The Roman

by whatsthatyousaymrsrobinson

The reaction of male friends to the news that I’m getting divorced falls into two camps. The first is; “I’m so sorry. I love you. I’m here for you.” The second camp takes another consolatory route.

“You’re single? He’s a fucking idiot,” one friend said bluntly of my husband, and added that he’s been having “very specific” fantasies about my toes for the past eight years. Don’t ask. Really, really, don’t.

“I’ve always thought you were hot,” said another, dishing out a small helping of solace for my crushed spirit.

 The Roman had a similar reaction.

The Roman lives in Latin America. It doesn’t really matter where; just pick one of the countries that have been trashed by covert US foreign policy in the past 40 years.

We met when I went there to try to inject some spine into my flabby Spanish language skills.

Prior to his renouncing all stimulants, the Roman’s lifestyle came courtesy of the Graham Greene handbook; ex-patriot despair, heavy drinking, hard drugs, playing guitar in bars and gambling till dawn. Once I met him for dominos at seven in the evening. It was a post-dinner outing for me, breakfast for him. 

Possibly my most fun Latin American moment was when he coaxed me to join him in performing ‘Mustang Sally’ in a beach bar full of English tourists. (I’ve always coveted the role of back-up singer, especially in the days when I could wear leather miniskirts.) Fortunately, I have a good memory for song lyrics and the patrons were too drunk on cheap rum to accurately judge my inferior vocals.

When I emailed him the divorce news, I mentioned I was thinking, later in the year, of going on vacation to a Latin American country (pick another one, any one, that has been trashed by covert US foreign policy in the past 40 years).

Without breaking stride, the Roman invited himself along.  

“Let’s meet there,” he wrote. “I’ll be your bodyguard. I’ll watch your body.” (I think there may have even been a winking emoticon involved in that exchange, but memory has been kind.)

Subtlety is not the Roman’s long suit.

I won’t take him up on his offer. If we went anywhere in Latin America together, he would translate, we would speak English, and my Spanish will be as crap as ever. 

Also, not sleeping with your friends is a good rule. A solid rule. It makes sense to have that rule in your life. “Friends” and “shagging” should not ever live in the same sentence. No, they should not. Absolutely, positively not.

You can see where this is heading, can’t you?

Not too long ago an old friend ambled across my path. He has quiet, dark good looks, a Rolls Royce-grade sense of humor, and is single and shy.

For months I’ve been encouraging him to—and there’s no way to say this that won’t sound dirty—get back in the saddle. 

On this one particular evening, and for no particular reason, we rattled around town for a few hours and then decided, somehow, that the logical way to end to the night was back at my place.

I wanted him to get back in the game. I just hadn’t planned on having quite such an instrumental role in it. 

“This won’t be weird, will it? Is this weird? It’s not weird. Is it weird? It’s weird, right? Let’s not let it be weird,” I said when it was much, much too late to be competently assessing degrees of weirdness.

We decided to focus instead on other matters. And they were fun. Those matters were great fun. They were great fun, several times.

The next day I made tea and we gossiped like the old mates we are. 

It wasn’t weird.

It turns out there are advantages to shagging your friends. (Leaving aside the fact that they are good at it.) It’s okay if they stay over, because they’ve been there many times before. They’ve crashed on your couch. They’ve been drunk at your parties. They’ve sung with you. They’ve danced with you. 

Shagging your old friends means you don’t have to bother with small talk. You already know where they went to college, and what they do for a living. You are free to discuss the geopolitical implications of recurrent drought in the Horn of Africa. Stuff like that.

You know, and this is important in your glass-like state, they are incapable of hurting you.

After we finished our tea, we took the subway together. He got off at his work stop. I got off at mine. Before he got off at his stop he kissed me, nicely, and said he would be in touch.

I had another anecdote bolted onto the end of this story. It was a witty story and I thought it worked, but I decided I’d rather leave this ending to my friend, who is no slouch with the quill himself.

Naturally, you’re wondering what to say the day after you and a cherished old friend have romped with carnal, toe curling abandon. The ‘graceful dismount,’ is what another friend calls it. Here’s how it’s done: listen and learn. Take notes if you want.

In the middle of the morning I got an email written in his typically succinct and classy manner.

“So … that was fun, I hope you thought so, too. Thank you for everything, my dear friend.”

 The New York judge gives that dismount ten out of ten.