medication is running low.  Although, I’m not sure I want to take it anymore.

            Dr. Grambling is a wiry, ugly woman with an upturned nose and nostrils as big as the circles of her eyes.  I don’t really like her, but she’s the only one I can afford.  Actually, I don’t have to pay her anything.  My so-called insurance from the fast food conglomerate has her on some kind of hotline and payroll.  I guess everyone is a hooker in some way.

            My cardigan sweater today feels too tight and too clingy, and the yarn is sticking in the grooves of my silver bracelet.  But the air-conditioning in this building is always frigid.  Just like Dr. Grambling.

            “How’d you do on your trip?” she says.

            “It was fine.” I just sat down five minutes ago, and I’m already losing the feeling in my ass.

            “Just fine?  Work was productive?”

            “I met someone.”

            Dr. Grambling takes her notes on her pink notepad.  She expresses no surprise or emotion. 

            “No, for real this time.  His name is Jason Silver.”

            “That’s great.”  She crosses her legs.  They are ugly, bulky legs.

            “Can we just talk about my medication?” I say.

            Dr. Grambling makes her little half smile. 

            “Fine,” I say.  “What you want to know about him?”

            “Just tell me the story, and we’ll see.”

            “It’s not a story.”

            I look out the window and stare at the top of department stores and office buildings.  All in a little cluster just blocks away down by Rodeo Drive.

            “Have you maintained contact with this guy?” Dr. Grambling says.

            “Of course.”

            “Tell me all about him.”

            I don’t know.

            “Come on, Kendall.  We’ve made some progress the past few months.  You can tell me.”

            Her usual spiel.

            “It doesn’t leave this room,” she says.

            I pick at some dirt behind a silver fingernail.

            “I met him at the Opera House along the Sydney Harbor.  I had just left a show about an indigenous dance troupe.  I was thirsty so I had a drink.  He came up to me at the bar.  He was sweet.”

            Dr. Grambling takes her notes.  The sharp back and forth of her long pen reminds me of Mom’s knitting needle.

            “We chatted for hours.  He was quite charming.  I think I much prefer the Australian accent over the British one.  There’s a comfort in it.  Like a well-worn high heel shoe.  I just slid right into it and let him take me through a night of stories.”

            “What did you talk about?”

            I didn’t think she would require this level of detail.

            I look around and see no photos of any sort of lover or family for Dr. Grambling.  She doesn’t have much on display at all.

            Except those monster legs of hers.

            “Have you ever been to Sydney?” I say.  “The Opera House is quite spectacular.  Not just for the view or the architecture, but also for the ambience and the people.  People from all around the world congregate there in the nicest, most sophisticated outfits.  It’s my favorite place in the world, that little peninsula.  I fell in love.”

            Dr. Grambling scribbles something.  Her amethyst ring is catching a ray of pink sunlight.

            “We chatted for hours.  Then he walked me to my room.”

            “Was that the end of it?”

            “For that night, yes.  Actually, I was afraid it was the end of all of it.  I forgot to get his number and give him mine.  I was so swept up by all of it.”

            A crack in my fingernail catches the edge of my sweater.

            “Then what?” Dr. Grambling says.

            As the weeks go by, it’s getting a little harder to remember how to describe it.  At least, the most of it.

            “I worked a few days in the Sydney area and nearly forgot him.  Then I went to this cooking class one night, recommended by my hotel.  I was bored and looking to get a little culture.  The theme of the class was Asian food.  It was really salty.  We were cooking along – just me and a bunch of old ladies from Germany – when, wouldn’t you know it, Mr. Silver walked into the place.”

            “He was the guy you met at the Opera House?” Dr. Grambling says.

            “He looked surprised to see me.  Actually, it was a little awkward.  Perhaps he was a little disappointed that I didn’t put-out after our drinks at Opera Bar.  Maybe he was just looking for what most guys look for, as I’m learning.  Well, as I’ve known all along but never really thought of in this detail.  I was happy to see him, so I waved him over and we took a photo.  The German ladies thought it was the sweetest thing.

