Victor frowned at the dimple of bellybutton in his stretched white undershirt, a case over an overstuffed pillow. The bottom seam hung away from the band of his boxer shorts. He tried to suck-in his pregnant gut, but that required muscles he’d long since lost to his office chair. Thirty years of sitting seems to make things spread. Turning to his side, he pulled his shoulders back and stood up straight. He still looked fat.
A girdle would help, but might be a bit awkward for the occasion. “Pretty hard to explain if I get lucky later,” he said.
“What happened to you?” he said. “Who are you?”
“I’m you at fifty,” he reflected.
It couldn’t be. His eyes weren’t cracked at the corners with years of stress. He didn’t have grey chest hair, or wrinkled knees.
“Oh, but you do. These are the lines of the days and hours and minutes of your life. You’re wrinkled and grey because you spent your twenties mixing narcotics and alcohol like you required them to live.”
Victor ran his hand across the soft mounds on his chest. Once two solid muscles he could make dance on command, now the only time they didn’t move was when he was lying on his back. He squeezed one, a handful. “B Cup, Where is the body that once scaled a chain-link fence for a hot piece of ass? I was a god once.”
“Not with this body, or this flaccid, sad looking cock. When was the last time you masturbated? Weeks? Months? Can you even get hard?”
Where there once was the heat of an active volcano, his sexual desire now burned more like hour-old coffee. He’d eyed the waitress at Bizztro where he and all the other business men ate lunch. Watched as she picked up a discarded napkin, her shirt opening just enough to see down into the dark of cleavage. Thought of her lips touching his. How her tongue might feel flicking back and forth on his old, used up dick. Just when he thought the smoldering coals of his libido would ignite – nothing. Then she’d move on to trick the old men into letting their wallets flow freely by leaning over to let them stare at her tits.
Really, the old men?
“Tonight is different.”
“You think this forty-something you’ve never met will sleep with you?”
“Rita said we have a lot in common.”
“Rita? The twenty-five year-old at the front desk? All she knows is that you’re both old.”
“It used to be easy. Can you even remember?” the reflection said.
He did remember. There was Charlotte, or was it Carla? They met his freshman year at one of his frat parties. His stature, on the social ladder and in height, towered those around him. Victor didn’t hide that he knew.
Hendrix or Marley was playing. Or Zepplin. Sitting at a table in the kitchen, Victor was playing a game of quarters with one of the older brothers. Winning, of course. Harold Fretter was his best friend at the time, now, married with five or six kids and running a successful boat dealership in Florida. Fretter and some other douche were watching from the couch with two girls. One was Fretter’s girlfriend of the month, Minnie. The other was Carla, Minnie’s friend. Two weeks before she’d scratched her nails up Victor’s thigh, but he’d already made a bet with another brother that he could bang this Suzanne Somers look-alike. He’d even joked that Carla looked more like the other roommate from Three’s Company, the one with boyish hair and a flat chest. He’d put Carla in his back pocket and won the bet.
While they watched Victor sink quarter after quarter, Fretter and the others passed a joint. The other guy was trying to make a move on Carla, but her gaze stayed on Victor. He winked at her, bounced another quarter on the table, and made his opponent drink a whole beer. Victor stood, hands in the air, and said, “Victorious.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Fretter said, clapping.
As though invited, Victor squeezed between the two girls, pushing the other guy into the arm of the couch.
“Dude,” he said. “You mind?”
“Forgive my big dumb friend,” Fretter said.
“I can speak for myself,” Victor said, reaching for the half spent splif between Fetter’s fingers. He took it and held the joint to Carla.
“My deepest apologies,” he said. “Ladies first.”
She pinched the joint from his fingers and put it to her lips. She took a long drag and her eyes, burning with the embers of spent weed, transfixed Victor. Removing the joint from her lips, she puckered and blew a thick cloud of smoke into his face. Without moving her body she passed the joint over his shoulder to Minnie and told Victor, “You’re excused.” He caught the scent of roses, and something more primal, like blood.
“Wanna see my room?” he asked, motioning with a nod of his head.
“Hey man,” the guy said, “that’s not cool.”
Carla leaned in, her soft lips touching Victor’s briefly. She said, “Lead the way.”
At the mirror, Victor put his fingers to his lips. He’d been a jerk and Carla followed him to his room. When had he lost it? After the first accident?
“They started losing interest. Like word had spread.”
