by Steve Slavin
dry white wine
Before saying anything about Doreen, I should really tell you how we met. For many years, I have been going to an annual weekend-long Mensa party in New Jersey. You may know that Mensa is an organization that accepts anyone who scores high enough on an IQ test. There are no other membership requirements.
Consequently, our organization has more than the usual number of eccentrics – not that I’m criticizing. But on the bright side, Mensans tend to be a tolerant lot. I mean, what choice do we have?
Our parties take place in rather sizeable hotels, and the main gathering place is the hospitality suite, which is always stocked with snacks, beverages, and for some reason, great quantities of chocolate.
There I was, just minding my own businesses, when I overheard my friend Jack explaining to a very attractive woman why he needed to leave. It appeared that he missed his dog so much that he had to rush home that very minute. he began backing away from the woman, who was pleading with him to stay.
Well, I did what any gentleman would do in that situation. I walked over to her, introduced myself, and confided that I had known Jack on and off for years.
“You know,” I said. “You are hardly the first woman he’s done this to.”
“What do you mean?”
“Whenever Jack’s in a relationship that gets too intense, he panics. The poor guy can never commit.”
“But I just met him last night!”
“Well, you may have had the longest relationship with him that he’s ever had!”
We continued chatting for a couple of minutes, when my friend Arthur joined us. Without any preliminaries, he said to her, “What beautiful big brown eyes!”
“Why thank you!”
“Where have you been all my life?”
“Well, I’ve lived right here in New Jersey my entire life.”
“Then it’s no wonder we’ve never met, since I live in the Bronx. I would never forget a woman like you.”
I began to edge away, but Arthur asked me to stay. By then, a few other people had joined us. Arthur asked Doreen if she would consider going out with him. But before she could answer, he looked around and asked, “Who here will give me a recommendation?”
Anna, who had known Arthur for years came forward. “I wish to give Arthur a testimonial.”
On a very snowy night, she had called Arthur and told him she was very depressed. Would he please just talk to her for a bit?
He told her to stay right where she was, drove forty miles on icy roads, took her out to dinner and a movie, and then drove home again. Anna would always have a warm spot in her heart for Arthur.
Then I decided to have a little fun. “Let me tell you about the night that Arthur and I spent together.”
Everyone was laughing – even Arthur.
For the rest of the evening, Arthur and Doreen sat together in the hospitality suite. We all gave them plenty of space.
Then she got her coat and left. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I asked Arthur what happened.
“I’m sorry, Arthur. You lost me.”
“She’s geographically undesirable. She lives near the hotel. Does she think I’m going to drive forty or fifty miles just to see her?”
“What about those beautiful big brown eyes?”
“I’m not going to drive that far just to look at them.”
“You know, Arthur. I think I would.”
The next morning, when I got to the hospitality suite, I was hoping that she might be there. But I soon realized that she had probably already had quite enough excitement for one weekend. So I had some breakfast, hung out for a while, and then drove back to Brooklyn.
Over the next couple of days, I had stopped thinking about Doreen. And then, she called.
“How did you even get my number?”
“Well, I’m in Mensa.”
“You’re telling me that you found it because you’re so smart?”
“No, I just looked it up in the Mensa Directory.” Duh.
We were both laughing.
“You know, Doreen, I’ve kind of felt that maybe there was something unfinished between us.”
“Yeah, me too. So let me tell you why I called.”
“How would you like to come to dinner with me at my cousin’s house. He lives in the city.”
“Sure! I’d love to!”
“Great! Don’t you want to know when it is?”
“It doesn’t matter. I’d really like to see you.”
So we made a date for that Friday evening.
We planned to meet at her cousin’s apartment. I drove in from Brooklyn and managed to find a parking spot just a block away.
I entered a high-rise building, was announced, and took an elevator to a forty-something floor. She met me when I got out of the elevator, reached out and gave me a big hug. It felt really good.
Her cousin and his wife were very friendly, and before dinner he and I watched the sun setting across the river in New Jersey. I had never seen a sunset from such a vantage point. The horizon must have been over twenty miles away.
I wasn’t sure how to explain who I was to Doreen’s cousin, but it didn’t seem to matter. I did notice that they served the wine I brought, which was probably a couple of hundred dollars less expensive than what they usually drank.
Doreen explained that we knew each other from Mensa, and that I was much smarter than I looked. I confided that half the guys in the group were in love with her. And who knows, maybe it was true.
Around eleven o’clock I drove her to the Port Authority Terminal, where she would catch her bus back to New Jersey. As soon as we got in the car she said, “Thank you so much!”
“Hey, don’t thank me! Thank you! I had a good time. Your cousin and his wife are very nice.”
“Yeah, they could both qualify for Mensa.” We laughed.
But there was something that just wasn’t right. It had been bugging me since she called. And then, suddenly, it came to me.
“Did you very recently break up with a guy?”
“Yes! But how could you possibly know?”
“Well, wouldn’t you say that having dinner at your cousin’s was, well, a kind of unusual first date?”
“Of course! But how did you figure out the part about my ex-boyfriend?”
“Well, it’s logical. You were planning to go to your cousin’s with him, right?”
“But you broke up. And you didn’t want to go without a date.”
“That’s right! I felt so much better going with you.”
“OK. By the way – just out of curiosity – what does your ex-boyfriend do for a living?”
“Well, right now he’s a messenger.”
I didn’t say anything. I was trying to understand this. She had been in a long-term relationship with a guy who was a messenger?
“Actually, he used to be a lawyer.”
“He was disbarred.”
“I hate to give you the third degree, but – if you don’t mind my asking – why was he disbarred? Was he an embezzler?”
“No, nothing like that.”
I didn’t say anything. If she wanted to tell me, then she would.
“Well, he was accused of child molestation. But it wasn’t like it sounds.”
“He’s a lot older than I am. He was married, and he has three grown-up daughters.”
“Well, when the oldest was just a toddler, she would crawl into bed with her parents.”
“The only problem was that she was still sleeping with them until she was six or seven. And then, the second daughter replaced her in their bed.”
“And eventually the third?”
“So, to sum up, each of the daughters slept in their parents’ bed until they were six or seven.”
“Or, maybe a little older.”
“Shit! So then what happened?”
“Well, when the oldest daughter went away to college, her younger sisters came to visit. They started comparing notes.”
“Well, the oldest daughter told her sisters that her father had had sex with her – and that until now, she had repressed her memory of this. And the younger sisters recalled similar experiences.”
“Where was their mother when all this was going on?”
“She claimed that she must have slept through it.”
“So the three sisters went to the police.”
“He was disbarred and he went to jail for three years.”
“Holy shit! And you went out with this guy?”
“Well, when I met him, I didn’t know.”
“How did he explain being a messenger?”
“I didn’t find that out right away. He told me he was a lawyer -- which, I suppose, was technically true.”
“So when did you find out everything?”
“After we were seeing each other for several months, he told me what happened.”
“And you continued to go out with him?”
“Well, I was angry, of course. He should have told me right away.”
“Of course! But how could you keep seeing him after you learned what he had done?”
“Well, people change.”
Just then, we pulled up in front of the Port Authority. As she got out, she thanked me being so understanding.
“Doreen, let me ask you just one more question. When was the last time you saw him?”
“We broke up two weeks ago.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, why did you break up?”
“It’s funny that you should ask. He was going to come with me to my cousin’s. He knew that I would have hated to go there alone. But then he backed out. He didn’t feel like driving into the city.”
About the author
A recovering economics professor, Steve Slavin earns a living writing math and economics books. The third volume of his short stories, "To the City, with Love," was recently published.