Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Short Story #2

At the age of 18, I worked in a men’s clothing store, the ideal job for a single female. It was called His Place, owned by Merry Go Round. (The Buckle/Hollister/Abercrombie of the 90's.) My manager told me we would be participating in a fashion show at a local club, to promote sales of our clothing, and I was in charge of orchestrating it. I would be working with the club manager.
My first reaction was dread as I assumed I would be paired with a perverted older man, the description of a club manager that first came to mind. I agreed and tried to mentally prepare for his ickyness, simply focusing on getting the models in place.
The evening of the show, my manager escorted me to the back of the club for the meet and greet with the man I would be working with that night. To my surprise, out walked a GORGEOUS man with long hair … my favorite preference. (My 1st car date was a keyboard player with long hair.) For some reason, though I am not a musician, I was always intrigued by the rocker musician bad boys with long hair.
The club’s manager man was in his twenties and had the most striking eyes, smile and utterly sexy voice. He knew how to carry himself with no lack of confidence and had the mature, handsome five o’clock shadow facial stubble. It kept a rugged, edgy look attached to his business look, and both looked quite nice together. He had a raspy singer’s voice, was medium build and had the same length hair as me.
His opening line first words were, “Well, hello. You married?”
          I replied (most likely starry eyed,) “No.”
          Without hesitation, his response was, “Do you want to be?”
It was one of those, “You had me at hello” moments. The man was stunning. He and I got to work and proceeded with details of the show as I tried not to drool over him when he threw a flirt my way. A few days after, he came by the store to return the clothes. His casual wear looked as perfect on him as the GQ suit he was initially wearing. What a way that man had about him. 

I cannot recall how our numbers were exchanged, I just know they were. I have tried to recollect phone conversations because this was 20 years ago before cell phones, but I simply cannot remember them. Who cares though?
          I would not consider the time I spent with him after that as “dating,” nor would I consider him the dating type looking to marry. He was the epitome of a bachelor who lived like a rock star and looked better than most of them, most likely not one to settle down or be tamed. In spite of his rocker image, I cannot recall ever seeing him drink, definitely never drunk. He did smoke brown cigarettes and looked very nice during his smoke breaks, though smoking is typically not what I would consider an attractive act. It just was when he did it.
          When I think of him and that time, it reminds me of the song “Strawberry Wine” (minus the sex.) Those memories are electric and fun. Some people become tattoos and represent a part of us, a part of our past when we were young, wild and free. He was one of those people for me.
          I have only a few specific memories during that time and they are silly, insignificant ones. Like, he had a pet ferret, the first one I had ever seen. He used Clorox bleach to whiten his teeth and he surprisingly talked to his mom a lot. The only time I recall going anywhere is funny and I have no idea how we got there or how to get back to the location we ended up at.
It was at night and we were driving around talking. We came upon a dock beside the water and stopped. He had been at work and was wearing a likely $200+ suit, but rolled the pants legs up as we sat with our feet in the water talking and laughing about random things. I was and still am a super modest person, but it was pitch black and the water was warm. We began a daring discussion about jumping in. Though I remained modest, especially considering our relationship was not as one may expect, meaning not a friends with benefits, I was game.
I would have expected him to be the daring one of the two of us, but I was the jumper. He started to a few times, but couldn’t bring himself due to getting the nasty water on his suit since there were no towels, AND he didn’t want to mess up his perfect mane of hair. Then, I made him turn around as I scaled the side of that dock to get out because I heard something in the water and discovered I was swimming with an otter. That did it for my modified, almost skinny dip and I was out of the water quickly.
I have no idea how we lost touch, but we did. I married the exact opposite description of my long-time, long hair, musician attraction. My husband was in law enforcement with a buzz cut, BUT he could sing and play instruments! We had a friend who encouraged him to enter a Garth Brooks sing a like contest at a club downtown. He agreed, we went, and guess who was there? Faithfully still managing clubs was the cutie patootie from my younger years … and he was still adorable. I introduced the guys and felt so odd because that man still had some hold on my attractive man button and I was happily married. I didn’t let it show, but I remember wondering how those feelings could remain under my circumstances. I suppose a cute man is simply a cute man, no matter what.
We talked a little and caught up. He never once acted inappropriately and was very respectful of my husband and marriage. He asked if I was still doing hair and if I would do his. After that night, I saw him every few months for a couple of years when his cool hair needed attention. At one point he had me cut length from his hair and I'm not sure which one of us was more nervous. Probably me. Then, I began doing his girlfriend’s hair and his mom’s too. I loved to see him because it gave my memory and mind a scent from days past. I only had good memories and having him stop by every now and them kept them alive. Besides, our relationship was strictly fun, we never spoke of love and such ... no drama attached.
          Once again, distance came, probably due to the craziness of one of our lives. He didn’t come very often anyway because his hair was so long and didn’t require frequent salon visits. Plus, he was obsessive about it and kept it up well on his own. After a long period of time I realized I hadn’t seen him and wondered how he had been. We didn’t have any mutual friends and I no longer had his number, probably lost in a cell phone upgrade.
          About 3 years ago I opened a Facebook account and began racking my brain with names to explore how it worked. I thought of his unique name and saw his profile picture, instantly knowing it was him even though it was not a face shot. The profile picture was a man with his head tilted down wearing his signature hat and holding an electric guitar. I considered sending a message, but didn’t because part of me wanted to keep my memories preserved. Life has shown me how people can change and I truly didn’t want to take that chance. His profile was private, so I couldn’t really tell much about how life was for him 10-15 years later. I just smiled and wondered how he was doing, but never sent a message.
          Today, I had some decompressing time. I’m not a big FB user; in fact I had been reading articles about the negative effects of FB usage this morning before I opened mine up. I do have an account, but have less than 60 friends on it. For whatever reason, I thought I would use the site for the positive purpose of connecting (or stalking) people you have not seen in years. I went through a few names and out of no where, his name popped into my head. I typed it in the bar and the search showed his same profile picture. Just before I clicked that one, I noticed another one in the results. It said, “In Memory of Our Friend” and displayed his name and picture.
          I cannot describe how I felt to see those words. My first reaction was surely this is a mistake and he is simply being honored for all he has done in Nashville. I read on and searched his name, only to see his obituary from over a year ago. He was 45 at the time of his death.
I read for about an hour and could not figure out why this heaviness was within me. I doubt he gave me much thought, its not like we missed each other and if I could talk to him now, I’m not sure what I would say. I know I probably wouldn’t have sent him a message out of sheer fear that he would think I was hitting on him or trying to rekindle something for myself from 2 decades ago, and I wasn’t. These days communication between genders seems to complex. Yet, something still hurt.
As I looked through the pictures that were open and saw his sister’s children, who I remember him bragging about and speaking of as they were his own, it became more real. Life’s certainty and uncertainty surfaced. I realized that though I hold all memories, his existence here on this planet kept that silly 18 year old in me alive .. the one who had no adult worries or responsibilities. My only concerns at the time were merely choosing what outfit to wear that day. The part of that internal giddiness was extinguished this morning and left with him. I am reminded how we never know whose path we will cross and who will cross ours, or when distance is for a season or permanent.
Of course, I now wish I would have sent that message 3 years ago, just to say hello. I’m sure he never knew that he was a positive memory in my life, and though I may not have told him if he was still here, I hope it matters that he was. We were never in love, just 2 kindred spirits who were “Here for the Party” and appreciated cuteness and fun. I never saw him unhappy and that’s what I liked the most. Though I wouldn’t have intentionally sought him out, I am sad to know our paths will never cross again by chance … but I’m glad our paths crossed when they did.


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