Stan twirled the plastic key card expertly between his fingers. Short and stubby, as they were, fifteen years behind a desk had allowed him to hone this particularly inane talent. One wouldn’t be foolhardy if one were to proclaim Stan to be a ?champion twirler’. While some doodled and others tossed balls of paper in bins, Stan, Stan twirled.
Twirling allowed Stan to focus on the situation at hand and decide upon a course of action. Right now, Stan was consumed by a single thought ? Her. He shoved the key card into his pocket, paid for his unfinished coffee and sauntered out of the smoky caf? into the cold night. An observant passerby would’ve noted the spring in his step, if thirty-nine year olds do spring that is, or the seven dollar tip left for the three dollar coffee, and probably exclaimed, ?Oh boy, he’s pleased as punch!’ or something to that effect. One never really knows what observant passersby tend to say.
Stan clutched the nondescript gym bag rather tightly and walked briskly, towards the Ritz. He turned the collar of his khaki overcoat up and tipped his hat down. Whether this was to shield himself from the biting cold or to hide his face, one couldn’t tell.
Well, not just yet.
He skipped up the short flight of marble stairs and smoothly entered a large revolving door, eager to be spewed into the warm, luxurious reception area of the Ritz. The overcoat and hat were unmoved by the sharp contrast in their surroundings. It was now clear.
Stan was hiding.
Stan was widely regarded as an amiable fella. Well, he wasn’t exactly the life of the party but he was definitely not short of a cheerful ?Hello’ or a toothy ?Hey there’. This evening, however, he staunchly refused to make eye contact with the effervescent staff at the luxury establishment and strode right past their polite greetings into the men’s restroom. Once inside, Stan hurriedly occupied an empty stall and locked the door behind him. He checked the lock ? twice. He took in five deep breaths. Yes, Stan was thirty-nine and the experience had winded him.
A fly on an appropriate wall or a goblin perched upon an appropriate stall-divider would have been ideally placed to describe what occurred next. However, since the Ritz claims to have neither on its premises, you are at my mercy.
I’ll get right to it.
Stan shut the lid of the rather inviting piece of furniture and set his precious gym bag on said lid. He then proceeded to strip every piece of clothing from his slightly chubby frame and stood stark naked behind door number three.
In my view, when changing at a public facility, no matter how secure, one discards one’s clothing a piece at a time, immediately replacing the discarded piece with an equivalent, albeit relatively newer piece. What I am implying is that at any point in time, one ensures that one is not rendered entirely uncovered. Stan, under normal circumstances, would’ve agreed with me. His store-bought costume this evening, however, required him to do the Full Monty at the Ritz.
He carefully emptied the contents of the bag on the lid and stuffed his discarded attire in the bag. The bag was rudely demoted from its prior precious status and hurled to one side of the stall. Fame, as Emily Dickinson wrote, is a fickle food. The stall now contained, in no particular order, one black, extremely tiny, latex suit that can only be described as lacking in essential coverage; one pair of shocking pink, fur handcuffs; one custom-made, leather mask with a single slit, at the mouth; and one middle-aged, naked man, hurriedly shaved where no man had gone before.
Stan hurriedly twisted his body into the skin-tight bodice, covered his modesty with his overcoat, and his head with his hat. He then shoved the handcuffs and the mask into separate pockets of the overcoat and like the responsible middle-aged man he was, checked that he had the key card, which he had twirled copiously in smoky caf? not more than fifteen minutes ago.
He stood silently for ten seconds, listening for cohabitants of the Victorian restroom. Having heard neither a plonk nor a swish, he took ten deep breaths and purposefully stepped out of the stall. He immediately about-turned and picked up his bag and as an afterthought, flushed, the toilet, for what it was worth.
He stood in front of a convenient full-length mirror and examined himself. From head to shin, he seemed like a regular gentleman, dressed for a cold night. From shin to ground, he unwillingly displayed a pair of hairy, extremely white legs ending in a pair of dark socks and neatly polished, black leather shoes.
“Dang!” he muttered, “Should’ve worn a long pair of socks.” Not one to be discouraged at this, a critical juncture of his venture, Stan raised his left hand to check the time. The ivory dial dutifully conveyed that it was 930 in the evening. She would be there by now, waiting.
