Gentle

by G. Russell Cole about a month ago in dating

Love, Sex and Living Things

Gentle
Illustration by Marco Athie

They met at a little sports bar he had attended regularly for years. It just so happened that, on this afternoon, she found only one seat available and it happened to be next to him. She politely said, “Hello. Is this seat saved?”

“No.” He replied. “It’s all yours.” While offering his most welcoming smile.

“Thanks.” She said. “My name’s Maggie. What’s yours?”

He turned to fully face her. “My name’s Jonas. It’s nice to meet you.”

She was instantly struck by his eyes. It was clear that he was a bit older, but not by much and he had a slim build and striking jawline. Likewise, he was equally smitten with, of all things, her eyebrows. They gave her face an intensity that he found irresistible. She had curves, but that was certainly no problem.

“So….I guess most folks call you Joe?” She asked.

He smiled. “No. Most folks call me Jonas.” He followed this with a laugh to assure her that there was no insult in the assumption.

And it was as simple as that. Maggie met Jonas. They spent the rest of the afternoon talking with Jonas occasionally taking breaks to play a little music on the jukebox. She didn’t tell him at the time, but she loved nearly everything he played. There was an undeniable degree of chemistry between the two and, when she felt she needed to leave, even the bartender had to comment on it.

Leslie was the bartender on that particular day. She leaned close to Jonas and said, “I hope you didn’t let her walk out without getting a number.”

“I certainly didn’t.” Jonas said. “But thank you for the advice.”

He didn’t wish to appear too eager. Jonas waited. He let the obligatory two days pass before he called.

“Maggie, it’s Jonas….from the Third Base the other day?” He said.

“Hey you!” She responded enthusiastically. “I was wondering if I was going to hear from you. What are you up to?”

“Well,” he started, “I know we’ve only spoken once prior, but tomorrow is Saturday and I’ve been in the habit of giving away plants on Saturday afternoons. ….Might sound kind of weird, but I root plants in my sunroom and, when they’re ready, I put a post on Facebook and invite my neighbors to come take them. Meanwhile, it’s a good excuse to have drinks on the front porch. Now…..I won’t be offended if you think it’s too soon to come by my house, but I promise I won’t drag you inside. Just a lawn chair on the porch and the drink of your choice….if you’d like to come by.”

She laughed. “You can relax, Jonas. You really didn’t strike me as the ‘drag ‘em inside’ kind of guy. I think that sounds nice. What kind of plants do you give away?”

“Well, it’s usually Spider Wort, Aloe and Spider Plants….but sometimes I offer Green Onion.”

“Spider Wort? What’s that, exactly?” She asked.

“When I was a boy,” he explained, “they called them Wandering Jew. But I’ve been sternly instructed by my Facebook monitors that I shouldn’t use that name any longer. Someone called me a horrible person, so now I sometimes call them Wandering Dudes.”

“That’s cute.” She said. “Why don’t you text me the address and the time and I’ll place my drink order?”

“I’ll do so momentarily. I’m already looking forward to it.” He said.

So, the first date was set. Jonas looked around his living room at the dog hair that rolled like tumble weeds and suddenly thought, “I didn’t mention it….But I certainly hope she’s a dog person.” Still, the plans were put in place and he couldn’t have been more excited. He couldn’t know, of course, but she was quite excited as well.

Saturday arrived and she was right on time. And Jonas was well prepared. He offered her a heavily salted Bloody Mary and she quietly looked about his place. It was old, well-worn, but solid. The walls were populated with a variety of artwork and he would explain that all the pieces were gifts from friends.

“I’ve been quite fortunate.” He said. “I happen to know some very talented people.”

“These are beautiful.” She said, while looking across the walls. “All I have are reproductions, but these are amazing.”

Jonas guided her upstairs. “It’s time.” He said. “I think we need to move the stock outside.”

He led her to a sunroom on the south side of the second floor where there were numerous plants waiting. Together, they carried each plant downstairs and out the front door and placed them on the front steps. He had prepared a printed sign announcing the offering and, within fifteen minutes, they had a good selection available. Now, it was simply a matter of waiting so, just as he had promised, Jonas offered Maggie a lawn chair in the shade and together they sipped their drinks. It really didn’t take long. The first “customers” arrived within minutes of the time he had posted on Facebook and began to claim their plants. There really wasn’t a limit—they could take as many as they wanted. He knew he’d have more to offer in a matter of weeks. By four-thirty in the afternoon, they had all been claimed. The day had warmed, and both he and Maggie were working their way through their third round.

And that’s when it happened. Maggie returned her glass to the kitchen and Jonas was close behind. Suddenly, she froze. On the counter adjacent to the sink she saw a large spider. It was a common jumping spider—black with delicate markings on its back. Instinctively, she grabbed a nearby dish rag and prepared to swat it, but Jonas grabbed her arm.

“No.” He whispered. “I don’t want you to kill her.”

She was stunned at first, and even more amazed when she saw him slowly corral the insect into his left hand. He cupped his hand and asked, “Would you please open the back door?”

