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Close Up

I wasn’t looking for anything, in particular; or anybody, for that matter. No long term relationship, not even a one night stand. I’d come by the party on a whim, bored to tears and facing Chinese take-out in front of the tube. But when Jerry pointed her out to me, I was intrigued and something clicked back in my reptilian brain. Cheri was tall, well proportioned and carried herself with an attractive self-confidence. Naturally, I was skeptical of any 3 second assessment from across the room, but my snap-judgments had been close enough in the past that I was willing to believe this one. Besides, something turned me on about her.

He made the introductions smoothly enough and I took the opportunity to chat with her over a drink while the party went on around us. I wasn’t disappointed. She was clearly intelligent, had a great sense of humor (demonstrated by her continuing laughter at my jokes) and was unattached.

We agreed to have an official date the following week.

I had long stopped being nervous about dating. A devout bachelor, I wasn’t too concerned about how I measured up, whether someone would like me, or what kind of impression I needed to make. I’m happy in my skin. I’m in good shape, I make a reasonable living, I’m not involved in anything illegal and I can hold my head up in terms of my interests. Life is pretty short, I figure, and it’s all about being yourself and finding others who accept you for who you are.

So, when the night came around I hadn’t fretted too much. In fact I had forgotten about it for much of the day until the reminder popped up on my phone. A little spasm wriggled through my spine at the prospect of having dinner with her. I didn’t expect it to end in a glorious night of play between the sheets, but if it did, all the better. I hadn’t had any for quite a while. At least a month anyway.

She was already at the restaurant when I got there, more stunning than I remembered. Brunette hair brushed straight down to the middle of her back, her brown eyes sparkling in the candlelight, her smile engaging and warm. She never took her eyes off me, even as I offered her the bouquet of flowers I had picked up on the way over.

“Hey, thanks!” She smelled the bouquet and found a spot for it on the table. A waiter came by asking if we’d like it in a vase. A first class place we’d picked—I like to eat and I like to eat well.

“I hope you haven’t been here long?” I took off my jacket and sat down.

“Just got here.”

“Well, I was a little delayed; I’m glad we could get together.” I smiled and looked her back in the eyes. It was tough to keep from staring, or looking wolfish, but her face was so beautiful, so young with a depth of wisdom. I couldn’t begin to estimate her age – she could have been 21 or 45 – it kept shifting. “So…have you had a chance to look at the menu? I understand the starts are really great.”

We shifted into the mildly uncomfortable transition new friends encounter as they try and remember what it was that hooked them up in the first place. Thankfully she enjoyed as varied a diet as I did and was only too happy to explore some of the more provocative items on the menu. This led naturally into remembrances of prior meals, gossip about people who we didn’t think matched our tastes, and anecdotes about our travels.

When I finally looked up, I realized we had spent almost two hours eating, finishing one bottle of wine and deciding our next steps.

“Would you care for dessert this evening?” The waiter had the dessert menus ready.

I looked over at Cheri, trying to gauge her appetite. “I always like to look,” I said, non-committally. I was undecided. We could hang here for another half hour and then we’d be too full to do much of anything else. We could leave, go to a club, but then desserts there would be second-class at best.

We scanned the menu for a few moments. “You know,” she said looking up. “I’m not quite ready for dessert, even though these look fantastic. Did you say you had another thing in mind after dinner?”

“The Kit-Kat Klub. Yeah. The desserts are horrible there, but the drinks are okay. I understand there’s an indie group playing tonight and I really like the dance floor—it has lots of room. Would you like to check it out?”

She nodded enthusiastically tipping back the remainder of her wine. I paid, we grabbed our stuff and left. As we had both driven, I suggested we could take one car and swing back later if she was amenable.

As I drove us across town I stole glances at her during our conversation. She smelled wonderful; a faint tinge of something floral or spice. Her profile was as attractive as anything. I looked at her breasts, not too large, not too small. They stood out in a beautiful mound, possibly pushed in a little and rounded by her bra, I couldn’t tell in the light. She had worn a top that exposed her navel, a feature I always loved looking at. Her jeans were low cut, hip-huggers I guess, and seemed to fit her like a glove. I imagined what it would be like to run my fingers casino şirketleri from her neck all the way to the crease at the top of her thighs.