Stan then turned away from the mirror as if to hide from himself and slipped his gold wedding band off. He thought of poor Martha and immediately felt a pang of guilt. His heart raced and his breath grew shallow. “What are you doing, Stan!” he admonished. Stuck by sudden fear, he felt the need to sit down. He fished out the key card and did what he did best, twirled.
Stan had prepared for this eventuality. Years of being head accountant at the bank had taught him to provide for all risks and liabilities, known and unknown. He unzipped one side of his bag and pulled out a mobile phone from within. His hands, now shaking a little, fumbled their way to the video folder and hit play. She had sent it to him just yesterday, perhaps sensing that her paramour would develop cold feet.
It was a twelve minute long, self-recorded video, that begun with a loud moan. She reverberated across the empty restroom causing Stan to lose grip of the phone. The instrument fell to the blood red marble floor and lay there, on its back, putting up a show that would have made Hilton blush. Not a first for the Ritz.
Stan stood frozen for what seemed like an eternity, staring at his phone. He absorbed every move, every detail, and every loud syllable the masked Goddess uttered and felt his confidence rising, if you know what I mean. At one point, the crazed bloke lowered himself into a squat, to bring his face closer to the object of his obsession, thereby revealing himself to anyone who cared to see.
That goblin would’ve had a field day!
The spell was broken when the door swung open to admit an unknown gentleman, perhaps visiting for more appropriate reasons. Nowadays, one can never really tell what unknown gentlemen enter restrooms for. This particular gent, however, restored faith in mankind by strolling over to the bowls, without so much as glancing towards our shell shocked, partially naked protagonist, Stan.
In the next instant, ol’ Stan moved like an agile cougar; muted and rescued his phone; and straightened his posture, all in one motion. He then proceeded to wash his hands while staring at the back of the U.G.’s head. While the gent tinkled and zipped up, Stan sneaked up to the doorway and made an inconspicuous exit.
Once outside, Stan regained his composure and approached a waiting elevator. He had memorized the floor number and the room number and just to be sure, had scribbled it on his left palm. He inspected his palm and recognized a now faded, ?5th Floor, Room 502’. His eyes briefly rested on the indelible yellow patch his wedding band had created over the years. He looked away. Martha was a good wife and a good mother. This, however, he needed for himself. His hungry soul had led him this far.
He tapped the gold ?5’ on the impressive panel of buttons and waited. Nothing happened. He pressed, then pushed and prodded, but the button refused to light up. A tough nut, that! As he leaned in to closely inspect the contraption, an elderly couple glided in. Stan cursed under his breath. He had hoped to ride alone. The couple, perhaps weary of the heavily dressed co-passenger, shuffled into one corner. The elderly gent, perhaps in his sixties, then stuck his key card in a slot placed beneath the buttons and pressed ?10’. Voila! The solid doors slid shut, momentarily trapping the occupants of the regal car.
Stan, quick to comprehend, fished his key card from the pocket of his overcoat and proceeded to copy the actions of the elderly gent. Now, the ?5’ glowed as brightly as the ?10’. In response to the derision he felt on the back of his neck, Stan, card in hand, did what he did best, he twirled it, several times over. He concluded his shocking display of talent by flicking his card, through the air, back into its resting place. The old woman gasped. Stan turned his smug face sideways to collect his dues, but found shock instead of awe written all over her pale face.
She was staring at his mid-section.
Stan’s eyes, now saucers, followed her gaze downwards. His antics with the key card had encouraged one half of the shocking pink, fur handcuffs to dangle out in the open, as if in audience to the show. He hurriedly buried the culprit and mumbled something about a bachelor party. The elderly couple stuck closer to the glossy walls and ignored him the rest of the way. As the insides of the overcoat caressed his manhood, he knew that the old lady could’ve seen worse.
The doors of the elevator opened on the fifth floor with an elegant ding. Stan strode out into the plush corridor. He thought he caught a glimpse of a smile on the lady’s face but hurriedly attributed it to relief. Room 502 was fifteen feet away from the elevator. It seemed like the longest walk of Stan’s life.
