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The trip to southern California was to have been for business. A small company in Orange County was considering using him for a business development project, and they wanted a face-to-face to judge the fit. He had gotten along very well in many telephone conversations with the President, a young southern California native with a breezy and familiar mien.
And he had also become telephone friendly with the receptionist and administrative assistant, Sabrine. She had a whispery, sultry voice, with a strong scent of the hippie-dippie beach babe in her manner. He would put on his best flirt vibe with her and let his deep and melodic voice do the rest. Each time they spoke, he had her laughing – hard. He sensed in her belly laugh that she had not been a stranger to celebration.
The week before he was scheduled to travel, he called Sabrine to confirm his itinerary and their agenda. It was then that she informed him that she was leaving the company to begin a new job in graphic arts and would not be at the company when he visited.
“Awwwwwwwwwwww, does that mean I’m not going to get to meet you, Sabrine,” he asked in mock despair.
“Well,” she said, “it means you won’t meet me here, yes. But I hope you’ll let me show you around.” She had a whimsical tone, like a young girl offering to let a friend play with her doll.
“I’d enjoy that a lot Sabrine.”
“So would I. In a way, it’s better, because I’d feel weird if I were working for your client.”
During the next week prior to her departure, they carried on an email conversation that grew in its intimacy daily. In one email, she confessed to feeling guilty:
From: Sabrine Beckham [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2005 2:54 PM To: Alexander Parks Cc: Subject: RE: Meeting
OMG this chat we’re having is making me feel so naughty. I’ve never even met you and I feel like we’re internet dating. And you’re a married man!
From: Alexander Parks [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2005 2:58 PM To: Sabrine Beecham Cc: Subject: RE: Meeting
Sabrine dear, everyone needs to have someone to share with. If there is something in our communication that gives you warmth, let’s just share that and think nothing more of it. Life is complicated for both of us.
She told him about her past and family. Her father had been a professional football coach, she had been a biker chick, she married the surfer-bum son of a fabulously wealthy entrepreneur, and lived in an Oceanfront palace, until it all meant nothing to her and she had to leave it behind. She lived now in a tiny apartment in Fullerton, taking her young daughters every other weekend. She did graphic design in a product labeling firm owned by two Chinese brothers.
She wrote poetry for personal fulfillment. He told her he did too, and she demanded that he share his first. This was a turning point, he thought, because if he sent her the one he wanted her to read, she would know how he was feeling. He struggled with this for a while, finally attached the file, moved the arrow to “send,” and, pausing for one last moment, clicked.
She sat by her computer, nervously jiggling her knee and tapping the desk top. Why was it that she was so anxious to read his words? “God,” she thought, “I feel like a high school sophomore getting passed a note from the prom king.”
When the email arrival jingled, her heart skipped. She clicked and clicked as fast as she could to open the attachment. And she read this:
THE THING THAT WOULDN’T LEAVE
It entered me as words on a screen, silent notes of lilting music, and echoed through my body, bing-bing-bing. It picked me up, it drugged me down, I was quickly helpless against this sweet thing.
And as it rattled around in there and rearranged the tenuous pieces of my work-a-day life, My soul cried for just this kind of balm to soothe the scars of My family strife.
We spoke, it and I, and to my offer that it may have found a host less complex for the object of its desire, It laughed, bing-bing’ed again, and mocked, “Is that your heart I smell on fire?”
By god, it was, I said, and so I warmed to think this new friend had found a home, And it may stay, get comfortable, unpack – move in – There’s just one room here we must not roam.
Ah, can that be done, it asked? Are you so sure you have the strength to resist my siren song? Hey, it’s up to you as well as me, I said. You can stay, you do belong.
And if into that room we did intrude, upset it would my meager world, But guilty would I not be to accommodate its impressive mood.
Ah, but you understand. This is desire still burning From a prior life!
Profound, no doubt, to me, But unimpressive to my current wife!
So make yourself at home, and if my warm affection will not rest, I will build a fire wall between you and those against my breast.
