Jamaican Flute

A fine mist of drizzle dampens my forehead and brow. My locks are activated by the humidity and I can feel them rising up in protest. I breathe in the sweet wet air, blended with exhaust from cars entering and exiting the parking lot. Stepping up onto the curb, I find my favorite spot under the awning of the massage parlor in the dingy 7-11 strip mall plaza. Dropping my hefty backpack to the floor, I lean down to dislodge my worn and warped wooden flute. I’ve had it since I was 15, and I am continuously awed by its resilience. I am now 48.

It wasn’t always like this. I mean, I wasn’t always like this. Here. In this god-forsaken strip mall in the Valley of Los Angeles. No. Long ago, I was in paradise. I remember the scent of the mountains, the soft air on my skin. The sun and sea were never too far. Nature and her abundance surrounded me. How did it happen. How did I get here?

Life has its leaps and bounds, you know. I always excelled in music, and my mother dreamed of me going to the states to become a star. Yes, I dreamed too, of this distant wondrous place, full of happiness, success, and opportunity. I had a huge imagination, and my mind wandered through the streets of New York. My musical gift fast became known around the island. So much so, that when traveling bands came through, they would ask me to play for their concerts. I gladly obliged, time and time again. I would get paid, and was able to help the family and save some money on the side. My expenses were minimal, food, maybe a beer here and there. So the rest of the money was a real help to my loved ones. Myself, I really never had a taste for material things.

Finally, when I was 19, the day came, when the band I played with in Jamaica asked me to tour with them. Of course I accepted the invitation. My family was more excited than I was. They practically packed my bags for me. I was going to do a year-long tour in the United States, beginning in NYC, hitting every nook and cranny between, and ending in LA, followed with a European tour. Needless to say, we toured, played, and stayed here and there. It was all a blur. I smoked more and more, slept less and less. Random women came in and went out the revolving door. I really never had enough time to establish a connection with anyone. It was go, go, go. I tired of it quickly. Days, turned into months, months, into years. Again, and again. I sent most of the money back to Jamaica. My little sister and nephews needed it more than I did. I mailed monthly gift packages, and transferred cash continually over the years.

Occasionally, I would get to go back to my home. The island air would embrace me as soon as I exited the airport. My soul felt content from the moment my feet touched the ground on my beloved Jamaica. My heart would be overflowing with love and gratitude. But, all too soon, it would be time to board another flight to link up with another tour, and the pattern would continue on and on. Playing, getting paid, sending money back, I felt trapped in an endless cycle as well as a symbiotic relationship with my kin.

Years pass, they do. You blink and 5, then 10. Gone. Blink again, 15, and 20. A few more blinks, and more than 30 years passed by.

The last tour had ended, but I never told my family. I continued to send the money I always had. It was on a schedule, and as long as I sent it, I rarely heard back anymore. My account was getting low, dwindling, one could say.

I stayed here and there, a couch,  lady friend, or guest room. Eventually, even the best of us wears out our welcome. I had not enough to get back to Jamaica, not even enough to rent a room. Just a weary backpack, and my trusty flute remained. Shoes on my feet, thank god. Somehow, my inner strength kept my body strong.

These days, I shelter under a bridge of sorts. I suppose it’s more of an underpass. The rain has been coming down lately, and it does make it a more difficult situation but I persevere.

As I situate myself under the awning of the massage parlor in the 7-11 plaza, a silver Toyota Camry slows thru the lot. A grey haired, white lady leans out her window. “I have half a sandwich if you want it?”, she says with expectant eyes. I feel betrayed and disrespected. I know she wants to be of assistance, but she is offending me. I make my way towards her car, and I can’t help but to reprimand her. I tell her, I am Jamaican, and I don’t take food from those I don’t know. She looks upset as tears well into her eyes. I know she has kind intentions. I know this, but even so, it offends me.

I was a sought after musician! I’m not supposed to be here. She waits in her car, as I storm away, grabbing my wooden flute out of the weathered backpack. I look over, and stare into her eyes as I begin to play a heartfelt ballad about love and lost. I can see a tear well, and drop down her pale cheek. I smile to myself, knowing I still have my power. My gift is not lost forever. She smiles and touches her hand to her heart in a thankful motion. At that moment, I feel that I am found.

