She rejected me even before we met. That’s embarrassing enough. What do I do with the Viagra. That’s even more embarrassing. My medicine cabinet will not let me open the door so that Viagra can find its place on a shelf.
It began this way. A friend of a friend of a friend -- is that three degrees of separation -- in other words I knew neither the person I was supposed to be introduced to nor the person who knew the person I was supposed to be introduced to -- oh, forget it -- too complicated. Anyway, along that string of people knowing and not knowing I was supposed to meet a single woman who had expressed an interest in having a pal (male since she had female pals) to hang out with, go to museums and concerts.that sort of thing.
OK, I’m a single male who does those things. And while I occasionally do it with my kids and g-kids and a couple of young friends, I generally look and listen in solitude. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m content to do it that way. I try to stay as far away from relationship messiness as I can. I’ve had my share. I’ve probably broken a few world records. Besides, I’m old, very old. I can’t imagine why anyone younger would want to hang out with me. I don’t get many requests to be someone’s pal, and the ones I’ve received, I’ve turned down.
This time I relented. I suppose I was so inclined because she was said to be an artist, and in the past I’ve had fun palling around with artist friends, although we became pals under different circumstances. After saying yes, I asked how we should proceed? I was not told.
I could envision messages flipping back and forth across these degrees of separation about a rendez-vous, like that kid’s game of whispering something in each other’s ear to see how it came out at the end. I was not a part of these consultations, and I don’t know if she was.
Weeks passed, and I heard nothing. I was in town and out of town. I don’t know where she was. I attended a concert and a play and walked through several galleries on my own, as usual. I did not meet her. And I had a doctor’s appointment, and that where this drawn-out proposal for two people to meet took an interesting twist.
Dr Joe was the doctor I’d wished I’d always had. His laugh -- a laugh verging on a howl -- was enough to make me feel so healthy I could throw away all the pills he’d ever prescribed. Unlike the normal procedure of an hour with the resident -- all very smart and pleasant -- and ten-minutes with the physician I got to see Dr Joe for at least half an hour. We chatted, we joked, we caught up. I’m among the lucky few who still needs one appointment, a check-up, each year. His admonitions don’t change.
---“You need to control your weight.” ---“But, Dr Joe, you keep forgetting I’m still lifting weights, and in opposition to all medical history, I’m still adding mass. Let’s compare love handles?” And, as customary, Dr Joe laughed his laugh and moved on.
---“No plans to ski this year, I hope?” At the end it was always the same question.
I am amazed in my advanced state, one foot on the edge, how concerned doctors including residents are about my very late sex life, more so than any doctor was when sex was what I needed 24 slash 7.
He leaned back in his chair, his arms folded behind his head, his glasses hugging his forehead, with a dead-serious look, and asked, So I explained to him about the degrees of separation, at the other end of which was a woman who might want to pal around with me. I confessed I wasn’t sure how to take palling around, as it was described to me, and since we hadn’t met yet MAY I RETURN THE VIAGRA
and the intermediaries had gone mum about the whole business.well, I wasn’t counting on anything.
---“Are you ready to let something develop with her or with someone else, if that occasion should rise?” I said what I often said.not opposed but not making it happen.
---“You know, Dr Joe, it’s been a while. ---“Hmm,” said Dr Joe. I noticed he leaned forward to study my charts again and then he began to type on his keyboard. I had no ideas what he was doing or thinking.
---“I’ve added a prescription. One dosage. No refills. If you need a refill, we’ll talk about it. It’s for ‘just in case’, given your age. You have never struck me as someone who needed to be in a relationship, but if it comes along, it wouldn’t hurt you. Call me for an appointment, and we can decide how to proceed from there.” When the pharmacist -- a woman, no less -- handed me my bag of pills and asked in a crystal-clear voice, “Did I had any questions about the Viagra?” just added to my normal collection”. “No questions,” as I wilted. I felt the same way I did when, before my vasectomy I had to buy condoms.
At home I looked at the label on the bottle and then inside at the oddly-shaped blue pills and thought.color and shape.bad signs.
