Can I Kiss Your Earring?
About seven hours or thereabouts into the thirteen-hour flight from Los Angeles to Seoul, Korea, I went to the rear of the plane to exercise my legs and get something to drink. It was no surprise that there were people waiting to get into one of the toilets. Two of them I judged to be middle-aged Koreans. They were carrying on a lively conversation, seemingly paying no attention to the availability of the three toilets, now occupied. The other person was a rather tall and thin woman whom I guessed was also Korean, though there was something about her that made me doubt this was the case. Her hair, obviously black, was in a ponytail that fell to the middle of her back. She was wearing a simple white blouse and long black pants with small red hearts all over them. I wondered if her final destination was Seoul, where we would stop in another six hours or so, or if like me she would continue on to Manila.
I did a couple of sets of knee bends, stood on one foot for a long minute, and then did the same with the other one. It was while doing this familiar balance exercise that I noticed that this somewhat tall woman with hearts all over her pants and who had caught my attention was staring at me. When I finished with my one-foot-only routine and moved to stand near the back of the last aisle seat, she slowly approached me and said, Would you do me a small favor?
Sure, I said.
I see you are wearing an earring. It is very becoming. I also noticed that you don’t have one in your right ear.
Her near-perfect English was quite unexpected, and made me think that she had been born and raised in the U.S.
There are a few semi-rational reasons for having only one, and in my left ear, I said. Perhaps you know the long and fascinating history of gay men and earrings and the various ways of indicating their sexual preferences?
Yes, I’m familiar with the many differences from country to country, and in America. Interesting, wouldn’t you say?
In the Philippines where I’m going I’ll see lots of young men who wear earrings. Invariably in the left ear if straight, I was told the first time I asked about them. If it’s in the right ear, or the guy has one in each ear, then he’s gay, I was also informed early on. But the more I saw young Filipino men with earrings, and learned of their sexual orientation, it became clear that there is no simple pattern. One earring, two earrings, left or right—in all cases a Filipino could be straight, or gay, or trans male to female.
I see that you have a very curious mind. I must tell you that I did not know what you have told me about the Philippines.
I’m sure there are a few Filipinos on this flight with earrings. They may even speak English. It should be easy to learn even more than I know about their thoughts on earrings, or if there are good reasons for wearing them in the left or right ear, or both.
The Philippines is not one of my countries of interest. I never go there for business, and… She stopped and canted her head and looked down and brought a long index finger to one corner of her mouth. Then she said, Do you mind if I ask if you have had that blue earring long enough to be gay?
Gay? Me? The thought of kissing any man repulses me.
You dislike gay men?
No, not at all. As far as I’m concerned, men can—excuse the expression—fuck dogs or ducks or walls with holes in them. It matters not to me what any man does sexually as long as leaves underage girls or boys alone. I just don’t like gay men hitting on me.
You’re not subtle the way you talk.
We’re wandering off topic. You wanted a small favor from me.
Yes, yes. Sorry. I’m just this way sometimes.
You don’t have to apologize. It’s just that I’m curious and want to know how I can help you before one of us takes a toilet.
She stared at me for a long moment. Almost through me, I thought. Then she moved closer, and said, I’m a collector. Would you believe me if I told you this is the reason I’ve asked you for a favor?
Collector of what? I said.
It’s a favor I knew I would ask of you as we were boarding. I was standing right behind you as we entered the plane. It was easy to see what you had on your ears.
So you just like to talk to men who wear earrings? Is this the favor you are asking of me? You just want to talk and learn something about me?
It’s a little more complicated than that.
You want to know why I got the earring and when?
You see, I approached you only because you are wearing one earring.
I smiled and said, and you like my blue sapphire? Is it? Is it a sapphire?
I don’t think so. It’s only the name that I grabbed out of thin air in the tattoo shop where I bought it.
So you’re impulsive?
More than I care to admit. Or you would believe.
Okay, now I will tell you about the small favor and how you can help me. I will be more specific. I approached you both because you have an earring and only one, and because it’s in the left ear. You had to meet all three of these conditions for me to have come to you as I did. You see, I belong to a club of women that is all about men and their earrings and the story I get. I should add that we are all successful businesswomen between twenty-five and thirty-five.
How large is your club?
Right now there are 42 members.
The women are from everywhere? Or…?
Yes. Everywhere. But many of us are Japanese, like me. You must know that the Japanese can be very different in what we believe and do.
