Invisible Driving - Zelda

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      Mania is a land of excess, especially excessive indulgence in pleasurable activities. Naturally sexual excess plays a role. This segment is taken from a chapter called Zelda. It’s one of the most popular chapters. 
      Called her, dropped my voice, picked it up again, began pouring rich, low, well-rounded tones into thin, brightly colored wires, triggering reactions in a distant living room. Anxious to see me, had a project, good one, too, something to get me through Christmas. Jackpot, snat, rapadoopy. Gonna’ be fine, you bet. Getting laid off was serendipity, serendipity-doo. My oh my what a beautiful day. Reality forcing me into the light, success I’d avoided all my life. Tall, splashy, smashing Zelda asked me where we could meet, didn’t know the city very well. Puzzled for part of a moment. Knew it had to be classy, only the best for her, smooth, elegant, easy to find. Time arrives in seasons, four points grip the globe, portents, clues, and omens, guiding me into a mystery. Didn’t know where I was going, didn’t even matter that I didn’t know the way. The way knew me, and revealed itself. Zelda, resplendent at the Four, destiny decreed it, I obeyed. Gave her directions, gave her the time, four, four at the Four. Lately I’d become a fastidious dresser, meticulous and attentive, in the past I couldn’t be bothered. Changed outfits repeatedly, room a wreck of clothes that wouldn’t do, at last I got a look I liked to look at. Goddamn shoes, horrible, shine ‘em up until you need shades. Details, accessories, by cracky, that was the battlefield. When everything else was kettledrum tight I tried on every tie I could find, especially the ones I wouldn’t have touched just scant weeks ago. This was my new incarnation and it had to be sharp as attack. The smitten mirror stared like a schoolgirl, in the past it had avoided my gaze. Ready, so ready, big bad dog, big bad dog that I was.
          Smoking a joint of the finest weed and purring towards the city in my spic and span sedan I was clean as an operating room. Took the scenic route through the park, cuddled the curves of the Schuylkill. Beautiful, gradually undulating, that’s right he said undulating, calling to mind images of slithering snakes and belly dancers, road that allows drivers to watch crews rowing on the river, geese taking off and landing, an enormous variety of trees, and a great view of the city skyline. Made a point of being early, found a free parking spot on the street, nice trick in the city, entered the Four Seasons Hotel. From the white gloves the doorman was wearing down to the gleam on the brass, everything was perfection. Simply zapadoopy. Honey, I’m home. I’d been there before, but this was the new me and I was getting it fresh. There on business after all, my business. Into the lounge and sat at the tiny marble bar. Large room almost empty, clusters of couches and chairs. Soft jazz flowed from the piano, fountains murmured deferentially. There in that oasis was serenity and order, calm, and controlled posmondilism. In the past my instincts always drew me to the best but I saw that the best was a necessity. The new rule was that nothing but the best would be accepted, and only until something better came along.
          Took a perch at the bar and soaked it in. Soaked it in what? Lemon juice? Why a perch? Why not a rainbow trout? My anxiousness level dropped several notches as I sipped a martini. Still no Zelda. Walked into the garden and smoked half a joint to nurse the perfectly mellow high along. Felt safe. Gonna’ be chunky monkey. Business at the Four, write at home, visualized it taking shape. Reinventing myself. Once an idea was in my brain I could spin it out way into the future in seconds, watch it unfold like a movie. I had finally arrived. Then, Zelda arrived.
          Zelda was ebullient in her full-length black mink coat. Late, of course, part of the charm. Big, put together, some would call her zaftig. Certainly not overweight, archetypically female. More scenic curves than Monte Carlo. Her ensemble was an artful interplay of business-crisp and pleasure-suggestive.  Zelda, not a drinker, drained her cocktail down as if there was a prize at the bottom of the glass. Made short work of the project, raced headlong into gossip. What was up since I was laid off? What was I going to do? Said she was unhappy in her marriage. Zelda, never satisfied, restless hunger, intelligent, neurotic as a roomful of actors. Husband out of town again. Hint’s a hint, wink’s a wink, but when Zelda dropped that one I almost expected the waiters to turn their heads. Husband out of town. Looked like the kind of call girl that could mix gracefully at the White House. Friend, didn’t know what to do.
