My quest to find my soul mate has been a road trip from hell. The potholes sometimes left me abandoned on the side of the highway with a flat tire. The long stretches of forever promises ended at a dusty disappointment. Getting lost was scary, dream vacations turned into nightmares, and the excitement never lasted long, but the trips came with a suitcase full of memories that I still travel with every now and again.
Some women have told me that they prefer to be single, and I can surely understand. I was on the same path after a long, destroying relationship. Then one night I had this dream that keeps me hunting. The dream wasn’t out of the ordinary, I think. But what happened when I awoke was.
When I first opened my eyes, it took about a full minute to realize that the man that had made me smile and feel light in my chest was nothing but a fantasy. I mourned for this fictional man the whole day. My heart broke as I tried to hold on to the bits and pieces of the dream as they quickly faded. I was left with only the memory of his dark hair and the way my heart had finally danced because of him. Now it’s like I’m addicted to searching for that tango in the real world.
Since I’m over forty, this has been a challenge and a learning curve. After all, I have been out of the game for more than twenty years. Back then we went to bars to meet people. Now there are so many options that you don’t even need to leave your bedroom.
I’ve said many times that I give up, even convinced myself of never again, and you will see why. But that decision never lasted long, and you might begin to wonder if I’m sane.
I met this prospect, we will call him John, on Facebook. I knew a little about him before I accepted his friend request, and I knew our common friends personally. He had been a legend where I grew up: a football star who had screwed up his future with his hard partying ways. I had never actually talked to him before then, but I had seen him once at the church with his family about seven years ago before, for a Christmas service. Church gossip said he was known for liking younger women, and on his Facebook profile I noticed that he had kids younger than my own. His birthday, however, was not available to the public, so I thought that it might be a sensitive subject for him. I never brought it up in the weeks that we texted, sent selfies, and talked on the phone.
John had said things that my soul had longed to hear. He drowned me with compliments, and I drank them down like a glass of smooth whiskey. John peppered what he had to offer as a companion, and I swallowed it like fine Cajun cuisine. I began to paint a mental mosaic. Like a child who blindly believes in Santa, I started fantasizing, too naive to peer through the stringed lights to see the roach infested roadside diner.
John’s story was how he had turned his life over to God. This was no different than the testimonials I had heard many times at the brick building in the center of downtown. Located where it’s loaded with people inflicted with addictions. It displayed a black board with inspirations from the Bible that stood in the front yard, pulling sinners in off the streets. Some of those people had gone on to become pastors and respectable members of the church. Others went back to what they knew.
With John’s conversation in mind, I justified what I thought might be a ten-year age difference. I thought, what better way to feel young again than to date someone older, right? That was my rustic theory.
Instead of obtaining rebirth, though, I found out that some older men are not as distinguished as I had pictured but could be very bold while acting foolish, to prove that they were still up to the challenge. They were more likely just oozing insecurity underneath the carnival show.
I can’t say that John lied about his age, since I never asked. However, he specifically told me that some people thought he lived in an old-folks home but that he did not. I probably should have thought that statement pretty weird. I’m sure I did but just stuffed a dirty sock in its mouth, in my desperate need to find that prancing heart.
Upon our meeting, though, I stopped believing he was in his early fifties. That night opened my eyes to more than I expected for the first date.
The plan was that we would meet at John’s place for a few drinks before going to the tavern across the street. The time was 9:30, which he chose, probably because he expected the other residents to all be in bed or settled in watching old westerns.
The parking lot was empty, but the giant wheelchair ramp along the side of the red brick building stuck out like a flashing warning light. Being an unsafe driver, I rode right past that caution light.
As I climbed the two cement steps to the first set of glass doors where John was standing, I caught a glimpse of the metal sign above the doors that said, “Redwood.” Making a quick mental note that it didn’t say anything about “retired,” I was still grasping at hope.
John was wearing baggy blue jeans and an oversized football jersey over his beefy body. He had on a red baseball cap covering up his bald head. His face had weathered some since I last spotted him in the pew at church. As he embraced me in a tight hug, I could feel that his mid-section was about to birth twins. Not that it bothered me. At least not at that moment.
John had said that he had a nice one-bedroom apartment with a terrace overlooking the mountains. He also claimed that this apartment was temporary because he owned a cabin up in the mountains across the road. The story was that the cabin was being worked on to get it ready for year-round living. Through short conversations over the phone, John had made promises of taking me to the cabin, away from the world. An escape from reality sounded like a trip I needed to take. Now I believe that it would have been more like a wrong-turn situation.
After John got done copping a feel, he punched in a code that led us to an open area with mailboxes and a security desk. In front of the elevators was a long table full of breads and cakes. Taped to the front was a pink piece of construction paper with “Free” written in shaky black marker. Before getting into the elevators, he offered me something to eat from the “free” table. I pretended to give it a look over and stated that I was good.
The elevators carried us slowly up to the fifth floor. I had to endure John’s long uncomfortable stares that I hadn’t a clue how to react to. He was all kicked back in the corner with a grin that could devour raw liver. With a look of unnerving hunger in his eyes, he desperately tried to make eye contact. I felt as if a giant spider had just crawled down my spine.
