Sitting on the expansive balcony I sip at a late afternoon coffee while lounging in the recently cleaned and sun-dried deck chairs. Behind me I hear the tell-tale swish of the patio door sliding open and moments later I smile as your perfume wafts over my head and fills my mind with memories. Your hand drapes across my shoulder and you lean in to kiss me on the ear and softly whisper, “I love you.” Turning to meet your gaze I see your eyes sparkle in the sun, your lips glistening and inviting a kiss. I smile in return and whisper, “I love you too gorgeous.” punctuating the simple statement with a tender but brief kiss on your beautiful mouth. Then I continue, “I recognize that perfume.” and you smirk as you slink down to sit beside me on the oversized deck chair. “That’s the perfume you wore when we first met.” I state matter-of factly. “You remember that do you?” you question playfully. “I thought you would have forgotten all of that by now.” I shake my head slowly and close my eyes, “No no my dear. That’s not something that a man can forget, regardless of time and age.” and with another inhalation of your delightful perfume I’m instantly transported back to the day we first met.
We were younger then, of course, both of us trying to figure out our place in the world. Trying to find where we fit, what we wanted, and who we really were. Our paths crossed in the most inhospitable of situations and our attraction grew nearly instantly. It was the dead of winter in a nameless rural township in the prairie provinces of Canada. The winter had not been harsh yet, but the land was coated in layer after layer of thick cotton ball white snow. The leaves had long left the trees, and the ground showed no indication of growth at all. Other than the odd evergreen tree the palette was distinctively winterized. White, black, and the crystal clear blue of the sky were stark contrasts and masked the subtleties of the world below. You were living alone in a moderately sized farm house not something that you would have chosen but it was the hand you were dealt.
Recently your parents had both passed away in a car accident along these same inhospitable roads in a winter not unlike this one. Your dad had rolled the car into the ditch and killed himself and your mother in a unceremonious celebration of ineptitude and poorly timed drunk driving. Returning from a neighbors poker party a deer had jumped across the road as they so often do, but his delayed reaction time from the numerous rum and coke’s he had consumed caused him to oversteer and slam the car into the ditch. It rolled multiple times, stopping to rest at the base of a strong oak tree which broke the back of the car and pushed the roof deep into the cabin of the car, crushing both parents quickly and hopefully painlessly. You were left with the pieces of your family. The only child left at home. The only child with no significant other, with no significant plans, with little to no significance as yet in the world. Your wayward university studies stalled as the household bills needed to be taken care of. The horses needed feed, the dogs needed chow, the pigs, the goats, and chickens all needed care. Piece by piece the farm and the family fell apart. Pigs were sent to the neighbors to be taken care of, chickens to another neighbor, the goats sold to a petting zoo, the chickens to a school. The dogs were separated and sent to better homes and now all that was left was you, and the pair of horses that your parents used to ride.
For lack of a better metaphor you were at a fork in the road of your life. The farm was not your place to be. It held no future for you. It was filled with memories, both good and bad, but it was your parents’ life, not yours. You spent the holidays alone contemplating your future. Your brother and sister far away, both physically and emotionally. They had wrapped themselves in the comfort of their new families pouring love into them to assuage the guilt of abandoning their baby sister. In some respect you welcomed the loneliness. The pain you felt was a stabbing reminder that you were not where you were supposed to be. It was a spiked prod pushing you up and out of this old life and into the new one, if only you knew what it was.
My own situation, though quite different in circumstance was deathly similar in function. Professionally I had to this point been quite successful. I had fallen into the right crowd in university, then tripped into the right job at the right time. Developed strong meaningful relationships with my superiors, my coworkers, and my long time girlfriend. For all intents and purposes I had been living a charmed life. Successful professionally, successful socially, successful in my relationship. However, doubt started to creep into my heart like a delicate thief in the night. I started to doubt my station in life, my point in this world, and the feelings I felt for my girlfriend. Like a simpleton fool I charged headlong into this doubt instead of analyzing it. I pushed harder and drove further. I strove for more responsibility at work, I strove for more responsibility at home. I pushed myself into proposing thinking that it would slay the dragon of doubt. She accepted, and the planning began. Months passed and the doubt crept in again. Louder, stronger, with heavy steps and deep panting growls. It stalked me. Everywhere I went I could not shake it. I was in the wrong place. I was doing the wrong things. I was not where I was meant to be. I was not with who I was meant to be with.