As she read each new line, an ache began to boil within her soul, reaching down into illegal bahis her womanhood, twisting her stomach in a luxurious knot, stretching up past her throat and teasing tears from the corners of her azure blue eyes. She re-read it, to make sure she didn’t misunderstand. It was, yes! It was about an internet love affair! But did he write this for me? Is this about me? She re-read it again and again. And sat at her computer, wanting to ask, but afraid her question was presumptuous. Why would he tell me such a thing about him, she wondered, if it wasn’t about me?
From: Sabrine Beckham [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2005 3:45 PM To: Alexander Parks Cc: Subject: RE: Your Poem!!
Alex!! OMG!! Your poem…it’s….incredible! I can’t believe you shared that with me!! It makes me feel so….buzzed (if you understand my meaning, lol).
I have so many questions to ask you! But I’m afraid.
You make me feel so good, and just with your words. I do feel like we know each other from another life.
Talk to me some more, you gorgeous man!
I can’t wait for you to get here.
He typed his answer:
From: Alexander Parks [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2005 4:13 PM To: Sabrine Beckham Cc: Subject: RE: Your Poem!!
WOW! I had a hard time sending it – I didn’t know what you would think of me.
Let me answer the obvious question. Yes, I wrote this about someone else, several years ago –yes, it was a relationship that grew out of email – and I was quite definitely in love with this person, although we never consummated it. It was a sort of compelling attraction of each other’s souls – like we were lovers in a previous life. But it was long distance, and we talked each other down out of the clouds and are still good friends. But we can’t chat any more because of the words thing.
I hope this doesn’t scare you Sabrine. I just wanted you to know who I was.
I have to leave for an appointment and won’t be back before morning. Sweet dreams, darling.
Say, um…I thought you might want to look me in the eyes, so I’ve attached a picture. You don’t have one to share wiff me, do ya?
He clicked the paperclip and his folder of pictures opened. The one in the dark suit? Nah, look too old. Jeans and Tommy Bahama shirt. He thought for a moment about the one he took with his webcam, in his deserted office one Saturday morning. He opened it up, and wondered what she would think, receiving a picture of him stark naked, casual hands on hips, leaning against his desk with a mischievous smile. His scrotum tingled; he grimaced and closed the file. Tommy Bahama would have to do for now.
He attached the file, re-read the email, paused again, and clicked “send.”
Again, she anxiously occupied her time, listening for the new mail jingle. Again her heart skipped when it arrived. When she saw that there was a picture, she could not decide what to do. Read the email first or open the picture!? She could not wait to do one or the other. She read first, wanting to save the excitement for the end.
So he had had an internet lover! But he said there was no sex. But he was in love with her. But they were still friends. But the words had done it, like now!
And he was gone now until tomorrow. Her heart sank a little. She wanted more of him now! But there was the picture! OMG, she thought – it isn’t a dirty picture is it?!? She hoped that it might be, but not really. Her body was abuzz and she felt moist down below.
She clicked on the Alex2.jpg file and watched it open. And she sat and stared into his eyes as time was suspended.
Longish black hair, swept back from his forehead. Piercing green eyes framed by sharp black eyebrows; the crows’ feet at their corners betraying a lifetime of laughter. A perfect French nose and beautiful mouth flashing a mischievous smile; a full, tanned face with a smooth jaw line and firm chin. The Bahama shirt, two open buttons at the top, showing a strong chest and shoulders, and – is it, yes, a tuft of hair visible at the top of the chest.
She looked at the eyes again. Looking directly into hers, they were, smiling at her with the lightest squint, and for a moment, she felt he were telling her something so intimate, so private. Her hand slid down between her legs and gently pressed her clitoris, and she gasped and withdrew it, surprised that it had found its way down there seemingly without her knowledge.
Her heart was racing, her fingers trembling as she clicked reply, clicked paperclip, clicked Sabrine1.jpg, typed a message and clicked “send.”
She sat back and stared at his picture for a while longer. Her hand slipped back to her mons and lingered there with light pressure and an occasional circling motion. Her heart stirred again, and she felt the wetness.
He spent a restless evening at home, distracted by the thought that a picture of her was waiting for him. He had his usual conversation with his wife, familiar but with illegal bahis siteleri a distance that had continued to grow over time. There was laughter, but it was not elation. There was affection, but no intimacy. It had been so many months since they had had sex, he thought, he wouldn’t be this lonely if it were different, but she just didn’t have any interest.
