Don Juan’s Demise
by Clarise Samuels
She was walking away from him, sashaying slightly in her tight black cocktail dress. Her long, flaming red hair bounced gently with the bobbing of her ivory shoulders. The dress left most of her back exposed.
Don was standing still, as though frozen in time. As he watched in a state of paralysis, he desired only to plant his lips on the small of her perfect back, where the shoulder blades and the rippling muscles eventually wound their way to the exquisite curve of her narrow waist.
Who was she? The newly converted worshiper felt he already knew her as he had known so many others. No matter how many times he played out this scene, it was always fresh, always new. The scoundrel did not tire of it, could not, would perhaps die if he did. He was still affected by the intensity of his own devotion, even if he was a faithless heretic.
He had perhaps an hour or two to make his move because she was a guest at his cocktail party, one of many that he hosted at his Renaissance Revival townhouse in the West Village on St. Luke’s Place.
The street was a well-kept secret in New York City, although some Manhattan guidebooks directed sightseers to St. Luke’s Place to see the ginkgo trees. But, for the most part, no one noticed the tall, leafy trees lining the street, even though the ginkgos were literally a living fossil, one of the Earth’s oldest species dating from the temperate forests of over 200 million years ago. And Don had one of these primeval samples shading his front walk.
His unjustified love for the redhead in the black sequined dress, a love that arose out of the moment in a manner that was fierce and chaotic, was on display for all to observe if only they cared to notice. The embarrassment of his undisguised lust had caused Don to keep staring at the floor, not daring to look at her, not yet, not knowing just when.
He had fretted over her all evening. She was a surprise guest, having walked in on the arm of a gay colleague, who did not bother to introduce her. Throughout the evening, she was always laughing and chatting in small groups. She sipped Sangria all night.
Don circled her silently, almost like a panther stalking its prey, but perhaps more like a tribesman of some Pacific island where the mating rituals were primitive and bizarre. He wanted her. More than anything. And he always got what he wanted.
The evening wore on with the usual chit-chat and slightly self-conscious laughter. It was the way rich people laughed in Manhattan, rich people whose egos were heavily invested in how they made their money.
Don noticed that the object of his desire seemed to be pulling away from her group as she made the usual gestures that indicated one was saying goodbye and getting ready to leave. She headed for the master bedroom.
Don followed stealthily, slowly; there was no need to rush, for his willing victim had walked right into his lair. She was rifling through the coats on the bed — his bed. He was at her side, his heartbeat quickening and his breath almost halted, before she was even aware of him. “Which one is yours?” he asked courteously, flashing the smile that most women found almost irresistible.
She looked a little surprised. “This one,” she replied. “Are you the host?” She asked the question suddenly and spontaneously, as if finally intrigued by him.
No, I’m the plumber, and I’m here to unstop the toilet, he thought. “Yes, I am the host,” he answered quietly as he sought out her eyes.
“Well, it was a lovely evening,” she commented. She avoided his gaze. What was that supposed to mean? She was shy, he decided. He was sure of it. Don helped her to put on her coat, and they made polite small talk as he walked her to the door.
“Have you seen the ginkgo trees?” he inquired.
“The ginkgos. According to the fossil record, they have not changed much in the last 200 million years or so.” Inwardly Don started to panic because he sounded more like a biology student than a well-known film producer.
“You mean that tree?” She pointed out the window of the front door.
“Would you like to come back tomorrow?” Don suddenly chose to make his advances, like an eagle swooping down on a mouse. “I will cook dinner for you, and then I will ravish you.”
Her bright blue pupils widened as she finally returned his relentless gaze. For a moment she was mesmerized. She was open, vulnerable, and receptive. Don was on the verge of feeling a wave of ecstasy. He had seen that look countless times. He knew she was his.
But her submission lasted only for a moment. A knowing expression turned up the corners of her mouth to hint at a triumphant smile, as if she had discovered some new philosophical system, as if she had formulated the Theory of Everything, and the universe had crystalized itself in that moment. She laughed. “You’re joking. But thanks. I’m in a relationship.”
“Is it serious?” Don countered her casual reply with a flip of the light switch at the door to illuminate the front porch. He was a seasoned veteran of such nuanced behavior, and he did not let even a trace of disappointment register in his voice.
“Yeah. I’m in love.” The rejection in her eyes was like a monolithic stone — blunt, weighty, unmovable. She murmured a perfunctory good night as she turned away from him with lowered eyelashes and made her way down the porch steps.
Don listened to her designer high heels click-clacking in the shadows under the ginkgo tree, the tree that had eavesdropped on so many footsteps and farewells, the tree whose ancestry went back to the beginning of time.
Don extinguished the porch light and shut the door behind him. He glanced in the mirror that was bathed in the soft amber light of the foyer. The streaks of gray in his hair were dominating the jet-black mane that used to be his signature locks. The character lines had collapsed into sagging jowls, and there were dark pouches under his eyes. His skin tone was dull, and his neck had pinched lines and indentations. There was a suggestion of debauchery in his face that testified to a lifetime of martinis and cigarettes.
Don lifted his hand to his face and brushed his cheek gently with his fingertips. She had felt nothing for him. This would have never happened ten years ago, or even five years ago. Don’s chaotic thoughts made his head spin, and his knees were suddenly weak. It was the beginning of a new phase, the one he had dreaded for so long, the one he had sworn to resist kicking and screaming.
Don Juan was growing old.
Copyright © 2013 by Clarise Samuels