Looking in the mirror, Chris smoothed his hair. It was thinning, but in a way that didn’t imply age, so much as experience. Satisfied with his reflection, Chris donned his sport coat and strolled out the door.
That evening Chris was headed to a party that would be filled with revelers twenty years younger than he. But no one cared. Chris certainly didn’t. The young lovelies always smiled when he approached and were more than happy to let him buy a round of drinks, or two.
He felt lucky, more so than usual. Ever since that encounter with Tatiana in the sauna, things had been going his way. But tonight he had a feeling that he’d have to adjust his standards upwards again.
Tatiana probably didn’t even realize just how she had changed his life. He luxuriated in the memory once again. It had happened so fast, but what an impact it had made.
He had been relaxing in the sauna after his elliptical workout. (Now that he thought about it, that was the last time he had done a workout. As he walked, he adjusted his belt in the fold between his belly and pelvis. A side-effect of his new leaf had been the realization that trips to the gym were a waste of time: life was meant to be lived, not prepared for.) The click of the sauna door alerted him to the new arrival. It took a moment to focus through the steam.
“Oh!” exclaimed a topless Tatiana. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think anyone else was in here.” Startled, she pulled up the towel wrapped around her waist so that it covered her breasts, barely.
Taken aback, Chris looked away, but not before he concluded that she was beautiful, with or without the towel. Staring at the wall, he stammered something about it being okay.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
Chris couldn’t get any words out, but managed to nod.
“Thanks, I appreciate it.” She sat down next to him and offered her hand. “My name is Tatiana.”
Chris shook her hand and croaked his own name.
“Nice to meet you, Chris. Do you mind if I turn up the steam?”
“Sure, I guess.” Chris’s inexperience with double entendres was evident.
Tatiana reached across Chris to adjust the steam valve. Her hand brushed his chest as she sat back, but he didn’t notice; the sandwich of his arm between her breasts absorbed all of his attention.
“I find,” Tatiana explained, “that any clothing at all interferes with the restorative powers of the steam.” She tugged at the hem of Chris’s shorts. “You don’t need to wear those on my account.” Then Tatiana interrupted her own smile with “Oh, no! I just remembered I left my phone on the bench outside. I’ll be right back.” Tatiana pulled her towel loosely about her and slid out the door.
With temptation momentarily out of the room, Chris could think more clearly. Tatiana was certainly attractive, but that aside, her assertion that clothing interfered with the steam made a lot of sense. So Chris took off his shorts.
The door opened again. Three older women entered. They paused, then one of them choked “Oh, God!”, seconded by another with “You pervert!” Flustered, Chris tried to explain about steam, clothing, and exfoliation, but the women had already turned and run out the door.
“I want a divorce. I’m tired of your ridiculous lies. I have no idea who you think you’re fooling. You’re embarrassing yourself and you’re embarrassing me with these stunts, and I don’t want anything to do with it anymore.” Chris took in Carol’s contempt with bemusement, as she continued.
“First you get kicked out of Workout World for indecent exposure,” Chris’s mouth opened as he readied, once more, to explain about steam and skin, but Carol cut him off. “No! I don’t want to hear your idiotic excuses again. And these trips to the bars and dance clubs? Beth’s daughter told her you were hitting on one of her friends! At first, I thought, that’s impossible, there’s been a mistake. But then a week later I hear it again. And then last night you get drunk and pass out at a sorority party? There seems to be no limit to your stupidity. So I’m done.”
Chris was surprised at his wife’s declaration, but he wasn’t particularly upset. He had been discreet about his nights out, and that discretion had been slowing him down. Off the leash, Chris would be unstoppable.
That Carol’s salary was what allowed them to afford their mortgage didn’t much matter. Although Chris’s department was downsizing, he had been doing such good work recently that he knew a big raise was in the works.
“I’m sorry to hear that. But if that’s what you want, I won’t try to stop you.” Chris’s magnanimity barely concealed his excitement at the parade of women soon headed his way.
Tatiana lay back in her bathtub. She scooped up a handful of bubbles and blew them into soapy confetti. She looked at the display case next to the the tub. It wasn’t impressive compared to the trophy cases of the other water nymphs – at least, not at first glance. Tatiana didn’t go for the shiny bangles like the others did. Her case was full of small, amorphous blobs of pale gray jelly, barely even visible to someone not looking for them.
Tatiana picked up the one she had lifted off Chris. Holding it in her palm, she examined it from different angles, and smiled. The money, the wedding rings, even the unlocked cell phones with compromising photos, could all be replaced, and thus, had finite value. But Tatiana knew that once she stole a man’s common sense there was no end to the damage he could do to himself.
Tatiana put Chris’s common sense back on the shelf and sank into the warm bubbles, smiling as she fantasized about the terrible decisions he must be making.
Father of three and husband of one, Todd Wells plays upright bass in a rockabilly band, hosts international visitors through US Department of State exchange programs, and enjoys being patted down by TSA personnel at Midway and O’Hare airports. He writes about all of those things at traveldiaryofamadman.com. Other sites where his scribblings have appeared include Funny in Five Hundred, 365 Tomorrows, and AntipodeanSF.