Before The Pandemic:
“He is an author! You two have a lot in common,” Joanne says on the phone. “He’s seventy something and he’s been on CNN with Don Lemon. His book Deception is about our lousy government. “It’s getting a huge audience.”
Nathan calls. He is articulate, and sounds smart. We decide to meet at North Beach for dinner.
I deck out in black skinny pants, snakeskin ankle high heel boots, a black feather poked on the side of my hair. I’m legally blind in one eye, so I take a taxi.
I arrive at Joes. A haze of dark floats over North Beach. Church bells ring and rows of Italian outdoor cafes surround the park. San Francisco is the most beautiful city in the world.
Joe’s restaurant is packed. Young techies wearing five thousand dollar jeans with holes in them, and baseball caps, sit in leather booths. Frank Sinatra tapes blast over the noisy buzz of conversations. Older waiters wear black tuxedos. I guzzle a lemon drop martini, anticipating that maybe he’ll be the one. wondering why at 80 I’m still meeting dates.
“Barbara?” We shake hands.
He wears a dark suit with a burgundy silk tie and has thick hair expensively styled. A sensual mouth and worried eyes. We sit in the back near the open kitchen where Italian cooks make delicious pasta.
Over shrimp pasta we talk about the publishing business. Books we like to read. I love to read Janet Malcolm, and biographies. He asks about my latest published novel. My last novel is not selling. I stuff two raviolis in my mouth.
He eats fast, as if he’s in a hurry. I chew the French bread carefully, not wanting to crack the new bridge.
“Married?” I ask after a self conscious silence.
“Never been married.” He pauses. “Mozart?”
“Amy Winehouse — -Billie Holiday. Bach definitely.”
He is fed up with the publishing industry. The talk show circuit. We talk about our agents. He complains that now that he has name recognition everyone wants something. “Fame is lonely,” he says.
“Sounds good to me,” I say.
We laugh. He’s really fun to talk with. The ice is broken. Is he the one?
After dinner I’m at his townhouse. It’s full of books and manuscripts, and contemporary art. In the dark we undress. His body is smooth. Ravel’s Bolero is going. I’m really into it. Until I realize that he has a vagina. Stunned, I don’t know what to say. There is a long silence.
“I’m…sorry,” I say.
“I’m all man.”
“Yes , you are. I don’t think genitalia makes a man or a woman. I get it. I’m just surprised.”
“I am attracted to you.”
“Only I just…I’m sorry. I think you’re wonderful. I just can’t.”
Our silence is heavy.
An Hour Later: On The Phone:
“He what?” asks Moo Moo Milstein on face time.
“Yes. He has a vagina.”
“Are you sure? The older guys doodles shrink.”
“Of course I’m sure! What do you think? I didn’t need to see it.”
“You’re 80. Legally blind. Close your eyes and pretend it’s a doodle. Mohammed has a penis but he’ steals money from my purse when I’m sleeping.”
“We live in a penis power culture. I need more than a penis. I need to love the person.”
“.Myra Rosen ordered a robot to die for. She’s happy as a clam.”
BarbaraRose Brooker is an author. Her novels are Her latest novel Love, Sometimes, is available in all bookstores and on Amazon. She is at work on a book of on a collection of stories during the pandemic. www.barbararosebrooker.com