One break-up after another without so much as the tip. Making him wait before they let him fuck them. Condoms helped, no more accidents. But dating wasn’t working. Casual hook-ups were the way to go. But it was hard to go back to real relationships.
“The good ones said I was boring.”
“And the bad ones?”
“Not mother material.”
This blind date, it seemed like that one last ol’college try. Maybe she did want the same thing.
“Is that why you’re going?”
“Maybe we’ll hit it off. Maybe she wants kids.”
“And that’s it? Just hit it off to have kids?”
“I don’t know anymore.”
Checking his watch, he found a pair of jeans on the floor near his bed and a wrinkled blue button-up shirt hanging in his closet. His iron had broken two years before, and cubicle life made it easy to justify wearing disheveled clothes. Back at the mirror he tucked and un-tucked his shirt, finally deciding un-tucked better hid his belly. He patted down the few strands of hair still clinging to his scalp before pulling his LSU hat backwards onto his head.
“You look like a jackass,” he said, throwing the cap. He rushed out the door before the voice could follow.
On the way to the restaurant, his eyes kept retreating to the rearview mirror. Streetlamps were throwing flashes of light onto a woman in the car behind him. She wore little make-up. Her hair was in a ponytail. And there was a sweat stain in her spandex top between her tits. But Victor’s attention was drawn to the two small heads moving in the backseat. At a red light, he watched as the two boys’ faces appeared between the front seats. He wondered what their names were. They were laughing but the woman was facing out her window, fingers cradling her chin. Victor thought he could hear their laughter, and knew what had them so excited. HeHehasdfjdlsdjng chuckled with them. Twisting, he looked in his own backseat.
The woman honked. Victor jerked and saw the light had turned green. “Stupid bitch,” he said, as his car lurched forward. Victor twisted the radio’s volume knob like he winding a clock.
In the parking lot of the restaurant, he stood and pulled his jeans up. His belt cut into the pudgy flesh near his bellybutton. “You’re going to pop a blood vessel,” he said.
Closing his car door, he noticed a young couple watching from across the lot.
“Stop talking to yourself,” he said and turned towards the restaurant
Karen, his blind date, had already been seated and was working on a martini the consistency of swamp water. Maybe she’d be loose by the end of dinner. Then, they shook hands. Her grip matched his. Firm handshake equals ballbuster. But he sat at the table anyway.
Victor could see she’d been a hot piece, but she must have worshiped the sun. UV rays had roughed her up like an abusive luffa. At their postage-stamp-sized table, Victor hid behind the laminated menu. The restaurant was at capacity, the tables crowded with families and college students. A large group of coeds sat at the next table. Concealed by the large laminates, Victor scanned the row of perky tits like a cartographer studying a mountain range.
“Have you been here before?” Karen asked.
Victor said, “I’m sorry?”
Pulling the top of his menu down, she asked again, “Have you ever eaten here?”
Karen’s tits weren’t as interesting. They were more like his soft mounds than the girls’ pointy Mt. Everests. “Yeah, all the time. And yourself?” he said and drummed his fingers on the edge of the table. His tongue burned for a scotch.
“I’ve come here with my girlfriends for drinks. This is my first time at a table,” she said, sipping her dirty vodka. “I always thought this was a kid place, ya know?”
“No, it has a New York feel. Exposed brick. Naked rafters,” Victor said. “The raised bar is all candles. We could move up there.”
“Well, it just seems a bit of a college hangout.” She laughed. A baby cried from across the restaurant. “That and families. All these damned kids.”
What did that mean? She doesn’t like kids?
Karen finished her drink and pinched the edge of the toothpick skewering two olives. She held the first between her red lips and slid it into to her mouth. They looked like testicles. Victor watched with interest until she crushed one between her teeth.
She held the other towards him. “Want one?”
“No thanks,” he said. Ballbuster. “You’re nice to offer.”
She chewed the other one, and said, “Is Victor a family name?”
Victor wrinkled his nose at the sting of vodka and brine on her breath.
“No, I was named after some statue found in the Adriane Sea the year I was born.”
“The Adriatic Sea?”
“Yeah, that one.”
“I don’t remember a Victor in Roman mythology. They just stole everything from the Greeks, anyway. Zeus became Jupiter, Zeus’ son Hermes, the messenger, became Jupiter’s son Mercury. Do you have much interest in mythology?”
