It’s early October and the weather is quite cool. Yet, there are still days when the temperature is a pleasant twenty degrees. It’s that leftover, perhaps forgotten, heat from the summer, very much appreciated by Vancouverites. The flowers in gardens and parks are still in full bloom and lawns still require the occasional watering and trim.
Let us say that for the length of this story my name is Manolis. I am of Greek origin, and a Canadian citizen. I am one of ‘the others’, as we are sometimes called. You might ask: who are ‘the others’? I’ll try to make this long story short. Some years ago, after the 1995 referendum in the province of Quebec, a “loser” referred to us as ‘the others’. The loser was Jacques Parizeau. After losing the referendum to make Quebec an independent nation he made the historic “us and them” speech.
Tonight, I’m invited to the house of a good friend, Michael. It’s his birthday. Really, it matters not whether it’s a birthday or a name day, or any other occasion. People get together to enjoy one another’s company. What counts is who gathers at the host’s house: friends of both genders, single or married, divorced or separated, newlyweds or old couples with faint memories of their own anniversaries. Really, it makes no difference what this group of people has in common other than to get together and have a good time. Fun is what counts, and the rest are just details, which, most of the time, we couldn’t give a shit about.
Here I am, following a middle-age crisis and subsequent divorce, introducing a new girlfriend, a Canadian with Spanish roots by way of the Philippines, to the people who have always known me as that fellow with a Greek wife and two kids. Now, I show up with a girlfriend who is not even Greek.
Most of the guests are surely thinking, “Oh God, who’s this man who dares to come here with this new woman?” We won’t mention a recent, rather insignificant health issue: nothing to worry about, just a tiny coronary blockage. Who really cares!
As we arrive we find a household split in two. I don’t mean literally; the house sits quite comfortably on its foundations, with its two levels, two garages, and four bedrooms. Sometimes, I wonder what our parents think when they visit from the old country and see so many rooms, while back at home, the whole family of four, five, six, or more, lived in one or possibly two rooms. Here we are in Vancouver with rooms galore and plenty of other things to make our lives miserable. We, of course, always want “more.” It is our mantra, and when good old sweet Death comes to take one of us, the rest gather and sing for the departed, without any sliver of thought about all the misery that person had gone through to gather so much “stuff”.
Anyway, we enter my friend’s place and it’s divided into two sections. On the left, in the living room, the men are standing with their drinks in hand, at arm’s length from the table loaded with appetizers displayed on decorated platters. On the right, in the dining room, under the chandelier, are the women. They’re gathered close enough to the men, checking on them from time to time, making sure their eyesight doesn’t get fixated on another woman’s figure, yet far enough away that the men cannot hear their conversations. This is a custom that comes from the old country: men are with their peers talking amongst themselves and women with the other women, talking about their men.
The host’s wife blesses me with two kisses, one on each cheek, and I reciprocate without hesitation. After all, I carry my history, or better, my history precedes me, and all these women know it well. Perhaps some of these women wish they had their chance with me, but then again, who cares? You know, the other person, that sweet image of being with someone else’s mate, is a natural wonder and curiosity, which at most times is the reason someone cheats on his or her spouse. This fooling around doesn’t involve all those dramatics we see in films or read in books, which, most of the time, stretch the truth to the unnecessary extreme.
Anyway, let us go back to the story. As I make myself present to the men’s section of the house, I’m greeted with the usual ‘How are you?’ ‘We haven’t seen you for a long time’. ‘How are the kids?’ ‘Are you fooling around with any woman?’ They don’t say the last line aloud, but they most assuredly think it and they are so eager to know. Some of them are even jealous, and wish they had the chance to fool around as much as they’re sure I do. Even if the opportunity presented itself, they just wouldn’t have the guts to follow their instincts. Only the daring do and only the daring know what it means to just do it! But of course, every divorce splits the assets and the friends in the same breath. Some carry on their friendships with both ex-spouses. Quite rarely do you see old friends who spend equal time with each of the divorcees; and there are those who also claim…
‘Why invite him to our party, to sleep with our wives?’
Such morons don’t know I would rather put my Nicolas into a line of three donuts than sleep with their wives, but I will leave that discussion for some other time. In gatherings like this one, when old friends greet you and truly care to know how you are, they do come close to getting in touch with the godly; I mean, yes, really beyond the flesh and bones, beyond the littleness that at most times turns them into leaves at the centre of the most thunderous tempest that blows them from one end of life to the other, namely Death. There’s no escape from the final reality. However, at times such as this, these are just people like you and me, and they just want to have fun and celebrate some guy’s birthday.
The host serves the wine. My new girlfriend sits next to me in the men’s section.
“I’m not sitting on my own with the women…” She whispers.
Although this is a taboo, I advise her:
“If this is where you want to sit, then this is where you sit.”
The men’s predictable phrases still come and go and the warmth of the wine as well as the body heat of the people in the room, make the atmosphere warm and open. Even the conversation feels somewhat softer and fluffier as the wine is consumed.
My girlfriend gets up to visit the powder room and Kostas finds the opportunity and the courage to lean a bit closer and ask:
“Hey, is she hot?”
