In order to protect oneself against buzzards, one must first know the kind of buzzard circling overhead. In this case, the buzzard was circling the dance floor and had followed me out into the parking lot. I didn't know about Hinckley, Ohio or the buzzard migration that came back every year to the little town, and I didn't know that I was the prey that cold winter night. Those prickled hairs at the nape of my neck weren't from cold; they were the first sign of danger and I misread them.
Everyone knows that buzzards circle high above the dying, waiting for that moment to dive down and strike the first bloody bit of flesh from the carcass. What most people don't know is that the smell of thwarted sex has the same odor of impending death to buzzard. Death is death even if it is the death of intentions. In this case, the death of my intention to renew an old and familiar acquaintance after a long dry autumn and winter. I had rather counted on some R&R, but my car put an end to all my evening plans.
No doubt there would have been a silencer involved, which is what Daryl was alluding to with the pillow comment. Good close contact with a man familiar with my anatomy and and knowledgeable about my pleasure zones brings out the opera diva in me. I know how to reach the high notes and sustain them for a considerable length of time, usually commensurate with the level of pleasure. In short, when the waves of passion roll over me, I get quite loud. A pillow is preferable to a dirty sock, which is what Daryl used the first time we got familiar with each other's pleasure zones. Daryl, on the other hand, is very quiet, at least to the outside world. His grunts and moans rarely reach outside the room and echo down the hallways.
Shivering in the cold as Nick's heater warmed up and began putting out, I stuck close to the door, arms crossed, and left hand touching the door handle.
"I live close by. You won't be cold for long," he said, patting a spot beside him.
He lived close by? I don't remember agreeing to go to his place. "I thought you were taking me home."
"I just need to get something from my apartment first."
Right. He'd invite me up to show me his etchings next.
"It won't take long."
I suppressed the urge to laugh and quip that I'm sure it wouldn't take long. Okay, now why was sex suddenly on my mind -- with Nick? No, that did not bode well. "I'll wait in the truck."
I must have missed the secret smile he flashes through the windshield. Well, my eyes missed it, but my hand clung tighter to the door handle. I was ready to jump, but figured I was safe at least until he parked the car. I knew where I was since I'd worked a few blocks away from where I suspected we were going. Grandview wasn't that big.
"You'll be warmer in the apartment."
"Not if you intend to go up and come right back down. The truck should be warm enough by then." Heat trickled through the vents, almost enough to move my pants legs. "I'd prefer to wait in the truck."
"I thought you might like a hot drink. Maybe some coffee." He sounded disappointed. More like thwarted.
"I don't drink coffee. Don't like the taste."
"I have hot chocolate and tea." He was getting hopeful again.
Might as well give in. If I didn't, he would take forever and probably take the keys with him. I did not relish freezing while I waited. "Hot chocolate would be nice. Thank you."
He turned into the parking lot of the apartment building, parked, and got out. Murmuring a quick prayer, I got out and followed him. He obviously wasn't going to come around and open the door for me since he stood outside the truck and waited while I figured out gentleman wasn't in his vocabulary or his bag of tricks.
We rode the elevator up to the 3rd floor and I waited while he fumbled with the key in the latch. Once he did get the door open, I was greeted by a Playboy magazine full page cartoon with a leering Robin Hood saying, "Welcome to Sherwood Forest." The apartment was more of a one room warehouse full of boxes. A small, and I do mean nearly child size, sink and 2-burner stove was packed into a tiny alcove next to Robin Hood and his nearly naked Merry Men with an old steel waist high cabinet topped by a microwave and an old Formica topped table and two chairs nearly hidden by a stack of boxes. A bookcase and ratty vinyl recliner that was probably meant to designate the living room separated the made up rollaway bed from the rest of the box-filled room. Large double windows looked out into the darkness. It was the apartment of a warehouse bachelor, rather looked like a small living area in a warehouse full of boxes.
"Have you lived here long?" I asked, almost afraid of the answer.
"About 6 months. Since my mom died." I later found out that he moved in the day his mother died because his father had packed his junk -- and Nick had a lot of junk still packed, almost all of it -- and kicked him out after they returned from his mother's funeral. He was 33 years old at the time and now 34. His birthday was in October on the 27th. In fact, all of his siblings I later learned were born on the 27th of the month, except for one sibling. Different months for each sibling, but still on the 27th. Now that is family planning. One of the siblings arrived early.
He got down 2 cups from the metal cabinets above the sink, put water in the cups, and put them in the microwave. Bachelor dining at its finest. Spoons and packets of hot chocolate followed, Swiss Miss.
