I smelled Old Spice just as I entered the Men’s department. Suddenly, it was ten years ago and I was in the cab of his truck. His scent had been strong that first night; all my senses had been overloaded that first night.
I stopped now, disoriented. I hardly ever shopped at the mall (and didn’t understand why anybody else did, either) and had even less reason to be in the Men’s department of Sherman’s, our local Neimen-Marcus. All thoughts of why I was here disappeared as I searched anxiously for the source of the scent. It was strong; someone had just passed through here. Michael?
Walking quickly through the maze of shirts and pants, I saw a flash of sun-streaked hair as a man went through the glass exit door. Almost running, I pushed against the bar and made it through the outer door just as it was closing. I stood on the concrete outside the mall, searching the faces of dozens of shoppers. He was gone.
Feeling foolish, I turned back toward the door, and then stopped. I couldn’t go back in the mall. The scent was still with me, and my heart was still pounding. I took a deep breath and walked out into the parking lot searching for my car. As I walked, the last images of him played through my head. Thoughts that should have been dead, emotions I thought had played out a long time ago. One good whiff of Old Spice and my knees were as weak as they’d been ten years ago.
Michael had pushed open my office door one Monday morning, asking if I knew where the building manager’s office was. I pointed at the stairs visible through the large glass front of my small office and said, “He’s just at the top. New tenant?” I was sitting at the conference table in the front office. My own workspace, in the next room, was stacked with files, products waiting to be photographed and the hundreds of bits and pieces that I used to put catalogues and brochures together. I never let clients in there.
I met with clients at the conference table and used it as a space to review copy, or when I wanted to look out the window at the landscaping and clear my head.
“Yeah, I’m doing the up-fits here now so I get a little office to work out of. I’m Michael, good to meet you.” He held out a calloused, clean hand. I felt the attraction immediately.
“Claire. Good to meet you.” We shook hands. He held on just a second too long and I felt my cheeks burn.
‘OK, I’m off to get a key. Want to have dinner?” He opened the glass door and waved as he pushed out, not even waiting for my answer. My stomach did that little flip it does when I meet someone I know I’m going to sleep with.
Long ago I stopped trying to varnish lust with love or friendship. It always ended badly for me. I had a couple of serious relationships in my past and they had taught me the pain was never worth the pleasure. The year before, when I moved into the office complex I swore work would get my energy, not men. I wasn’t stupid, or dead, so I had tried the one-night stand thing a few times. I found that if I went to their place, or a motel, it wasn’t so bad. I never took anyone home. Waking up with a stranger was weird and uncomfortable. I liked sleeping in my own bed, alone. So that’s how I’d been living for over a year and I liked it.
Funny, once I stripped away the “fluff” of relationships, I was attracted less often and missed absolutely nothing about them. Being unattached was great — no waiting for phone calls, no wondering if I said or did the right thing, no pretending to be interested in sports or his hobbies. I didn’t feel obligated to go to movies I wasn’t interested in, or cook food I didn’t like. I didn’t have to think about anyone but myself. Stuff stayed where I put it, my bathroom was always clean, and I never woke up with someone pawing at my breasts at 5 am anymore. I liked being alone.
Then Michael walked in, smiled his brilliant smile, and walked out. He was exactly my type. He worked with his hands, his body, building things, fixing things. He had sun-streaked hair and bronze skin from being outside, not from the salon. He had strong, healthy teeth that hadn’t been bleached to florescence. His body wasn’t gym-bred, but the result of work, hard work. I could see the outline of well-muscled legs and arms under his clothes.
He came back that afternoon.
“Hey,” he said quietly as he walked through the door. I was sitting at the table finally getting some work done. Copy editing takes concentration and he’d broken mine that morning.
“Hey yourself. Get your key?” I straightened the papers on the desk in front of me. I hadn’t looked him directly in the eyes, wondering if the fluttering in my stomach could stand a full-on assault.
“Hungry?” he asked, holding out his hand.
When I looked up, his green eyes were burning and I didn’t want food. I took his hand and stood close.
“Oh, yeah, I’m hungry,” I said, and then walked into my office. I got my things; we locked up and went across the street to dinner. I still don’t remember what I ordered. I do remember we fucked in the cab of his truck an hour later.
Now, I unlocked my car, and looked around one last time. Surely Michael wouldn’t be driving the same truck, I thought. Still, I searched the lot for an old, beat-up red Ford with a dirty white stripe on the bottom of the doors. Every time I saw an old truck, Ford or not, if it was that faded red my heart thumped a little harder. That happened occasionally and it passed quickly. Ten years later, I understood Michael had done something no one had done before, and part of me would never get over it. I had known other women who mooned over a boyfriend or husband years after they were gone and I never got it until Michael. He’d been the first man to take me to my knees. Literally. After that first night, in the cab of his truck, I didn’t care where or when.