 

Exit Plan

Living in the moment is a very lovely sentiment. There’s a lot to be said for being present. However, it never hurts to plan ahead. A bit of strategic thinking is often a wise idea. Otherwise, it can easily happen that you wind up facing retirement at warp speed, without an exit plan. Visions of working at Walmart, or getting into elder porn start drifting through the mind. This usually happens due to a lack of planning, coupled with poor choices. But, of course circumstances and plain bad luck often play a huge role as well. This is a story about a woman in such a scenario, and how she handled her situation.

Let’s flash back to the beginning. Desiree came to LA at the tender age of nineteen. Typical story. She had been homecoming queen back in a small Iowa town, and she came to LA to become a movie star, model, or at least a tv sensation. Well, fast forward 10 years. 29 being a magic number in a mysogynistic place like LA. No longer young enough to play the “ingenue”, but she still looked good enough to continue getting roles as the ‘sexy’ so and so. Finally, Desiree landed a recurring role on a soap opera as a lonely housewife, where she was constantly getting entangled with hot young neighbors, and other women’s husbands. They say that life imitates art, or is it vice versa? I forget. Anyhow, jump ahead 5 years, and Desiree, now 34 is starting to wonder if she was ever going to find Mr. Right, amongst the string of Mr. Right Nows. Low and behold, on a commercial for vacuums, there he stood. The man of her dreams. Love at first sight. They chatted on set, he wooed her for weeks, and she knew, this was it. He was a director. Wealthy, a bit older and established. She had hit the jackpot. Not only was it love, but she, being an opportunistic gal, knew that he would be able to connect her and help her career. She was being strategic.

They married and honeymooned in Tahiti, her dream vacation. Champagne and caviar. She moved into his home in the Pacific Palisades and got so comfortable, she stopped working altogether, and focused on trying to have a baby. It seemed to be the next thing to do. Her husband, Dean, was a workaholic, but an excellent provider. He had a bit of a reputation as a ladies man, but Desiree knew that she held the keys to his heart, credit cards and castle. The following year, she had a baby boy. They named him Devon. Dean, Desiree and Devon lived their “perfect” life for many years. He lavished her with cash, gifts and cars. In return she tolerated his rumored infidelities. She had nannies and housekeepers. With more time on her hands than she knew what to do with, she felt she had achieved the life a princess would only dream of. Shopping, being pretty and well provided for. A blonde haired princess from Iowa. Just like her parents had always told her.

Fast forward 10 years. Desiree turned 39. Her years on tanning beds were beginning to surface. She looked in the mirror and noticed things she didn’t like. She began to get beauty “treatments” done by a famous Beverly Hills plastic surgeons. Just small tweaks here and there. The credit card had a high limit, and she just told her husband she needed a mole or two removed. Precancerous things, you know. Dean was oblivious, and told her to do whatever she needed to do. Their son was now in private school, and the nanny took him to his after school programs for hours. The only time they were together as a family was occasionally for a half hour or so at bedtime. Often, Dean would stay “on location”. Needless to say, Desiree started to get very lonely.

She started to go take yoga at a small private gym. This is where she met Mack. Yes, the personal trainer. So cliche, I know. Trust me, this is a scenario that plays out over and over and over again. She started to “train” daily. Her body felt better than ever, and she was glowing. One night when her husband came home, he commented on how great she looked. He made sexual advances in the kitchen, something he hadn’t done in a very long time. As he pressed her up against the counter, her cell phone received a text and then another. Her phone happened to be on the counter directly in his line of vision. Desiree wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, and she had neglected to set her phone on private. Dean leaned closer to her, stroking her neck, while staring over her shoulder to view the incoming messages. Desiree squirmed, trying to get his attention. The stream of texts continued. Dean’s breathing got heavier. He pushed Desiree in front of him, grabbing her by her arms shaking her violently. He asked her what was going on. Who the hell was Mack? She started to shake and cry. She told him how sorry she was, but she had been so lonely. She cried a lot, but he just pushed her aside and stormed out, down the hall, into his office and slammed the door shut. Desiree sank down onto the kitchen floor, head in hands. She reached up to grab the cell phone and read the messages that Dean had viewed. They were completely incriminating. Explicitly sexual, and solid evidence of an affair. She turned off her phone and sat there bawling on the kitchen floor until she could drag herself to the plush white leather sofa where she fell asleep.