“Did I spill something?” She looked down at herself and back at me.

I grinned. “Nope. You look absolutely fantastic. I was just staring.”

She smiled back, not offended in the least and shifted a little to afford me a better view. Nothing conscious, nothing lascivious, just a little rearrangement of her body so I could see more of her. It didn’t hurt.

We arrived at the club and my first suspicion it wasn’t going to go well was how easy it was to find a parking spot. The Kit Kat Klub booked a wide range of bands, usually they were spectacular, but every once in a while they ended up stinkers. I really hoped we hadn’t picked a bad night—I’d regret leaving the desserts back at the restaurant.

We entered the club and looked around. About half the tables were occupied. I checked my watch. By this time of night it should have been packed. I looked over at one of the servers.

“Is Credo playing tonight?”

“Yeah. No. They cancelled last minute. They sent a replacement band, though. But no-one’s heard of ’em, so I guess it’ll be a quiet night.”

I shrugged, looked over at Cheri with raised eyebrows as if to ask if she wanted to take the chance.

“Sure, let’s see what they’re about. It won’t cost us anything to hang for a few minutes.”

We found a table near the dance floor, ordered a couple of drinks and were just getting started when the band kicked in.

It was like a wall of noise had slammed into us. Cheri had been in the middle of discussing some of her latest work when I couldn’t make out a single sound. I looked at her wide eyed. She stopped mid-sentence trying to catch her breath and we both started laughing so hard it hurt. A jet engine. It felt like being inside a jet engine. The screech of the guitar, the drums, the bass “turned up to 11.” I looked at her and without having to say a word, pulled out some cash, left it on the table and offered her a hand.

We were still giggling as we got back into my car. My ears were still ringing.

“That was perfectly awful,” I said, turning on the motor. “Uhhh, I’m open to anything. There’s another club we could try, or find a quiet place for dessert, or?”

“Why don’t we head back to my place? I’ve got a couple of things we could heat up for dessert, if you’re interested, or we could sip some aperitfs. I mean, unless you want to hear a band?”

I was only too happy to go back to her place. It sounded like a great plan.

“What about your car?”

“That shouldn’t be a problem. You could drive me back there later, or we…I can get it in the morning.”

The slip didn’t go unnoticed but I didn’t make a big deal of it. I assumed she was already pondering how the evening might end. Whatever worked for her. I’m easy.

“Tell me where to go,” I said agreeably and pulled away.

I asked her to remind me how she knew Jerry, and she told me a little more about herself. She’d met him at a gallery opening—a friend of hers had a show there. She was an artist, she’d moved to the city after graduating art school awhile back.

From her narrative I began to narrow in on her age. Probably about 28 unless she’d dropped off the planet for ten years after high school, at which point she’d be closer to 38. 28 was the most probable number. She entertained me with stories of the art student’s life, living on cereal and fried eggs, scrimping to save every penny spent on materials.

She’d done okay, I figured. She was dressed nicely and had her own place.

“And you?” She turned my question around.

“What?” I had to scan back to remember my train of thought. “Oh, yeah. Jerry. Jerry and I go way back – 30 years? Grade school. It’s been an on again off again kind of thing.”

She laughed just about the right amount. “So, you two were lovers, then.”

“Exactly. But we never seem to learn we’re not each other’s type.”

“And…?”

“Sociologist. Technically a Social Biologist— they’re completely different things, but it’s just easier to say sociologist.”

“Oh! Where do you teach?” She turned a little more toward me, her face opening up.

“Yeah…you’d be right assuming that. Can’t stand teaching, actually. Don’t know why I even went into the field. I do love research, but don’t like academia. No, I work for a private research firm.”

She waited, looking at me.

“BioDynamic Technologies?” I shrugged and looked at her. She wouldn’t know it, so I wasn’t sure what she was waiting for.

“What does a social biologist do in a ‘private research firm?'” She said it slowly, as if I was a child. But her face had the most disarming smile, I couldn’t resist laughing.

“Okay, okay. I get it. Usually, though, by the time I’m finished explaining what I do, people are asleep.” I went into my short form; enough, I hoped, to satisfy her without getting into the insanely nerdly details. I’d use those later when casino firmaları it was time to call this thing off. If it even lasted that long.

