Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.
“I’m going to hop in the shower, you guys good?” I asked my sister and brother in law.
The small apartment only had one, small half bathroom, so these communications were essential to prevent household consternation. I had found my bathroom routine had started taking longer and longer after my divorce as I had gradually perfected my grooming habits. It wasn’t just to better attract the opposite sex. Now it was a meditative zen ritual. It was a time to focus on myself and explore my inward thoughts and get in touch with my body.
The ethereal steam from the shower soon filled the bathroom. I had the timing down to a science now. I filled the sink with hot water and began soaking my badger hair shave brush while I brought the shower up to temperature and placed my towels strategically. Next, began hair and scalp cleansing. I had finally found a shampoo and conditioner set that worked well for me. The clean pepper-mint scent was off-putting at first, but now I relished it, especially with how it made my hair feel: silky, smooth, flexible, and healthy. Next, I exfoliated and cleaned my body with shea butter black soap and then cleaned my ears and face. Carefully patted dry. My shower takes 7-8 minutes for thorough cleaning.
Out of the shower, I begin shaving procedure. I have to allow an extra 10 minutes today to shave my genitals since it had been over a week at this point. I’d switched to a double edged safety razor 6 months ago and never looked back. The heavy handle and cheap, sharp blades provided me a great, smooth shave with good economics and a nice dose of nostalgia. I usually allowed 20 minutes for my face and beard which require a little more shaping, trimming, and treating. First comes the hot towel, then pre-shave soap, then I create a rich lather with a bowl of citrus and almond scented shave soap and my brush, then 2-4 passes across the face before rinsing and applying witch hazel lotion. Then the beard trimmer comes out and uniforms the beard length.
I wait to take care of the hair until after I’ve dressed. Today was a lovely warm afternoon, so I laid out a pair of cotton boxer briefs, grey heathered shorts, textured blue short sleeve button up, and leather boat shoes. Before dressing, I doffed my towel and applied eau de toilette to several choice locations. I had chose my signature scent after painstakingly going through dozens of testers, it was fresh and musky but not overpowering with a hint of spice, fragrant of the ocean and salt. It made me imagine being the captain of a merchant vessel returning from an exotic land with a laden ship. My hair has been an ongoing project with my barber, gradually evolving since becoming single. The undercut had become more extreme, sides have gotten shorter, the top got longer, but this last time I had it shorter again, went with a taper in the back per usual. I finally found two hair products I enjoyed, a pomade with strong hold and medium shine for a more formal look, and a matte, medium hold cream for daily use. I used the cream, with a light scent of cinnamon and vanilla, and a styling brush to put my hair into a quiff, and then made made for the door, only pausing to slide a pair of acetate wayfarers on to shield my eyes from the sun’s rays. The air outside was warm, not a cloud in the sky, but a nice light breeze brought the fresh sea air to my nostrils. I looked good, smelled good, felt good. The world was perfectly shaped, and I was going to pick-up my girlfriend for the weekend as had become customary over the past 5 months.
I hadn’t expected to be with this girl as long as I had. I was expecting a Tinder hook-up, and ended up with a girlfriend. She kept me hooked though, and not in a bad way. Things eventually fizzled with Her sadly enough. It was bitter-sweet, but mutual. We realized, it just wasn’t going to happen and we needed to get on with our lives. I got back into the dating game without anything holding me back. At first, I was really only looking for hook-ups to ease back into things. That’s how it seemed to start with this girl, we’ll call her ‘Brandy’. Brandy was a bit older than my ideal. Let’s face it, I am a man-child at this point. I feel like I missed out on so much, so I felt I needed to date younger women while I still could. I was thinking early twenties, like Sierra and Ann. Brandy was on her way out of her mid-twenties at this point. Also, had a bit more weight on her, though not nearly as much as my ex-wife. While I certainly found her attractive, it isn’t just looks that keep me around. And it also isn’t just that sex with her is more mind-blowingly amazing and intense than it had ever been before, and that even 5 months into the relationship less than 5 times a day when we are together is a rarity. It is also her personality and interests. We could do everything together, even those niche things that I never thought I’d find anyone who would be interested in them but me. And she is sweet, overly-polite, caring, kind-hearted, sensitive, and just ever-so-slightly needy. And she possesses a dirty, politically-incorrect, silly, weird sense of humor that I find quite endearing. While some of our tastes didn’t match up just right, they were differences we could at least celebrate. The biggest problem, is that we live far apart, and she doesn’t have a car. So, we try to spend the whole weekend together to cut down on driving.
The drive is a good time for me to enjoy an audio book though. I was working through Moby-Dick or The Whale with fresh ears recently. Having not read the great American novel since high school, it was enlightening to hear with ears that had grown some in the past decade and a half. Though a tale of savagery, carnality, and brutality, it also makes the scenes of beauty and humanity all the more stark and brilliant. In many ways, I felt like I was on a voyage of discovery of my own. But, seeking myself instead of an elusive White Whale.
There was something different about today. Everything seemed fresh and new, I was new as a spring morning in bloom. I realized, this is how I had pictured things would be a year ago when I got divorced. I had made my vision a reality even if I hadn’t been able to picture all the details. I had shaped myself into the man I had always wanted to be: attractive, handsome, clean, cultured, contented, versatile. I balanced my personal life, work life, and parenting life with grace and ease. I loved my son, I loved my job, and loved my friends, relationships, diverse interests and hobbies. As I pulled up to my girlfriend’s place I realized that something didn’t quite fit though: my girlfriend. She just wasn’t what I had pictured. She was pretty, even beautiful, but not the kind of beauty that would turn head’s and make other men green with envy. She wasn’t vain like Sierra. She didn’t have the narcissism. She didn’t have the youthful, crazy, hedonistic immaturity. She was what I hoped to find later: someone with staying power after I’d “sowed my wild oats” so to speak. But, I couldn’t deny that when I was with her I had all the certainty in the world that no pleasure could ever be greater. She really was an amazing lover, and we had loads of fun together. But… in that moment when I pulled up to her house, I had this stark memory of what it felt like to be with Sierra. That pride, that feeling of accomplishment of being with someone so young and beautiful. I had hungered for that ever since I lost it. I still didn’t get that with Brandy. I realized that I still wanted it all, and nothing less. It was so care free, so du jour, of the moment. After having spent my life hoping for heaven and deferring earthly pleasures for things that would last an eternity, I realized how much I craved the short-lived indulgences, and the sweet memories they left. Sierra was still a diamond in my mind. If I could combine Brandy and Sierra into one woman wouldn’t that be perfection? Or is that even possible. Aren’t they oil and water in essence? If you must choose between the two, don’t you choose the relationship that has a shot at lasting? Or is it safer to have planned obsolescence? I realized I was exposing a very uncomfortable part of my soul. It was tender still, and it made me wonder if I was just afraid of the commitment or of just squandering what little youth I had remaining. The truth is, nothing lasts. I’m just chasing after the wind.
I sat, paralyzed in the drivers seat. I was tempted to just drive away. But, I knew I’d be turning my back on the best relationship I’d ever had. How good is “good enough” for a relationship. When you decide that enough of your needs and wants are met? When you have zero doubts? I doubt that. I’ve never had zero doubt or no reservations about anything in my life, even Sierra. I realize, I am just beginning my voyage. Every time I think I see the mist of a whale spout in the far distance and arrive at its place I realize how much farther yet I have to go.
I didn’t drive away. I used the key she had given me just last week, and I went inside, and just as I imagined it would be, being with Brandy was pure, unbridled bliss. But, why do these fleeting longings still torture my mind and make me uneasy when I’ve never been happier?