"A gentleman is a patient wolf." - Henrietta Tiarks
I'm a stud. At least that's the rumor going around. Unfortunately for me, there's no truth to it. I wish I were a stud.
The rumor mill started running after I began accompanying many different women on 'dates.' They weren't really dates; they were just two people, one male, one female, going out together. But the rumor mill doesn't buy into the 'just friends' explanation. Of course, there was that one time... Let me explain.
It started after my wife passed away. She was thirty-nine when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The women in her family are BRCA positive, which indicates a high propensity to get it. It seems there is some genetic flaw in her family. She has had two aunts and a cousin all die from breast cancer at a young age. Their odds are so awful some of her female cousins are considering complete breast removal on their thirtieth birthday.
Because her mother never came down with cancer, my wife and her younger sisters hoped that they had been spared. When her younger sister was diagnosed with DCIS, a precursor to cancer, but usually non-lethal, the dread descended on my wife. She was religious in her self-exams and mammograms. She was thirty-nine when she found the lump.
Because of her family history, they did a complete mastectomy. They followed the surgery with a round of chemotherapy and tamoxifen.
But it had already metastasized into her chest wall. It only takes a few cells to spread. A follow up visit to her oncologist found the cancer had spread. They tried another round of powerful chemo. I don't know which is worse, watching your wife waste away from cancer or watch her suffering incredibly from the attempt to save her life knowing it is futile.
She didn't make it to her forty-first birthday.
I was a wreck. My wife had been my lover, confidant, best friend, social partner, as well as wife. I had no life without her. If I went to a Giants game, I went with her. If I went to see the symphony, I went with her. We were a duad, complete and whole only with each other.
After a few months I knew I had to do something or I was going to go stark raving mad. One of the things we had done together was attend theatre, lots of theatre. I write reviews for the local alternative newspaper. In other words, the free one on the corner everywhere, that subsists on a few ads and running personals for all of the freaks and hookers in San Francisco, of which there are plenty. I minored in Theatre Arts at Berkeley. That gave me the credentials, even though I now worked in the Financial District making others rich. I didn't get paid for the reviews but I did get free front row tickets to any show I wanted to see. We, now just I, saw a show every week and sometimes two. I decided I needed to have company on these outings or I would go insane.
I decided to ask Darla, who worked in the admin area. Darla was a lot younger than me and I'm sure would never have been interested in 'dating' me. She was a brunette with blonde streaks added to her long straight hair. She had a little extra padding in her butt, but made up for it with tits that filled her tight sweaters very nicely. She also was quite pretty, which would explain why she wouldn't need to date me.
I sat at the same table as her in the lunch room one afternoon. It was virtually deserted at this hour.
She looked up and said, "Hi." I could tell she was a little surprised that I wasn't sitting at one of the empty tables.
"Hi," I said. "Sorry to bother you but I was going to ask a favor."
She hesitated, then asked, "What?"
"This is going to sound a little crazy at first," I said smiling. "Hear me out before you make up your mind." She nodded. "My wife passed away a little while ago." She nodded this time with a look of empathy on her face. I wasn't going for the sympathy vote but I think I got it anyway. "I write play reviews for the SF Bay Sentinel. Because of that I get two free tickets to opening night. The thing is I don't have anyone to come to the plays with me."
I could see her face closing up as she thought, 'This old fart is going to ask me out.'
"I'm not asking you out on a date. To tell the truth, it is way too early for me to even think about stuff like that. My emotions are still too screwed up to think about a relationship. I just hate going alone every single time to these plays. Not a date. Just two people attending the same play. One thing to consider; because it is opening night I never know until I get there and the show starts whether it's going to be great or awful. I have to stay long enough to get the material for a review. Think about it and if it sounds interesting let me know," I finished.
"I don't know," she said.
I smiled my most gentlemanly smile, "Think about it. It might even be fun." I stood up, "I hope you'll say yes. If it sounds fun, I have to see a comedy this Saturday. See you later," I said. She looked thoughtful as I left.