            “This time he made sure to get my info.  Then he gave me a little hug, said goodbye, and went off on his way.  I don’t even know why he came into that restaurant that night.  Maybe it was fate.”

            Dr. Grambling flips a page on her notepad.

            “I didn’t know what to think.  I was sitting in my hotel room a couple nights later, bored and drunk.  The week had been long and the marketing plan had finally been implemented, so I was tired and in a haze.  I picked up my phone – first to take some photos of the fireworks shooting off from around the Opera House – but then to play with social media.  That’s when he popped up.”

            “Mr. Silver?” Dr. Grambling says.

            “Yes, obviously.”

            I look around for a glass of water.  All of this chatting is making me thirsty.  That and the heat from this window.

            “Did you see him again?” Dr. Grambling says.

            “Yes.  We agreed to meet at Opera Bar.  I got there at 8:30.  He arrived at 10:00.  I’ve learned that Australians are, for the most part, a lackadaisical people.  They are not concerned with punctuality or, really, anything of urgency.  Maybe that’s a harsh statement.  Maybe I shouldn’t say it like that.  I guess they just go with the flow, as they say.” 

            “An Aussie I once knew called his people a group of casual thinkers,” Dr. Grambling says.  “Not worried about thinking or doing anything more than necessary.  Not really in a hurry, and definitely not concerned about the specific details of things.”

            “You can say that again.”

            Dr. Grambling stares at me.

            “So, we had more drinks, and it was a perfect night.  I was wearing my favorite red dress.  It fits me well in all the right places.  It brings out the green in my eyes.  The night was chilly, so he put his coat around my arms so we could have another nightcap.  Then he asked if I wanted to go back to the hotel.  No, that was too soon for me.  I was uncomfortable.  How would I get him to leave if I changed my mind?  So I proposed we go for a walk.  I guess he lived in the area, so he agreed.  We took a stroll along the Harbor.  Doctor, it is the most beautiful little walk.”

            “So I hear.”

            “We made our way up the street and to the Harbor Bridge.  It was windy up there, but the view was spectacular.  The white lights of the city on both sides of the water.  The Opera House a creamy glow.  The yellow twinkle of the boats drifting by.  It’s an image that is forever etched in my heart.  I see it every time I close my eyes.”

            “That’s great.”

            I am starting to get dry mouth, and I’m sweating like crazy.

            “This isn’t easy to tell, is it?” Dr. Grambling says.

            I cough.

            “Go on,” Dr. Grambling says.  “Remember, this is why we have these meetings.”

            I rest my hands on my legs and sit up straight.  Maybe the felt fabric of this chair is making me sweaty.  Maybe it holds the heat.  Gosh, even my ass crack is dripping.

            “It’s okay,” Dr. Grambling says.  “Just let it out.”

            I close my eyes.

            “We walked to the center of the bridge on the pedestrian path, which is protected from the road by a thick fence.  We took in the expanse of the scene.  It was wonderful.  Then he leaned over and kissed me.  It was the softest, most sensitive kiss I’ve ever felt.  I can still feel it on my lips.  He put his hand under the top of my dress and did some exploring.  He seemed happy with everything he felt.  I wasn’t wearing a bra, so it was easy for him.  It was nice, and I let myself go.”

            “Great,” Dr. Grambling says.  “You’re finally living in the moment, aren’t you?  Not so caught up with what you think you must feel, you just felt it.”

            “Yes.”

            “That’s progress.”

            Maybe she’s right.

            “Then what happened?  Did it stop there?” she says.

            “No.”

            I look at the clock. There still is a lot of time left in this session.

            “Well?” Dr. Grambling says.

            “He continued to rub his hand along my chest.  It was hard for me to keep control.  I was nervous, but so turned on.  He kissed me again.  It was great.  He blew soft puffs of air all over my face and neck.  Then he reached down and pulled up my dress, past my waist.”