The wedding day came, the honeymoon came, the new house, the life together came rushing in like an unending tidal wave of obligation and expectation. My boss saw my marriage as an indication of strength and stability. My family praised it as the best move I’ve ever made. Her family accepted me with open arms but it all felt forced. It felt faked. I felt like I was living someone else’s life and I couldn’t figure out why. Inch by inch the doubt crawled through my skin and slowly strangled me. Then my eyes, at the moment of suffocation became wide open. I noticed the subtle clues that my subconscious had tuned into but my ego did not submit to. My wife was distant and merely there out of convenience. It was as if she was passing through this life following a set of pre-planned instructions. In a moment of clarity I stopped and spoke to her frankly, probably for the first time ever. I confronted her with my feelings, my worries, my concerns and doubts. To my surprise she expressed the same feelings. She explained that she too went into the marriage with doubts and followed through only because of a sense of obligation to her family and me. She admitted to her lack of romantic feelings for me, that she felt and had always felt that I was more of a friend than a lover. The facade of our relationship came crumbling down around us. We separated. We grew distant. We grew apart. We divorced and I was now swimming by myself in this pool of life.
So I too was alone now. Driving through the wilderness without knowing where I was going or for what purpose. Staring at the empty spot on my finger where a circle of gold used to be I didn’t notice the darkened form of an animal leaping out of the brush in front of me. An instant later the lights focused on the poor deer as it stared directly at me up until the moment of impact. My car shuddered and began a slow spin on the snow covered road as inertia took over and directed my hunk of plastic and metal into the deep ditch. Gratefully the snow was fresh and absorbed the collision with the powdery acceptance of a gentle white hug. It took awhile for my heart to slow back down and allow me to assess my situation. I was lodged deeply into the snow, on a road that I didn’t know the name of, heading in a direction to nothing that I knew. To make matters somewhat worse, evening was turning quickly into night, clouds were rolling in with more snow, and I was certainly ill prepared for the weather.
I had to roll the window down so I could extract myself from the car. My first thought then went to the poor animal lying on the opposite side of the road. It was clearly dead. It’s neck turned and cocked at an unnatural angle. I dutifully walked over to it grateful that it came to a quick end, then took it by the hind legs and dragged it into the opposite ditch to ensure no other passing motorist would collide with its remains and cause further unneeded tragedy. As I washed my hands of its blood on the dove white snow I happened to look off in the right direction to see the distinct slightly blackened smoke coming from a nearby chimney. With no reason to stay in the car, and the light and temperature decreasing by the minute I made the quick and easy decision to make my way towards the source of the smoke, not knowing what that may entail.
Unbeknownst to my situation you sat in your parents home, your home, and you poked at the fire watching the embers cascade off and up through the chimney. The heat of the fire radiating out and embracing you like a welcomed friend. Placing the poker down you picked up your steaming cocoa and picked up the book you were reading. You had reached the point in the book where the characters had been introduced and you felt the continuing urge to turn the page to find out how the puzzle was pieced together. Reading was something that you only recently picked up in earnest. Not so long ago reading was only something you did when it was assigned to you by a professor in university. Textbooks were nothing like reading fiction though. This book and others like it transported you to a different time, a different place. It allowed you to expand your consciousness and push boundaries of understanding without even leaving the room you were in. Reading allowed you to view the world you had yet to experience, to form new ideas and new concepts of how to approach the next day, the next person, the next friend, the next lover.
Slowly the room around you dissolved into nothing as the pages soaked into your psyche. Now you were the characters. Your surroundings no longer a farmhouse in the cold winter covered plains of Canada, but the estate of a wealthy playboy in exotic Morocco. Your character wrapped in Egyptian cotton sheets and lying alone on the over-sized bed. You felt the sun cascading across your body as it pushed its way through the sheer drapes. The smell of a man’s cologne held in the air like silky spiderwebs. You look from left to right getting your bearings. The previous night a blur, filled with dancing, frivolity, and certainly too much drinking. You pull the sheets up quickly and look under to find you’re clothed but only barely. What happened last night, how did you get here? Who’s mansion was this? Who’s cologne was this? Your heart starts to race as panic sets in and at that moment you hear a loud knock at the door. You don’t respond. You lie there transfixed. Your throat closed as your mouth moves without uttering a sound. Again the knock. But wait this isn’t right. Something is amiss. The knock happens for the third time, quieter, more sporadic and with far less energy than before. It’s only then that you realize you’ve stopped reading and the knock was coming from your farmhouse door.
