What Women Want
He thinks they want romance. Hearts and flowers. Wedding bells. The whole nine yards, he says.
A lifetime of study in darkened movie theatres has taught him well, he thinks. His flickering gods and goddesses are elegant, witty, sophisticated. They imply that for a man with the right tailor, the correct repartee, women may be gathered like lilies. In the end, however, a man must fall to one woman, and one alone.
He waits for her like a samurai awaits his final battle, and while he waits he spars passionately with anything luscious that comes his way. It doesn't come for free. He works hard at remembering the names, and all the little details, woven into the confident, movie-star smile. A free gift to every customer. Compliments tumble like dangerous sweetmeats from his lips, as his eyes unpeel their garments. They breathlessly moisten their lips, wear their breasts a little higher, discover a talent for bated innuendo. The game's afoot.
He seems to think his glamour is conjured by the set of a cuff, the shine of a shoe, a seductive whisper or an opened car door. He is never without a silver cigarette-lighter in his right pocket although he doesn't smoke. It's a routine, one shared by slick lotharios anywhere, but he is not one of those. Not merely one of those.
They sense the difference, after years of evading capture, finely attuned to the ring of the true metal after so many hollow notes. Life, in wolf's clothing, has finally come to call.
Naively, he strives to avoid misleading them. He doesn't fake feelings. He calls things by their proper names, never stays too long in one cabbage patch. What does he imagines they want from a man like him? Family Thanksgivings? Sunday picnics? A cottage in suburbia and a couple of kids? As though they believed him capable of delivering such mundane domesticity and order.
They know who, if not what, he is. They can smell it on him. Adventure, but not for the sake of adventuring. Danger, not courted, but willingly endured. Passion, not for token conquest, but for its own sake. Duty, above them, above everything, including his own life.
He isn't respectable. He isn't nice. He isn't take-home material. In short, he is not A Good Prospect.
A Good Prospect doesn't fail to show up on dates then call you after six weeks absence murmuring silkily-smooth, rehearsed excuses, the first sound of his voice on the line making your heart beat almost out of your ribs with excitement. He doesn't turn up on your doorstep at three in the morning with whisky on his breath and something hunted and desperate in his eyes, too wildly urgent for the two of you to make it to the bedroom. He doesn't draw knife-sharp looks from other women when you enter a club with him, mantling you in a roomful of electric jealousy. He doesn't hustle you at night into deserted shop doorways and tree-shaded parkways, blanketing you upright with a steel-firm body, swallowing the cries his rough invasion wrenches from your throat, holding both your arms hard above your head so your straying hands can't discover the outline of the gun you both pretend he doesn't carry.
Can he really imagine he appears to them as anything other than he is? A dark and dangerous seducer to whom they can scarcely blame themselves for yielding. No, they don't want any kind of a future from him. And if they ever fool themselves they do, those thoughts evaporate like champagne bubbles in the cool light of morning. Perhaps they don't even know themselves what it is they really want. But I do.
They want what I want. They want the raw, visceral energy of a real man flowing through them, inside them, intoxicating and overwhelming them. A man for whom their matched hunger carries no shock and no shame. Who has loved around the world and yet, this night, desires only them. Who can teach them the reason for the unnameable, tumultuous passions they have far too long suppressed. They want to feel vulnerably safe in the arms of a man who has killed in the line of duty, many times, and will kill again. They want to cradle him, if they are lucky, while he sleeps, and know they cherish, if fleetingly, a man of mysterious, deadly purpose and high intrigue. They want to be wanton, for a man worthy of the fall.
They are hungry, persistant. He misreads it utterly, fearing the hook, wincing at tragedy in a painted-doll face. But these aren't matrimonial appetites. That would spoil everything. For they know he will never see them when they are old, or in pain, or bowed down and bored by existence. This is liberation. To him they will remain forever fresh and young and beautiful, plucked like ripen fruit at the zenith of loveliness. He will not fade for them either, and his uncertain destiny cloaks his poignant departure in tender forgiveness.
It is not without its species of romance, I suppose. They want theirs to be the kiss he can still taste on his lips as he heads into danger, theirs the eyes that sustain him in the crisis hour, theirs the name he whispers yearningly as he wakes in some far-flung hospital, some jail. A fantasy, of course. We all need our fantasies.
They want to dream. They want to wonder, and guess, and shiver in the unknowing. Above all, they want to feel. He gives them that.
For one brief, shining moment, he forces them to know how it feels to be truly, terrifyingly alive. He is the storm before the calm, the beautiful lie before the ugly truth. A moment to savor before forgetting, as they must, in order to do what they must. To numb themselves to endure lives of stultifying mediocrity and tepid comfort. At night, as they retire to find their timid, work-a-day husbands already snoring, they will turn into the pillow and silently excavate from within their hearts a dark and savage secret to dream upon.
He thinks he knows women, my partner. He really doesn't know them at all.
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