The next morning, Desiree woke up to her husband standing over her. He gave a weak smile and told her he understood. He confessed that he too had been having an affair, and in a way this was all kind of a relief. He had met an actress on set, and it had gotten quite serious. He was planning on telling her, but he just hadn’t had the opportune moment. Desiree felt her heart sink. She went numb. Sure, she had been having an affair, but it was just sex and she had never had the intention of getting more serious with Mack. However, her husband was telling her a different scenario. He told her that he would be going to his lawyer during the following week to file the divorce papers. He said that he was going for full custody of their son, with visitation rights for Desiree. He claimed that she was an unfit mother, focused on her plastic surgery more than on her son’s needs. He warned her not to contest it. He reminded her that he was a powerful man, with powerful connections. She was shocked and defeated. Her heart hurt. He told her she should start getting ready to move out. Devise an exit plan, he told her. Finally, he told her she would be able to have the BMW, and he would give her a sort of “severance” deal, but because she had racked up so much on his credit cards, she was lucky to get anything at all. She gasped, taking it all in.

During the next few weeks, she spent her time going through her clothes, and jewelry, bagging it up for consignment shops. She sold what she could, stashing the cash for emergencies. She started to look at apartments, and living situations, but they were all so expensive. She would only be able to survive for a few months on her finances. She had no concrete job skills, and no connections left. At this point, the idea of going out on auditions, facing rejection, seemed terrifying.

One day, while getting the mail, she saw a paper leaflet on the ground at the end of the gravel driveway. She picked it up. On the front was a photo of a handsome long haired man. “Divine Heights, A New Lifestyle” was printed in bold purple script. She opened the pamphlet and read inside. It described a permanent “retreat”, in the countryside, where it cost nothing, but you were provided with everything. A healthy cooperative community. Welcoming to all, no matter what financial status. There was a phone number at the bottom, underneath a photo of a group of laughing people in a tent. She went back inside, glanced around the huge luxurious white living room, walked over the the giant fur chair, plopped down and dialed the number.

A woman’s voice answered. Hello, Divine Heights, Althena speaking. Desiree paused. Then she started to ask questions. Where was this community, what was the lifestyle, and what was the cost to become a part of it. The woman explained that it was a healthy community in the hills of a remote town in central california. They welcomed all. Depending on budget, there was a nominal “buy-in”, but once in, the only cost was labor and participating in events. The founder, known as Chino, was a leader and a man of many talents. They practiced daily meditation, along with coop gardening, and cooking.

Desiree decided to take the “tour”. She drove her BMW up the coast and headed inland towards the dry desolate looking mountains. It seemed like a very long drive, hours and hours. Finally, down a long dirt road, she saw ahead, a compound. Looking like an old military camp, she noted people milling about, doing repairs. She parked at the end of the drive and got out of her car. A tall dark haired familiar looking man looked in her direction, waving her over. She walked towards him. As she got nearer, she noticed that this was the man on the cover of the pamphlet. The man introduced himself as Chino, reaching out his hand to hers. He gently pulled her in for a hug, whispering “welcome”, softly into her ear. She smiled. She told him she was there to take a look at the Lifestyle. He invited her into the building where there was a simple set up of rustic furnishings. He guided her to a small wicker couch and sat down right next to her. He was wore jeans and a loose fitting shirt. His scent was masculine and deep. He pressed his knee against hers. She felt chemistry. He was a powerful man. She liked him. He put his arm around her, holding her close. He told her he knew she was searching. He knew she needed shelter and love. She had to look no further. She smiled, and felt his lips kiss her neck. She pulled away. He looked her in the eyes, and told her she was welcome here. There would be no charge for her. She thought to herself, this was it. He got up and took her hand. He lead her down a long hall towards a small room. Through the tiny window, enough natural light streamed in to see a clean and simple setup. A single bed, sink and toilet. He told her this would be her personal quarters. The rest of the place was shared. He told her he felt the connection too. She smiled. It was her moment. A culmination of her life’s choices. This was it. She had her exit plan.

