No credit is deserved for recognizing beauty of the traffic stopping variety. I would not be surprised if many of you consider me to be a shallow individual, one whose life revolves around hedonism and eye candy. But truth be told, I take great pride in my powers of observation regarding subtle attractions. In creating woman, God presented man with a cornucopia of delights. If one looks past the obvious, beyond the superficial, he will come across far more precious and lasting attributes in the fairer gender.
Such was the case with Yvette. The rigors of her trade caused prettiness to be of minimal concern. Perhaps if she worked at an upscale restaurant she would have focused more on her appearance to get bigger tips. More valuable when working at a neighborhood diner was a comfortable pair of shoes. She was easy to look past, but if you chose instead to look close, your eyes would spot a glimmer of diamond beneath the coal.
Life had not been particularly kind to Yvette, as I was to discover. And I would end up adding to her list of woes. This was not my original intention, of course. I simply wished to reward her for the smile she greeted me with each day.
Yvette is a waitress at the diner around the corner from my apartment. She served me breakfast regularly, and for this reason an attachment was formed. Perhaps the mother-child bond is likewise explained.
She wasn't overly chatty or nosy - so much for comparisons to Mom. "How are things with you?" was as deep a question as she would pose. But the familiarity bred by frequent visitation caused me to volunteer a good deal more information than was customary. The fact that I wasn't putting moves on her no doubt played a part. We were just making conversation for the sake of hearing our own voices, and as time went by, ended up finding out quite a bit about each other.
There was one question I didn't ask, despite my steadily growing curiosity. Curiosity isn't the best choice of words actually, for I was fairly certain of what the answer was. Only a husband's fists could make the bruises that sporadically showed upon her. But it was none of my business, and I had no intention of making it so.
Intentions are only as strong as a person's will, however. If you remember anything I've told you, remember this.
On a day Yvette was unable to force a smile past her fattened lip or a sparkle past her blackened eye, I found myself no longer able to maintain silence.
"Because I thought you might want to talk about it."
"I don't," she said meekly.
"How about some revenge then?"
She looked at me curiously. "What kind of revenge?"
"The best kind," I said as I took her hands in mind. "The kind that helps you forget about the rest of the world for awhile."
Yvette's husband was one of New York's finest, a fate I wouldn't wish upon my greatest enemy. His days were spent sifting through piles of manure disguised as human beings. To forget about this he went home and drank. When his memory persisted in spite of the liquor, he would lash back at the world. Yvette was the world's designated stand-in.
For reasons I've never fully understood, many women have a tough time fighting back or running away from the men who they love in spite of themselves. When he carries a gun for a living, that probably makes it even harder. Excusing bad behavior and convincing themselves that the last time really was the last time is something women like Yvette have mastered. Blaming herself was another neat trick she had perfected. She was convinced that her inability to conceive a child was at the core of her husband's rage. Only the innocence of a baby could wash away the stench of the streets.
I chose to put a more simplified spin on the matter. Yvette's husband was an asshole and his actions would be rewarded by my fucking his wife. Crude and juvenile perhaps, but straight to the point, and what better path is there to take to a point?
Why I believed my penis could serve as penicillin for an unhealthy marriage, I'll never know. We believe what we wish to be true. I thought I could give a sad woman much deserved moments of joyful surrender. And from the way she moaned beneath me that afternoon, it seemed my mission had been accomplished.
"I feel like my life took a wrong turn somewhere," she said as we lay contentedly on my bed. "But it isn't too late to turn back. I think I see a better way now."
The way she looked at me, I was pretty sure who she thought would provide that way. Ordinarily I would have begun climbing out of the hole I had dug for myself right away. But I didn't want to spoil things for her. I would let her bliss be uninterrupted for the time being. And so I kissed the places her husband had seen fit to strike. Then I kissed the place he wanted to be an exit door for his heirs and gave Yvette the best tip she ever got.
I arrived at the diner at my usual time late the next morning with hope that our relationship could go back to normal. The previous day would be our special secret, acknowledged from time to time with a knowing grin. When I gauged the bounce in Yvette's step as she headed towards me, the lilt in her voice as she greeted me, and the tenderness reflected in her eyes, I knew that my hopes were not to be.
Our conversation was similar to past occasions, except for a new found giddiness to her words and the question she asked as I paid the bill.
"Sure." The bruises her husband caused had yet to heal. It didn't seem right to disappoint her so soon. I took a break from writing each afternoon anyway, and Yvette was as good a way to spend it as any.
So this became the new pattern of my life. Three times a week Yvette and I would fornicate as feverishly as if we were responsible for the survival of the species. On the days I didn't have breakfast at her diner, she would remain out of sight and mind. Much like a soap opera or daytime talk show, I served as a temporary escape from reality for her. The arrangement should have been sufficient. But after about a month, Yvette began to express that she wanted more. It ceased to be about strings-free sex. The sex would be followed by imposing questions.
"What do you do on the days I don't see you?"
"How come you're never home when I call?"
"Are you doing this because I'm married, so you know it can't get too serious? If I was available would you still want me?"
I'd answer as I answered all women who wished to know more than was good for them, telling whatever lie would momentarily appease while simultaneously planning my escape. I had become Yvette's bad habit and would now have to cure her cold turkey.
At 3:30 on the fifth consecutive day I kept away from her workplace, someone knocked on my door. I was not surprised by who I found on the other side.
"It's been a while."
"Are you busy?"
"Actually I am. I'm in a real groove with my writing. I try not to disturb a good flow if I can help it. They're not that common."