“Not really,” he said, and finished his drink. “I guess you know a lot from art classes?”
“I read a lot.”
“I never read.”
“Hmmp,” Karen said. “Nothing, not even the paper?”
He’d learned not to follow this conversation, and definitely never say books are for nerds. But he was saved when the waitress brought his drink and took their orders. Victor gulped his scotch, and let Karen talk about her career at what she called “the firm” as though she were a lawyer. He kept comparing her tits to the girls’ at the next table. They had smooth, happy valleys. Karen’s tits just looked sad.
“I’m the best designer in the city but I still get shit jobs creating business cards,” she said and laughed.
Victor finished his drink and ordered two more for the next round. The girls at the next table were growing louder, but Karen’s drone was too powerful for him to catch their conversations.
There had to be something he could do to get their attention. His stomach gurgled, and he caught his reflection in the window over Karen’s shoulder. Ol’college try? Kids?
“So, what have you designed?” he said, trying to feign interest.
“Have you seen the new exhibit at the museum?” she said.
Did he roll his eyes? He must have because Karen said, “Not a fan of museums either?”
“What, no I was trying to think of the new exhibit?” He couldn’t recall even one. “Is it the Plato Exhibit?”
Karen jerked. “Yes, that’s the one.”
And that was a quarter splash. He could win this round. But did he really want to?
As she detailed her advertising campaign, he began chancing more glances at the girls. There was an empty seat at the center of their table. He would have squeezed in were he still in college. He saw himself sitting with them. His chair, like his purple and gold hat, was turned backwards. His arms folded over the back, he pulsed his biceps, testing the strength of his t-shirt. Every eye, ear, and nipple was focused on him as he told the story of his victory in the mud football tournament. The girl to his left whispered in his ear…
His brain snapped like a rubber band.
“Sir, chicken fettuccini?”
The waitress held a bowl of noodles in front of him. Leaning back, Victor said, “Yeah, that’s mine,” and looked up at Karen. Her eyebrows and lips had twisted. He put his hand to his mouth and coughed. What was that, the reflection said, an apology?
“Can I get anything else for you folks?” the waitress asked, smiling at them.
“Yeah, two more please,” Victor said. “Anything for you, Karen?”
“I’ll have another martini,” she said, returning the waitress’s smile. “Thank you.”
Victor unrolled his silverware and thought about tucking his napkin into his collar as a joke. Karen began eating. That she had ignored his daydream flipped his opinion of her ballbustering.
“How’s your pasta?” he asked and smiled.
“It’s good,” she said, “better than the conversation.”
“Sorry. I haven’t been on a date in a while,” Victor said.
“It’s okay,” Karen said. The waitress returned with their drinks and Victor swallowed one in a single gulp. Karen continued, “I have a tendency to prattle, I suppose.”
“I’m not used to conversation. Well, not conversations with women. It’s all numbers and football in my world,” he said. And conversations about women, he thought. “Do you have any kids?”
Karen snorted. “No, I was never the nurturing type,” she said, grabbing and swallowing half of her drink. “I can’t have kids, anyway.”
Victor’s face grew hot and he felt the need to spit his food back into his plate.
“You can’t?” he said. “Why not?”
“Do you have any children?”
“Almost,” Victor said. His jaw loosened and he wanted to swallow back the word. It was too late. He could see Karen dissecting it.
She said, “What happened?”
He said, “I was young. Why can’t you have kids?”
She said, “I was young. I’m too old now, anyway.”
He said, “Too old?”
“Yes, don’t you think you’re too old to start a family?”
“I’m fifty, people…”
“That doesn’t depress you?”
“The thought of having a child, now,” she said. “I mean how old would you be when they’re twenty? If you’re still alive.”
Victor finished his fifth whiskey. His ears were ringing with the din of the restaurant, but Karen’s last sentence echoed, taunted. He wanted to laugh at her. Push away from the table and join the girls next to them. Take off his shirt and swing it around like he used to at parties.
He said, “I’m not that old.”
She laughed. “Well, I am. And those girls are too young.”
Victor stood and dropped his napkin on the table.
“Excuse me, I need to take a piss.” He raised his hands above his head, but dropped them quickly.
He weaved through the waiters and waitresses in the tight hallway leading to the restrooms. He latched the stall door and caught his weight with a hand on the red brick wall. It was gritty and cool against his palm.