            Dr. Grambling takes her notes quickly.  She has filled another page.

            “Then it stopped.  It just had to stop.”

            “How?” Dr. Grambling says.

            I look towards the window.  I see a glimpse of my red lipstick in the glass.

            “How it always does,” I say.  “With that look of disappointment.”

                                                            #          #          #

            It’s been two months, and I think it’s time to acknowledge that I’m never going to see Jason Silver again.  Maybe I’m just being overly dramatic, but Dr. Grambling says it’s time to throw an anchor into the waters of the present – she always says that – and stop focusing on past lives and past events.  I guess she’s right, but it’s hard.

            I feel like my thoughts of him are dwindling away.  I barely even remember the look of his face.

            I’m sitting on the beach north of Santa Monica, close to the water.  The sun is hot, and I’m wearing swim trunks and a bikini top.  I’m uncomfortable, and worried about the awkward tan lines.

            I’m holding my journal in my hands.  I only write in this notebook when I’m traveling overseas or on some other sort of adventure.  I guess you could call it my trip journal.  It’s bound in leather, and I think I bought it at a little store in Venice, Italy.  I love the smell of the skin and the yellow fringes of the paper. 

I’m scared, but I think it’s time to read it.

I went to Australia and, primarily Sydney, a bit last minute.  My boss said it was an emergency because the local people didn’t fully understand the nature of the fried chicken.  Fine, I’ve never been Down Under, and I liked the idea of it.

The week was busy, during lunchtime at least.  I went to over 20 store locations in those few days, but there was also a lot of down time.  I knew no one, and the people from the company were not friendly to Americans, especially one like me.  In fact, I was downright lonely.  Lonely and hating the choices I recently made.

Sometimes I’ve been known to act too much on impulse.  Sometimes I see myself in ideals that no one else does.

I toured that city by myself.  I did the Sydney Bridge Climb.  I went to the football game, the wineries, the breakfast, and did the cliff side tea all by myself.  I even did the Asian cooking class with the older ladies.  I took an awkward selfie with the instructor.  He was the cutest.

But nothing like my Jason Silver.

A gust of wind blows sand into my eyes.  It stings and messes up the focus of my green contact lenses.  I feel the sand sticking to my forehead under the line of my shaggy hair.  I decided to go au naturel today.  No wigs.  No silly hair extensions.  Not in this pounding August sun.

I know I’ve exaggerated my experiences with Jason Silver.  But I also know that those tender moments we shared at the beginning truly did exist.  And now I cling to them.

The ink in my trip journal is slightly smudged.  I recall writing this entry while I was deep into three vodka lemonades on the flight from Sydney to LAX.  It’s bringing back so many details.

It was a Thursday evening.  I’d just finished seeing the indigenous dance troupe at the Opera House.  It was quite a loud and sweaty performance, but the people were attractive and muscular and everyone – even the women – had a certain level of masculinity.  The whole room smelled like salt.  It made me both exhilarated and sick.

I went to the Opera Bar afterwards to cool off.  The wind from the Harbor had a chill, and everyone was dressed in coats and pants.  Not me.  I was wearing that beautiful red dress that barely went below my crotch.  The place smelled like the sea.

There was something so freeing about Sydney, Australia.  Something so alive that I never felt inside myself before.

Yes, I had too many drinks.  Yes, I got on Tinder and started looking for a companion.  I created a new and special profile just for Australia.  My header was “All American Sam,” and it showed a photo of me puckering my red lips for the camera and pushing up my boob job for maximum effect.

I wore the red wig.

Jason Silver was not the first guy to ping me.  He wasn’t even the second or third, but he was the first one to show up, albeit a little later than he suggested.  I was two sheets to the wind by then.  I barely recognized him from his profile.

He said he noticed me because of the tits.  He said he saw them from across the Harbor.  That was probably a lie, but it got me.

We shared a few martinis.  He put his navy sports jacket around me to keep me warm.  His frame was tall and slender, and his skin was tight.  You could see the many veins in his arm pulsing.