He suddenly had a vision of Martha walking down the aisle. Dressed in pristine white, she had looked as radiant as the sun, even through her veil. She wasn’t dressed too dissimilarly, he recollected, as she had worn nothing underneath her wedding gown. Stan clutched his forehead and thought about how he was about to breach his vows to Martha. As he had often done before, Stan scoured his mind for an explanation.
Two years into their marriage, Martha had seemed to have lost complete interest in sex. Stan had tried everything to invoke the passion they had felt for each other, but his efforts had come to naught. Now, eleven years later, he had decided to act upon a selfish whim.
Several months ago, during one of his occasional, online romps, in his darkened study, Stan had stumbled upon a chat room. He had logged in as ?Bottom Rung’, which had perhaps drawn her to him. They had hit it off instantly. She simply called herself, ?Goddess’. Over time, as the guilt of intimately interacting with another being washed away, Stan had begun to thoroughly enjoy their virtual sessions.
She was extremely articulate and well-read, appealing to the sapiosexual in Stan. She often sent pictures and videos to Stan at inappropriate moments of the day, and set his heart on fire. Stan felt unabashed lust for the Goddess.
A few weeks ago, as they caught their breath after a particularly steamy session, she suggested that they meet. Stan was skeptical at first. He knew that they would meet for one thing only. Not one to give up, she had convinced him to lie to Martha about an out-of-town conference. She had directed him to an incredulous store, where a lack luster, tattooed, Chinese girl helped him with his gear for the evening.
Stan looked up and stared. The gold platted numbers on the glossy white door read, ?502’.
Stan let a deep breath escape his lips and plunged his key card into the waiting slot. The LED within the device flashed a pale green light, signaling its acceptance to his entry. He opened the door. It was dark. A faint and extremely pleasant fragrance greeted him. It seemed to erase every doubt in Stan’s body. He felt liberated.
He reached into the pockets of his overcoat and pulled the mask and the handcuffs out. He wore the mask, plunging himself into further darkness. The fear of the unknown excited him tremendously. As he let the overcoat slip to the floor, he was hit by a cool draft that made him shudder. He voluntarily cuffed his hands and stood still. The soft, cool fur caressed his wrists. His heart raced in anticipation. He could sense her in the room. He heard soft footsteps on the plush carpet approaching him, steadily. He parted his lips to breathe and whispered her name. Suddenly, he felt a sharp, painful tug.
He surrendered to bliss.
The next morning, Stan awoke to the sound of traffic on the street below. His face, now only partially masked was bathed in warm sunlight. He instinctively shielded his eyes and peeled the mask off his face. The shocking pink, fur handcuffs hung loosely from his left wrist. He squinted and looked across the room but saw no sign of her. He crawled out of bed and found that he was completely naked. He stumbled to the bathroom and let out a
“Hello”, but she was nowhere to be found.
He inspected himself in the bathroom mirror. He was scarred all over. She had drawn blood from his right shoulder and more from his back. He smiled. As he bent over to wash his face, he noticed a note on the marble slab.
It simply said, “Thank you BR, G.”
Stan twirled the note and smiled some more. He was content.
After he shaved and showered, Stan headed to the elevator, clutching his gym bag, now precious once more. As he rode down, he recollected every detail of the previous night. He was amazed at what he had done. Oddly, he felt at peace. He walked over to the reception and waited to clear his tab. It was only fair that he pay for the room. He had insisted. For once, she had relented. He used a personal credit card that was linked to an old account only he knew of. This particular bank conveniently sent statements only to his office, marked Confidential. The charming maiden across the desk handed him an envelope and wished him well. He absent-mindedly thumbed the gold encrusted logo of the Ritz and stuffed the evidence into his gym bag. With that, he turned to walk toward the revolving door. He greeted the pretentious staff as he strode out and donned his hat an instance before his foot hit the sun-kissed pavement outside.
She yanked open the last drawer of the bureau. She had begun to pursue knitting as a hobby. She displaced several balls of colored wool and placed her gear deep within. She placed the unfinished, blue sweater on top of the heap and slammed the drawer shut. She straightened her slender frame and patted her knee-length skirt. She stood in front of the mirror and fixed her hair. She spotted a grey strand but was distracted by a sound. A cab pulled up outside. Her husband had returned from his conference.