Jumping to your feet in confusion and mild amusement at your gaff you dog-ear the page you were on and place the book down quietly on the end table. Slowly you walk towards the front door, cocking your head to the side as you listen intently for any further noise at the door. Instead you’re only greeted by the ghostly whine of the wind sliding through the tree lined wind-break surrounding the house. As you reach the door you hear one last knock which sounds less like a knock and more like a thud at the door. Pushing the blinds aside you peer out into the darkness, seeing the snow whirling in the yard, dancing in the air like a mass of birds in close formation. You can only slightly make out the tell tale darkness of a single track of footprints making their way up to your door already being filled in by the thickening snow. Changing the angle of your body you try to see who’s at your door but cannot. You peer through the lite in the door but see nothing as well. Having read your fair share of murder mysteries, and spy thrillers you step away from the door and pick up the shotgun from its home near the front closet. After checking to ensure it has been loaded you firmly hold the beastly rifle and turn the handle to open the door. The moment the handle turned enough for the latch to lose contact with the strike plate the door pushed inward suddenly and with surprising force. You jump back instinctively and grab the gun with both hands aiming it at the apparent intruder. Your unexpected visitor lies slumped in the doorway my exposed hands pink and shaking as the rest of my body shudders uncontrollably. I look up at you through piercing blue eyes, my eyebrows coated in iced snow, my hair darkened, matted and frozen together, you see my lips move slightly and you catch only the last two words. “Thank you” as my eyes close and my body drops to the floor.
Immediately you put the rifle back in its spot and then pull me into the house. My body is soaked through with the wet snow. Every piece of clothing now dripping in the warm air of the cozy farmhouse. Closing the door with an emphatic slam you can help but switch into emergency mode that we all have. Your decisions are quick and concise as you almost feel like you’re watching what you’re doing from afar. The door now closed you do what needs to be done, pulling off a wet shoe and sock, shaking your head at the idiocy of someone wearing running shoes in a Canadian winter. Then the next shoe, the next sock. Then you pull off my jacket, rolling your eyes at its complete inadequacy. It would have barely sufficed in the fall. Next you pull off my sweater, my undershirt getting tangled on my head. You try to remain clinical and removed but you can’t help but draw your eyes across my naked torso. My skin quite pink and red and dangerously cold to the touch, but you drink in the very masculine muscularity of my body, the subtle bulges and bumps of a strong back, confident shoulders, and defined arms. Your brow furrows seeing oddly shaped lines and marks on his lower back and sides which you slowly realize are actually scars, hidden by the odd pigmentation that comes from being so exposed to the cold. You snap back to the task at hand, twisting the shirt off of my face. Making the decision that it would be easier to move me now than later, you forgo taking the rest of my cold wet clothes off and start to drag me in the direction of the main floor bathroom my legs doing their best to push my body forward to help you.
Reaching the bathroom you quickly turn on the bath, check the temperature of the water, adjust it slightly to ensure I’m not scalded, then turn back to me. My eyes are open again and the way I’m looking at you causes your stomach to leap into your throat momentarily. A devilish smirk crosses my face as I manage to mutter, “Normally I wouldn’t get naked till after a few dates, but for you, I’ll make an exception.” The words are slurred but I manage to chuckle at my own joke as I slump uncomfortably down to the tiled floor again. You bite your lip and concentrate on your next move. It would have been easier if I didn’t speak. I would be more a life sized Ken doll instead. But now I went and humanized myself. Now you catch yourself. Modesty and nervousness slide across your mind like an unwelcomed odor. Reaching down you unbutton my pants and slowly unzip them. It’s been quite a while since you’ve done this. The last time it was with your boyfriend while you were still in college. It seemed so long ago, and so far away. Having no practice in the meantime you were just as clumsy and awkward as you were then. Your hand fluttered nervously as you tugged at the zipper pulling it down in fits and starts. All at once you felt my cold hand on yours and you couldn’t help but jump slightly at the shock of it. My eyes open again but clearly having trouble focusing I mutter to you, “I’d like to remind you that it’s quite cold, so please don’t judge me yet.” and I laugh again at my own joke. You frown in confusion only to understand the joke moments later and roll your eyes as you laugh. “Help me up. I’ll do it.” I slobber out another sentence, waving my hand at you as I do so. You reach down and grasp my cold clammy hand in yours and pull me upright. I manage to push myself off the tiled floor to sit at the edge of the tub. Bracing me so I can balance, you watch as even in my delirious state I manages to easily slide my pants and underwear off in a single stroke. You bashfully look to the door, the ceiling, the vanity, trying not to glimpse my total nakedness. “Zale” you hear me say, and you look down to see my outstretched hand.