Trader Joe’s Gigolo

Ever since he could remember, women had fawned over him. He was a real head turner, and he knew it. The ladies loved him, and he loved them back. Again, and again. And, again. Years passed. He fancied himself a player for life. Love ’em, and leave ’em was his motto. Even if it meant shacking up with one, while managing a few on the side. Sure it became work, but he preferred to consider it a “lifestyle”.  A few more years passed, and eventually, juggling so many women began to consume him. It became a full-time job. So much so, that his actual career as a science lab manager went into a downward spiral. He wound up with a menial position at a pet store, where he got fired for trying to seduce a customer by putting a snake inside her blouse. Fortunately, he was still living with a clueless “girlfriend”, and she was all too happy to support him, since it gave her a sick sense of self-control. Self-control was the very thing he lacked. Not long after he lost his job, she came home from work one day to find him in bed with a wealthy elderly neighbor. Needless to say, she kicked him out immediately. He vanished without a trace.

These days, you can find him lurking around Trader Joes parking lots. Wearing a fitted t-shirt and jeans,  pretending to be on his phone, he looks slightly lost and confused. But as soon as he sees a single lady headed to her car with grocery bags, he shifts into high gear, and heads towards her with a studied swagger. Giving her his hungry eyes, and a slight smile, he pauses, then says, “excuse me, but you are so beautiful, I just had to tell you.” Usually, the woman swiftly slides into the vehicle, and backs out at high speed. But, occasionally he has a lucky day, and she pauses long enough for him to engage her further. He runs his fingers through his albeit thinning hair, like he’s seen men in cologne ads do. He’s still got it. Trader Joe’s parking lot has been good to him. There are lots of single ladies. and they definitely have food and a car. Soon, he might need to find a new location. He’s considering Home Goods or TJMax.

 

Lost in Translation

Veronica was a very cool chick. She managed to make juggling a high-pressure PR job alongside a packed social life look effortless. Her jet-black hair was always perfectly cropped. A fringe of bangs grazing her almond-shaped, kohl rimmed hazel eyes. She was into music, and going to see bands play was her thing. Not only for the music, but for the musicians. Veronica loved musicians. In fact, she would only date men in that category. Exclusively musicians.

Over the years, there had been quite a few of them. There was the guitar player from a German punk band, an aging but still relevant American rock superstar, and even the lead singer from a very famous British pop group. However, nothing had ever panned out into a long-term relationship, and she was getting to the point in life where she craved more stability. For this, she knew she would need to expand her horizons.

One of her close friends was doing the on-line dating thing, and raved to her about how much fun it was. She told Veronica that there were so many cool guys out there, and she should really give it a try. Veronica was not interested, but she did reluctantly take a look via her friend’s profile and she noticed that yes, there were some cute guys on this thing. While browsing, there was one in particular who caught her eye. Her friend told her she could use her profile to hit him up. And, this is how she met Fabrizio1.

Yes, Fabrizio1 was Italian, imported directly from Italy. Currently working in San Diego as a tattoo artist. Oh, and did I mention that Veronica was a tattoo aficionado? Oh yes. He responded to her right away and they began a chat (using her friend Viki75’s account). He didn’t spell too well, but she quickly realized it was because his English skills were not up to speed. This didn’t bother her, in fact she preferred foreign men to the average American guy. He sent her a selfie from work at the tattoo shop. He stood in front of a wall of tattoo designs and artwork. He was tall with shaggy black hair, green eyes, a sexy smile, and from what she could see of his arms, and neck, he was loaded with tattoos. Perfect. She sent back a quick pic of herself standing on the balcony at her friend’s apartment. She had her trademark heavy black eyeliner on under those sharp bangs, and he liked what he saw. He commented that she looked totally different from the profile pic and she divulged that she was just using her friend’s account. He didn’t seem to care, and he asked her when would she be free so he could take her to dinner. She lived in LA, and he told her he would drive up and meet her.