So I have heard, though I have never been to Japan. But I do have good stories about old Japanese men who seek out young girls in the Philippines. Especially if they imagine that they look anything like their deceased wives. What is fascinating is that they have no interest in having sex with them. They only want to be around them and stare at them, and sleep with them in the same bed.
I don’t know about any of this.
Would you like to hear more stories about old Japanese men and their strange ways with young Filipinas?
Maybe. But later, okay? Unfortunately, their stories would not help me much with my collection and the reason for approaching you. I…. She stopped and backed away a couple of steps, then asked if I would turn my head toward the meager light coming from the kitchen and sitting area for stewardesses. I did as she asked. She came closer, within several inches of my earring. I could smell her breath. It was sweet, even slightly seductive. She now said, Your blue sapphire, as you call it, flatters you.
Thank you. That’s not what my son said one morning at breakfast recently. Nor is it what one of my better friends said to me on seeing it.
Mind if I ask what they said?
My son said it makes me look cute.
It sounds like he has a sense of humor. But I’m not sure he’s right, speaking as a Japanese woman.
He was probably joking, though I must confess he’s hard to read.
And your friend? I’m curious. What did you friend say about your earring?
You want to hear exactly what he said?
Yes. Please. It might enrich the story you’re starting to tell me.
He said, Now you look like a badass motherfucker.
Oh! Such words! She brought two hands to her face and covered her eyes and cheeks. Dropping them, she said, You were insulted?
No, not at all. It’s what I’ve come to expect from this one friend. And to be honest, we are in the practice of exchanging rather crude jokes, saying such things to one another in words unacceptable in polite society.
Your friend is very American!
I don’t know about that. He’s that kind of person that doesn’t fit any neat label. Especially one as broad and unrevealing as the word American.
She moved a few steps and came around to face me. She was unusually close. She put a hand on my shoulder, lightly, and as she applied a little pressure she asked me to turn my face toward the thin light coming from the kitchen. She now said, The earring compliments your eyes.
Very much so.
My eyes are sometimes green, sometimes blue. It depends on the light. I’m not sure that when my eyes are green they compliment my blue sapphire.
Maybe I need to see you outside?
She dropped her head and then abruptly raised it. She now said, Can you tell me more about your son? Is he at all like you?
No. He is less playful and unrevealing about himself. Or at least to me. And yet it’s possible that he’s done things more adventuresome that I did at his age. I stopped and took the corner of my lower lip into my mouth. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to say about my son.
Can you tell me more?
A little. Before leaving home on this trip, he told me to get in his car because he wanted to take me to get a medical marijuana license, even though by every rational medical criterion I have no need for one. Other than to enjoy some good weed now and again. So I got one, and then as soon as I had it he took me to one of several stores that sell just about anything one might want. Sativa if you want to fly and soar with condors. Indica if you need a weed version of Librium. And then there are all the hybrids. Would I have done this to my father when I was his age had marijuana then been legal in California where I was born and raised? I don’t know.
You mind if I ask how old he is?
Twenty-six. Handsome to a fault. A lady killer. If I had his looks when I was his age, I would have… I stopped, decided I’d said enough about him.
He has an earring too?
No. He hasn’t gone there yet. I think he believes to get one would cause some misunderstanding with his friends.
He told you this?
More or less when I chided him and said he needed one. But back to your club and what you collect. And the favor we have not yet gotten around to.
Everyone in this club I told you a little about is a quite successful business woman, and we all travel the world in our jobs. America, Australia, Europe. I’ve even been to Russia and India on assignments. Our journeys are long and boring, as I am sure they are for many people who travel as much as we do. So, anyway, a few of us met at a conference in Amsterdam several years ago. Over lots of drinks we came up with this idea that brings me to you and the favor. We meet twice a month, or when possible, because we are so often traveling. Then when we do meet, often in Tokyo, sometimes in places like Paris and London, three or four us tell our stories to all those who can attend. Those of us who are there take careful notes and score those who tell their stories. Like my meeting you. These scores get added to a previous total, which everyone in the club knows about. We are competitive. Very much so. All of us want to be first. She stopped and stared. She seemed so serious, distant. A little scary, I thought. Now she said, Am I boring you?
Not at all. I want to hear more.
The system of scoring is complicated. It begins with men and their earrings and then… She brought a hand to her mouth, and I once again took note of her long and very attractive fingers and carefully trimmed nails. The nails were neither short nor long.