You take it in yours, “Alcina” you declare and shake my hand briefly, “now get in the tub.”
“Yes dear” I retort, swinging my legs over into the tub and sliding down into the warm water. “Pleasure to meet you Alcina.” then turning my head and looking deep into your eyes with a gaze that seems to pierce your very core, “Pleasure to meet you.”
All at once you find yourself retreating from the bathroom like a dog from the bed he wasn’t supposed to lay upon, scurrying down the hallway with the naked strangers wet clothes. You couldn’t help but smile to yourself. You considered me a handsome man with strong broad shoulders and piercing blue eyes. You noted that when I laughed it was with my whole body, despite my weakened condition. I made you feel at ease regardless of the fact you now had a naked stranger stewing in a warm bath only feet from you; and here you were, alone in this quiet countryside with no one for miles. Why had you been so calm? Why had you thrown caution to the wind and pulled him inside without a second thought? Why hadn’t you called for help yet? Your mind was awash with questions unanswered and half ignored. Standing in the hallway, wet clothes in your arms. The smell of their dampness mixing with the distinctive flavor of a man’s musk. You shake your head and stride off to the laundry room and with a quick toss, throw all of my clothes into the dryer at once and starting the dryer without further thought.
Silently you scowl to yourself trying to think what next to do. “Oh damn.” you mutter, “Alcina you idiot, make some tea and soup.” Shaking your head again for the second time in as many minutes you stride back down the hallway, past the open bathroom door and onto the kitchen. Your gate purposeful and confident, but secretly you struggle mightily not to steal a glimpse of me in the mirror as you walked past the bathroom door. You grab a can of thick Québécois-Style split pea soup, pour the contents into a pot and turn the element on to medium-high. Fumbling through the cupboards you find the kettle, fill it with water, and place it on the next element beside the soup turning it to high. Stepping back from the stove you lean up against the opposite side of the galley kitchen crossing your arms and set to staring at the pot and kettle ensuring that neither will come to a boil anytime soon. Looking to your left you gaze out the kitchen window through the darkened sky and moonlit clouds. The shadows of whirling snow dances through the air as you can hear the wind start to howl loudly through the swaying cracking trees. You move from the kitchen and check the fireplace in the living room.
The fire is no more than hot embers at this point so you slide another quarter log into the fire and it hisses and cracks in protest. Another scowl crosses your face as you realize that you will need to bring more wood in tomorrow. Poking the new log a few times you see the bark start to sizzle and smoke. Confident that it will continue the fire you turn on your heel and stride back into the kitchen. The soup now bubbling, and the kettle clearly boiling over you turn both elements down to a minimum, take a big breath, and walk over to the bathroom which is still filled with more than it’s usual complement of naked strangers. Lightly rapping on the door you then clear your throat and hoarsely ask, “How’s everything going in there?” To your surprise there is no response. You knock louder this time and repeat your question, “How’s everything going in there.” but again you are stymied with the lack of a response. Growing a little concerned you peek your head around the door and immediately see that your naked stranger has passed out in the bath. “That can’t be good” you mutter to yourself.