I got a call from Darla Friday morning. "That offer still open?"
I smiled to myself. "Yep, sure is. Want to go?"
"Sure," she said.
"Good. Why don't you come to my place and we can ride over together," I suggested.
"Okay. What time?" she asked.
"Tell you what. Come over at six and I'll fix us something to eat. Then we can drive over to the play. It's not far from my place," I said.
"Dinner? That's sounding more like a date," she said.
I laughed. "Nope. I like to cook. It's no fun cooking for one. Really, I'm doing this for me," I said.
"Okay. See you at six," she said.
I spent Saturday cleaning up my place. It sure doesn't take long to drop back into bachelor habits. I wasn't trying to impress Darla. I knew she'd freak if she saw how I was living. It actually started to look like the place it was when my wife was alive to decorate it and keep it looking nice.
We have a great little upscale market in our neighborhood that stocks fish just off the boat and produce from local farms. I picked up some Red Snapper and veggies for a ratatouille along with red potatoes. Nothing tremendously fancy. Oh yes, and a nice Pinot Gris.
My wife loved to cook; it was a creative activity for her. She gave me the bug and I actually got pretty good at it. All of my best recipes I stole from my wife. She used to haul me off to cooking classes at the Culinary Institute, so I learned some pretty fancy techniques. Cooking for one simply isn't the same. I had missed the fun of cooking and I was enjoying it again. I crushed up some toasted almonds to coat the fish and set up everything ready to go. The table was set, the candles waiting to be lit.
Darla showed up a few minutes early. "Come on in," I said. I led her back to the kitchen. "Ready to watch the master at work," I said smiling.
"If you mean, am I hungry? Yes," she said.
"That's what I meant." I started the onion for the ratatouille and got the potatoes roasting with rosemary. I brought out the wine, opened it and poured us both a glass. "Here you go," I said handing her the glass.
"Thanks," she said.
"All of my recipes start the same, one cup wine, for the chef," I said. We clinked glasses and took a sip.
"You have a beautiful house," she said.
"Thanks. I'd like to take credit but Jennifer did all of the decorating," I said.
"Oh," Darla said quietly.
"It's okay. I can talk about it. It was really hard the first couple of months, but I'm starting to feel human again," I said. She was getting that look again. "Don't feel sorry for me. I've had enough pity for a lifetime. My wife would kill me if she thought I was wallowing in pity. She'd kick my butt and say, 'Get out there and live your life.'"
"She sounds like a good woman," Darla said.
"She was." I turned to the cutting block. "Now, I'll turn these into dinner." I am a little proud of my cooking. Jennifer had a fine set of Wusthof knives and Calphalon pans. Nothing but the best and it does make a difference. You simply can't cook with bad knifes and pans.
Dinner was good. Okay, it wasn't Fleur de Lys but it didn't cost a week's salary either. San Francisco probably has more great restaurants per square mile than any city in the world, including Paris. I borrow their ideas without remorse. I make interesting food, well presented. Darla was suitably impressed. When I lit the candles she accused me of turning it into a date. I had to explain that Jennifer always had candles lit for dinner. She didn't think it was a proper meal without the candles.
I drove us over to the theatre and picked up my front row comps. The play was Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, by Christopher Durang. I'll spare you the details, just that it is a black comedy about a nun at a Catholic school and how Catholic school ruined the lives of all of these students who have returned for a reunion. I'd seen it several times over the years and noticed that there are always pockets of people in the theatre who all laugh at the same time. I realized they had attended Catholic school and were laughing at some inside joke us we heathens missed. Darla had to have attended Catholic school since she was rolling in the aisles with them.
I drove her back to my place, walked her to her car, and said good night. That's the last I thought of it.
Well, I underestimated by a good margin what I had started. Darla told her girlfriends about the evening. One of them called me and asked if I really did have to see all these plays. I confirmed it. She volunteered.
.... There is more of this story ...