I realized as I turned my attention back to my driving, I didn’t know where I was. I had been concentrating on her life’s story, listening to her directions in one ear, answering her questions, but I hadn’t registered where we were. I looked around and figured we were in the industrial section near the river, not someplace I’d have thought we would end up.

“Uhhhm, you live around here?”

She smiled and nodded, pointing up ahead. “The Astor building,” as if I should know what that meant.

“Yeah?”

“As in ‘Astor Industries?’ You know, the guys who brought you the superfund site we call the river?”

Okay. I got all that, but I still didn’t understand what that had to do with where she lived. “And…you live in a chemical manufacturing plant?”

She laughed. I really liked her laugh. More importantly, I really liked she laughed at my jokes.

“Yeah, exactly. No, you dope. This is their warehousing building. It was converted to artists’ lofts years ago. I got in on the ground floor. Well, not literally, third floor to be exact. All windows on the north side. It’s a bitch to heat, but its fantastic light.”

I pulled up to a dark multi-story brick building with wire glass windows and a chain-linked parking lot. The street was dark, unpopulated and equally unfriendly. Although I didn’t see any creepsters lurking about, that’s the point of these kinds of neighborhoods, isn’t it. You can’t see the bad guys for all of the shadows and deep pockets.

“You can pull up over there,” she pointed to a caged garage door in the adjacent building. “Here, swipe this in the reader.”

I took the card from her and swiped it on the reader in the driveway. As the door opened, I looked around to make sure no one was going to slip inside with us.

“I know,” she said, smiling again. “It looks really scary, doesn’t it? I’ve been living here two years and haven’t ever heard of a problem.” She knocked her head three times.

The reference wasn’t lost on me. Knocking on wood. That she made a joke of her head being wooden was the first reference the entire evening to anything even close to self-deprecating. It made her even more human to me. At the same time, it revealed a shared understanding of superstition, and I wondered how deep-seated her beliefs were.

“You can park in my spot.” The way she said it, I got the sense of a double entendre, and I wasn’t sure whether to follow up on it or not. I chose to remain silent.

“So how does a starving artist afford to live in a place like this?” I asked it off-the-cuff. I was intrigued about her financial situation but didn’t want to pry too soon.

“Oh,” she replied equally casually, “it’s easy when you’re independently wealthy.”

Either it was the alcohol, food, or maybe I was coming down with something, but I couldn’t quite figure out whether she was serious or not. First the comment about the parking space, now this. Maybe my sense of humor wasn’t up to the task.

“Okay, now you have me really curious. You want to say more?”

“Oh, it’s not like that, or anything.”

That was no answer at all. Not like what? “What?”

“Sorry, let me get my keys out.” I gave her back the card and she fumbled in her bag for her key ring. She got out, headed for the garage foyer entrance and I followed, double-checking I’d locked the car.

“Anyway,” she continued as we rode the elevator out of the garage, “I fell in love with a guy right out of college – another artist, and it didn’t work out. He kind of struck it rich while we were married, his success went to his head, and he decided it would be better for him if he paid me off rather than continue to stay married to me.”

It must have happened awhile back because she didn’t seem to have much emotion about the asshole’s treatment of her. I probed a little more, hoping I wasn’t getting too personal, although I was about to be let into her studio and I figured she had opened the door to getting personal. Besides, this is the interesting stuff, isn’t it?

We crossed the main lobby to take the elevators up to the residence floors. I guess I expected more of an industrial-chic look to the interior design: raw concrete floors, unfinished walls, a cage-style industrial elevator. So I was a little surprised at the high end tile, granite on the wall and the mirror-finished stainless steel in the car. Maybe she really was independently wealthy. She pressed the 3rd floor button.

“Wow. You seem to have gotten past it okay…”

“Yeah, I’m a Scorpio. I don’t let these things get under my skin. What it is, is. Yeah?”

I couldn’t help stare at her. Her navel, the belly-button ring glinting gold in the elevator lighting, her flat stomach, her nicely shaped breasts. I really wanted to kiss her, and I probably should have, but her reference to Astrology knocked me off my rhythm.