They decided to meet at a cool restaurant off of Sunset Boulevard. Veronica waited in the lounge at the bar anxiously watching the door. Under her long black sweater she wore a fitted mini-dress with thigh high boots, and her go-to black fishnet stockings. A vixen version of Stevie Nicks. She watched as a few couples walked in and were seated. Finally, in walked Fabrizio1. She recognized him immediately. Wearing a beat up vintage leather jacket, and black jeans, he was even better looking in person. He looked around the room and made eye contact with Veronica. She smiled and he walked over to the bar. He sat by her and leaned over to kiss her on both cheeks. He smiled and she noticed the gold tooth. Could he get any hotter? He was so relaxed and easy to be with. Funny and charming. He told her he was hungry, and he asked the bartender if they could order at the bar. They shared some delicious tapas and drank red wine. The conversation flowed. He told her about the town he was from, and the reasons he decided to become a tattoo artist. Fabrizio had traveled all around the world and his life story was intriguing. She was very attracted to him. As they finished and the bill was paid, he put his hand on her thigh and leaned over to kiss her. It was a soft, romantic kiss, and she noticed that his hair smelled of the sand and sea, with a touch of smoke and leather. Yum. As they exited the restaurant, he asked her where she had parked, and she told him that her car was just around the corner on Santa Monica Boulevard. He asked her if she would mind driving him to his car. Sure she would do that, no problem. He put his arm around her and they walked together. He paused to kiss her intermittently. She felt warm all over. They got into her car and she turned on the ignition. He leaned over and pushed her sweater off of her shoulders. He asked if he could kiss her some more. She closed her eyes and he stroked her neck and ran his fingers through her hair as he put his lips to hers. She felt his grip on her head get firmer and suddenly her head was being pushed down onto his lap. She opened her eyes to see his hand holding his penis aiming straight at her face. She jerked her head up and told him “ This is not gonna work”, he pushed her head down once again, and said to her with his heavy Italian accent, “no, no bella mia, it work, it work, you keep doing and it working”. She raised her head again, trying to compose herself. Looking straight in his eyes, and with a serious tone she told him, “no! this!” Pointing to his lap. “This is not gonna happen!” A sudden flash of light in the darkness blinded her for a moment, and she noticed that a police officer was walking up alongside of the car. He tapped on the window. She sharply hissed at Fabrizio1 to “put that thing away!” as she rolled down the window. The cop, peering into the vehicle, asked if everything was alright. Yes, yeah, fine, she said. Alrighty then, he told them, have a good night then and remember you need to move your vehicle by 11. He turned and walked away. Veronica waited a minute in silence. She then turned towards Fabrizio1 and firmly told him that he would have to go get his car on his own. He tried to apologize. He told her she was just so beautiful that he couldn’t help himself. He went on and on about how in Italy things are different. He begged and pleaded, but she said nothing. Finally, she looked him in the eye and said in a stern loud voice “just leave!” He shrugged his shoulders, got out of the car, and she watched him saunter down the boulevard through her rearview mirror. She could see a couple of blonde party girls teetering in their high heels towards him. He paused to flirt with them. After a few moments, and what looked like laughter amongst them, they changed their course of direction, and turned to walk with Fabrizio1 into the distance along the boulevard. The last thing she noticed was his arm wrapping around both girls waists. She shook her head and started ignition of her Charger, taking off with a roar.

Flat Stanley

When she described him as a “Flat Stanley”, she referred to him as a cardboard cutout kind of a guy. Two dimensional, and quite predictable. Basically an unequivocal bore. Which, actually does fit within the Urban Dictionary definition. Flat StanleyOne who lacks size in the boob/butt region, and therefore appears paper-thin from a side view. (Definition according the Urban Dictionary.)

He had definitely sounded a lot better “on paper”. Kelly had met him through a “selective” online dating site. On his profile, Peter was, of course, more handsome, a bit taller, with more hair on his head. Apparently the photo was outdated by at least 10 years. He was an accomplished Hollywood cinematographer, and was finally ready to develop a serious relationship. It was time, he said. He was 55.

