I love coffee. I love the seduction of the steam and the smell slowly rising out of a hot mug making a beeline for my olfactory nerves. I love the taste, bitter and sharp, which spreads over my tongue and explodes on the taste buds. And, oh for that initial caffeine rush; the perfect kiss giving the perfect jolt. I love coffee so much that I mostly have it alone and only share it with exceptionally close friends. With all others I have tea. Now coffee and conversation - that is the best, a close second only to love making. Somehow coffee brings out the intimate, certainly in me. I also like sharing a bottle of wine but only with people I love and a cigarette – well – only with the adored. This is neither a wine story nor a cigarette one though. Let’s stay with coffee.
Mira called the other day and wanted to get together. We drove to Aroma Café on Tujunga – a sort of avant-garde hangout in Studio City where the brain of Hollywood converges. Mira had a story to tell and wanted me to give her my opinion. Those who have met me know only too well that I don’t mince words. Clearly Mira was ready for some candid talk.
One big mug in each hand, she emerges from the shop gingerly making her way over to the table where I am perched on a rickety chair under the one and only maple tree. She sits across from me intent to lock eyes. I stare at this beauty who is gracefully gliding through her forties. She still has that mischievous smile which I bet has melted a heart or two. After all these years of knowing her I still can’t get over the mass of hair she sports on that clever head of hers. The arched eyebrows and a pair of deep dark almond eyes sit atop the perfect set of cheeks. I don’t believe I have ever seen Mira without lipstick. She is lovely.
“There is this man.” She utters. “I love him.”
“Wow – that’s quick. When did this happen?”
“But you just started this, right? How long could it be? Another one of those fly-by-nights? Is he from across the hill?
“No. He doesn’t live here. He is in Seattle.”
“Seattle? When did you go there and find a man to love? I thought you hate the cold.”
“I do. Listen, I am crazy about this guy.”
“Tell me more. You can’t keep repeating this “I am crazy for him” mantra. So what? You are going to move to Seattle? I can’t imagine you in galoshes and a raincoat. Get real.”
“He is married.”
“What? Are you serious? “
“I talk. You listen. OK? I have known him a good long while”
“You have kept this a secret from me – you coward”
“Look. Are you going to listen or are you going to butt in after every sentence?”
“OK – I will shut up”
“He is from my past. Back from my student days up there.”
“Excuse me. I have a question. I promise not to yell and hit you.”
“A student where? You have been a student in so many places. I mean Seattle. I never even knew you went to school in Seattle”.
“I met him in Vancouver.”
“Vancouver? As in Canada? When were you there Mira?
“When I first moved to this side of the world. I worked in the campus office back then, after school and he was there. “
“I see. So you guys were an item back then?”
“Yes. No. Well – both - It’s complicated”.
“Let’s see – you two dated, it didn’t work out, you split and moved to LA. And he went off and got married and now he has found you on Facebook or something?”
“Is this your story? Sometimes I just don’t know why I bother telling you stuff Solo.
“He was married when I met him”
“WHHHAAT? “How old were you?”
Hot coffee spills out of my mouth as my jaw drops.
“What are you saying Mira?”
“You heard it. I fell in love with a married man when I was 20 and a student in Vancouver.”
“What do you mean why?”
“What? There were no other men on campus? You HAD to go and find the one old decrepit married man to fall in love with? What was wrong with you?”
“Look – I am not proud of it you know. I’d never told anyone and now I think I regret having told you. I thought you’d understand.”
“Listen sweetie. I am sorry. It’s just I am shocked and dismayed. I can’t keep my trap shut. I don’t want to believe it. But never mind that, what is going on now? You were young and stupid back then but you are not any more. Here you are saying you love this guy. I want to shake and wake you up.”
“You said you won’t yell or hit.”
“I did but I didn’t expect this.”
I stop when I see my friend shaking with tears streaming down her face, big droplets springing out of those gorgeous brown eyes. I get up from my seat, go over and hug her tight. She is shivering in the summer heat. I can smell a man’s cologne in her hair. Clearly he has just been in town. She probably just dropped him off at the airport to go where? Seattle to his wife? New York, Boston or Dallas to another mistress?
“Do you want another cup of coffee?”
“No. I want to get this thing off my chest.”
“Fine – I will shut up.”
“I arrived in Vancouver by myself. I did not know a soul. I was alone and homesick. I was looking to find an apartment. He offered to find one in his building. He was kind and helpful. I felt safe because he was married although his wife was not around. Apparently she was looking after her mother in Iran.
"I didn’t have a car and a couple of times he spotted me at the bus stop waiting to go home. He stopped to give me a ride. We lived in the same building so it was not like he had to go out of his way. That is what he said anyway.