She did. And, she followed him out. But, he didn’t release the spider immediately. Instead, he opened his hand and presented it to her. It held still in the center of his palm.

“She doesn’t have very good eyesight.” He explained. “And, she doesn’t actually possess the strength to bite me, despite what you might think. Most spiders can’t bite you. Even the much-feared Brown Recluse cannot, in most cases, pierce your skin. They bite when they are pushed against other surfaces and have leverage they wouldn’t otherwise have….Like if they crawl in your shoe and you stick your foot in.”

“I don’t care.” She said. “They creep me out!”

Jonas laughed. “I know, I know. But please watch.”

Holding the spider in his left hand, he extended the forefinger of his right hand and slowly approached the insect. At first it retreated, and then lifted its front two legs to touch his finger.

“Don’t you see?” He asked. “She doesn’t know what she’s facing….just like the rest of us. She’s frightened and acting on instinct. She’s just trying to feel her way along. She has very little control over her body temperature and she’s in the hand of someone who’s temperature is over ninety-eight degrees.”

Jonas looked at Maggie and smiled.

“She’s not creepy. She’s fragile.” He said.

“How do you know she’s female?” Maggie asked.

“Oh….I don’t.” He replied. “But, it’s my understanding that, with insects and many animals, the females are the most active….and often the most dominant, so it’s just an assumption. I think she wants to be back in the yard.”

And, with that, he descended the back stairs and let the spider scramble into the grass where she belonged. Maggie watched him. She noted the care with which he released the spider—it wasn’t lost on her.

He turned back and smiled at her in the late afternoon sun. “Now, shall we refresh those drinks?”

Over the course of the afternoon, Maggie reflected on that moment. They sat together on the porch and talked of many other things. She would learn of his family, and where he went to school and his job as a marketing consultant. She would share many of the same details as the evening set in.

She had planned to go home. It was far too early in the relationship to consider otherwise. But, as she rose and intended to announce her departure, they kissed. She was going to tell him that she had a nice time and would call about getting together again. He had planned to do the same. But, they kissed. He gently held her face with the same hands that had spared the spider that creeped her out, but those thoughts were nowhere to be found. Instead, he touched the back of her neck in a way that sent a slight shiver down her spine and she couldn’t take her lips away. She let her hands run up his back and, suddenly, they were tongue to tongue and she pushed against him.

They broke just for a moment. “I suppose you’ll be wanting to get back. Are you alright to drive?” He asked.

She took a step back and paused. So many thoughts racing through her head. It was only their first date. But she looked into his eyes.

“Um, no.” She said with a grin. “I think it might be best if you showed me the bedroom.”

Sex on the first date? Yes. Jonas didn’t hesitate for a moment. They made their way through the living room, and the dining room and straight to his bedroom where the bed was in terrible disarray. After all, this was the last thing he had expected but it certainly didn’t slow either of them down. They stripped each other in the twilight and he laid her out on the bed and kissed her on both sides of the neck. His hands were warm and she thought to herself that it was almost like a massage. But then he moved lower, first licking her breasts and then lower still. She gasped when her legs were on his shoulders and he was kneeling on the floor. He took things slowly, diligently and made quite sure that she had arrived before they even began to make love. And then he pushed her fully onto the bed and they fucked. There may be more delicate ways of describing it, but none more accurate. And yet, throughout the evening, he caressed her. He held her. She was struck by how caring he was with her. And she liked it—she liked every minute of it.

It was just after five in the morning when she woke up. It was still before dawn, but there was a dim light in the room. And, to her surprise, Jonas was not only awake, he was sitting on the edge of the bed with his back to her. She reached out to touch his back when he turned is head to look at her over his shoulder.

“Shhhhh.” He whispered. “We have a guest.”

She rolled back onto her arm. “What could that possibly mean?” She thought. He twisted at the waist and, in the low light, she saw a dark patch just below his left shoulder. He was lightly patting it with his right hand.

“I…..I can’t see. What is that?” She asked.

He whispered again. “Please don’t freak out. This is a friend of mine. She visits me every summer and, just about ten minutes ago I felt the wind over my face and knew she had returned. Her name is Ziggy.”

Maggie squinted. “I still don’t see.” She said.

“O.K., I asked you not to freak out.” He whispered. “Ziggy is an American Brown Bat.”

Maggie recoiled. “Whoa!” She said. “Bats have rabies!”

Jonas smiled. “Not all bats. Ziggy seems to be just fine. ….Don’t be scared. I’m taking her outside.”

And, with that, Jonas stood, fully nude, and walked to the backdoor. He opened the door, and walked down the back stairs and, with a slight nudge, Ziggy slipped off his shoulder and disappeared into the morning sky. Maggie was stunned at the sight of it all. She was still struggling to process what had just happened when, fully nude, Jonas returned to the door and took her by the hand.

“I really try not to fear anything around here. Unless it poses a problem, all visitors are welcome.” He said.

And then he kissed her. Long and deep, he kissed her and any shock she may have felt somehow melted away.

A few brief hours later, Jonas left the bed and went for a shower. It was a refreshing break as Maggie got up and looked through the kitchen for the makings of coffee. When he exited the bathroom, he dried himself with a towel and asked her if she would get him a pair of underwear and a shirt from the closet. She did so. And that’s when she saw it.