I could barely control myself.

He kissed me first while we were sitting at the bar.  His hair was dark and perfectly coifed, except one of his bangs swept across my fake eyelash as we kissed a second time.

He asked if he could walk me to my hotel.  I suggested we go for a walk along the Harbor first.

He put his hand on my thigh and rubbed it gently.  There was not a trace of hair on my smooth skin.

The Harbor is not that big, relatively speaking, and soon we were walking up the stairs to the pedestrian path to the Harbor Bridge.  He put his hand on my ass as I led him forward.  He squeezed it multiple times.  It felt nice.  The entire length of his masculine hand held one of my cheeks.

It was too much.

I would have done anything for him at that moment.

It was late, and I’m not even sure we were supposed to be on the bridge by then.  The traffic was light, and the wind was strong.  He took me to the center point of it all so each shore was equidistant.  He asked me to scream my name to the city, for all to hear.  I did it three times. I didn’t think anyone could possibly hear it.

He pushed me up against the railing.  We made out hard.  He bit my lip.  I bit him back.  I loved the roughness of it all.

The sharp burn of the stubble from his facial hair.  The clang of his silver bracelet against my cheek as he pushed back my hair.

We kissed for a few minutes, and he squeezed my chest harder and harder with those massive hands.  Then he was rubbing my thighs.  I’m not sure how drunk he was, but he smelled of liquor.

I thought I was going to climax from just his hands – the twist of them along the muscles of my hips.

“Is this okay?” he said, his mouth deep in my cleavage.

“Yes.”

I didn’t even think to ask him the same question.

He dug deeper into my legs, and then he pulled up the fabric of my dress.  Its tight elasticity went all the way past my belly button.  I think he was surprised to see I was wearing underwear.  He laughed.

Then he noticed the bulge that the silky fabric kept restrained.

He stopped.

I barely heard him.  I was still deep in my head with my eyes closed, and I was focusing on the feeling of his hands on my thighs.

“Are you kidding me?” I think he said.

He snapped the fabric of my underwear and then stood up, gagging. I thought for a moment this was the climax of his intoxication, and that he was going to puke.  I didn’t think for a moment about the remnants of my former life.  I didn’t even consider that it was still there.

He punched me in the gut first.  Then he hit me in the face.

I didn’t fully understand what was happening.

“Lyin’ American bitch.”

He hit me more and pushed my face against the railing.  It snapped my thoughts back to reality.  Suddenly everything was vivid.  The Opera House’s sails were a sharp white, and the red fireworks shooting from them were most likely just a visual image in my mind.

He punched me in the back.  “You want to play make believe on Tinder?  You fucking . . .”

He pulled on my underwear.  Stretched it so hard it ripped and then went flying to the pavement beside us.

I tried to steady my breathing.

He rubbed the full size of himself against my backside.  Then he forced it in me, hard and without any form of warning or lubrication.  I screamed.  Nothing but the empty swirls of the Harbor winds to hear me.

He fucked me for at least three minutes.  Punched me again and pulled off my wig.  Shouted and cursed repeatedly at the thing that stood before him.  Tore at me, and then left me laying there on that dry abrasive stone.

He ran away after, still holding pieces of my red hair.

I saw his bracelet in a small pile on the concrete floor.  Fiery threads from my dress stuck inside its clasp.

I was in shock.  Hyperventilating.  I felt no sense of control and could barely even focus on the view.

I was hoping it was just an instant reaction.  That he would calm down and come back to help me. I figured he must have suspected something from my online profile, and that he just needed time to process it.  I’m still hoping for that.

I couldn’t get away from the smell of his sweat and the taste of the salt on his tongue.

I was trembling and emotional.

I’ve always been so damn lonely.

I didn’t know what to do, so I laid there.

And I said it.

Dammit, I said it then, and I will say it again now.  With vigor.  I don’t care what anyone thinks – even if it’s wrong – because I mean it.

It was the first time I’ve ever truly felt like a woman.

And I hated it.

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