Kelly, a divorced mother of two, still had the romantic desire to find her, as she naively called it, “happily ever after”. She was enamored by the fact that he worked in the film industry, and especially because he was so well established. Her ex-husband had turned out to have severe mental problems, and by the time they divorced, Carl was unable to work and spent most of his time self-medicated with beer, staring at the tv. Her children had long gone off to college. Finally, she was ready to start a new life for herself alongside the ideal mate.

Peter came off as a take action type. The first date was dinner, and yes, he talked a lot about himself, but she didn’t mind, since nerves could sometimes cause a man to yammer on and on. She committed to giving him a chance. He was quite predictable, with the cordial texts, the dates set weekly. Dinner, and, sometimes a movie.

Kelly appreciated this stability, it felt refreshing after her tumultuous marriage. Peter seemed to have it all together. The only problem was that he hadn’t yet kissed her. After 5 dates, not even a goodnight kiss. She was flirtatious, and made it obvious that she was attracted to him. Nothing. A hug good night, and a brief kiss on the cheek. She started to question herself and wonder. But, he kept calling and inviting her on dates. Date number 7 arrived and she thought this might be the lucky number. Nope. Finally, she decided to text him a message to ask him about it. It was too awkward to ask in person. She simply wrote “We’ve been dating for weeks now, and not even a first kiss. I need to know where you want this to go?” He responded a few hours later with a note saying that he just wasn’t ready. He thought he was, but he wasn’t ready for a relationship yet. She reminded him that she was looking for something too serious, but he suggested it best that they part ways.

Kelly was pretty broken up about this. She had really had her hopes up, and she was more in love with the idea of who Peter might be, than who he truly was as an individual. Her ego took a blow and she was down for the count.

The following weekend a friend came by for a glass of wine. She brought another friend, Chantelle. Chantelle was the complete opposite of Kelly. About the same age, but never married. Chantelle was always the life of the party. She was a single dance teacher who really wished to find “the one” and settle down. She too had ventured online dating for some time now, with no luck. She jokingly called herself a “professional dater”. She was definitely well-versed in the world of online relationships. She would go on a date with any Tom, Dick or Harry, just to get a meal. Hey, sometimes it’s the only way a girls gonna eat, as she liked to say.

The three women sat on the back balcony, enjoying the evening air, and some cheap wine. A few glasses in, Kelly shared her story about Peter. As she described him, Chantelle’s smiling eyes and lilting laugh abruptly shifted. Her expression became perplexed. She placed her wine glass on little table, and took a deep breath. She interrupted to ask a few more details about his work and where he lived.

Then Chantelle sighed, and said….“Yup”, she said, “I dated that guy. For 6 months.” Kelly’s jaw dropped. It was pretty awkward.

She paused for a moment, going on to say “But, it was well over 5 years ago. He was pretty boring. All he wanted to do was come over to my place and have sex. It was nothing spectacular either. He was a “one-trick pony”, Chantelle said, rolling her eyes. Apparently, she too had wanted to find something long term, and initially, Peter had told her the same story, that he was finally “ready”. He had just turned 50 at that time. After 6 months of the same thing over and over, she realized that this was as far as it would ever go, and she needed to cut her losses and move on.

Kelly was crushed! How could this be? With her not even a kiss. Again, her ego was taking a beating. She didn’t want to know, but she asked anyway. “How was the sex?” Chantelle laughed throwing her head back, long hair flipping around. Then composed herself, looking straight at Kelly and told her it was exactly the same every time. In fact, she could barely remember it. It was just that dull.

Kelly wondered aloud amongst her friends, why hadn’t he tried to even kiss her? What did he want? They speculated various scenarios and wondered aloud why this man would date her for that long without even a kiss, while with the other girl it was only sex and nothing else. The final conclusion came down to the fact that Peter was simply put a “Flat Stanley”. Not that complicated, just a  two dimensional guy, without much substance. Once Kelly removed her ego from the equation, she was able to laugh at the entire situation and she realized that she had definitely dodged a bullet this time.

 

 

 

From Romania with Love

I’ve often heard it said that you should always go after what you want, rather than accepting whatever falls into your path. This applies to lifelong passions, studies, the perfect job, and of course, above all, the ideal mate. Or should I say the pursuit of the perfect relationship. Relationships ranging from basic companionship, to the simply sexual. Of course, there are the not-so-simply sexual as well. Then, of course, those involving long term love affairs, and of course marriage. Whatever the relationship desired, it is preferable to seek out what you want, instead of accepting what comes your way, or falls in your lap, so to speak.

