Happy Meal Romeo

It’s summer in the city. A time when few things, if any, titillate me quite as much as seeing couples–married couples mind you, and preferably with a child or children–warring with one another in the most public of places. I could care less what they are fighting about, and while I might delight in the degree of hostility the verbiage their exchange over near-nothing carries, even I am aware that I will most likely not be able to use each observation of a particular couple to my advantage. I’ve got a life, and I can’t be bothered with tailing and keeping tabs on all of them, and frankly, I don’t need to. So long as there are marital problems–and given the staggering rate of divorce here, there appears to be no shortage–I will be A-OK. Assuming I don’t die from utter exhaustion.

I work hard. I’d say I probably work harder than most. Nope, definitely harder than most. When you rent or own a total of seven apartments–in Manhattan no less–and furnish each of them to match the varying tastes of the women who inhabit the seven neighborhoods those very same seven apartments are located, and do so impeccably, there is no downtime. Aside from the two afternoon hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays that I afford myself in order to enjoy the fruits of all this labor, you will almost always find me working. I’ll allow that there must absolutely be a few minutes in every day that my body and brain insist I sleep. I’m not sure when those minutes actually take place. My addiction is demanding and I’m okay with that. Hell, at least McDonald’s is still relatively cheap, because I doubt any of what I do would be working if I didn’t at least ordered a small bag of fries.

Let me try to get straight to the point. I sleep with mommies–all races, sizes, and religions. The only guaranteed similarities of the women I bed is that I find them at McDonald’s on the aforementioned afternoons, and that each and everyone of them has been defeated. That probably sounds like I am the one doing the defeating, but what I mean to say is that each of them has let all the trials and tribulations of being a married housemother crush what I am sure were once very vibrant spirits. You might call that easy pickings, but let’s be fair to me here; nannies far outnumber actual mommies in this town. And the fairly recent demands Bloomberg put on chain joints to display the caloric counts of Big Macs and their brethren, coupled with the desire–even in defeat–to still be the best mom in the world, has driven most self-respecting mothers to take their children to Subway, at the very least. It is nothing like the salad days I enjoyed when I first started this back in the late nineties.

I’m not going to bore you with how this situation came to be. It is too late for that, and it is too late for me. I recognize that my addiction is a huge problem, but my admission on these pages isn’t because I am hoping to stop by coming clean. If anything, I’m either writing all of this down because I’m proud of the small degree of joy I’ve brought into the lives of what I believe to be exactly three-hundred and eighteen women, or because I’m worried that if I don’t record it, in some fashion, no one will ever know what I was up to, other than tirelessly working.

I don’t kiss and tell–I never have–and so, if I were to keel right over on my way to job number three of six tomorrow morning, the few friends I have would only remember me as the buddy of theirs who worked himself to the bone, and for what? A simple studio apartment in Lower Manhattan with nothing more than a mattress, cable, and only a forty-two inch, not even LED, flat screen TV amongst countless empty containers of Chinese take-out? I could live in one of the my other six apartments, each with all the usual creature comforts, but I’ve tried that, and on far too frequent an occasion some mommies have had the nerve to perform an I-was-just-in-the-neighborhood-pop-in to see their Happy Meal Romeo. To put it bluntly, that’s simply not part of the deal, not a part of my deal anyway.

To say I was surprised to see Meghan outside of my primary address yesterday morning as I stumbled home from job five of six would be a lie. In actuality I’d been rather disappointed that in over two decades not one of them had ever bothered to stalk me in the realest sense. I wasn’t hoping it would happen, but had been preparing for it to happen nonetheless. And there she was with her infant son, Gabriel, tucked neatly into a nearly five hundred dollar Britax B-Ready Stroller–you don’t experience the volume of success I’ve had without knowing the baby gear bullshit inside and out. Meghan was peering up at my studio window on the third floor of the crusty pre-war building that housed it. Only now, she just barely resembled the woman I’d fallen so madly and deeply for at the St. Marks McDonald’s just two short days before.

It was a Wednesday, which is a day that over the years I had systematically removed from my hunting schedule. It’s a pitiful day to operate, for far too often a couple’s weekend argument will resolve itself by Tuesday evening. I surmise that the thirtyish hours between Sunday evening and then is enough time to let cooler heads prevail for what I can only assume to be the sake of the children–I couldn’t really say for sure, having never taken that dreadful walk down a hypocritical aisle. Either way, in the early going, I learned through trial and error that on Monday, mommies are still too mad. They hate all men based on the actions of their husbands. With my skills a Tuesday afternoon is doable, but by Wednesdays they have lied themselves back into a momentary illusion of contentment with the state of their sad lives. While I can still work with that, I’ve got a small window of time these days and it’s far easier to catch them on a Thursday of Friday when old pre-monogamy habits can be gently reignited.

It is no hump-day for me, and I was there for a chocolate shake, nothing more, until I saw Meghan. Not so defeated as to have given up physically; she was young and her body had obviously rebounded quickly. But in her eyes there was an infinite black sadness that all the florescent lights there could not fill.

Yesterday morning, the difference, and I spotted it from a half-block’s distance, was the just slightly brighter than dim hope she now possessed in those same peepers that had pulled me in so quickly. A connection between us, as I saw it, no longer existed. Like so many before her, the very quality that had immediately hooked me forty-eight hours before had been robbed from me–by me–in what normally took three or four beddings at a minimum. There is nothing remotely attractive about a confident woman. Plenty of men may disagree and fortunately for those poor bastards we live in what some might refer to as the era of confident motherhood. While I wouldn’t go so far as to label Meghan’s demeanor yesterday morning as self-assured, it was clear to me that if we were ever to be a thing again, it would only be after she had returned to her husband, her material things, her land of pre-nursery-school-school interviews and daytime TV. Only then, might we ever be able to again enjoy one another completely.