"I was beginning to worry that you're avoiding me."
"Worrying isn't good for you, Yvette."
"I'm not asking for an explanation."
I hadn't planned on giving one but refrained from telling her this.
"I don't want to be taken for granted," she continued. "I get enough of that at home." She undid the top button of her blouse and opened it wide enough for me to glimpse the bruise over her collar bone.
"Do you get enough of this?" I asked, after which I gently kissed her discolored flesh while drawing her into my apartment. Although my brain was warning that I would be better off sending Yvette on her way rather than setting a false precedent of reliability, my sentimental heart was wary of crushing her spirit.
I swore to myself that this would be the last time I played the part of Yvette’s Band-aid. She would have to find someplace else to heal. If our arrangement went on any longer things would start getting complicated, and I liked my life simple and manageable. Easily said, but as it turned out, not so easily done.
"Yvette, what are you doing here?" I asked reproachfully upon the occasion of her next unannounced and unwelcome visit.
"I thought I'd surprise you." She held up a bag of groceries. "Make you breakfast instead of only serving it to you. Free of charge, too. But judging by the scent coming from the kitchen I guess you're already cooking for yourself."
I made an embarrassed smile. It had been eight days since Yvette last served me breakfast in the morning and herself in the afternoon. The tone of her unreturned phone messages had grown increasingly frantic over that period. I had been hoping she would get the hint. Apparently I needed to be blunt and unambiguous.
"Why aren't you at work?"
"I took the day off."
An awkward silence followed. This was supposed to be when I asked her to come inside. No invitation would be forthcoming.
"How come?" I asked for some asinine reason.
"To spend it with you. Didn't you get my message?"
'Which one of the twenty?' was the sarcastic reply I benevolently kept to myself. I vaguely recalled her suggestion of playing hooky one day to spend like a honeymoon couple. I begun glancing through the newspaper as soon as I recognized her voice on the machine, scarcely paying attention.
"Is this a bad time?" she asked.
"Actually ..." Completing the sentence became unnecessary when Roberta emerged from my bathroom.
I dreaded having to introduce the women but Yvette took me off the hook by promptly turning around and walking away. I closed the door and wondered which diner in the neighborhood I would be taking my business to now.
You're probably thinking that this was the end. I certainly did. So imagine my surprise when two minutes after putting Roberta in a cab and returning to my apartment, there was a knock at the door. I'll give you one guess who it was.
"Alone at last."
My surprise registered plainly. Yvette responded to my expression of bewilderment with a chuckle.
"Why the face, Michael? Did you think I was angry with you?"
"Sort of," I answered numbly.
"But why? I know you have girlfriends running in and out. I admit I was a little jealous at first. Then I decided I was being silly. You don't let my being married spoil your fun. So why should I get upset? As long as you don't take me for granted. And that's what you've been doing, Michael. But I forgive you."
"Of course I do. I don't want to lose what we have. The only reason I can stand living with my husband, the only thing keeping me from going crazy, is the time I spend with you. I'm not asking you to take any vows. I'm not demanding monogamy. All I want is an hour a day, as many days as you can spare. Because those are the only times I can be who I really am, the version of me who isn't walking on eggshells afraid to say the wrong thing that will set off an angry drunk."
"Has he beaten you again?"
"Terrence doesn't need to hit me to hurt me. And the reason I come here is not so you can lick my wounds."
"Then why do you come?"
"Because I love you, stupid."
My sole thought was that if Yvette's husband beat the hell out of her and still she wouldn't leave, what could I possibly do to get rid of her. No answer came so I decided to wing it.
"Yvette, this has gone a lot further than I anticipated. I was hoping to ease out gracefully. Okay, cowardly. But it doesn't seem that's possible. You're not thinking about leaving your husband for me, are you? I mean, I really do think you should dump the guy. But for yourself, not for me."
"I'm not leaving Terrence. I'm committed to my marriage. The fact is, I'm trying to save it."
"By fucking me?"
"Every time Terrence sobers up and realizes what he's done, it tears him up. He can only cope with the guilt because I forgive him. The reason I can forgive him is because I'm sinning too. And I don't feel guilty about us, because his sins are what drive me to you in the first place. So everything works out. Up until now, anyway."
"So this isn't about you being in love with me?"
"Yes, that's part of it too. You think I can't love you just because I'm using you? Don't tell me you're that naive, Michael. Learn to appreciate the irony. Terrence loves me and treats me like a dog. You could care less about me and treat me like a princess. I love both of you for different reasons. And I'm using both of you in different ways."
"I'm glad you have this worked out so well for yourself, Yvette. But I'm afraid there's one little flaw in your plan. Suppose Terrence finds out about us."
"Now who's being naive?"
"You're saying you want to end this before my husband finds out and comes after you?"
"Something like that."
"Michael, the only way Terrence could find out would be if I told him. If I did that he'd hurt me, and he'd kill you. Of this I have no doubt. Now I can only think of one reason why I would do something I knew would get you killed. If you took away the only thing in my life right now that's any good. I love you, Michael. I need you. You don't have to love me back. But you do need to be here for me. Because if you don't I'll be very sad, and in my grief I might say things to Terrence that you'll regret very much."
"You have a real fucked up way of showing someone you love them."
"It runs in the family. Now lets move on to more important matters. Did your date tucker you out? Or do you still have a couple of good screws left? Because I'm horny as hell and I've got a whole day to kill."
My life had become a psycho feminist movie. The blood must have drained from my head, for I felt dizzy. But it went to the place it was needed, so I was able to give Yvette exactly what she wanted.