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#1 Ex!

The only photograph I have left of Hank after a big purge spurred on by my weariness of having boxes of inert shit. It was taken in Gaspé on our first trip together.

While when writing, deadheading and hitting hard, down the line backhands may be times I feel most myself, accessing the sweet spot isn't always easy. OK, not true for deadheading, and I confess to sometimes doing so in public places. Enter Hank to help me with the writing part, I'm delighted to have found additional reason for our union. His eccentricities could not be made up and make for good fodder. If you've read my last post, you will perhaps see the irony.

I tend to take a few years off between serial monogamies and it was towards the end of a long and difficult period that I rented a room in a Winchester Street Victorian house in Brookline with two women I didn't know. Over the next year or so, they left and my friend Debbie, who is half Korean moved in, and then another Korean woman, who would only be seen in American high profile brands and added a strong aroma of kimchi to our lives. After a few years there, I bought a condo and moved out, but remained in touch with Debbie and a new high energy roommate named Shelly, who took the big room and installed her faux Chihuly chandelier in the turret. She was great at gathering groups of people to do fun things at night.

Debbie, me and Susie, the friend who pushed me out the door. We were about to go to another party Shelly was hosting, this one for Halloween. I was dressed as a homicidal chamber maid. Don't ask.

Shelly hosted a party on Valentines Day eve that I had decided not to go to, but was pushed out the door by a friend who thought I needed to socialize, again in a period between men. Hank stood out immediately, 6'2', blonde, expressive blue eyes that could slay, chiseled face, and old-fashioned glasses with carved wire frames and lenses with a yellow tint. Unlike almost everyone else, he wasn't really drinking or joviallizing, rather on the hunt for a pithy one-on-one. He invited me to sit on the dryer next to his washer.

He elicited in me equal feelings of curiosity and powerlessness, enraptured when I knew I should get out while I still could. I asked him how he spent his days, he said he was a writer. I asked his favorite book, he said the Bible. I asked if he was a practicing Christian, he said no, he liked the stories. Pretention, danger. But delicious danger. He asked me what I did, I answered that I was a Mass Pike tollbooth collector. I could see him trying to sort it out. He doubted me, I vehemently insisted. I pivoted the conversation a few times but he kept returning. He seemed to be getting frustrated but by then there was no way for me to change course. I told him I had to go to the bathroom and went upstairs to bed. So, I thought, that was the end of that, just as well.

Months later, Shelly organized a night out and there he was. Again he zeroed in, we talked, he asked me out, and, gesticulating with his Rolex Submariner watch on his tanned from the Vineyard compound where he had been wrist, with sincere humility warned me that he didn't make enough money to take care of me in a way I deserved to be taken care of. This entertained, outraged and perplexed me, but also endeared him to me. Serious danger signals.

The date was one of those nights that is over in five minutes. He was interesting and funny and kind with a childlike vulnerability and enthusiasm, genuinely curious about me. He walked me back to my house in his beat up paddock boots inherited from his younger brother, an Equestrian Olympian hopeful who wintered in Virginia and summered in Bucks County PA with his horses, and wool herringbone fitted vest and said he'd call me.

Instead, he sent a package, with his odd fifth grade formal loopy cursive, lower case r in that perfectly weird shape, in dull pencil. The letter had big words I didn't know like equipoise, and told me his father had died in Florida, so he wouldn't be around for a few months. He included a blue and white checkered French notebook that he invited me to use. So, I thought, that was the end of that, just as well.

Then he was back in Boston with his beat up black Toyota pick up truck that had coffee spills all over the console and the floor, confusing me I when compared it to his impeccable dressing. I had bought a table and chairs in Duxbury, and needed to get them to my place. He obliged, stayed for the weekend and then decided he wasn't over his last girlfriend. So, I thought, that was the end of that, just as well.

On a spring day after a good workout at the Huntington YMCA, I had walked from Symphony Hall to Fenway in order to avoid paying the outbound T fare, when a black Toyota truck pulled up in front of Landmark and offered me a ride. I demurred, content with it being the end and just as well.

Days later, his pressed boxed white shirts, no starch, had found a home in my closet, we had nicknames for each other and a trip to Canada charted out. So, not quite the end. Just as well.


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