Now I don't have anything against packaged hot chocolate, or even hot chocolate from a machine in a pinch, but if, as I suspected, he intended to proposition me, he could have at least used milk, cocoa, and sugar with a bit of butter and a pinch of salt and make it on the stove. Then again, considering the size of his "kitchen," I doubted he had room for all of that. The refrigerator was the kind found in motels where filled with miniature bottles of booze and containers of nuts priced at nearly the cost of the room. Nick's was no different. There were tiny bottles of booze and the remains of some packaged TV dinner or other growing green fur beneath a wrinkled bit of plastic wrap. Talk about the high life.
He handed me a cup of very hot chocolate and took his cup over to the bookcase, which had very few books on the shelves. A 36-inch TV perched precariously on the bookshelf, one side of which was held up by a folded wad of paper, next to an old super 8 movie camera, which he pointed at the wall. "Would you turn off the lights?"
My worst fears were realized when a wavery black and white 1960s vintage pornographic movie flickered to life on the wall. Goody, foreplay.
I'm a good sport and I do my best to remain civil at the worst of times, a trait that earned me the title of Hotdog Lady in the French Quarter in New Orleans where I sold Lucky Dogs from a hotdog-shaped cart on a prime corner. Retaining control of polite civility was exceeding my grasp of the current situation.
"I picked it up at a . . . . "
"Adult bookstore sale bin?" I said, finishing his sentence.
"How did you know?"
"Lucky guess." I was willing to bet there was an inflatable sex doll in the closet near the front door.
"If you look right . . . here." He pointed to one of the people on the wall at the back of the pack of leering porn stars. "That's one of the guys I went to school with."
"Really?" As if I would know the guy. "How interesting." Considering the age of the film, I wondered how old he was. "How old are you?"
"That film must be 20 or 30 years old."
"Not at all. It was made about 10 years ago."
"He asked me to go with him and be in the film, but my mother would have killed me."
I sipped the now warm hot chocolate, lipping up a disintegrating mini marshmallow. He obviously spared no expense. "Wasn't there something you wanted to get before you take me home?"
"Not really. I thought you might like to see my collection."
Of what? Porn? "What do you collect?" I was willing to play along for now, especially if it got whatever plan he had off his chest and me home. I knew I should've called Dad. At least I would've gotten home eventually even if he did two the car and lose me somewhere on I-670.
"Mugs." He pointed to another waist high bookcase hidden behind more boxes. Mugs of all shapes, sizes, colors, and materials were precisely arranged on the dust-free shelves. In fact, it was the only dust free area in the whole apartment. The TV screen was furry with dust and a small cloud of dust still hung around the projector light swirling in the pale yellow shaft pointed at the wall.
"My ex-husband collects mugs. He would love some of these." Good time to bring up some male backup, even if it was just my ex-husband who lived in South Carolina and was too far away to do me any good. For all Nick knew, Dave was a phone call away and ready to come at my call and beat him senseless for even thinking about me in the way that was fairly obvious from the furtive and lascivious glances he cast in my direction.
"He'd really like this one then." He reverently cradled a large German stein with an intricately carved solid silver handle and lid. The workmanship was remarkable, the paint glistened as if still wet. "My brother sent this from Germany. He found it in an old shop somewhere in Bremen. According to the maker's mark," he turned the stein upside down and pointed with his nose, unwilling to let go his prize, "it was made in 1788. Isn't it something?"
I nodded, unable to bring up much enthusiasm. It was lovely but I didn't know a valuable stein from one made last week by a factory in Cleveland. "Nice." It was all I could manage.
He lovingly placed it back in its place on the shelf, dusting away invisible motes of dust and debris while a dust cloud finally settled back onto the already dust encrusted projector. I half expected him to drop a pristine white drape over the collection. Instead he moved the boxes back in place. I didn't understand why until much later.
"Get the lights," he ordered and turned off the projector.
"Well, thank you for the hot chocolate, but I really must get home."
He picked up his keys, took a heavier jacket out of the closet, hung up his other jacket, and put his cup in the sink. "What is the best way to go?" he asked as he opened the door and paused as I put my cup in the sink and followed him.
The ride was cold and I was grateful I didn't have to put my anti-mashing maneuvers into play, but he was a gentleman.
I was reluctant to let him know where I lived, but there was no help for it. He didn't open the door for me, but he did wait until I was safely inside my parents' house. It wasn't much but it was a glimmer of hope that he could behave himself. I could upgrade him to somewhat nonthreatening. How wrong I was.