He laid awake part of the night, fantasizing of sex, but was unable to put a picture of her in his mind. In the morning, he rose earlier than normal, took an early train to the office and opened his Outlook first thing. When he saw the message and paperclip icon from her, his heart skipped.
From: Sabrine Beckham [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2005 4:27 PM To: Alexander Parks Cc: Subject: RE: Your Picture!!
Alex, you handsome man. You shouldn’t have sent that picture! Now how am I going to get to sleep?????
OK, so I only have this one picture, but I think it’s pretty true.
We’re going to have so much fun!
He clicked the attachment and watched it open. Filling from top to bottom, he saw her hair and eyes first. Naturally wild, wavy blonde hair. Fine, sharp eyebrows framing piercing light blue eyes. A fine aquiline nose, delicate lips. The eyes peered at him, captivated him.
She was stunning, and had a serenity about her that was impossible to misconstrue. He wanted the picture to show the rest of her, but he didn’t have to see to know that she was a beautiful creature.
For the next two weeks, they traded email messages through every work day. They were playful, suggestive, intimate without prurience. She sent him a list of questions and demanded answers. What is your favorite movie? Book? What do you like to do by yourself? What turns you on? What turns you off? He answered them honestly, but chose to answer the turn-on question by prefacing it with “excepting matters of sex…” He demanded that she answer the same questions, and she wasn’t quite as elliptical. Her answer included “being naked, going slow, lying silently in a lover’s arms.” If he had answered the question honestly, he might have written exactly the same thing.
They talked about what they would do for the night they had together. Maybe they would go out to dinner. Maybe they would cook in her tiny kitchen. He would love to cook her dinner. Maybe, she said, he would cook for her and she would lie on her bed and watch him cook. She could watch him cook from her bed, he asked. Yes she could, it was a tiny apartment. He would love to be watched while he cooked, he said. If she watched him while he cooked, he asked, could she watch her while she slept. She would love him to watch her sleep, she said.
With her picture fresh in his brain and their intimate talk, he could now evoke elaborate fantasies, and his morning showers devolved into auto-erotic exercises involving her kitchen, her bed, her tiny apartment. And three thousand miles away, she found a new excitement in her morning routine as well.
After what seemed to the two of them as an eternity, his travel plans were launched, and he flew first-class, non-stop to John Wayne Airport, rented his convertible Sebring, checked into his hotel, and called her cell phone to confirm their plans. She was positively giddy when he called, and they arranged to meet at her apartment at 7:00 p.m. He laid down to rest, scanning the cable channels for something to distract him, but he was too restless. He tried to read the novel he had purchased for the flight. Nelson DeMille’s The Cathedral. It was a gripping tale of international terrorism, but at that moment it did not interest him. He showered, without any erotic exercise, selected his favorite things – silk boxers, silk shirt, jeans, beat-up loafers – read some more, but could not concentrate. He dressed and drove to downtown Fullerton, a few blocks from her apartment. He walked the main streets, checking out the restaurants, the bars, the nightclubs. He thought it was good to be familiar with her neighborhood. At 6:45 p.m., he walked to her apartment building, a two-story house several blocks off the main drag, across the street from a motorcycle shop. He hit the buzzer, she buzzed him up, and he climbed the staircase. His body quivered with excitement and anticipation, and he took slow deep breaths. He found the apartment and knocked on the door.
“Who is iiiiiiiiit,” she sang.
“The milk maaaaaaaaaan,” he sang back. ‘The milk man?’ he though, what an idiot you are.
The door opened and she said, “Did you come to fill my bottle?” and they came face-to-face finally.
She was more radiant than any picture of her could have shown. Her hair, her skin. Her lithe blonde body, covered only in a white vest and black pants. Her painted toe nails in sandals. They took each others’ hands, beheld each other, looking from head to toe, and he aid, “let me hug you,” and they fell together into a gentle, warm embrace that felt as natural to him as any hug ever had before. They canlı bahis siteleri separated, he kissed her cheek.
“I am so glad to finally see you,” she said quietly.
