Jack Donnelly had too many gray hairs to pull out, and his love handles bulged around his BVDs like chrome car bumpers. Twenty-five-year-olds looked fifteen, and low testosterone and erectile dysfunction ads made him squirm. Movies and TV bombarded him with men having their way with scads of desirable, eager women, yet he’d been married thirty years to his high school prom date, and Jack began to feel the sting of what never was.
His wife, Alice, had her Pilates, her book club, her fashion shows and lunches; she’d settled into a middle age of wrinkle creams with Botox boosters. Sex was never higher than eighth on her to-do list, and the lack of horizontal recreation at home only whet Jack’s wandering thoughts. When Jack was a teenager he’d get a woody at the flash of female thigh sitting across from him on the bus, and until the birth of their first child, Alice had been reasonably enthusiastic about sex. Since then prolonged periods of abstinence punctuated by perfunctory quickies had prompted Jack to fall into the habit of mentally disrobing any woman he sighted not using a walker.
Recently Jack decided fantasies weren’t enough; the sexual revolution had left him eating dust, and he must indulge his inner Kama Sutra while he still had lead in his pencil. It would need to be a woman who’d keep it casual; clingy demands could lead to exposure, and divorce was not his goal, although part of him wished Alice would become a little jealous. He decided against an affair with a married woman; the possibility he’d have to face an angry husband made him sweat. So the focus of his quest was a single divorcée, desperate to please, someone who’d admire his accomplishments and with a nice rack.
Jack noticed a waitress at Joe’s Diner where he’d stop for coffee before work. She was a blue-eyed, blonde who flashed some freckled cleavage in a pink uniform and looked to be in her mid-forties. Her nametag said Henrietta, and she became more alluring with every coffee order. She had the charming habit of blowing away a stray lock of hair as she took an order and revealed a tip of tongue as she started to write. But a coffee order was too brief an encounter for Jack to make suggestive comments so he devised another plan and began to wake up earlier and come to the diner for breakfast.
But his first attempt at conversation didn’t move the ball forward.
“Yeah, it’s a zoo. What can I get you?”
“Scrambled eggs, home fries and a toasted poppy seed bagel. Looks like it’s going to be hot today.”
“Not in here. That it?”
Henrietta didn’t even flash a smile, and after a week of cool treatment Jack knew he had to come up with a new strategy. He landed on the idea to leave a big tip, and switched his order to granola to balance the budget. Money lubricated chitchat, and during the next month Henrietta began to linger at Jack’s table even to the point that the grill chef had to call out to her that there were other customers. She was divorced, had a daughter away at state university and was on a bowling league. Jack took the opening to mention that he’d been an avid bowler in his youth, and maybe she would reintroduce him to the sport. There was a look in Henrietta’s eye when she agreed that suggested she understood where this was going, and Jack’s heart began to quicken.
Jack took a half-day off work on the pretext to go to the motor vehicle bureau and picked up Henrietta at the diner after her morning shift. They rolled a few lines at the local lanes, she was pretty good, he couldn’t break a hundred, and afterwards she invited him over to her apartment for a Coke.
Henrietta was on Jack three steps inside the door. Her hair smelled like hamburger from the grill, and her mouth tasted like cigarettes, but Jack’s mind raced; he’d crossed the Rubicon and like Caesar he marched toward Rome. He tried to pick her up and carry her to the bedroom, but she was heavier than he thought so they sort of stumbled and sidled in a clinch, unbuttoning each other as they went. Jack found the catch of her bra and Henrietta’s breasts unfolded like stretched taffy. She sat on the bed and pulled down his pants and BVDs and tugged him on top of her.
Jack hadn’t had a lot of physical activity of late, his pulse galloped, and he started to sweat. When he entered her, he realized that childbirth had stretched her into the Mariana Trench, and a half-hour later she’d gotten off twice while he gasped for air, and he collapsed next to her, soaked and exhausted. Henrietta didn’t seem to mind and reached for the pack of cigarettes on her nightstand and lit up. She offered Jack a butt that he refused. After a few drags Henrietta commented casually that small men did seem to have trouble coming, but after her smoke she’d give Jack another try.
When Jack lifted from the pillow he found that dehydration and rigorous muscle exertion had made him light-headed, plus Henrietta’s comment had shriveled his ardor so he mumbled that he was fine, and Henrietta shrugged her shoulders. Within fifteen minutes she was snoring, and Jack slinked out of the apartment without showering.
At home Jack tried to enter the house quietly, but when Alice’s authoritarian voice called out that the lawn needed mowing he quick-stepped into the bathroom. Aside from wanting to wash off Henrietta’s scent, the steady diet of granola had given Jack more frequent urges, so he closed the door and sat on the john. The interlude gave him time to reflect, and it came to him: fucking was overrated, and shitting was underrated.
Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn, and grew up in a blue-collar section of New York City. He and his wife, Jane, have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their little Shih Tzu, Sophia, where Joe studies writing at the University of Texas in Austin. Jane took the picture below at Antoni Gaudi’s Park Güell in Barcelona. Joe’s the one with the mustache.