“What is that? You have a gun?” She asked.

` “Yes.” He replied. “That’s a Browning over-under Citori 12- gauge. It’s actually a work of art.”

She turned to him with her blouse still unbuttoned and looked a bit perplexed.

“I….I wouldn’t expect you to have something like this. Do you hunt?” She asked.

“I did.” He replied. “My father gave me this. I still find it to be a beautiful piece of work. It’s finely crafted. But, please let me explain. My parents were children of the Great Depression and hunting wasn’t always a sport. I can read my grandmothers diaries and see how a rabbit or duck filled the family’s dinner table. It really wasn’t sport. So, there was tradition infused in all of this.”

He took her hand and the two sat on the bed together.

“My father gave me this gun. You can relax….it’s not loaded. Together we hunted. There was a code. You recovered what you shot. You cleaned it. And then you ate it—you didn’t waste it. I understood that from the very beginning.”

Jonas then looked very deeply into Maggie’s eyes. “But things began to change for me.”

“My father and I,” he explained, “would often hunt dove. You can only hunt them for one month a year around here.” He explained.

“Doves are beautiful birds. Swift….no beginner will keep up with them. They mate for life, so often they fly in pairs. Their feathers are a wonderful combination of gray and rose….They are so truly beautiful.” He began to choke up just a bit. “But, when you hunt them, you will often bring them down without fully killing them. They’ll be alive when you find them. Now, as part of the tradition, you must recover your bird. It’s what my father taught me and it is, in fact, a responsible practice. But, when you recover a live dove….you see. You see that it’s terrified. And, the most common means of dispatching it is to take it by the head, and swivel it until you’ve snapped the neck. For many hunters, this is simply what you do. I’ve done it many times. But, that’s not really the end. When you hold the bird in your hand, even after you’ve broken its neck, it shudders. In its last moments, it shakes…You actually feel the life leave it.”

Jonas leaned closer to Maggie. “That’s when I decided that I was done with killing. And, I mean killing anything unless I absolutely must.”

She put her arms around him. They rocked on the edge of the bed and he kissed her ear. And then, as the sun promoted the day, they got dressed and proceeded with their business.

“Can I see you tonight?” He asked.

She teased him. “Well, I’ll need to check my calendar.”

“Will you please let me know?” He pleaded.

She put her arms about his neck and looked him in the eye. “I will certainly let you know.” And, with that, she kissed him passionately and made her departure.

And, so, the evening arrived. Maggie had sent a text earlier and informed Jonas that he could meet her at the Ming Inn, a Chinese restaurant not far from where he lived. He was happy to do so. They shared spring rolls, and soup….and wontons. He sought to entertain her with stories of painting and his life in the rural Midwest. She countered with stories of growing up in Chicago and the events that led her to her present place. They laughed and Jonas spent far too much on the online juke box, but Maggie appeared to enjoy every pick he made.

And then it was time to leave. So quickly the evening had passed. But, again, she wasn’t eager to part.

“Any more room for me back at the place?” She said as she swayed into his arms.

“Always.” He said. He lifted her off the ground as he kissed her.

The two split and, in separate cars, made their way back to his house. They parked. They took their time, for a moment, in the living room and Jonas prepared drinks…but neither actually needed them. At this point, both were only counting the minutes until they hit the bedroom. This time, however, would be slightly different. He laid her back as he had done before. And, again, he rested her legs on his shoulders an attended to her as gently, and thoroughly as he had before. But, that’s where it changed. He pushed her onto the bed and flipped her over. In a manner far more aggressive than she expected, he pulled her hips up and inserted himself from behind. He held her tightly, both from the hip and the shoulder. as he began to thrust. At times, he took her by the hair. She shouted out several times, but never in protest. And they conversed. He asked her what she wanted and she directed him. At times he slid his hand below her and tapped her in just the right place—patting her in a way that sent shivers up her back. It lasted far longer than she would have expected and he repeatedly brought her to exactly where she longed to be but, when he finished, they fell together. Her legs were still trembling when he reached over her and cupped her breast.

“That’s not exactly what I was expecting.” She said.

“I hope I didn’t alarm you. I’ve….I’ve been wanting to share this bed for a while I didn’t want to scare you away the first time.” He replied.

“You didn’t scare me a bit, baby.” She whispered. “But you certainly earned a third date.”

Together they laid above the covers. It was warm and both were glistening with a layer of sweat.

Jonas fell asleep first. He slept well. But, as the sunlight began to creep into the room, he awoke and saw Maggie sitting at the edge of the bed. He saw the elegant contours of her back and was immediately drawn to her. But, as he reached out, something stopped him. She turned her head and offered the most seductive smile he had ever seen in his life. Simultaneously, he saw something else. He saw the smallest, black finger reach over the crest of her shoulder. It was at that point that Jonas realized two things. He realized that Ziggy, the bat, has found a new place to take refuge.

And, he realized that he had fallen in love.

dating
G. Russell Cole
G. Russell Cole
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