These things can take time; she certainly won’t be the first woman to eventually crawl back into a red and yellow booth smelling of smooshed pickles and ketchup, hoping that schmuck of a clown will help her eat her feelings. And when she’s reached that place of desperation again, I’ll be obliged to rescue her once more, and I’ll even have a new toy for Gabriel by then.

Until that time however, I’ll have to stay at my Chelsea dwelling and pray that none of the few mommies I’ve bedded in the last few months in this area are feeling up to steering their strollers my way. There are inconveniences to my hobby, I’m sure that you’ve hypothesized more than a few–but would be more likely to cast aspersions my way than offer me even a shred of sympathy. And I can live with that; if you are married I’ve no doubt that eventually I’ll be helping you too. Together, we can all live happily ever after.

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Memorial Elevasion

Last Friday morning I came bebopping down from my Jefferson-esque deluxe apartment in the sky filled with a special kind of piss and vinegar that only the promise of a three day weekend can impose upon a stinkin’ thinkin’ fella like myself. LIke many New Yorkers, I was only mere hours away from hopping into some form of transportation to skedaddle from my Point A to a Country B in order to rid myself of a little of the city’s oppressive this and thats. My mood was aces, my demeanor, spirited, and as I bounced off the elevator into the lobby to head out into the world I might have even been humming Matthew Wilder’s Break My Stride. “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride, oh no…” and so forth.

On the other side of my building’s lobby’s wall of glass widows and electronically locked double doors were two towering gentleman in orange jumpsuits. They had tool belts, tool boxes, and each smoked a cigarette–a sure sign of questionable character–while standing there, peering into the lobby like sharks on the other side of a flimsy Jaws sequel aquarium attraction looking for the rube who’d set them loose–and after a moment of hesitation, one in which I rapidly considered recoiling back into the elevator while feigning a look that communicated “Oops, I forgot something,” indirectly to these mindless stealing machines–I decided to be their Dennis Quaid.

Precision Elevator was embroidered on the left chest pocket of their matching garb. A nice touch I thought, and as I inched closer I could see that there were indeed all manner of tools in their belts and boxes–sinister in their appearance, think torture table instrumentation from any spy, slasher, or film about dentistry. As I made it through the first set of doors into the foyer, I tried to decide if I the adult thing to do was inquire about credentials. After all, it was the start of a holiday in which countless city dwellers abandon their abodes, and posing as elevator repairmen seemed like a clever way to get inside a building with the very tools required for picking the cheap locks contractors had outfitted my condo building with, if not every condo building in greater Williamsburg.

I opened the second door to the outside world, and before I could utter the first syllable of my credentials request, the first gentleman entered and in the thickest of Russian accents said, “We are here to look at elevator.” He hadn’t even bothered to put out his smoke before joining me in the foyer, and his buddy was quick to put his foot in the door just in case I decided to try any last minute slam-and-go maneuvers–you know the kind; where you let a door close on someone and act like you had your head so far up your own ass that you totally missed seeing them there, so you act hurried and give the person a shrug while holding your cellular to your ear that says, “I’m sorry, so busy I can’t even come back to open the door for you.” Aren’t we all armed with that routine?

They had gained entry, but they hadn’t made me a believer. I decided to situate myself under the steel awning over the entrance of my building under the guise of having a smoke while texting in order to assess what options I was left with. I began mentally cataloging everything of worth in our own apartment. There wasn’t much I cared about losing to these thieves. We live an almost ridiculously minimal existence at this particular address, so if they started or finished with our unit the joke would be on them. If they got around to ransacking our apartment in the middle of all the others, its lack of quality thievables probably wouldn’t have the same impact. But then I remembered our cat, Target. If they were to break in, there was a good chance she’d escape and probably end up in a ditch by the side of a road somewhere, meowing for money, and doing unspeakable things to try to make it by in a cruel world she’d never asked to have been born in.

Panic set in, and I debated going back into the lobby to demand those credentials. I’d noticed the two of them weren’t doing anything other than milling around inside the lobby and staring back at me. I figured they were trying to decide if they should wait for me to leave before emptying out this modern day Whoville, or worse, come back out and throw me into a van they most certainly had parked around the corner (for I saw no van out front while trying to assess their legitimacy) only to deal with me later. I could leave right then, with my life, and hope that the cat might bury herself under the bed until they were gone–this seemed like my best option at that point.

Then, as I was feigning playing words with friends, I remembered, “You have a working cell phone now idiot, and Ariele put the super’s number in there for you.” A simple text was made to that very gentleman, it read something like this: “Hey dude, it’s Peter from Unit XYZ, I just let a couple of dudes in to repair the elevator and I’m concerned that they might be Memorial Day thieves of some sort.” I hit send and waited impatiently. Tick, tock, tick, tock…

“Cool. I’m here. I’ll come get them.” He wrote back.

I would say I was relieved, and I was for a moment, but it was truly short lived and any peace about the situation was almost immediately replaced with the realization that the super was in on it too. And barring that scenario, the elevator needed repairing? When would its cables be snapping, and would me or the Mrs. be the unfortunate rider on that fateful plunge. I headed to work and the sweet docile tones of Wilder’s Break My Stride never returned.