"We struck a friendship. He told me about his time in Iran under the Shah’s regime. Once he was arrested at the University and taken in. I was in awe. I’d never met a person who’d been a political prisoner. I thought he was so clever, such an intellectual with high morals, an activist. He gave me books to read about Materialism, Communism, Socialist Movements - Ali Shariati, Ashraf Dehghani, and Ehsan Tabari. What he said made a lot of sense. About the Shah and then Khomeini and how one day we were all going back. He said he was going anyway. He hated the west, the capitalistic society and all that. It never occurred to me to ask him why he did not go back after the revolution. He was from a religious family but said he was an atheist. It all sounded very complicated and awe-inspiring. I can’t remember it all but I know I could not get enough of him talking to me. He had wonderful eyes."
“When did he make the moves on you?
“What do you mean?”
“Mira: You were 20, he was, what? 35? I assume you and he both had hormones?”
“OK. 33. Do you really think that he was only interested in political discourse with you? Like you say, if he really was into that sort of thing, back then he’d have moved to Iran, become a revolutionary servant of the Ayatollah. But he didn’t.”
“Yes – you are right. He did a lot of talking.”
“Well, talk is cheap.”
“Yes. I know that now. Back then I was just so impressed.”
“Well – most 20 year olds are impressionable. It was not hard for him. He’d been around. He probably knew exactly what to say to get you wrapped around his finger. Those lines may not have worked on a 35 year old but they worked like a charm on you. He chose his prey well. Anyway back to the man-woman thing. I mean his wife wasn’t there, right? And he was not out with another woman? So, he must have been getting keen on you.”
“What do you mean I suppose? You were 20. Remember. You didn’t know better.”
“I was at fault”.
“At fault? What do you mean by that? What? You twisted his arm to give you books, talk with you, buy you food, and give you rides? This man with such high morals – he didn’t lay off you.”
“He said he did not care for his wife.”
“Well – that’s rich.”
“He said he married her under duress.”
“Well – honey, if he had said to you that he loved her, he’d have definitely blown any chance he hoped to have with you, don’t you think? So, OK – you buy this stuff. He married some woman under duress, he stayed with her despite no love and of course he was not having sex with her. Right?”
“You see it so clearly, don’t you? I didn’t see it that way. I saw a unique individual, so sensitive and sweet, a man with a social conscience for which he’d go to jail, somebody who would stay with a wife because he’d given her his word. And he had found the love of his life – ME.” And then there was this inconvenient marital status. I felt really guilty about it.”
“OK – Time out. Earth to Mira. The fucker is making the moves on you, an innocent 20 year old who just stepped off the boat – so to speak. He sweet talks you with crap about prison and a wife he hates. He rapes your mind, he moves to steal your soul and uses your body and YOU – sweet Mira – YOU FEEL GUILTY? What’s wrong with you women? Please – oh God – please tell me the wife showed up and saved you from wasting your time on this loser.”
“Solo – I fell in love with him and he fell in love with me. He was the first man I slept with. I got pregnant with his child.”
“What a nightmare. Did you have anyone to go to? Please tell me you did.”
“No. I wanted to keep the child but he convinced me that an abortion would be better. He paid for it”
“Oh, Such a generous soul.”
“Drop the sarcasm. OK?”
“And you split with him then?”
“No – after the abortion he was careful. We only had anal sex.”
“What the hell? This is making me sick. What a bastard. Did he do anything but use you? How have you been able to keep this to yourself all these years?
“It’s OK. I am over it.”
“Where was this goddamn wife? That’s what I want to know.”
“She came a few months later. The baby would have been 23 today – you know.”
“OK. Please tell me you made a scene. There was a showdown. Let me picture it. Please.”
“Solo. There was no show down. I kept our secret.”
“Our secret? When did this become “our secret”? It was HIS secret you kept.”
“It did not stop after she arrived. It just got more difficult to meet.”
“How so? Now I am intrigued.”
“Well . I could not afford to live alone and took in a room-mate. So he could not come over to my place.”
“To fuck you mean? Butt-fuck to be exact.”
“You are so coarse Solo.”
“Sorry – make sweet love to your derriere. Better?”
“I thought, well, it was over now that we had nowhere to go. Maybe a shared lunch or something but no more hanky panky.”
“Well, he had this scheme that we could go to the woods.”
“There are a lot of parks in Vancouver.”
“And a lot of rain also.”
“After work, he’d pick me up at the bus stop because of course he didn’t want anyone to know he and I were an item. We would then go over to one of the parks.”
“For a walk, in the rain? How romantic!”
“I will assume – safely – of course, - that he would have had a lot of explaining to do at home if his clothes got dirty so sex in the park was out.”
“Sometimes we’d just stay in the car. He’d kiss me but really quickly, feel me up and then force my head on his ……”
“I hated it.”
“Say it Mira. Give it words. Picture it. See it with your mind’s eye. Make it real. Own it. Hate it. Puke it out.”
