Truth be told, The Cracker Barrel Restaurant was about the last place on the planet I’d figured to wind up. I had a date with a gal whose body wouldn’t quit, a real knockout with scrumptious muscles meant for mattress wrestling and subcutaneous adipose tissue perfect for fondling. Sure, she was older than my mother but in the kind of lighting I’d planned on we’d be operating mostly under the Braille method, not eyesight. I mean, she felt like a twenty five year old. It was a great plan but when I checked into The Baymont Inn in Davenport I got slapped in the face by that old saw about mice and men.
“Hi,” I said to the attractive brunette manning the reception desk. “My name is Alejandro Blanco and I believe a Miss Rojo is expecting me?”
The young woman glanced up from her computer monitor and with left elbow bent upward extended her index finger into the air and shook it back and forth toward me five times very quickly before responding. “Mr. Blanco,” she said, shaking the finger two more times, “I’m afraid there’s been a change in plans. MS Rojo phoned and said that she’s very sorry but that she won’t be able to join you tonight. She did pay for the room and asked that we give you a message that she’s been trying to contact you for hours but that you never answered your phone?”
I inhaled deeply, exhaled, put my left index and middle finger to my left temple and shook my head. “Great,” I said softly. “That’s just great. A perfect end to a perfect day.”
The girl scrunched up her face and raised her shoulders an inch. “Bad day, huh? I know how you feel. I’m right in the middle of a messy break-up with my boyfriend. He goes away for weeks at a time for his job and then when he has time he’ll come see me but he lives south of Saint Louis and that isn’t very often. I’ve just had enough and we’re constantly fighting and now I think we’re through.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I’m really sorry to hear that. Break ups are rough. Hey, do you have a business center where I could get on a computer real quick? The reason I couldn’t answer Calistria’s calls was because my phone died. I’d like to email her my number here so we can talk.”
“‘Calistria.’ What a pretty name. Sure! Let’s get you checked in. The number here is 563-386-1600 and you’ll be in room 109. The business center is just around the corner.”
“Great,” I replied, glancing down at her ample chest to read her name tag. “Thanks, Monique. Good luck with your boyfriend.”
My luggage consisted of a bicycle, wetsuit, helmet, sunglasses, triathlon onesie, running and cycling shoes, my Quad Cities Triathlon race kit a change of underwear, toothpaste and my toothbrush. Oh, and a box of condoms. Not even a razor. I’d shaved just before leaving Cedar Rapids and figured that would have to do. The condoms were the only thing I’d brought that would go unused over the next twelve hours.
Calistria Rojo isn’t really the sexy mama’s name anymore than mine’s Alejandro Blanco. What we were doing wasn’t illegal, nor particularly wrong but we figured that the fewer people knew that a 55 year old international executive was banging her 25 year old boy-toy the better. I certainly wasn’t ashamed of her and I hoped she was proud of me, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor as my mom liked to say. In any case, I unlocked my room, rolled my bike in, dropped my equipment on the king sized bed, exhaled deeply, shook my head in disappointment and went down to the business center.
Logging into email I sent her a message. “Can’t be here? Now what am I to do? I have a little something meant just for you and I even brought gift wrapping. I thought we were going to get wet and slippery together and then go racing tomorrow.
“My phone died but you can call me at this number. I’m waiting all alone in my hotel room. Call me! I’m lonely!”
I sent the message, went back to my room and looked for the TV remote. And when I say looked, I mean looked: Every drawer, behind the TV, on the night stand. Nothing. I finally gave up and walked down to the desk and said, “Hey, Dominique. Sorry to bother you but I don’t seem to have a TV remote.”
“Really? Sorry. Hang on, I’ll get you one.” She grabbed a remote from a drawer, put fresh batteries in it and handed it to me. “There you go,” she said with a smile.
“Thanks.” I went back to my room and no sooner had I entered then the phone rang. “Hello?” I said into the receiver.
“Alex? Hey, it’s Cassidy. Sorry I can’t be there, something came up. And what’s up with your phone?”
“I’m not sure. I was charging it in my car and the next thing I know it’s fried. And you’re telling me something came up? I’ve been looking forward to our rendezvous for three weeks.”
“I know, sweetie. I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you but I couldn’t get away from work. In fact, I’m still at work. You should go get get some dinner, get a good night’s sleep and then race tomorrow. Let me know how you do?”
