For Rocket Man, the disguised roughneck
So I'm sitting in Barnes & Noble of Bayside, perched atop a black stepstool and reading a copy of Judith McNaught's Once and Always when two jean-clad legs come into view.
Looking up sweetly, I inquire, "I'm sorry, am I blocking you?"
The man is burly and gruff. He looks incredibly strong. In fact, I think he could kill me with an accidental sideswipe of one hand. He's wearing a blue t-shirt and jeans and has tattoos on his arms. But the thing that gets me is his face. He has a beautiful face. He's got white hair and incredibly kind eyes behind a pair of glasses. Despite the fact that his legs are the size of tree trunks, he strikes me as such a nice person.
He is looking through the romance novels. I am perplexed. I didn't know men read romance novels.
"No," he tells me. "You're not in my way at all." He smiles at me. "Whatcha reading?"
I show him. "Once and Always," he says aloud. I nod.
He continues browsing through. "School's out?" he inquires.
"Yup," I tell him brightly. "I just graduated."
"High school?" he questions, then looks at me and corrects himself. "College?"
"Yup," I say. "Little school in the middle of Manhattan."
He nods. "I've got a bad leg," he tells me. "Been laid up in bed for the past 10 days or so. Looking for stuff to read while I'm there."
Ah, I think. It all makes sense now. Of course he's reading romances. He wants mind-candy; he's been in bed, not able to walk on his leg for a week and a half. "What do you like?" I inquire and he shows me some of the books.
"Oh, I like science fiction or fantasy," he tells me and grins, "preferably with some love stuff in it."
I smile. This huge man is actually just a softie at heart. "I like historical romances," I tell him. "I really just read Judith McNaught."
"Aw, I just read one like that," he tells me and proceeds to describe a book I read as well (although I do not tell him that, because he's having fun telling me about it.) The book's title is A Knight in Shining Armor and it's by Jude Deveraux. It's a book in which this woman goes to a museum and there's time travel and this guy from the 1100s with Vikings shows up in a suit of shining armor and they fall in love and she goes back to live with him. But she makes him build her indoor plumbing and brings back Victoria's Secret underwear and suchlike, as this wonderful gentleman was keen to inform me. "She's wearing these long dresses," he tells me, demonstrating on himself by moving his hand down his jeans, "but Victoria's Secret underneath." He shakes his head, laughing.
I look demurely back at my book. He leans in a bit. "Let me tell you something," he says with sage wisdom. "Always use protection, and you take care of everything yourself. Guys will lie and lie and lie because guys only want one thing. I don't have to spell it out for you." His eyes radiate kindness; this advice is being given with only my good in mind. "Guys will lie and lie and lie to you so you don't trust any of them until you have a ring on your finger. And even then don't trust them! Never trust a man," he reiterates.
I nod. "I went to visit my grandmother," he tells me, "she was in her 90s already! And next door to her there was this real cute girl and I used to watch her going out and mowing the lawn and doing her laundry (I think he meant hanging up the clothes on the line.) So my grandmother says to me, says, I know what you want. So I froze up a bit and she says, I have eyes in my head! You know what you do in order to get her?"
The man leans in to me to tell me the punch line.
"You just lie and lie and lie to her. You tell her she's beautiful and that you love her and then you'll get what you want." He laughs out loud, a hearty laugh. "And it worked!"
While this is not exactly what I would do in his situation, I am enjoying his infectious humor. This man seems to love life; he is large and real and red blood runs through his veins. I like that. I like him.
"How did you hurt your leg?" I inquire.
"Oh, I work with heavy machinery," he says, "so I was standing against the wall and got caught and it got banged up pretty bad." He lifts up one of the legs of his jean pants so I can see. The skin looks like it had been mottled and now is a mass of pink healing flesh. "But it wasn't crushed. So the doc made me put it up for a while and put ice on it and junk like that, but now I'm supposed to walk on it."
"But will you still be able to do your job?" I question, concerned.
"Oh," he laughs. "I'm the guy who made the company! So it's my company, so I can definitely take off for a while." He winks at me surreptitiously. "My life is so screwed up right now..."
"Why?" I ask, fascinated.
"So I just found out this week that I have two brothers and a sister (Note: I might be getting the exact logistics of the family wrong.)"
"What?" I exclaim. "How could you just find out?"
"Well, see, after World War II, everything was messed up in Germany. People displaced, and whatnot. So my mother and my father made love, and she got pregnant 'cept she didn't know she was pregnant. So it took her three years to track him down. By that time, he was engaged to be married and she had a boyfriend. So eventually, we emigrated to America and he emigrated to Canada. Now, I went and joined the Service, back when Vietnam was happening..."
"You were in Vietnam?" I ask, my eyes wide.
"No. I was lucky."
"But you got all trained up and everything," I say.
"Yup. Anyway, I was on leave once and I come to the house and I'm looking through a drawer for something else and I find this letter from my father to my mother. And I was pretty pissed that he knew all about me but refused to acknowledge me. See, I had only met him the one time, when I was four. So I wrote him this letter and he had moved but eventually it got to him so you see, I knew that I had two brothers and a sister. But they didn't know that I existed."
At just that moment, my phone rang. RaggedyMom, who is beyond fantastic, had come to pick me up. I rose and extended my hand. "Olivia," I said. "I'm so sorry I didn't get to hear the rest of the story!"
"Kurt," he said, and shook my hand, enveloping it in one of his huge hands. And then, very tenderly, and very surprisingly, he raised my hand to his lips and kissed it, exactly as the most cultured gentleman would.
The gesture touched me. I paused. He continued, "Anyway, so my father was on his deathbed and he told my brothers and sister that he had another child and I was their brother. And he told them not to get in touch with me. But they got right on the Internet and found me and got in touch with me. They called and my wife- I had told my wife I knew about them- picked up the phone and she knew who they were so she put them in touch with me. And then," he continued wonderingly, as though in awe, "I checked online and saw there was all this stuff about me! I never knew there was so much stuff. Anyway, I'm going to meet my brother this week."
"Wow!" I exclaimed. "Good luck with that meeting!" Can you imagine not seeing your brother for forty or fifty years and meeting him for the first time? "I really hope it goes well!" I continued happily.
"Yeah, me too," he smiled.
"And I hope you feel better and your leg gets better," I say. "Say, what's the name of your company?"
"Oh, it's Fire Ice Mechanical," he says, giving me a card. Only when I get home do I realize he's a huge contractor and mogul in the refrigeration business and won Contractor of the Year in Contracting Business magazine.
My God, I think to myself. This man is amazing. He's self-made, a huge contractor, works with heavy machinery, his leg is hurting him and despite all that he took the time out of his day to tell me the facts of life as he sees them, warn me away from guys, and then confide his life story in me. Not to mention the fact that he's really soft at heart. And that he kissed my hand, just as though I were a royal maiden out of a romance novel.
In short, people are beautiful, and Kurt, I am honored to have met you.