“I’ll do it for you then. He’d take you to some secluded park; stop the car under a tree, away from windows and people.”
“He’d tell you that you meant everything to him. That he could not live without you in his life.
“He’d even shed a tear or two. He’d take your hand in his; tell you that’s the last thing he thought about before falling asleep at night. Your lovely hands.”
“Yes – How do you know all this?”
“He’d put on that puppy face, look in your eyes, caress your cheeks and place a gentle kiss on your lips.”
“Yes – that he did.”
“Then he would feel your breasts; stick his hand in between your legs. All in a hurry. Sometimes you’d catch a glimpse of him looking in the rear view mirror or his watch.”
“And then he’d take out his cock, force your head onto his lap and tell you to suck it. Did I get it right?”
“He stroked my hair and would tell me to be careful not to bite.”
“Were you ever tempted to bite?”
“No but I hated doing it.”
“But you did it.”
“Yes. I loved him so I did it. Sometimes we’d go into the woods and we’d do it there.”
“Do what? You’d have sex in the park?”
“What? You’d what?”
“I’d go down on him. I’d kneel on the mud and …….”
“And give the asshole a blow job. And did he reciprocate?”
“What do you mean?”
“Do I need to spell this out darling? Did He R-E-C-I-P-R-O-C-A-T-E? Did he go down on you – in the woods?
“I never asked for it.”
“I don’t know. I was too shy.”
“It got to be an obsession with him. Sometimes he’d call me at my lunch hour and ask that we go to the park to do it”.
“Correction here dear – YOU DO IT. He did nothing. – Fuck all is what he did.”
“Yes – you are right.”
“And the wife. Any suspicion there?”
“So he was fucking her at home.”
“What do you mean?”
“Darling – do you really think a wife won’t suspect a thing if her husband was not seeing to her needs at home?”
“He said she did not like sex.”
“And you believed him? Sweet Mira – you are more naïve than I thought. Come here, give me a hug.”
“He said he loved me. He said he could not stop thinking about me and that he wished things were different. He loved me Solo.”
“So that is why you left that place huh? You escaped. You escaped love? You must have had some shred of dignity left, even at that age, to have packed up and left.
“And he didn’t come chasing you? He didn’t leave his wife. He probably never said he would anyway. Did he?”
“I would not have been able to live with the guilt of taking another woman’s man.”
“So you did not consider what you were doing as having ‘taken’ another woman’s man? Oh the contradictions we live with and justify.”
“They had a child soon after I left. I heard from a friend. I remember being mortified when I found out that he must have had sex with his wife to have had a kid. I know – pretty stupid.”
“So why are you going back to all that heartache now Mira. Why?”
“He found me. He came to visit and told me he was so lonely. Years and years had gone by and he still could not forget me.”
“And of course you believed him - tricked at 20 - fooled at 40.”
“It must be love.”
“Next time you are with this LOVE of yours ask him if there have been others.”
“He already told me. He had a 7 year affair with his secretary, to forget me.”
“Classic – Cliché. Good Golly.”
“Only you can say things like that. Good Golly? What does that mean anyway Solo?”
“I don’t know, but it sounds good, doesn’t it? Besides, it made you laugh.”
“So this secretary is out of the picture and he comes looking for you?”
“It makes so much sense when you put it that way but I don’t see it like that Solo. When he is here, and I am in his arms; it’s as if none of it matters. I am transported to another world where wives and affairs don’t exist; where clocks stop ticking. There is no distance, nor heartache. It’s just me and him and the memories. We are soul-mates. How could I have such good sex with a man if he did not love me, if we were not meant to be together?”
“You have good sex with this person because you want to have good sex. Chances are you could have as good a sex with another person if you put your mind to it. Most of sex is in your head anyway – don’t you know?”
“I suppose. But I don’t have a past with the other men.”
“A sordid past turns you on? Betrayal, lies, mistreatment, humiliation – these are your aphrodisiacs?”
“I fell in love with his mind.”
“So he mind-fucked you. They all do if you let them.”
“We are so good together Solo.”
“Every minute with him is like that or is it just when he is getting you aroused so you would forget about his ‘inconvenient marital status?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean do you feel so ‘one’ with him when you are having a cup of coffee, like you and I are right now? Or when you are out for a meal or watching TV? Do you feel close and wanted – a part of his life?
“Well – not quite. At those times his other life looms over me.”
“Sweetie – YOU are his other life. His real life is in Seattle – a wife and a kid and a lovely home, Christmas dinners and house parties. You are the side-dish. I know you don’t want to hear it and I have no other way to put it to you except with coarse and crude words. He is using you because you are letting him. Love, love, love. Listen – look at me.
“He had a child with the wife he said he hated, a wife with whom he claimed not to have had sex and one whom he married out of obligation. What did he do to the child that was growing in you? The one whom he had freely chosen to love and have sex with? What did he do Mira? He killed it and then he raped your mouth and your ass.