I flash my widest smile on the poor man. Before I manage to tell him how hot my new woman is, Vangelis buts in with:
“Don’t worry about him. He’s got it right. He can pick and choose.”
One can see the man salivating at the idea of picking and choosing and I really feel the urge to laugh.
The doorbell rings to interrupt our conversation and the host goes to greet her guests. From where I sit, I see Anna. Pretty Anna, airy, and ethereal, enters the foyer with her husband close behind. Anna is always perfectly attired, always trendy and sexy. Elegant Anna walks gracefully, taking her steps through the living room, and quite easily my expert nose picks up her light lilac perfume. I fix my eyes on her, and she knows I’ve been watching her as soon as her eyes meet mine, and somewhere between her sexy walk and her faint smile I see the prettiest female of the evening.
How do women know when you look at them? Sometimes I wonder, yet they do, and they always smile back. It must be the same knowing I always have when, in a gathering of women, one, a special one looks at me and salivates and who just doesn’t give a damn. This is called “experience,” I suppose, and a womanizer like Manolis has come to know. I’m sure she has heard all the history of my escapades and misadventures; after all, the whole Greek community has heard of them, why not her? As soon as Anna arrives, I notice all the hugs and kisses coming and going, each woman hugging and saying loudly, ‘Hi, how are you?’ while murmuring inside, ‘Bitch…’ a word every woman uses when a prettier one enters the room and the eyes of all males are glued onto her like limpets on a rock. Anna looks as though she enjoys every bit of it, although I catch her sneaking glances toward my new girlfriend with every possible opportunity.
A little while later, when most guests are loosened up and relaxed to the point of drunkenness, we get up to go to the kitchen to pick up plates and select our food from the big spread on the table. Men avoid getting close to Anna because some see her as an instigator; others, because they do not feel certain of their manhood near a gorgeous woman; and still others, because they fear that their secret thoughts might be revealed, and they know these thoughts well, just as well as I know these guys and I also know all too well their secret thoughts. Trust me, I’m a man, and I have a history which precedes me every time I show up at a gathering like this one.
However, I’m not like the other men, and I also believe deeply in my heart that when a pretty woman is not teased it constitutes an error, and when a very pretty woman, like Anna, is not teased, it turns to a curse; and I don’t like being cursed by any means.
The little devil inside me gets me up and guides me to the kitchen where I see Anna standing alone by the fridge and slowly chewing on a piece of carrot. I take a plate and my little devil guides me next to her; she graces me with her sweetest smile: what a line of teeth! What a sexy mouth, I would love to put my little Nicolas there. Yes, I would love to put little Nicolas between these two full lips and push them open, see what kind of an ‘o’ they would design for me. Why do men always see a blowjob on the pretty lips of a woman? I’ve asked myself this so many times and the answer is always the same: what else would a man like out of those two pretty lips other than that? The nagging? Hell no!
I look deeply into Anna’s eyes, even deeper than at other times, and I say: ‘Hi pretty one.’ I always call her ‘pretty one’ and she loves it.
‘Hi,’ she replies. ‘How have you been? You look … vigorous.’
Now, why would a woman as pretty as Anna calls me vigorous? I ask you—what do you think of this? But I’m a realist, and I don’t expect you to have the guts to answer this question so I will intervene: She just heard of the bout I had lately, the health issue, the little, tiny, coronary blockage that others call a ‘heart attack’; what a dreadful term! Anyway, Anna most likely is referring to that and is wondering how I’ve managed to escape the irresistible hug of Death.
‘I’m okay, pretty one. Thank you for asking.’
Then the little devil guides my lips and I throw a question her way…
‘Tell me, pretty one, what does your husband feed you and you grow prettier as the days go by?’
Trust me, this is a compliment. I detect a little flame in her eyes; my comment has done well and she smiles her sexiest.
‘No, he doesn’t feed me anymore. I have grown up, you know, I feed myself now.’
Now, here is a comment that throws me off and I don’t know how to interpret it. What’s she getting at? Here, I ask you, smart people, where’s she driving this conversation? Could she have taken my words literally? I don’t believe so. She’s playing with me. I grab a stuffed vine leaf, which tastes very salty.
‘What if I could find the opportunity to feed you, pretty one?’
She laughs at the suggestion and instead of a ‘no’ she says,
‘You would, wouldn’t you?’
‘I would love to.’
The deeply sensuous smell of her lilac fragrance splashes into my nostrils like a wave frothing on the sandy seashore. A carnal desire flares up in my groin and I dare touch her little hand quite accidentally and she reciprocates by brushing hers onto mine. I give her my best smile and a wink; she winks back and heaven has just opened her brilliant gate where I know I can enter as I wish. I promise myself that I’ll call up one day. I’ll make sure I’ll open that door and I’ll enter triumphantly. I’ll enter her domain victorious. Now that truly lifts me up to the sky and once again a man who adores women is justified.
As I leave the kitchen, she knows that I know we’ll carry on with this in a future encounter.
It has been a very warm, pleasant gathering.
Oh, yes it was my friend’s birthday, I think…