(Copyright by the author, June 1997. Do not alter in any way.)
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I guess I have about three or four hours. That'll give me time to get some strength and get out of here. And I have to get out of here. But I have sort of an obligation to warn the rest of you about this, so I'm going to tell you what happened and how.
There's an old saying: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
There's another old saying: Be careful what you wish for; you might get it.
I bought it from a peddler.
Wait - let me explain. It has to do with colognes, gray markets and sweat.
I went into Macy's to restock. I'd run low on my favorite cologne - I'll call it Chammofras - and went to Macy's on 34th Street to get more. Only they were out of it, and the pretty actress/sales clerk told me the line was no longer available in the United States, as the French manufacturer had stopped exporting it.
I was annoyed, to say the least. It's not easy finding the right scent. What smelled good to me wasn't necessarily the best scent. It has to do with an individual's body chemistry. The combination of a given set of molecules with a body's natural excretions can result in something wonderful - or something awful. Two of my buddies, for instance, favor Ralph Lauren's Polo. On Jed, it smells fine - a bit musky, very masculine. On Phil... Well, let's just say that dogs run howling. Remember how your gym locker used to smell after you left your sweats in it, unwashed, for a semester? Exactly.
So finding the right cologne isn't easy. And having found it, I was not happy to lose my only source of supply.
I explained this to Jed one cold Wednesday evening after work. We were just hanging out in Dunny's, a quiet bar off Third Avenue. We were sipping Buds and watching the pretty girls hurry past on their way to the more fashionable and swinging bars on Second Avenue. We were lamenting our group vice president's lack of vision and the cold weather that bundled all the babes in curve-covering winter attire.
"Why don't you try one of those street vendors?" he asked. "They have a lot of stuff you can't get in the stores."
I frowned. "Because you never know if you're getting the real thing or a counterfeit."
"Naaaah." He waved to Harry, the bartender, for a refill. "Most of their stuff is gray goods - you know, diverted."
"Let's say the frogs stop sending Eau d'Male to the U.S., but they still sell it to say, the towelheads, OK?"
(Jed refers to all non-U.S.A. citizens in this way. It's not meant to be a slur; it's meant to be cute.)
"So the towelheads in Qatar only buy about a case a year of the stuff, but the minimum order is a container. So they ship the rest of the container here, and the street vendors end up selling it."
"And the manufacturer doesn't stop it?"
"Hell, no - they got paid, so they don't care."
"Then why did they stop exporting it here themselves?"
"Why knows? They're frogs and don't use logic."
"Right. Hey, Harry?"
Which is how I started checking out the peddlers' wares. Sure enough, during my lunch hour on Thursday, I scored. A Bangladeshi fellow set up on cardboard cartons in an empty storefront on Sixth Avenue (the "Avenue of the Americas" to visitors) had the familiar green box. We negotiated, and a 10-dollar bill - about a third of what I'd been paying in Macy's - was replaced in my hand by the box. So far, so good. I went back to my dreary little office in the Empire State Building and thought no more about it for the day. After all, it was Thursday, which was the day Olivia wore her Vamp Outfit.
I looked up from my desk. I was trying to straighten out my receipts so I could get my travel expenses reimbursed. Jed was leaning into the office and grinning.
"You seen Olivia today?"
I shook my head. "She missing?"
"Uh-un. She's here, 110 percent of her." He rolled his eyes.
"I'll have to check this out."
"Catch you later."
Every office has an "Olivia" - a sexy young woman who knows her appeal and enjoys flaunting it. On my first job, she was a Yugoslavian bombshell whom we nicknamed "the Adriatic Coast" for her mountainous cliffs. In another office, she was a West Indian honey so black she was almost blue, who had the most kissable face imaginable and a body clearly designed to incite lust at first sight. At my previous place of employment, the office fox was an Asian beauty with hair down to there, legs that started somewhere around her armpits and the disconcerting knack of holding her tongue tip between her teeth.
In our office, it was Olivia, who was all of 25, South American, a fitness nut and a goddess. She worked in our graphics arts department and was reputed to be quite good at designing mailers. Someone had been quite good at designing her. Maybe 5-foot-2, Olivia's skin was the color of strong coffee with a dollop of cream, and it was flawless. She had tightly curled brown hair with a hint of russet in it, an exquisitely lovely face combining the best features of all the human racial groups, and a body that betrayed those 60-minute-a-day workouts she'd mentioned once (and which all of us red-blooded males appreciated).
Four days a week, Olivia dressed conservatively - almost dowdy. But on Thursdays, for some reason unknown to the rest of us, Olivia flaunted it. Sometimes it was a black leather microskirt and a ribknit turtleneck. Sometimes it was harem pants cinched to show off a waist that couldn't be more than 18 or 19 inches, and a vest... period.
I wondered what today's Outfit of Lust would be. I decided it was time to see if my new business cards were ready and headed for Graphics. And there, in the hallway, chatting with one of her colleagues, was Olivia.
I gulped, stepped back around the corner - out of sight - and considered what I had just glimpsed. Could I handle it?
Grow up, I told myself. It's just a woman. You can handle it.
I took a deep breath and stepped into the hallway again. And stared.
Olivia was wearing something that was a cross between a leotard and old-fashioned farmer's overalls. It was jet black and skin-tight from ankles to waist, displaying her hard-as-a-rock double-bubble-shaped ass and every inch of her legs. At the waist, it separated into a pair of long suspenders that looped over her shoulders. From the waist up, she was wearing a white cashmere sweater, a turtle neck. It clung to every square millimeter of her superb body. With the black suspender straps on the outsides of her white-encased tits, her breasts looked even more preposterously defiant of gravity. And above it all, her face was alive and her eyes bright as she animatedly conversed with her colleague in Spanish, giggling sweetly from time to time.
I decided I couldn't handle it and went back to my office, panting. And throbbing. It was terribly frustrating. Olivia was so gorgeous, so sexy - and so unreachable. She very firmly rebuffed everyone who made a pass at her and seldom even conversed for more than a minute with any of the men. It was well-known that she had a boyfriend. And if she was going to get chummy with anyone in the office, it certainly wasn't going to be an account executive 15 years her senior.
With a sigh, I returned to sorting receipts and tried not to think about Olivia going down on me, going down on Olivia, licking her breasts...
Mondays are the worst at some offices. At others, it's Wednesdays. At mine, it's Friday - Hellday. It's the day our dimwitted group vice president suddenly realizes that all the things we peons have spent the week telling him are important really are significant and decides to deal with everything at once... resulting, of course, in nothing getting done. For which we are blamed - by him.
This particular Friday was worse than most. For one thing, I was out of ground coffee and thus reduced to using instant; worse still, it was Folger's. To compound things, one of the kittens - Drat, of course - had somehow extricated a ball of twine (used for tying newspapers into recyclable bundles) from a closed drawer in the kitchen, which meant I had approximately 2.5 miles of sisal twine decorating the living room. I was not a happy camper.
And I was out of my cologne and had to try the new stuff, the unknown stuff, the stuff that might - or might not - be the only cologne I'd ever found that worked well with my body chemistry. This on the day of the weekly Executive Conference & Fly-Speck Picking.
Need I say that halfway to the office, the predicted freezing rain began and my umbrella disintegrated? Good; I won't mention it.
The elevators were the usual crush routine. I'd just unbuttoned my overcoat and squeezed into one when a young woman crammed herself in front of me and a fella no more than 80 pounds overweight forced himself in behind her. She was crushed against me, facing me. She was clutching a Duane-Reade bag, so I guessed she had just hurried to the lobby drugstore to pick something up, as she wasn't wearing a coat.
.... There is more of this story ...