“How come men can’t hurt you this way Solo?”
“Because I don’t let them. We teach people how to treat us darling.”
“I don’t think you have ever been in love Solo.”
“You may be right.”
“Nothing moves you. Always clear as a bell. A mind that never takes a break. How do you do it?”
“ If love is to forget the self, if love is sacrifice of self-esteem, if it is give and no take, if love is to be a side-dish and never the main show – if love is to hurt, cry and pine, if love is to be trodden and shat upon – then no – I have not been in love. “
“But surely you have loved a man who has not loved you back.”
“Of course. But those I loved from afar. Admired, even adored but I accepted, bitter as it was, that they did not love me. It was hard. I cried. I wanted them so badly to want me. But you see, you can’t make someone want you, let alone love you. You can make a man do everything else begrudgingly, but you won’t be in his heart if he does not want you there. And besides who wants force majeure love? The value is in its free giving - no conditions, no expectations, no ownership.”
“And how many of those loves have come your way Solo? “
“Not many – but enough. Enough for me to have tasted the real thing to know it exists. Just like this perfect cup of coffee.”
“Say it one more time Solo. If he does not love me then what does he love? What does he feel for me?
“Well Mira. I don’t know your man. I don’t know whether he has ever loved or what his definition of love is. It would all be a guess and I would be wrong. One thing I know is that you are beautiful, kind, sweet, and gullible and come intact with integrity. What man would not want that if he did not have to be tied to it? You are in love with a fantasy and in that fantasy he is the perfect one. You provide that image for him in his head that his wife of 20 some years has shattered through every day living. He has a life with her, you see. The routine, the normalcy of it all; the kid, the house, the habits. Those are all comforting. He may not like her just as much she may not like him but they like what they have. And here you are, available and willing to add the zest. Maybe the marriage would have fallen apart if there never was a third wheel. I expect he has always had a mistress and chances are she knows. She allows it so the marriage can survive. No woman is blind to her husband’s infidelity unless she wants to be. She is choosing to look the other way. Plus, he lavishes on her probably, making it hard for her to walk away. They have a life and you are their toy.
“What about his conscience? It is probably killing him.”
“Well – he is not dead yet, is he? He gave up his conscience a long time ago I bet. I venture to guess the first affair a man has is the most difficult but then it gets easy, you see. They gain experience and confidence. They learn how to work the women, get into a routine, figure out the hours, account for the time away from home; the gag gifts for the wife and the mistress. They learn to keep shirts in their cars, lots of cologne to cover the perfume and the smell of sex, they learn to pay for outings with cash with nothing bigger than $20 bills. They learn to watch the clock without appearing to do so. They become better lovers and better liars in the marital bed and outside of it. And they continue the charade for as long as the women - the wife AND the mistress agree to play. I expect your ‘man’ is one of those. He’ll chase you for a while but when he finds out you want more, he’ll make himself scarce. That or if he finds an easier prey closer to home, he’d drop you like a hot potato.”
“You are so cynical Solo.”
“Me? A cynic? I love men. I just know them only too well. I know what they are capable of. Sometimes I think I wouldn’t have minded being a man myself.”
“You are a hopeless romantic Solo. You could never be a man. For all your clinical crust, you’d fall for a man at a drop of a hat.”
“Possibly – but I’d just as easily bounce up and fly off if he tries to put one over on me. Trust me darling – I am not very popular with men. “
“What should I do Solo?”
“Listen to you. You are asking me what to do? You are the one with the fancy office and the fat paycheck. Do what feels right. That’s the only thing I can tell you. “
“What would you do Solo – if you were me?”
“Hmm. What would I do? The evil in me would arrange for a romantic meal to which a prostitute I hire would show up, who’d offer to go down on him and bite him hard. The devil in me would hire a billboard and announce to the world that this excuse of human excrement who calls himself a family man is nothing but a liar and a cheat. But then there is the human in me. Oh yes, the human. I’d walk away. Send a ‘keep well’ card, close the chapter and let karma take care of the rest. You said he has a daughter. Right?
“And what if he comes after me?”
“That’s a fantasy sweetheart. Men don’t leave wives of 20 some years. They get kicked out and let’s face it, deep down you wouldn’t want another woman’s cast-off would you? Maybe you’ve wanted an unavailable man all this time yourself. Maybe you enjoyed the thrill of having snatched another woman’s man, albeit momentarily. Who knows what lurks in your subconscious to compel you to engage in this ‘lust’ fest. After all I am under no illusion that you, darling, are an angel either. You , me, all women live the romances we truly deserve. So, look in the mirror and start anew. Live well. That would be the best revenge.”
[Part II] [Part III] [Part IV] [Part V] [Part VI]
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