by R.L. Terrell
Had she understood him correctly over the clatter of plates being cleared and the bursts of laughter from groups of diners, the Manhattan bistro being at maximum capacity? She looked at Declan sitting across from her and searched for signs of a prank.
“‘I’m worthy.’ That’s what you have them scream when they climax?”
Declan responded with a nod.
“And these women pay you for this?”
Declan munched on an olive from his martini and nodded again.
“Wait. And they also pay your travel expenses to exotic locations?”
He took the last gulp of his drink and signaled the server for another.
Leaning closer to Declan.
“Why what? Why do they pay? Why do they pay me?” Declan looked offended. “My clients tell me it gives them an edge at work. And they can all afford it. Some even write it off as executive coaching.”
Declan gave her his full attention, “I am an excellent conversationalist. The trips are fun and satisfying for all involved.”
She couldn’t help but see Declan with a different lens. Well, she asked him what he did for a living. A legitimate first date question. She turned the idea around in her mind, how it would be to declare your worthiness at the precise moment you experienced the universe crack open.
“Of course, I wouldn’t expect you to do that,” Declan added. “You can call out whatever you want.”
He was assuring her of a chance of intimacy. Something that normally put her on edge at a first meeting. She didn’t do botty call dates. They were often disappointing. Declan, however, painted a very different possibility.
She pushed on. “And, you say many of these women are big women?”
Declan’s second martini arrived. He sipped it like the tastiest thing in Manhattan.
He had given her food for thought; actual food being something she ate little of to avoid being, as Declan called it, “Lizzolicious.” She took another sip of her wine spritzer and wondered if her size six body might be too bony for him.
Here was a chance to make love with a man who made love to women for a living. And she wouldn’t have to pay for it. This qualified as a date. No confusion there. He’d connected with her on a dating app. She’d hit the Jackpot. It had been a bit of a dry spell. For a while, her only orgasms came self-administered since her last boyfriend needed a map to navigate the landscape.
Her travel photos, that’s what had him swipe right Declan told her. His profile had mentioned frequent trips and a few of the places he’d been this year. And his picture, without a doubt, if it was real, was a potent attraction. She was hoping for a spring romance, nothing permanent, just someone to enjoy a few sunny months together in New York.
It was a pleasant surprise when she was escorted to the table of a replica from the photo. Tall and straight-backed in the plush chair seated in a discreet corner of the restaurant. He’d dressed in a lovely short sleeved Cuban collar shirt that showed off his sculpted arms, deep blue slacks, and what he’d called his “dancing shoes.”
Now she faced a dilemma. Her more usual problem was fending off unwanted men’s advances. This one she wanted to seduce. But did he require seducing?
Declan interrupted her fantasies. “Are you ready to order?”
White aproned servers whisked food to nearby tables, and the aromas must have aroused him. She had become immune to such triggers.
On impulse she responded, “how about we go somewhere more private? I only live two blocks from here.”
She leaned over in a way she hoped pushed the “girls” up. “I’m starving, but not for food.”
“Is that why you suggested this place?” The look of disappointment on Declan’s face made her feel naked. In a middle of a dream naked at your high school graduation kind of way.
“It’s always the same thing. I tell a woman what I do for a living just to get it out of the way, to be transparent, and I become a piece of meat, a machine to service your needs.”
She sat back in her chair, aghast.
“You don’t even want to have a brief conversation first. Get to know me, share a meal.”
She couldn’t face him. Head down, she saw Declan’s torso rise from the table and push back the chair. She heard him finish his martini in one gulp, and then he smacked several twenties on the table.
“Enjoy your wine spritzer, Elaine.”
He said her name like something dirty and shameful.
And Declan was gone.
Elaine shrunk back in her chair and surveyed the bistro to see how many people had noticed Declan’s exit. The server appeared at the table eyeing the cash. “Can I get you something else? Perhaps something stronger than a white wine spritzer?” “Okay.” She considered it for a moment. Something to numb the sting. “Gin and tonic, please. Make it a double,” she said with a satisfied smiled. “Zero carbs.”
About the author:
R.L. Terrell is a black writer living in Prague with her partner, in her native Czech Republic. Her short story, “Here Again,” was selected for Quillkeepers Press LGBTQ Pride Month Anthology and her flash fiction, “Worthy,” was longlisted in Strands International Flash Fiction Competition. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, her essay was published in McSweeny’s Quarterly. She has read her work at San Francisco’s Babylon Salon. Her nonfiction has been published in FastCompany on issues of gender. Twitter: @robinlterrell