He was the only man in my life who had a vocabulary better than mine. He was also the only one who was ever content to just lie in bed with his yap shut and read his own book while I read mine, an endearing quality I still yearn for yet have found elusive in the slew of cute but spottily-read immigrants that have peopled my Booty Roster for the last few years.
He was 13 years my senior and suddenly I was the ‘younger woman,’ feeling like a stereotypical bimbo when the valet would hold the door of his 525i open for me. But it just wasn’t *like that*, damn it! It was a true intellectual soul connection! Even as I smoothed down my polyester miniskirt and teetered down Sunset Boulevard in platform slides, I was secure in the knowledge that Mr. Big knew the Real Me – I might look like a Hollywood ho on Saturday night in LA, but come Monday morning in the Bay Area I was back cracking the books at Mills College with my horn-rims on, even if half the time I was penning him steamy missives instead of taking notes.
A few short years later, I was suddenly the ‘older woman,’ playing Mama to an adorable but infantile puppy of a man, forced to grow up fast by circumstance and just, time. Now I’m careening towards middle age (but 40 is the new 30, right?) and in a few short years I’ll be the same age as he was when we were dating. His girls are both in college. I have a retirement account (paltry though it is) and dogs. The age of post-grunge power pop and heroin overdoses seems quaint and nostalgic.
It all started one sticky summer night (doesn’t it always?) at one of those music showcase weeks so popular in the 90s. There was another woman, several shots of Southern Comfort, some straight mackin’ in the back of a cab, an Alice-In-Wonderland hotel room, a cigar (this was long before Monica), and all of a sudden I was hooking up with Mr. Big.
Big was a Man. Man with a capital M. He had an ex-wife, kids, a high-pressure job, a cute ride, a frightening amount of frequent flyer miles, and a shitload of charisma that had, and still has, chicks shimmying out of their knickers at the merest hint of his Mona Lisa smile and understated laugh. That and his crazy patchwork hazel eyes had my 26-year-old knees weak (and frequently in contact with a solid surface) and my heart thumping.
At the time he worked in LA and flew up to the Bay every other weekend to see his two daughters; tawny, dappled pre-teens so haloed by gold light that they fairly floated. Those girls made me want to be a stepmom, which I still consider one my life’s ambitions. We spent time at his modernist bachelor pad in West Hollywood, my shabby-chic low-rent flat in the Lower Haight, and his ex-wife’s spread with the pool in Marin (she was in India on yoga retreat and was real cool about these things).
He talked me out of going to law school. He gave me one of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve ever received, “Sometimes the best thing you can do is just keep your mouth shut and listen,” although I have a harder time applying that advice than I do treasuring it. He had a fantastic bathroom in LA, with a full length window in the shower and a painting of the ocean that I *still* want, all these years later. He made me gross Echinacea-laced smoothies when I was sick. I fell asleep on a dirty couch in a rehearsal studio while he jammed with his friends as the rain pounded down on LA (rain! LA! I know!). I hated the way he drove – typical BMW driver – accelerate & brake, accelerate & brake.
We ate steaks at Morton’s, romped through the pumpkin patch with his daughters at Halloween, had Thanksgiving with his parents, and spotted otters in Monterey Bay on a very wet New Year’s Day. We barbecued, went to see The Who, The Stones, and Medeski Martin & Wood. We watched The X-Files while his daughters squealed with delight and fear, and we argued with his youngest about how, yes, she did have to wear socks with those pleather sandals. He took me to yoga somewhere in west LA, and laughed at how the Ashtanga made me sweat, and taught me that it was OK come out of pose if it hurt too much. We also got it on everywhere, from his ex’s hot tub to the back of her SUV to the viewing platform of his friend’s yacht to right between his expensive sheets.
I loved his Manness – his ‘established’-ness, his endless stories (like going into his frat house’s sauna with an 8-ball and a 6-pack the night before a big paper was due, or nailing his au pair), his solidity and intelligence, the effortless, alpha-male machismo that exuded from him like pheromones. He loved my ass, I’m sure, my mind, I know, and that my life, from his eyes, was so free, open, as-yet-unwritten.
I have a picture of Big that represents his quintessential je ne sais quoi – that afternoon on the yacht, in the candy-floss pink sunset light, kicking back in the deck chair like a king on the throne, Scotch in one hand, cigar in the other, with a smug, cat-that-ate-the-canary postcoital glow illuminating his expression. King of the Hill. Top of the Food Chain. Alpha Male. My Hero.
I got so much joy from Big. He made me really happy. For six months I was over the moon, and my writing output was phenomenal – he still has a hatbox with about 90 letters and cards I wrote in those six months, and he says every once in a while, he pulls one out and enjoys that moment in time and space. I remember it as a golden age, a brief period when everything fell into place and all the planets lined up and the angels sang Ave Maria or some shit – that is, before things do what they always do, which is shift under your feet and list like the Titanic and you grab onto the railing and hang on and wonder when the lifeboat’s arriving to carry you back to shore, where you shake the water out of your hair and look around, stunned, wondering if it was all in your imagination.