I wanted to change things up a bit here. In addition to adventures on the road, hijinks, musings about this art we called life and the hustle of the art world, I wand to tell you stories. I want to return to my very first love, stories, and see how it feels. Please don’t be too concerned with whether the following story is true or false, that is never the point. The following story is in several parts and I will share them here in the weeks to come. Thank you for reading, comments welcome.

Venice at Night, by Charlie Grosso

A black town car pulls up as she walks out of a 5 star hotel dressed in a full length gown. She gets in the car. A clandestine mission is underway. The car will take her to an undisclosed location to await further instructions.

Who send for the car and where is it taking her?

The initial meeting took place a few weeks back. She sits at a hotel bar with a friend. The friend tells her someone else will be joining them tonight. He walks in, still glassy eyed and dazed from the day. Introductions are made and with a visible exhale, he turns to her and ask, what are you? Not who, but what.

With that particular word, there is only one answer. I could be a spy. She replied with mischief.

The unexpected answer delights him and clears his head. He focuses on her and the evening officially begins. A round of drinks at the hotel bar, followed by a ridiculous launch party for something even pop culture would find irrelevant, then dinner at one of her favorite restaurants where she knows the chef. An excellent evening of fast friendship and high conversation. In the usual dynamics of two single women and one gentleman, the conversation is dotted with random bits about dating and the irrational behaviors of the opposite sex. In the tradition of dinner anecdotes, she relates a story of how she had send a text message to the man of the hour that simply said, sex tonight? and received some kind of incoherent reply in return. He loves the story. He loves the combination of vulnerability and brashness. There wasn’t a specific AH HA moment with him where she understood the depth of his gaze. His interest is like the bottle of red wine they shared that night, first the taste lingers in the mouth, then it warms the belly, flushing the cheeks, intoxicating you a little by little.

The next morning she gets an email from him with the subject line: Sex Tonight?

As a practiced spy, she activates her training and fully reconnaissance him and his situation. He had disclosed the existence of a teenage daughter and a wife. But when a flirtatious email arriving merely hours after they part company, she needs to know what is the depth of engagement he is after. The friend vouches for his character, carefully disclosing enough information on his marital status without betraying anyone’s trust and advocates the safety and value of continued engagement.

With curiosity and caution she accepts the engagement.

Every email, message, encounter are filled with excitement, fun and intelligence. It has been a long while since she finds a man’s company exquisite and craves the continuation of the night without needing sex to be end game.

He loves the spy persona. He loves the mystery yet seems to be endeared by her honesty. He is a man with a plan, someone who speaks her language. He is the mastermind behind this secret mission she is on tonight.

Is it ironic or kismet that the very evening she is getting into a town car heading towards an undisclosed location designed in the language of an undercover operative, she is also in an evening gown having just attended a gala dinner for the National Committee on American Foreign Policy? Either God has a wicked sense of humor or we really are who we pretend to be.

The car drops her off at a hotel. A text beeps with more instructions. A table in the back of the restaurant with dinner already ordered for them and his eager smile. Let the games being.

She has questions. She has questions about his allegiance and loyalty. He speaks of his contracts and obligations with different words than their friend had. In a complicated world of gray, marriage, love, child, obligations and expectations, one should be as precise in the language. The world he lives in has less nuisances and liberty than the original intelligence she had gathered.

How does that make you feel?

She can feel her head spin and she can’t tell how much of it is the wine and how much of it is the new intel.

The truth is that I’ve played for all sides in the world of infidelity, unsatisfactory marriages and complicated love affairs. As a true spy, I don’t have black white moral obligations and absolutes. She is well practiced at the art of semi-cryptic answers.

I never fully responded to your rules of engagement. He shift her attention to the perimeter she has set forth for this evening.

Before this night, she knew the intelligence she had was incomplete. Her acceptance of this night’s adventure came with a caveat differentiating between her intimacy and her ecstasy, they are not the same and only one of them is available to him tonight.

He brings her attention to the rules of engagement and accepts them with honor. He is pleased that she would put him in the former category or that is even a possibility.

With loyalty, allegiance and a full gentlemen’s agreement of what is possible on the table, the evening advances. A walk around the park for some fresh air. An elevator to the seventeenth floor and the slightly gothic hotel room with deep pink walls. He leads her to the edge of the bed and take the only thing that is available to him tonight, her kiss. They lay in bed, fully clothed and just kiss. Hours upon hours of his hand caressing her naked back, lips touching tongues, a change in position of who is on top, interspersed with stories, serious conversations and an unexpected burst of laughter as he stumbles upon her ticklish spot.

What is the longest amount of time you’ve managed a “no strings attached” situation?

A year and a half but that is done without much intimacy. I’ve consistently managed every operation limiting the amount of intimacy available for the last three years.

What has changed?

She close her eyes and exhales. She doesn’t speak the answer she knows because everything is complicated in the espionage of feelings and desires. These moments confuses her because she is not sure if he prefers the mystery or the honesty.

Morning comes. There is a sense of intimacy here of such intensity it surpasses what would have been possible if they had actually had sex. He holds her close and they talk about these carefully curated moments that will be burn into the instant playback of memories. God bless room service and french press coffee. They sit next to each other on the red velvet couch with her legs folded underneath her and on top of him simultaneously and the flow of endless conversation ensues. There is nothing trivial in what they talk about. He clearly can handle the serious yet he seems to not want to stay there for long either. Understanding the allegiance at hand now, she wonders if he is just looking for a burst of fun and light in a life that is intense. Mystery verus honesty; darkness and light.

Unintentionally, they’ve tasked each other with a difficult and challenging operation. To carefully layer each contradictory elements upon one another, against each other, in order to achieve an ultimate objective of trust, friendship and ecstatic intimacy with lives that are serious and inherently intricate. What ambitious spies they are. Then again, is that not a prerequisite for a good operative? Fearless enough to never find any assignment be too daunting to undertake?

These stolen moments and carefully curated memories come to an end with a knock on the door from house keeping letting them know the hour is at hand. He shifts gear and quickly packs.

What will you do between the extra hours of your expected arrival at home and check out?

If you were not linger worthy, I would just get into the car and head straight back. But you are. I need to clear my head so when I hear words that sounds like your name, it doesn’t give me a jolt.

She can sense the donning of his other self, his other disguise and she must as well. He is a step a head of her in this transition and the intimacy that still lingers on her skin is all of sudden too much. She slips on her coat and heels, gives him a single kiss and close out this adventure with the most simple and elegant words she has. Thank you.

 

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