So how do you accumulate points?
I will tell you a few of the ways and let you guess about the rest. If that is okay with you?
So this is a game?
If you want to call it that? She smiled and moved closer. She reached for my left hand, took it, squeezed it lightly. Suggestively.
I could smell her breath. It was sweet, unrevealing, more than acceptable for intimate coupling. I wasn’t sure where this was going. I now said, Tell me more about your club.
The club has been around for six years. We have decided that when we reach 50 members we will not let anyone else in. Then only when one leaves because she quit her job or reached 36.
What is magical about 36?
We believe that this is the time when a woman should work hard to have a child, if she does not already have one. And…
I waited for her to on, but she just lowered her head and said nothing. She then brought a hand to her mouth. I sensed that she was blushing, but I had no idea why. Finally, I said, Can you tell me more about the earring angle in your club. It seems to be central to whatever the club is really about.
She explained that each country that members travel to on business, either on planes coming and going, or elsewhere on business in the foreign country, they approach men with earrings, if there are combinations in that country they have not already “collected.” A man who has only one earring in the left ear. Or one in the right ear. Or one in each ear. Or two or more in one ear or both ears. They make a distinction between someone like me with one that is rather small and confined to the lobe of the ear, and a man with one in the left ear but with an earring that hangs beneath the ear, as with a gold ring or cross. Then, too, they even make a distinction based on political units within a country, as with states. So someone like me who is from California allows her to add another male from another state that has a simple earring in his left ear. Here she was implying in telling me this that she had men in her collection from states like Illinois (Chicago in all likelihood) and New York (New York City), to mention but two likely possibilities. She said nothing about whether it mattered that a person was not native to a state, or that she encountered a man with an earring pattern she did not have that she encountered in-flight from his home state to a place or business or pleasure, or vice versa. It all began to seem more complicated than putting together a thousand-word jigsaw puzzle.
When she had finished with this part of her story, I said, I assume you keep careful notes.
Oh, yes, she said. Every member has what we call a Little Red Book. We also have to develop good memories.
Are your stories well-guarded and only shared with club members, or with anyone?
Only with other club members. If anyone shared them outside the club and another member finds out, that person is expelled from our club.
What you learn and share in this club is not shared with husbands or partners, I assume?
Oh no! Never. We are all afraid that what we have in these red books would be seen as betrayals.
The same as being unfaithful then?
Oh yes! Maybe worse! You see, there might be questions and more questions about what happened in trying so hard to get points.
Fascinating, I said. What beats suspicions and incriminating secrets, especially when, pardon me for saying so, club members are as attractive as you are.
Thank you. Thank you very much. You flatter me.
Only the truth. I am not known for false flattery.
Thank you again. She bowed her head and brought her hands together, as in prayer. Like a Thai wai, I thought.
We were now alone, the lights were off, the curtain to the food and drink area and the waitresses was tied top and bottom on both sides. I increasingly wondered where all this was going. I brought to mind her words: in trying so hard…
Back to the favor, I said. We still have not gotten there. I only have, shall we say, clues about what really brought you to me. Surely it is more than just chatting and getting me to talk about my handsome son, and because I have an earring in my left ear. Or is it?
No, it is not. The favor is…I want to kiss your earring.
I chuckled without opening my mouth. I thought of my son and what he will say when I tell him this story, the desire of a woman about whom I knew almost nothing, not even her first name, to kiss my earring. Would he say: Dad, this is just another one of your fanciful stories. This sort of thing never happens except in your wandering, off-the-edge mind. But in this instance, would he really say this, given how he will recognize the truths I am revealing about him? And about me, which he will most surely recognize.
I said, I have no problem with you kissing my earring. My ear too, if that’s what you want as a little addition to your story about me.
Are you sure?
Of course. And right now if you like. Or any time before we get off the plane. You can even kiss my earring when I return to my seat, 43F.
Can I ask another small favor of you?
Sure. Why not?
Will you go into that empty toilet over there with me? She pointed, to the one farthest from where the stewardesses were sitting and resting or preparing for the next meal.
I thought: this is a first. But then when don’t I want another novel experience? Will this one now go where just about all men in my position think this will go?
She gently took me by the hand, and when we got to the toilet, she pushed the folding door inward and asked me to go in first. I obliged. She followed, and then locked the door with the familiar slip lock that would show the red closed sign.