“You’re losing out there.”
“I could still be a father,” he said as he read the names and messages carved or written with black markers in the rectangular bricks: “Mark likes beer. – Jimmy’s the Shit! – Slop Twat. – I got ass in here – Me too!”
Zipping his pants, he reached into his pocket and hooked his finger through his keychain. He flipped through and found the key he used the least. Leaning on his left forearm for support, he began to carve his name in a blank brick. His hands quivered, and the second line of his “V” slashed below the first. Red specks sputtered from under his key and hit his cheek.
Victor finished the “r” and stood back to see the wall as a whole. His resembled the writing of a boy first learning to write. He breathed in deep, the ammonia of old piss burned his nostrils.
“Good enough,” he said as he left the restroom without washing his hands.
“Sorry, too many whiskeys, I guess,” he said when he got back to the table.
“I asked for the checks,” Karen said, nodding towards two black receipt books. “And some boxes.”
Victor nodded, eyes on the table. The group of girls had left, their table sat empty, disheveled. He sucked back the last piece of ice in his glass.
“That’s okay.” He leaned back in his chair, propping his elbow on the back of the chair. He crunched ice with his mouth open, and said, “You’re not my type.”
“Thanks for dinner,” Karen said, pushing both checkbooks towards him. She hooked her arm through her purse, stood, and walked away.
As she passed Victor on her way out he called, “What? I’m not good enough for you?”
Karen walked on, head down.
Victor paid the bill, and boxed both meals. “I paid for them, I’m going to eat’em,” he mumbled.
He moved to the bar and ordered two more whiskeys. He’d won, right? “Made her look like a fool. No kids with that one.”
Two girls, one blonde one brunette, from the table of coeds were sitting at the bar. Victor walked over and hovered between them.
“How are you ladies tonight?” he asked, doing his best to hold his shoulders back and suck in his gut.
“Super,” the blonde said. “Looks like your date didn’t go so great.”
Victor swayed, put his arm on the back of her chair. “Yeah, she was an old hag.”
“Aww, that’s too bad.” They both giggled, and the blonde slapped her friend on the knee.
His head felt like it was hovering above his shoulders. “But I was Victorious.” He laughed. “My name’s Victor. Get it?’
The girls didn’t laugh.
“Can I buy you ladies a drink?”
“We’re friends with the bar tender,” the blonde said.
Victor saw his opportunity. He waved his hand and said, “Hey, buddy, service?”
“Be nice,” the blonde said, rubbing her hand down Victor’s arm.
“Excuse me, I’m a big dumb animal, sometimes,” he said. He laughed alone. Then, he thought of Fretter and his family.
“Karen couldn’t handle her drink like me.”
“We only like top-shelf,” the brunette said, winking at her friend.
“I only buy top-shelf,” Victor said.
“Who’s Karen,” the brunette said, “your date?”
“Yeah,” Victor said, trying to suppress a burp, “can you believe she doesn’t like kids.”
“Do you have kids?” the blonde asked.
“No,” he said, “And, wouldn’t want’em with that frigid bitch.”
The bartender appeared. “She was pretty,” the blonde said.
“Too bad,” the brunette said, “guess you’ll be going home alone.”
“Maybe not,” he said, moving his hand to the blonde’s shoulder.
She shrugged, and the bartender glowered at Victor. “This old guy bothering you?”
The boy’s eyes looked familiar. Victor saw the fallible assurance of youth, the glint he no longer saw in his own. He turned to the blonde. “Am I that old?”
“You could be my dad,” she said, pity saturating her expression.
“Get the message?” the bartender said.
Victor looked over the bartender’s shoulder to the mirror behind the bottles of liquor. He held the gaze of his reflection, no longer unrecognizable. He could be her dad; he could have been a father to any of them. He relaxed what little hold he had on his girth. Let his belt slide down.
He patted his stomach.
“You’re right,” he said, taking a sweeping glance at their chests, “you girls be safe.”
He returned to his end of the bar, stumbling as he sat. The bartender followed, gave him a glass of water and said, “Didn’t mean to spoil your fun, old man.”
He watched the girls lean towards the bar tender, the blonde’s hand on his arm. “Be careful with that one.”
Victor sipped his water. It cooled the alcohol and embarrassment flaring in his stomach. But a desire still burned. One he doubted he’d ever be able to extinguish.
Story Copyright of Dusty Cooper