My friend Viva is always driving around town in a rush. She’s a beautiful, creative and athletic woman, who runs her own very successful business as a jewelry designer. Most weekdays, you will find her up early to get the kids off to school, followed by a hike or surfing, then back at home working away in her studio, between various errands and business meetings. She never sits still. Of course with this lifestyle, in Los Angeles, she is constantly in and out of her car. LA, being what it is, involves cars. Lots of cars. Cars full of all sorts of people. My friend, being very vivacious and gorgeous, attracts a lot of attention. Men are constantly trying to pull her over to get her their digits. Oh, and did I mention, Viva is super friendly. Too friendly I think. Anyhow, one day, she was in the bank. She was doing a transaction with the private teller. She felt his stare. You know the type of stare. Heavy and intense. The kind of stare that wills you to look their way.

Sensing the pressure of his gaze, she glanced over, and saw a striking blonde, tall athletic looking young man. Well-dressed, and definitely European. He flashed his pearly whites, and she was intrigued. But, being that she was in her gym clothes and a rush, she left the bank without looking back. When she turned the corner to the parking lot, there he was, with his confident smile. He said hello with an accent, and she was hooked. Conveniently, he was parked right next to her Range Rover, in a brand new, immaculate white Mercedes. Red flag #1. If it seems to perfect to be true, it probably is.

Of course he got her number.

The first text arrived within the hour. He asked her to meet him for breakfast the next day, followed by a rose emoji. She said she could meet after her morning run, but just for a quick coffee. But of course, that was no problem, since he had soccer practice that morning as well. How convenient.

She showed up in her “lady of the valley” attire, gym shorts and flip-flops. But, Viva’s one of those women who can make anything look sexy, and with her bronze complexion, she always looks extra radiant after a workout, never red and blotchy. As she entered the café, there he was seated in the corner at a table with a coffee. He flashed that Cheshire cat smile in her direction and she was hypnotized as she headed towards the table. On her placemat was placed a single red rose. It was almost too perfect. She smiled and thanked him, as she sat down.

They chatted, and he told her he was from Roumania, a former pro soccer player, now coaching soccer here in LA. He looked young to have retired, but soccer is a young sport anyway, so she bought it. The bill came, and of course he pulled out a Louis Vuitton wallet, cracking it open just enough to give her a peak at a stack of bills. He swiftly flipped out a 50 to throw on the check tray. She glanced away, not wanting to reveal that she had noticed. She was no gold digger. In fact, she was quite secure financially.

He continued to be the perfect gentleman, opening the door, walking her to her car, offering her a hand and a hug. She got into her car and rolled down the window. He told her he would see her soon , staring into her eyes, while touching her cheek gently with the back of his fingers. Such a charmer.

She was walking on air. It was very flattering to be wooed by such a gorgeous young athlete. He seemed to have it all, looks, intelligence, charm, and money. What harm could come of spending some time with him.

He texted within the hour. Like clockwork. Would she be free this week because he really enjoyed her company, and he couldn’t wait to see her again. She said yes. She would be working at her studio all week, and he was welcome to stop by. He would be there tomorrow morning, he said. She texted the address. Oh, did I mention that her studio is in her home? Yeah.

The doorbell rang. She checked her hair in the mirror before she ran down the stairs to get the door. She felt her heart beat a little bit faster than it should. There he stood. Dressed casually, but obviously wearing expensive clothing. He smiled and his blue eyes sparkled with promise as he offered her a bottle of wine as a gift. She invited him in, and he sauntered into the house as though he had been there before. He flopped down on her sofa. Red flag #2. If a guy (or girl) seems too comfortable on the first visit to your place, it probably means he or she does this kind of thing frequently. Just saying.

He suggested she open the wine since they both had the day free. She went into the kitchen and when she came out with two glasses, he had his perfect bare feet up on the ottoman, and was leaning deep into her sofa. He asked her to come sit next to him. She couldn’t resist. He gave her a sip of wine from his glass. She was all in now. They laughed and talked about Europe, since she had spent time there as a girl. Conversation was light and easy. He kept refilling her glass. He stroked her arm gently and pulled on her hand….asked her to show him the rest of the house. They went upstairs.