He’d started staring before we even gave the server our order. The longer he stared, the harder I found it to breathe. Finally, I said, “Why are you staring? Something I should know?” I tend to be flip when I’m nervous and no one had made me nervous in a long time.
“I’m staring because I’m trying to figure out what you want.”
“Just ask,” I said defiantly, looking at him with the same intensity he was using on me. The server came then and as I said, I have no idea what I ordered. I do remember drinking iced tea and thanking her when she brought our meal. We talked a little about his work, about my work, what books we’d both read, how many relationships we’d left at the side of the road, what kind of weather we liked.
At some point, he said, “Let’s go. I can’t take it anymore.” He stood, put some money on the table and we left. I walked next to him and felt the heat from him like the sun on tarmac. My own heart was thundering and my thighs were threatening to give way. My cunt was aching, wet. We crossed the street and walked around the building to the back parking lot. His truck sat under one of the maples planted so carefully around the building’s perimeter. The shade blocked the streetlamp. Michael unlocked the passenger door and took my hand, pulling me inside. I started to say something when he crushed his mouth on mine, pulling me against him.
His chest was as firm as I’d imagined, his arms as strong. His kiss was hungry, so was mine. He maneuvered me under him, lifting himself up enough to pull off his T-shirt, unzip his jeans. I yanked off my own shirt and started wiggling my jeans over my hips. He whispered, “Wait, I want to look at you.”
I stopped, and let him finish undressing me. He looked at me, his eyes glittering in the half-light. His hands roamed over my breasts, my stomach, tugged my jeans away. He suckled my breasts as he lifted my hips against him. I moved toward him, moaning, wanting him inside me. He held me in his arms like a plaything, lifting, sucking, and tasting me.
Finally, when I couldn’t stand it anymore, he drove himself into me, and then pounded out my orgasm in minutes. His cries were hoarse and my own were mostly gasps. I’d never been so white hot, climaxed so quickly. I’d never wanted someone so much. After he stopped, we lay tangled on the seat, Michael’s arms holding me, his dick still inside me. We waited until we were breathing normally before we spoke.
“Do you want to come to my place?” he asked, raising his head to watch my face.
“More than you know,” I said. He kissed me then, bruising my lips. I sucked his dick while he drove to his house a few blocks away. We fucked again in his driveway, under the Bradford Pear tree.
I drove around the mall parking lot for almost an hour before I finally gave it up. If it was Michael I’d smelled, why on earth would I want to see him now, ten years and so much pain later? I didn’t, I swear I didn’t. But as the day wore on, my thoughts kept returning to the heat of that time. The warm nights of that summer, the breeze through my hair while he pressed me against the Bradford Pear, both of us freezing mid-stroke when the lights of a passing car highlighted our skin in the darkness.
We fucked in his front yard, my car in the office parking lot, the desk in my office, his bed, his couch, his kitchen floor, the cab of his truck, anywhere he wanted me, I lifted my skirt and reached for him. I had never known such hunger.
Once, he came to my office on a Friday. I had very few walk in clients; I was a graphic designer and copywriter, clients didn’t come in off the street. When it was necessary to meet with them, I preferred their offices. And I made a point of asking that visits to my office were by appointment only. But that Friday, a new client, and one I already regretted signing up, decided to come by unannounced.
Michael had me on my work table in my office with my skirt hiked up, his jeans around his ankles, my blouse open, his mouth against my neck, his arms wrapped tightly around me. My knuckles were white against the edge of the desk, my hips bucking furiously against his pounding dick. Gasping, moaning and fevered whispers kept us from hearing the tentative knock on the glass.
When Michael finally slumped against me, my head fell back and my arms gave out completely. I lay on the desk, my legs over the side, Michael on top of me, both breathing the deep, exhausted breath of furiously satiated desire.
We pried ourselves apart and Michael walked toward the bathroom in the outer office. That’s when we heard the knocking and the “Oh, hello! Is Ms. Sharp in?” Michael stopped, his hand still zipping up, shirt unbuttoned, and looked at the idiot on the other side of the glass door. Suddenly he grinned and turned the lock. He opened the door just far enough to say, “Dude, she’s busy. I mean really, really busy. Call next time and make an appointment.”
I was still flat on my back on the worktable in the other room. I heard everything (it was a small office) and should have been horrified. Instead, I started laughing so hard I thought I was going to wet my pants. I expected I would be mailing Mr. Dumbass his copy the next day so he could find another designer. But I didn’t care. I didn’t care about anything but Michael.
And that was my life for three years.