“I will. I was just looking forward to riding more than the bike, if you get my drift.”
“I do. Subtlety is not your long suit. Long other things maybe. Gotta’ go. Call me or email me, okay?”
“Will do. Bye,” I said into an already disconnected phone. “Well. Maybe I’ll just walk next door to The Cracker Barrel,” I said to no one in particular.
The Cracker Barrel’s parking lot was adjacent to The Baymont Inn’s. I’m not much of a Cracker Barrel kind of guy. Hell, my grandfather was the one who introduced me to the place and judging by the clientele that had the joint at capacity seating it was a big hit with the geriatric crowd. I walked up to the hostess stand and after she had written down the name of the group in front of me she asked, “How many?”
“Party of one. Put me down as party of one, please.”
“Yes. And the name?”
“No, that’s what I mean. I want you to write down, ‘Party Of One’ for the name and then when it’s my turn just call out, ‘Party Of One, party of one.'”
She looked at me for a second and I raised my eyebrows in response.
“Oh. Kay,” she said very slowly. “Will do. Party Of One for party of one. Got it,” she said shaking her head slightly and scrunching up her eye. “Next?”
The joint was jumping and it took me about fifteen minutes to be seated. A sandy blonde server about the same age as Cassidy greeted me. “Hi. Can I get you something to drink?”
“Ice tea please. Unsweetened.”
“Okay. Are you ready to order?”
“Not yet,” I responded. “Just the tea for now.”
“Okay, I’ll get it.”
As the server walked away I couldn’t help but compare and contrast her with Cassidy. Cassidy has allowed her hair to go almost completely white but when you pair it with her dynamite, fit and trim body the effect is mind blowing. The physique of a woman half her age with silver locks makes her look like the goddess of temptation that we used as her alias. Calistria had been my pet name for her after we’d become intimately involved and now she used it as an alias. My server on the other hand just looked tired.
Sitting alone in a busy restaurant filled with hobbling old people left me with a lot of time on my hands and nobody to help me fill it. I was sitting in the middle of the dining room directly in front of the kitchen’s entrance. Severs walked in and out, all of them female, and I noticed one exceptionally tall woman walk in. Exceptionally tall as in six foot four or five.
She was eye catching because of her height and when she walked back out I realized that she must be a transsexual. She still had a the slightest outline of an Adam’s Apple and her makeup was terrible. She’d completely removed her eyebrows and penciled in a pair of arches that reminded me of a McDonalds sign.
Looking at her I was a little sad that she wasn’t my server because I wanted to tell her about my friend Bryant Duffy who is an expert in makeup. I figured that if she were waiting on me I could comment on how nice she looked and then swing the conversation around to Bryant and his job at BareMinerals by Bare Escentuals where he coaches men, women, and those in between in the fine arts of makeup. It didn’t seem so absurd to suggest she take the one hour drive from Davenport to Iowa City to consult with an expert but I saw no way of speaking to the woman without it being incredibly awkward for both of us. I gave up and ordered.
Dinner came and went down easily. I ordered off the light menu but once I was done being a good boy I topped off with a huge piece of chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. Hey, a guy only lives once and if I wasn’t going to indulge in my preferred decadent pleasure of carnal coupling I’d settle for my second of fulfilling my sweet toothed desire.
The tall blonde gal was on my mind throughout dinner. I kept thinking about the family that I used to have. My parents, my big brother. All gone; or at least gone to me. Chris had hidden and fought his desire to be a she instead of a he for years and when he finally decided to take action he did what any one in his position should; he sat my parents down and explained things to them. Well, at east he tried.
Their rejection meant I lost the only brother I ever had. Her suicide five years later left me bitter beyond the point of forgiveness and I left Alabama and my parents behind. I’d led Cassidy to believe that I’d been orphaned and I had struggled with my desire to come clean to her, to confess that, “Oh, no. My parents are alive, I just can’t stand the sight of them.” Chris taught me a lot of things and the one that was most prominent is that acceptance trumps just about everything else in this world.
I walked back to my lonely room and the extravagant King Sized bed where I would sleep all alone. Not everybody gets to live the life of his choosing but none of us should live a lie. I hope the long tall waitress has found her niche.
Here’s to hoping that my pent up, unspent energy will help me perform at peak in my race tomorrow.