Not sure what she would now do, I stood there and looked at her very white face. I was aware that I was staring, but felt no shame or discomfort. She was even more attractive than I’d thought. I tried hard to not reveal what I was seeing and feeling. I made no move to touch her. I wanted the upper hand. I wanted her to make the first move.
She now said, rather business-like I thought, Would you mind sitting on the toilet seat.
I shrugged and said, And you’re going to sit on my lap? I’m 170 pounds and you go 110 or so. Maybe we’ll break it?
Oh, you need not worry. There are others on this plane heavier than the two of us together.
You have done this before, I thought. I still wasn’t sure where this was going, and I couldn’t yet imagine that it would go very far. She hadn’t tried to kiss or hug me or really suggest anything sexual, and she’d had plenty of opportunities.
She let herself down slowly on my legs that I’d brought together after sitting down. She sat closer to my knees than my groin. I waited for her to say something, or do something. But she did nothing, just sat, staring at the door, her hands in her lap. After a long silence, she said, Are you comfortable?
Yes, quite so in fact. I assume this is the preferred way to sit before asking me to turn my head enough so you can kiss my earring. I must say that I am starting to enjoy this, for little did I know a half hour or so ago that I would find myself in the toilet with such an attractive young woman and with a request that I could have never have imagined. In fact, I’ll confess that in my many travels I have rarely heard anything so unusual from anyone I have met.
You will enjoy everything about this experience, she said.
Is this because we are in the early stages of a three or four act play, and I am to remain in the dark as to what will happen until the final curtain falls?
Perhaps, she said. Yes, no doubt. She brought a cupped hand to her mouth and giggled like a small child. She was still looking only at the door.
I take it you have already gotten some good points toward the story you will tell your club members about me?
Maybe. Under the circumstances.
And those circumstances are what? I guess you know that you have gotten my interest perked about where all this is going?
That is good. All good things revolve around mystery and intrigue…and, need I add, your suspicions and anxieties about where we are going.
Is it better if you don’t know my name or age or what I do for a living? You have not asked about any of these biographical issues.
No, not necessarily. It depends…
Depends on what?
Need I say more now that you have come this far with me? She turned toward me and smiled, mischievously, I thought.
You have a point. I must tell that I don’t play chess, and the little I have played would certainly rank me as top amateur among amateurs. I am beginning to sense this is hardly a first for you, and that you know how to use a queen as I surely don’t.
Shall we continue?
Her words were increasingly surprising me. Why not? I said. The last thing I enjoy are these seemingly interminable rides across the Pacific.
I have a question for you. What would your son say if he knew what you are doing now?
Don’t know. Maybe he’s changed, or is changing in ways I know nothing about. Maybe he’s more adventuresome than me and would have made some different and more interesting moves by now. He might even just say were he to have heard our conversation and what has happened thus far, Go for it, Dad! And then add, in his emerging new image: What the fuck are you waiting for!
Maybe I should be with him? She twisted her nose and brought two fingers to her mouth. She began sucking on them. It was easy to read that she was sending me an invitation. But an invitation to do what? The obvious?
I said, Are you athletic?
I have a brown belt.
Would your son like to be with someone with a brown belt?
I honestly don’t know. I have not the slightest clue where such a talent sits in his ideal conception of an athletic and otherwise perfect woman. He has only revealed to me that the ideal woman for him is one with athletic abilities and with breasts of rather modest size. About your size, from what I see.
Is he with you on this flight?
No. He’s working. Working toward finding a rewarding career. By the way, do you climb rocks, and walls in gyms?
No, never tried.
But you would?
If he was worth it.
What are you looking for?
I don’t know until I find it.
You have something in common with him. And with me too. Maybe it’s true of most humans. They don’t know what they want until they have found it.
Can we continue in other modes?
I was starting to feel irritated, as much at myself as at her for not making a move. I said, No points by club standards and to put in your red book for speculating further about my son?
I will be as truthful as I can be with you. It is the story about you and me that will matter most. Your son, since he is not here, can only be a large footnote. Maybe a little more.
So far a good one, though?
Well, yes. But so much better if he were here.
I guess I am too slow, is this what you are saying? You expected I would have made a move by now, is this right?
Not at all. I hate to say it but I’m starting to feel a little sorry for some things I have done and the way I’m behaving. I say this because although I don’t know you, I feel you’re the honest blunt type. You’re not quite right for this game.