Leaning closer to me you now yell “How is everything thing going there?” still getting no response. Lightly slapping my cheek with your palm you continue, “Hey, you better wake up. I made soup!”. To your relief my eyes open and after rolling awkwardly around they come to focus on your face and I reply, “Oh good; I feel famished.” You watch me struggle to gain a footing in the bath awkwardly tucking my legs under me and reaching up looking for something to pull me up. Without thinking you put your hand out to help. My now warm wet and water softened hand slides across yours and at once you feel the strength in my grip. You smile to yourself and look down at the stranger slowly looking me over while I’m busy trying to pull myself up. Then with a quick unexpected tug you’re yanked out of your daydream and find yourself falling into the tub with me. “Oh shit!” you squeal in a half laugh half startled amazement. With your arms on both sides of my naked body, you lay laughing, soaking and shaking your head. You look up and meet my mesmerizing gaze as I utter, “Well, that didn’t go quite to plan now did it.” You close your eyes and push yourself back up as you laugh, shaking your head as you do, trying not to notice the distinctive lump of his hardening manhood pressed against your waist. “Well I guess I’ll need to change too now. I’ll be right back.”
Stepping out of the tub you quickly dart out of the bathroom, briefly catching a glimpse of yourself in the mirror as you do. Your shirt, once loose and hanging, was now clinging to your body. The curves of your breasts and distinctive dark points of your nipples clearly showing through the wet white material. “Damn.” you think to yourself in guilty outrage at your own provocative look but deep within you bubbles the realization that you were happy to fall onto me. Once more you stride down the hall to the laundry room. Stripping off your top you hang it on the rack beside the dryer, the light material like many impractical women’s garments, was far too delicate to be placed in the rough, tumbling, hot machine. Sliding off your jeans was more of a chore. When jeans get wet it’s as if they want to devour your legs. The suck close to your skin and seem to tighten like some denim boa constrictor intent on munching on a nice meal. You struggle and grunt your way to freedom and finally are rid of the pesky things. Quickly you open the dryer and toss the jeans inside with the rest of my wet clothes. You then slide out of your comfortable boy-short panties and hang them next to your top on the rack. It’s only then that you realize you’re standing in the laundry room completely naked, completely soaked and all of the towels are in the bathroom or your bedroom. Butterflies course through your stomach and you were sure there would be a look of sheer terror in your eyes as you stand naked in the laundry room. Unsure what to do you peak your head around the corner into the hallway and hear the distinctive “click” of a door opening. You watch in panic as the door to the bathroom slowly opens and out strides a handsome man with nothing but a small towel wrapped around his waist. I look to the right, in the direction of the kitchen and the smell of food, then look to my left in the direction of the sounds of a dryer rumbling. My eyes meet yours and I smile. Seeing only your head I have no idea that you’re completely naked. I continue to smile and start off towards you. “Oh shit!” you mutter to yourself as yet another awkward moment is only seconds away.
“Stop!” I hear you yell. The sudden shock of it immediately pegs me in place. “Don’t come any closer.” you stammer, “I….I haven’t got anything on.”
I can’t help but chuckle at the silliness. Not moments ago I was laying in a tub of hot water, delirious, stupefied, and above all else, very naked. A state in which you certainly helped me achieve. “Ah, I see. Well then why don’t you come out from there so we can be even then.”
“What?!” you blubber, “Why…I mean…what…what..would you think..I would…why?”
“Well I figure it’s only fair. After all you did just toss me naked into the tub.” I smirk at you and shrug my shoulders, expecting my argument to fall on deaf ears. But to my amazement…
“Fine then, drop the towel and we have a deal.” you blurt from behind the wall, likely before your brain or modesty could catch it.
Having already been quite exposed I simply pulled the towel off and walked towards you with it outstretched, the hair on my body standing on end as it met the cool air of the hallway. As I walk towards the laundry room I see you poke your head out again, and then pull it back immediately like a scared little turtle into it’s shell, snickering as you do. A second later you step out of the laundry room and I momentarily see you for the very first time in all your naked glory, before you quickly snatch the towel from me and wrap it around your body. “Go get another towel from the bathroom, this one is occupied.” you chuckle.
“Yes ma’am.” I surrender, saluting, turning on my heel and marching back to the bathroom. Briefly I look over my shoulder to see you staring at my backside, biting your lip through a devilish smirk. I wink at you and you return the wink with a “Oh you” eye roll.
“Got it!” I shout from the bathroom, “Now lets eat.”
And with that we walked silently to the kitchen where we served ourselves and ate thick, warm, wholesome pea soup. The crackling of the fireplace in one ear, the howl of the winter storm in the other, and us smirking over soup wearing nothing but towels. The humorous and slightly odd turning point of both our lives.