I’d heard nothing about the woman I hadn’t met, so now, armed with Viagra, I looked up her web page for a second time. Earlier, I had breezed through her site because I thought we’d have a chance to talk directly about her portfolio and I might even get a chance to tour her studio. Weeks had passed since my first visit to her web page. I was dubious we’d ever meet but my curiosity remained. I decided to spend more time studying a dozen or so lithographs, her speciality, plus a few other pieces created in other media. I began to notice certain symbols were repeated at different angles, under different light, almost as if the viewer were being beckoned to partake of something. The site, I realized had been created more than a year ago and hadn’t been updated. I’d been led to believe she’d just arrived in town, but, no, she’d lived here a while. She listed several artists who had been teachers or had influenced her, and among the names I recognized one or two with a bit of a shudder. I did not like their art. I read her brief commentary that took on a MAY I RETURN THE VIAGRA
slightly different tone now that I had spent more time looking than my first trip through.
There was one of those complicated, coded email menus, and I decided on the spot to write her, to introduce myself, to advise her where she could find out more -- I am all over the web -- and I did this, I must confess, fully expecting any answer. At least a courteous reply.
More weeks passed. No word either along the chain of acquaintances, who had engineered this, or by email. I was busy with various projects, and I had pretty much forgotten about the mystery woman and the Viagra.
I ran into the one person in the chain whom I knew at a local java hut we both frequented. We caught up on a number of things, and then she turned serious, very serious, and she said, she thought you looked old and sounded lecherous.
If I’d had coffee in my mouth, it would have spewed all over my friend, sitting directly across from me.
---“You made a lousy impression. That surprised me. In person you make a good impression. But, when introduced through your web pages, it’s the opposite.” ---“You’ve looked at my web pages, you’ve read my stories, you’ve followed my ventures, and you were never offended.” ---“True, and I’m still not. I should have prefaced my remark with ‘my friend’ through ‘her friend’ for ‘her friend’s friend’ delivered that message.” ---“And you didn’t protest on my behalf, as if I need that.” ---“No. I decided, after all these weeks, it was a bad idea. It was going nowhere, and I knew why. I figured it out. Did you?” My java-pal, who did not know the woman I was to meet but knew the woman who had conveyed the original piece of information, seemed offhandedly to change the subject.
---“I just came from a gallery opening, about which I’m suppose to write a blog. It will be hard. Somebody once described like the one exhibit I just saw as ‘facade art.’ Does that ring any bells? You are expected to walk into the painting or the print, to be covered with bits of floral, confetti, all those feel-good icons. I can see that the light bulb just went on,” she said with a snarky laugh and a hand on my shoulder.” I had figured it out. I dropped my head. Of course I had. I also knew why my second visit to her web page had planted a doubt in my mind, especially after I had seen who one of her teachers was.
---“Take it in stride, my friend, you got dismissed for who you are -- you live in dissonance and make no bones about it. Messiness you avoid like a plague but it surrounds you all the time. That’s why you’re single and probably will remain so. With her it would have been messy, very messy,” she declared in a genuine sentiment that paid homage to our friendship.
---“As you know, I’ve been dismissed before but never before I actually met the person who would dismiss me,” I replied with as much irony as I could muster. I was both relieved and disappointed -- relieved because I’d escaped and disappointed because I failed, again.
As if reading my mind, with her head slightly askew, my pal followed up with, ---“Were you looking forward to meeting her?” I paused, out of embarrassment, that my thoughts were so visible.
---“I was. I guess despite my tough exterior, my solemn vow, there is a part of me on the inside that holds out modest hope. Dr Joe even gave me a prescription for Viagra.” ---“Oh, how funny, you fool. It may have been doomed from the beginning but that certainly was the clincher. Before you even met her. Get that pharm out of your cabinet. You’ll find that the bounce in your step will return. I’ve got a date with someone who needs the blue pill, we learned after we met. You never quite get the routine down, do you?” We hugged and parted. No returns at the pharmacy, I assume.


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