Around the corner from the elevators was a table full of grey-haired ladies playing cards. There was no money on the table, just black and red chips. But the way the women guarded those plastic chips made me suspect that the risks were higher than a friendly game. I also surmised that they had something stronger than tea in their over-sized thermoses, the way they were loudly laughing and joking before we came into view. Behind them stood tall shelves stacked with puzzles and games. Another rack stood in the corner stuffed with paperbacks books, free to borrow. I had a hunch there were over one hundred worn-out romance novels. It saddened me a bit. I didn’t want my traveling days to end with reading about a romance I never got to experience. I vowed then to read nothing but horror novels when my engine breaks down for the last time.
John leaned in then and whispered, “I use to play cards with them, until they got sick of me taking all of their money.” Then he laughed like a five-year-old bad boy. I couldn’t even fake laugh at that.
As we passed them to turn down another hallway, John waved to the lit card players and said, “Good evening, ladies.” All he got in return was a bunch of dirty looks.
Never in my life did I feel like a call-girl as I did at that moment. In my blue jeans and black boots, I felt over-dressed. I felt like I should have worn something floral and loose.
I don’t know if it was at that moment or at the “free” table that I knew that John was more likely in his early seventies, but I wasn’t searching to feel that young. Nope, didn’t need to win a race with my opponent bound to a wheelchair, just to boost my self-esteem.
Behind the heavy security door, I could see John’s entire apartment: Not the condo I had pictured in my head. There were no walls separating his bed from the living room. I say “bed” and not “bedroom” because it was just a nook carved out behind his living room area, the perfect size for a bed and nothing else. In between the living room and bed were the sliding doors to the terrace that overlooked the mountains.
When John took me out to gaze upon the majestic view, it was more like a boxed-in balcony overlooking traffic of wheelchairs and walkers with a backdrop of a summit. Already my wheels were turning on how to get out of this politely and without being mean.
We came back inside, and I sat down on the earth-toned couch that was only a foot away from the kitchen table. One of the kitchen chairs had a swatch of cloth sewn to the back rest advertising the other colors the chair came in.
John served me some cheap beer with a white label and that had a toxic aftertaste. After he raised his glass to say “Cheers” to us, he disappeared into the bathroom, which was the only door in the place - only a foot away from the bed. The apartment had me feeling claustrophobic.
While alone, I quickly fumbled for my phone and texted my daughter, Sissy, to call in about 30 minutes. I was about to fake an emergency to get out of the situation I had so cluelessly put myself into.
Two whole minutes later Sissy’s response was, “Why?” I started to panic, thinking I didn’t have time to explain to her because I was sure John wouldn’t be in the bathroom much longer. I could hear the water running in the sink.
“Just please,” I quickly texted back - just in time, because right then the door burst opened and bounced off the rubber stopper, and I jumped, dropping my phone to the floor.
John slid out across the floor buck naked, like he was about to reenact Footloose for me. He grabbed the tv remote and The Black Crows’ “She Talks to Angels” came blaring through the square 20-inch black box. Then only inches from my face, the man did a little jig, and not in a manly way whatsoever. As he did his prance like a reared-up deer, he proclaimed himself to be young at heart. “Look at me,” he said, and I didn’t want to because at that moment I could only imagine what expression was on my face. I know I was trying hard not to burst out in laughter and at the same time was red-faced embarrassed. Reformed Christian addict? I suspected he had more in his system than a sip of bitter beer.
I’m sorry guys; I don’t mean to offend anyone, but when I looked below his big bear of a belly, I saw what resembled a baby’s pacifier. Maybe he was cold, but honestly, I was thinking, “What am I supposed to do with that?”
At that moment, I was kicking myself for telling Sissy to wait thirty minutes. My eyes were being held hostage; I had nowhere to avert them as my date tried hard to make it bounce in my face.
Then John bent over to open the middle drawer of a beat-up wooden coffee table. He fumbled around for a bit before pulling out what was obviously a vibrator.
Looking at the purple bullet-shaped toy vibrating in his hairy, meaty hands, I was horrified. Images of what that contraption had been through before he’d removed it from the dirty junk drawer ran through my mind. As I sat there, petrified that he was going to try to give me a UTI with that contraption, he leaned in and very huskily said, “Let’s see what I can do to get you out of those pants.”
Just then, like a beacon on a dark, deserted back road, my phone’s text notification small ding sounded. It was what my ears had been seeking. I reached between John’s shaggy parted legs and grabbed my phone. Trying to look concerned at the text that only said, “ok,” I took the detour and quickly apologized.
“I have to call my daughter,” I called over my shoulder as I took two steps to the front door. Safe on the other side of the door, I didn’t even bother with the sluggish elevators but barreled down the stairs instead.
As I ran across the parking lot to my car, I could see my date’s silhouette standing in the sliding glass doors. I thought, “Good thing no one will see anything from that distance.”
I had swerved past that accident just in time. John was not the man in my dream. From a distance he did appear to be an oasis, but once I got closer, I could see roadside debris that cluttered the scenery.
I rubbernecked as I drove away past the carnage. Reminding myself that it had just been a pit stop, I got right back on the road to continue my search.
About the author
I am a published writer and a traveler, with a touch of insanity. I have had many titles, including a COB(Civilian On the Battlefield) training soldiers for Iraq, but Writer is my favorite. I write short stories with a unique voice.