This game? This is a word that both of us are starting to revisit with greater frequency, if not with the word than in what is going down.
Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not keeping track.
Is it or isn’t it—one big game?
You will find out soon enough.
You have other things in mind then, is that right?
You are perceptive. Maybe more than I initially sensed when I saw that earring. Maybe you are not typical, if you know what I mean.
Me perceptive? Less often that I wish were the case. And not just with you.
She inched closer, then leaned into me and said, Can I sit on you in a little different way now?
That’s not what I was thinking.
You want to sit on me facing me, right?
Is that okay with you?
I guess this means it will be easier to kiss both of my ears, though I wasn’t aware this was in the cards. Or we can… By design, I didn’t finish the sentence. I smiled at her. I was trying to tempt her.
She got up, pulled up her pants and straightened out her simple white blouse. For a brief moment I thought she might open the door and leave. But the thought no more than crystallized that she pushed my legs together as tightly as possible, then sat on me, facing me, a leg on either side. She did it with such ease and naturalness that I imagined she had done this many times before. She now put her hands in her shiny black hair and two or three times pushed it toward the back of her head, to tighten her ponytail. It wasn’t necessary, and I couldn’t decide what to make of this. Stalling? Waiting for me to make a move?
Increasingly, I could see that she had me caught in the web of some kind of pre-planned game, one in which I was off-balance and unsure what to do or where she would go next. Was it as simple as a straightforward move to get me to begin kissing her and take off her blouse and suck on her tits and then maneuver her into a position where I could fuck her cowgirl? I didn’t know, and I figured I’d go along with whatever she was up to a bit longer. Perhaps there would soon be a telling clue that foretold her end game. I saw no reason not to continue, and more than I might have thought possible was not worried that she would suddenly exit from the toilet and charge me with sexually harassing her, or even rape.
We stared at each other for what seemed like a very long minute. I made no move to kiss her nor did she try to kiss me. I was tempted, but instead said, You have lovely full lips. I would imagine your husband enjoys kissing you, a bit of an irrational leap since I didn’t see a wedding ring.
I’m not married.
You have a partner?
No. I’ve never been married or in a relationship.
You mean you’ve never been in a serious relationship?
I have never been in any kind of relationship.
Could it be possible that she’s a virgin? I thought it hard to believe, and yet she would not be the first Asian woman of similarly good looks who was still a virgin, even if she was my son’s age, or even older. I said, You should try one. A relationship.
They can be complicated.
Everything worth having is complicated.
Yes, I have heard that often.
Do you want me to kiss you?
I don’t know.
Is that a maybe, or yes?
I don’t know. Maybe. I’ll leave it up to you.
She had inched closer, and after saying that she’d leave it up to me, she moved a hand onto my groin. I was getting hard.
Where are we going? I said.
I have a question. I hope I don’t offend you. Are you big or small?
I was taken aback by the question. I couldn’t bring to mind a single time in the past two or three decades when anyone, male or female, had asked me this question. I said, It depends what you mean by big and small. Sometimes big, of course. But like all men of all ages small most of the time.
I see. And…if you don’t mind me asking, how big is big?
I don’t know. But not more than seven inches when good and hard.
Honestly! That big!
I’m not Japanese. Or Korean. Or Chinese. Or a Filipino. I’m simply a Caucasian male with northern European origins. We are men who tend to be big in more than one way.
Are you less than six inches?
Closer to seven then!
I don’t know. Maybe, to use one of your favorite words. The question doesn’t much interest me.
She moved her hand away and began rubbing both sides of my legs.
You have a gentle touch, I said.
Thank you. I will remember that.
You have asked me an usual question. I guess you must know that. Now I’ll ask you one. Are you a virgin?
She smiled at me, the smile unrevealing. Then she said, Would you believe me if I told you no one has ever asked me that question?
I’ve learned that all things are possible, even that which seems highly improbable. As with a young attractive woman like you who could well be a virgin and is widely travelled.
Then you have your answer.
That was a good move. It should play well in your game book. But tell me, what else will you remember about this game, as you have called it?
I won’t know until…
Forget what I said.
I was temporarily at a loss for words. Again, I wasn’t sure where to go next. Finally, I said, My son will read this story, and I now think he will say, I don’t know if it’s true or not. Yet before the day is out he’ll come to my home office, and say, smiling and perhaps laughing, Another one of your fanciful fictions, right?