I spend most of my working güvenilir casino hours debunking myths, revealing scientific truths behind our clients’ voodoo perceptions of their environment. Although I rarely have to contend with astrology I take pride in pointing out the foolishness of believing in the arrangement of stars as viewed from a speck of dust in the outer ring of an otherwise commonplace galaxy as having anything to do with the affairs of men. Or women.

I was about to say something to that effect, hoping it would come out as a smart-ass remark and not too offensive when she interrupted me.

“Not that I believe in any of that stuff. It’s just something my girlfriend told me a long time ago. I’m sure no matter what sign I was she would have found some justification for how easily I let go of that guy. Hey, he’s paid my way. Why would I want to stick around a guy who didn’t get me? Right?”

I thought back to her early conversation. “So, you moved here after the breakup?” She still couldn’t have been over 30.

She turned to look at me as the elevator doors opened onto a blank door. She swiped her card on a reader and nodded. As she swung the door inward, a light cast a wonderful glow to her face, her expression both open and somehow mysterious. I think I fell a little bit in love with her that moment. I definitely wanted to kiss her. It was all I could do not to peel her top off and brush her breasts with my cheeks and lips.

The door opened onto her flat and I stopped at the threshold.

A single light mounted on a brick wall next to the elevator door lit a secretarial just inside. The same glow that had lit her face a moment ago cast a cone of light onto the floor. I looked up into an open darkness, the light reflected back by a mirror mounted what seemed like a football field away. I could see us framed, far away, silhouetted by the light from the elevator car.

I could barely make out several pieces of furniture from streetlight streaming in from a bank of windows. She was walking away and I followed her out of the car, closing the “front” door behind me. With a flip of a couple of switches, the room was bathed in a soft light from several sources, illuminating the sofas, side tables and rugs. I was surprised to see a wood burning stove off to one side, a beautiful animal rug splayed out in front of it. The image of her lying beneath me, naked as we made love was impossible to get out of my head.

“Let me have your jacket. Would you like a drink or should I heat up some bread pudding?”

I gave her my coat, continuing to look around. “No…I mean, I’d take a gin, neat, on the rocks. If you have some olives that would be great.” There were paintings everywhere. On the walls, stacked in front of the walls, on an easel in a hallway I could see past the kitchen into which she had disappeared. It was wonderful stuff – deep impressionistic portraits of men, women, couples. Strong black brushstrokes created a dynamism that kept me staring.

“Come on in.” She called from the kitchen and I complied.

“Is that all your stuff?” I was a little incredulous. She was prolific.

“Not all of it, but yeah, most of that stuff out there is mine. I have some friends’ work up as well. Artists I really respect. Much better than me actually.”

She puttered around getting the drinks together, letting me watch her bend over, her jeans stretched tight against a beautiful ass, stretching to reach glasses, her top riding up to expose her ribs. I was looking forward to the drink.

“Might I use the bathroom?”

“Oh, sure! It’s through there and to the left.”

I took a long piss, eliminating most of the alcohol I’d drunk that evening, and considered my situation. I had no idea how the evening was going to end up, but I definitely wanted to see more of this woman, in every sense. I finished up, splashed cold water on my face and noticed how soft and plush the terry cloth guest towels were. She was brought up well, or had an excellent interior decorator. The whole setup was well thought out. Comfortable.

“Let’s sit in the study. It’s much warmer.”

I took the drink she proffered and followed her deeper into the loft to an incredibly cozy little wood-paneled room with a single sofa, an easel, a variety of lights and a book case. It was a windowless room and I realized, stepping back out and looking around, that it was built completely contained within the loft. It too exuded a sense of comfort. Relaxed, safe. Protected.

She sat on the couch and I joined her, setting my drink on the coffee table, looking around. The walls here were covered with sketches. Pencil sketches of a woman lounging. Her style was evident even in these rapid exercises – the broad brush stroke of the pencil, the simplicity of the outline.

“Life-drawing class?” I thought I’d show I knew something about art.

“Sort of. I’m doing some sketching getting ready for a show I’ve got coming up. Doesn’t she have a great body?”

I looked at each sketch. She had rendered the woman’s breast with a simple arc, making a point to illustrate her nipples and areolas. Her pubic hair too was rendered. In fact, there was more effort taken to render those elements than the woman’s fingers or toes.

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