She showed him the apartment, the quaint living room, through to the tiny kitchen, through to the bedroom. It took all of thirty seconds. He looked at the furniture, the decorations, the artwork. She indeed was an artist, her place was warm, intimate, homey, expressive of a musical soul.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said, “we have so much to talk about.”
She led him out; they walked hand in hand a few blocks to a funky little place called The Fez, sat in a dark booth in the back and drank Vodka and soda. They held hands, touched arms and legs. She told him all about her family, her life’s travels, her work and her failed marriage. He told her about his own travels, and family. She asked him about his marriage. He told her about the devotion, the friendship, the unwavering commitment, the mental illness, and the utter absence of intimacy. He felt sad telling her, and she could see it. She kissed him gently on the cheek and told him not to worry.
They continued to talk about everything under the sun, through another cocktail and dinner. They left The Fez and walked to a jazz club down the street. They found a quiet corner and continued talking, sharing fears and secrets.
The jazz quartet played slow and sexy music, the muted trumpet coaxing them on. They listened to it seduce them as they sat close, thighs touching, arms and hands intertwined.
“Tell me a secret,” he said, “something your friends would be horrified to learn about you.”
She bit her lower lip and paused for a long time.
“Promise me you’ll still love me,” she fooled.
“I used to be a drug addict.”
She stopped with that, staring intently at him.
He looked at her with his smiling eyes and mocked a big, mouth-open-wide look of shock. She smiled at his reaction.
“Tell me about it,” he asked.
She had been working with a partner creating and painting indoor wall murals in some of the greatest residences off the Pacific Coast Highway, from Newport Beach to San Juan Capistrano. Her partner was a heroin user — not a strung out junkie like you’d see in the ghettos, she just used for the mellow buzz, she said. One day, she had an urge to try it out, since she’d tried just about everything else but that. Her friend tried to talk her out of it, but she was not convinced of the danger.
One shot and she became hooked. After a short while, she had run through a substantial inheritance and was dealing for a Mexican gang to get her stash. Still living in an oceanfront mansion, she was spending her days on the streets of Santa Ana peddling dime bags and shooting up with street riff raff. One night, she blacked out driving her car and broadsided the son of a police chief. She woke up in jail and fled during a work-detail to Las Vegas, where she was hidden by her Mexican gang family for months.
Eventually she realized she could not hide forever and returned to Orange County, where the prosecutor made her a deal: rat out the Mexican gang and she wouldn’t go to jail for the drugs, the hit and run or the jail break. She refused the deal, knowing that she’d be killed if she cooperated, but having a loyalty to her “family” nonetheless. She served two years in jail and spent six months in a half-way house in Fullerton. She had just gotten out a month before his first phone call to her former company.
As she told him this story, he looked deeply into her. Everything about her – her face, her hair, her body, her clothes, her voice, her manner, her speech, her every movement, told him she was a gentle and serene woman, trouble less and balanced. This story was so incongruous that, if she hadn’t exuded so strongly the honesty she did, he wouldn’t have known how to believe her.
But he did.
“Now that you’re clean and in the ‘recovery’ mode, did you find anything in your past – your family or your youth – anything, that would have caused you to seek the escape of heroin?”
“All the therapists in the rehab place kept telling me ‘there’s always something,’ and they kept prodding me and searching for some reason why I would have gotten to where I was,” she said, pausing, looking at him, “but noooooo, I had no hidden pain, no demons. I just decided one day to get high on smack, and it was a big mistake,” she chuckled with her sing-songy voice, and his heart skipped.
“You’re such a pretty woman, and you have a lovely soul,” he swooned. She smiled at him and squeezed his hand gently.
“And you are a beautiful man.”
They sipped their port.
“Your turn, she said. “Tell me something horrifying about you.”
He thought about whether he should tell her. He was not ashamed of it, but it was one of those things that, from a detached point of view, many people would think was perverted.
“You promise not to be freaked out?” he pleaded.
She laughed. “Hey you’re talking to a convicted heroin addict, what could freak me out!”
“Well, that’s true, I guess I’d have a hard time beating that…”
“Go ahead, show me your inside,” she reassured.
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