You will tell him the truth? That all of this happened, even my asking how big you are?
That’s mean, don’t you think?
Telling him that you asked me what no one in memory has ever asked me?
You puzzle me, and I wonder why you have not made a move on me. Are you really an American?
You want to see my passport?
That’s what we all do, all the time. Assume based on small samples.
Of course. Well, less so than most people, I like to believe.
She made a move to kiss me, but stopped short of making contact with my lips.
You’re tempted, I said.
You are tempting.
Why didn’t you kiss me?
That’s a good question that will never get a good answer. Or maybe it will, depending on what happens before we leave here.
So what was the real reason for having me come into the toilet with you?
Maybe it was only to kiss your earring.
Thus far you have made no effort to do so.
There is time.
Some. But maybe less than you think.
Do you want to go?
Not yet. Believe it or not, I am enjoying this. Every bit of it.
Because you’ll write a story for your son about this?
He has surprisingly little to do with how I feel right now. And that thought has not come to mind. It’s quite possible he’ll not even read this story, and no matter how I write it up.
He would do that to you if you sent it to him?
He has his own interests. They overlap little with mine.
But you know him?
I wouldn’t say that. I have not a clue what he would do if he were sitting here with you. Or even if he would have gone this far.
So he’s not as adventuresome as you?
I think he defines adventure differently. And I don’t think it’s a generational issue.
You know then about how he defines adventure?
Yes and no, and there’s a huge empty space between those two words.
I’ve never met anyone like you.
I’ve heard that before. Many times. But it’s rarely a compliment.
You get mean with people?
I wouldn’t put it that way. It’s rather that I’m intolerant of stupidity and hubris and fools, and people who pretend to be everything they’re not.
You might be hard to live with.
You might be surprised. I stopped and brought a hand to my mouth, then said, What if I said that I want you to turn and face the other way and get closer, your back firmly against my chest. That I then want to kiss you on the back of your neck and around your ears?
I don’t know. I’ve never met a man who ever said that to me.
How many have you known?
I don’t know.
You mean you don’t want to tell me?
It’s not that. I just don’t know. I’ve never kept track.
Would you turn around now so I can do what I said I want to do?
I’m afraid now. I’m afraid you might do something to me that I cannot see coming.
What could that be, in your mind?
I don’t know, that’s what I’m afraid of.
The fear by which most men and women lead their lives. Fear in small things becomes fear in big things.
How could I have asked you to come in here and sit on you if I was full of fear?
There are many kinds of fear, are there not? And then there are games.
I guess what you say is true.
The good thing about turning around and getting your back as close to me as possible is that you don’t really know what I’ll do or when I’ll do it. The anticipation could be a great adrenaline rush.
Would you do more than kiss the back of my neck?
I’ll only know when you’re facing away and close.
That’s what makes it good. The mystery. The anticipation. The open-ended unknown.
Will you tell me now what you’re going to do if I put my back to you? Then I can try something I’ve never tried.
That would destroy the fun, rob me of one of my moves. The anxiety that will make you…
…make me what?
Surely you know what I’m talking about.
I don’t, really.
She moved her legs a little closer, and I wanted to tell her that she was playing another card, opening a new door with unforeseen consequences. But then maybe this is where she wanted to go, had gone often on trips like this one.
I said, I can feel your warmth.
I can feel yours too.
Do you like to get to the precipice of an experience and then leave it there?
I don’t know. Maybe. Okay, I am lying. I do know, because I…never mind.
Because you do it all the time on flights like this?
I didn’t say that!
No, I didn’t.
Have you ever had this experience? A charming man of about your age who seems irresistible invites you out to dinner. When he picks you up, he’s dressed to kill. He has some flowers for you, and even a little gift. Like a friendship ring. He takes you to a restaurant and you get a table by a charming lake on a full moon night. The lights are low and the environment is simply fabulous. Others are around you but all you hear, or imagine hearing, are romantic whispers. You just sense that everyone is in love, and life could never be better than what you see around you and now just must be happening to you. Then as you eat, a meal as tasty as any you have ever had, and with just that kind of white or red wine that’s the best you have ever had, you sense and feel that this first-date charmer with seemingly everything going for him is both subtle and romantic in ways you could not imagine before meeting him. You have that great, that scary feeling, that you’re falling in love on your very first date with him. You’ll do anything for this man that you know almost nothing about.