Once in her bedroom, they fell onto her giant bed and she knew there was no turning back now. He was so confident, and sensual. His athletic prowess was a perfect match for hers. It was intense and physical, so much so that they both passed out after.

A while later, as they laid in bed, he was sprawled out like he owned the place and she was cuddled up on his athletic chest. His phone was vibrating, but he ignored it. Suddenly, he checked the time and jumped up like there was a fire. He told her he was late for an appointment, and he went to her bathroom where she heard the shower running. He came out looking perfect again and kissed her on the forehead as he was on his way out. He told her he would text later on.

He didn’t text that evening. She waited, but really that had just met, so she didn’t feel any concern. He had a life, and he would call. Obviously, he was into her.

The next morning she got another text. He wanted to come by again. She told him she needed to check her schedule, but she definitely wanted to spend time with him again.

25 minutes later, there was a knock on her front door. Yes, he just showed up. Unannounced. Need I say, red flag #3?! Normally, she would be upset, but she really wanted to see him again, and she was still reeling from the hot sex. One could say her judgment was somewhat clouded. So, she welcomed him in. Again, he walked in like he owned the place, this time heading straight to the kitchen where he opened the fridge. She followed him and offered to make him some brunch. After eating French toast and having some champagne, he was ready for desert and they headed up to her room. She was dizzy with infatuation. His scent lingered on her sheets, in her hair and on her skin. He lounged around in her bed for a bit afterward, his tousled locks and sculpted glistening body gleaming like an adonis. Again the phone continued to vibrate intermittently. This time it was texts he was ignoring. At a certain point he grabbed the phone, went into the bathroom and she heard the shower turn on. She also heard him speaking in his native tongue, in an angry hushed tone. He emerged looking fresh and clean, and again kissed her softly, this time on the lips, and told her he would see her soon. But probably not until the next week, since some important work had come up. His soccer coaching was about to start up for the season.

The days passed and no text, no calls from him. She continued with her life and business. Halloween arrived, and after a few drinks that night, while giving out candy to neighborhood kids, she picked up her phone and texted him. She simply sent a message saying “Happy Halloween. Miss you xoxo”.

Ten minutes later, her phone rang. A female voice with a heavy accent asked her why she was texting this number?  Viva was so shocked, she didn’t respond at first. Again, the woman asked her, “why are you texting my boyfriend?”. Uh-Oh. Didn’t I tell you, when it seems to good to be true…go back and take note…red flag #1, red flag #2, and red flag #3?…

Yup. This woman wanted an explanation. My friend, being a very honest and direct type of person, told her the truth. Oh, I think she left out the sex part. I mean, she told her they got intimate, but I don’t think any details were given.

Turns out he was living with the woman for years. And, yes, that immaculate white Mercedes? Of course it was hers, not his. Those nice clothes he wore, she bought them. Now the picture is getting clearer, isn’t it?

The woman was livid, of course. She called back again, this time she told my friend, she wasn’t mad at her, in fact she was glad she found out the truth. She told her in a controlled, robotic voice that if she wanted the guy, he would now be available, since she was throwing him out the next morning. But, he would be homeless, and carless. Not sure about his wardrobe.

In any case, the point of this story is sort of a cautionary tale to all the single ladies out there. When you see a red flag, take note. Never let a pretty face mesmerize you into overlooking the obvious. Be careful of those seductive foreign accents. Watch out for guys who seem to comfortable too quick. Like they’ve been in your place before. This is because they have. Well, not your place, but you know what I mean.

My friend, well, she let it go, and actually laughed a lot about it with her friends. It could have turned out far worse. I mean, this is the perfect set up for a crime of passion, but fortunately, the player’s girl was onto his tricks and she just needed the last piece of evidence to kick him to the curb. Good riddance.

The funniest part is that this guy still texts my friend. Even though she has moved into a serious long-term relationship with a real man, and she has told him this. He’s just one of those guys. There are plenty. Consider yourself informed and warned.