          Talk got more and more intense, eyes met frequently, girlish, giggly, flirting, but still a little coy. Finally asked her to dinner, sweet spot I’d discovered recently. Small, dark, romantic. Just signed off on a project. Iffy, but not too outrageous. Plenty of room to back out gracefully if either one of us got scared. Asked the bartender if he knew the number for the Warsaw Café, he volunteered to make the call. With every passing second I better understood how quality was measured in grace notes. I nodded. He asked if we’d like to be driven there, yes, of course, too good. Chauffeured, for free, in the hotel limousine, Zelda was thinking in mink. Feeling warm and cozy in the soft back seat. Comprehension materialized. This was how celebrities lived. Of course, it was me, a natural! What had taken so long? Balmy city evening, early in December, misty rain made everything soft, sweet, moist, tires pavement sizzled, purring in kitten cab heaven. Understood at last what my life was meant to be. Kittens waiting for me, kittens waiting on me, men providing menial service.
          City scenery strained to delight us, holiday displays sought our approval, waitresses and waiters radiantly smiled, counting the colors in our halo. Zelda, long black hair, flicker candle flame, gypsy caravan long ago, far, far away, unknowable and irresistible. Wrong, wrong, wrong I told myself. The woman was married with kids. I knew if we did the deed our friendship would be over, an idea that did not appeal to me. I also knew a source of freelance work would be destroyed, that would be a catastrophe. Intellectual exercise, stacking mental blocks. Suddenly my mind went absolutely clear like the sky when a raging storm is spent. I understood how absolutely free I’d become, wanting and having were one. So she was married, so what? That was her problem, sure wasn’t mine. She wanted me, I wanted her. In that idyllic visionary moment I felt the swell of grandeur in my soul, lightning in the tips of my fingers. Mores were for chowderheads and pipsqueaks. The appetites of great men were extravagant, society indulged them all the same. Culture offered endless examples, one could look at Mozart, Picasso. In fairness they were dead, they didn’t look that great.
          Truth, opportunity, and license fused like prongs on a fork. In the process of leaning forward while eating, Zelda had pulled her blouse partly out of her skirt, exposing a sliver of midriff, or was it a miver of slidriff? Held her gaze, slowly slipped a hand below the table. Touch sweet enough to open a safe, dragged a finger over her warm creamy skin. I was going on and on and on about some subject, my practice was to lecture all the time, seemed as though I’d recently become extremely clever, what I didn’t know was not worth knowing. Zelda made no visible reaction but the sound sent a shiver up my spine. An utterance that hovered involuntarily somewhere in-between groan and gasp. Rules of gravity, rules of attraction, orbit dangerously compressed, collision had become inescapable. Decadent desserts, sweet waitress, what now? conversations on our lips.
          Settled on the Barclay. Nearby, naparoopy. Classy old place on Rittenhouse Square next to the Curtis School of Music. Short walk from the restaurant. Plush quiet lounge, dark wood. Paintings, piano bar, rooms. Neither of us had said it yet but we knew it and we felt the tingling. Didn’t want to drive all the way to my place, that would break the spell. This one had to be done right and it had to be done right away. We were adults about to do wrong, couldn’t pretend we were kids. Guilt was for timid little people, the riches of the world go the brazen, shamelessness opens the oyster. WASPs, tediously tight, tied in knots of repression. Man breaks wind in elevator. Unfortunate, and yet, unavoidable. Remarkably the world doesn’t end.
          Outside in the clinging mist, slipped my hand in hers. Strolled the sidewalk leisurely, stretched the pleasure out. My normal pace had recently accelerated, just this side of a jog, felt to me like we were floating. Stopped and turned towards Zelda, reached into the coat. Eyes of a child, unequivocal smile. Pressed against her body, cloaked in luxury, kissed, and the kiss told a story. I’d known Zelda as a driven ad exec, kinetic, married with kids. Now I understood a different Zelda. Hot, hungry, female snozzler, craving snazzjungulation. Sped up and entered the Barclay.
          Agitated by the proximity of so much guilty pleasure we sank into the leather of overstuffed chairs and danced around the issue that consumed us. I’d never played the married queen, hotel scene before. Much to my own amazement, I suggested a room. Eager breathy yes suggested she was crazy from waiting for me, but didn’t make me feel like a bumbling amateur for taking so long to ask her. Such is the level of sensitivity women must perfect to navigate the shallow waters of the male ego’s fragility. My credit card was able to absorb it, miracle enough on its own. Insisted on the best room available, something with a fabulous view. The elevator ride was one kiss long, Zelda pinned in a corner, free, furiously passionate. First swack happened in a flurry, can’t imagine where the snow came from, but folks, as though our clothes had vanished magically. Tingling and relaxed, Zelda stretched on the bed, cat in a puddle of sunlight.