After dinner’s over, he takes you back to your apartment and you invite him in, knowing and feeling that what will happen will be as good as anything that has thus far happened this incredible night. Or with any other man you have known.
You ask him to sit on the couch in your living room, and you turn on some mesmerizing soft music. You bring him a brandy and some cheese and crackers. You sit beside him and get close and he hugs you. Again and again. He kisses you like you cannot remember ever being kissed. You know what is coming, but he seems in no hurry to get where you know you are going. It’s so good sitting there in the dim light and listening to your favorite soft music by your favorite artist that you can feel yourself getting wet. So wet in fact that your wetness is running down your legs. You simply cannot wait for him to enter you and bring you to a memorable climax.
He senses that you’re wet and ready. He doesn’t merely stand and take you by the hand to your bedroom, but he picks you up and carries you. You simply cannot wait for him to kiss you all over and enter you. Again and again, you imagine. He gently puts you on the bed. Then he excuses himself, says that he needs to go to the bathroom. You know what he’s expecting, so you undress and put on a very short pink nightie and you turn off the overhead light and put on more music, down low, and a single bedside table light.
You’re lying there on the bed, waiting for him, now even starting to play with yourself you’re so eager to feel his naked and warm body. You imagine that in the love making soon to happen you’ll tell him that you love him, that you just know that you’re meant for each other and you want to have his children.
You wait, and you wait for him to come to you. But for some reason that you cannot imagine or understand he doesn’t come out of the bathroom. Fifteen minutes, then twenty minutes go by. Then, finally, he emerges. His hair is combed, his shirt is tucked in, and without taking so much as a single step in your direction, he says only, Thanks for the great night. I got everything I wanted from you.
He turns, and before the shock of his words register you can hear him opening the front door and then closing it.
You never see or hear from him again.
I could hear her heavy breathing, and one hand and then the other one pinching my legs. She’s still facing me. I see tears, and then more tears. She’s shaking her head. And then, finally, barely audible, she whispers, You are so cruel!
You are! You are!
But you know what I have done, don’t you?
She began slowly shaking her head. And then suddenly she stopped and began nodding. She said, How did you know? How did you know exactly what I was going to do?
I didn’t. But somewhere in the conversation outside the toilet and before we got here, I began to smell a rat. An inexplicable sixth sense that the story you wanted, the points you would accumulate, were all wrapped up in what preceded your kissing my earring. The kissed earring. The final curtain. The more you could add into your clever little bag of temptations and what you could extract from what I would tell you before the kiss would give you points. More and more of them. I stopped and stared at her eyes. They were wet. Tears were running down her cheeks.
You are a first. I have never met anyone like you who could turn cruel.
I went on. This is how many women like you get to the top. Not all of you. But many. Too many. And when it doesn’t work you get fucking nasty and revengeful and use the law made by men without spine. When I was a young kid, we had a name for this, your game. We called girls like you cock teasers. We had other names for you that you don’t want to hear.
She slowly slid back from me and got up. Now I could see that she was biting her lovely and full lips. There was blood, and it began dripping onto her flawless white blouse.
I said nothing. I stood and went to the small sink and beside it took one of the packaged toothbrushes with toothpaste. I took my time brushing my teeth, and all the time I did so she stood by the door, speechless. I imagined that she was staring at me. Full of anger and hate and bitterness. I rinsed out my mouth several times, then turned and gently took hold of one of her hands and pulled her away from the door and opened it.
I didn’t return to my seat straightaway, but instead stood behind the very last seat in the four seats nearest the window on the starboard side of the plane. I waited for her to exit.
She didn’t come out of the toilet for a long five minutes. Maybe it was longer. When she did come out she came over to me and said, Will you now give me what you know I need to get my points and increase my ranking. I am only number two, and I want to be number one. If you don’t allow me to kiss your earring, I will get nothing. Nothing at all. All of that work on you will have been for nothing.
I said, I have something to give. Wait while I write an address on a piece of paper. I wrote my name as Aristos Islandia, and I gave her the address of a hotel in Manila that I have stayed at only once and might or might not be staying at since I didn’t have a reservation, my familiar M.O. I tore the single page from my small shirt-pocket notebook and handed it to her, and I said, I think I’ll be at this hotel for three or four days following my arrival in Manila.
She said, Will you?
We will see.
And you will, you know what?
What do you think?
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