Mike looked over the note one final time. Was it Mary, the American who works for the winery? Who even knows he was here besides his agent and the villa staff? He was hungry so he was just going to have to find out. The mirror called to him one last time and he decided that the black V-Neck masked his cheese belly better than the light grey sweater he was wearing. He changed quickly and rubbed his hands down across his abdomen hoping he might smooth away a bit of the curd that had developed along his midsection.
Mike had always been lean and with a high metabolism. It was only recently that his drinking had begun to breakdown the muscle along his core and give his belly button a 270 degree look at the world. Belly buttons are not to be noticed he thought as he took in the largest breath of air he could manage while thrusting his shoulders back. He wanted to gaze a final time in the mirror before exiting the safety of his room, for what awaited him at breakfast.
Only moments before the note arrived, his entire life’s ambition had been to devour unpasteurized cheese. Now just like every other time in his life it seemed, someone wanted his attention and that was suddenly the only thing that mattered. If this was some kind of joke Mike would be livid but in reality he knew he would be faking his anger because the truth was he did not want anyone to be there; other than cheese, salumi, and solitude. If the joke would be intended to give him a hard time for the way in which he insisted on anonymity with the hotel it would be a short-lived gaffe because if no one was there it would indeed be better than if someone was. Mike was now predicting, rationalizing, and imagining, which under normal circumstances serves an author well. On this occasion it was fear of seeing someone he did not want to that fueled his latent mania.
The door handle was just at his reach when he decided his hair needed water and that there was a potential flake of dry skin on the shoulder of his black V-Neck. Fucking skin of an elephant he thought as he stripped off the shirt and stood transfixed on the space where his right pectoral muscle met his underarm. Why can I not tone this fucking spot anymore? He thought as he pushed at the reasonable mass of muscle and the slightest amount of fat.
Mike turned on the hot water and stood picking remnant sleep from his left eye as the water heated. He always had an enormous amount of sleep on his lashes that seemed to multiply in the first 20 minutes of being awake. Today was no different and frustrated he grabbed the wash cloth again and rubbed hard at his eyes before looking back at the wispy lashes that used to be full and beautiful. After years of this ritual the lashes could no longer manage to grow at the pace in which Mike destroyed them with violent wipes across his brow each day and the incessant picking that accompanied his hours in the desk chair.
This is why he was here. Italy was a unique routine and place he could escape from the banal of his day-to-day life. However, over the years as Italy has adopted more and more of the comforts of America Mike’s habits have followed him. Now, even his phone worked in Europe and the cost was so low it made no sense to turn it off. Even vineyards have Wi-Fi so he had been awakened this morning before dawn by a Facebook birthday reminder for a “friend” he had never met and didn’t even like.
In this remodeled 16th century villa the floors were warm, the ceilings were high, and the desk staff spoke better English than Mike spoke Italian. He had thought of going to Vietnam to write this year but the humidity and the heat made him drink too much coffee and enjoy too many massages. The pink whelps on his back from his last Vietnamese massage remained visible and tactile for almost a month.
He wanted to be in Asia but they did not have unpasteurized cheese and they sure did not have Barolo. At the end of the day, the kind of drinking that Mike did was special. He liked to drink and loved to smoke but certainly did not enjoy paying for either. If he had to pay it was Ruche all the way and smoke was an option he could ignore because the price per gram exceeded his enjoyment of the herb.
After his eyes Mike ran the wash-cloth under his armpits pulling at the bits of curdled antiperspirant and tearing at a few hairs in the process. The little sting of pain was a morning reminder why he preferred to keep his pits shaved but could not in Italy as the 220 volt converters always burned out the motors on his electric groomers and he was just too lazy to use a razor there. At least he could still suspend one domestic habit. Mike always became a little aroused when grooming, because the transformation to beautiful was like the final touches on a sculpture of his own body. Yes, he was a little heavier than he wanted but he knew, when he could be rational, that he was much more tone than most men his age. Yet, hearing it from a voice of reason was not nearly so satisfying as hearing it from a woman.
It was time to go downstairs as he slid the V-Neck back over his head and adjusted the fit on his shoulders to accentuate their maximum width. Mike loved V-Necks because a shirt collar touching his carotid artery and Adam’s apple felt like breathing into a plastic sandwich bag. While his constant need to tug and pull at the fabric around his neck usually ruined shirts in about 3 wears.
As the shirt came to fit over his chest Mike pulled it down sharply to accentuate its length. Then he brushed at his shoulders and all the way down his shoulder blades with his left arm. His right arm was so stiff from use that it never served much of a purpose for dusting, scratching, or inspection of blotchy skin on the back. Now, he thought to himself, I am where I need to be to meet this mystery suitor.
Mike pondered the full bottle of Vera Wang for Men sitting in his travel bag. As much as he wanted to make an impression on his breakfast date be it male or female, he simply could not break with tradition and wear cologne on a day he would be wine tasting. It simply was not done, and while Mike secretly hoped he would find himself ensconced in some carnal cocoon later that day he was not willing to sacrifice the aromatics of one of the world’s great wines for the sake of applied pheromones.
After so much mirror time Mike was concerned there would not be enough time to return to the room after breakfast and evacuate his bowels before his first scheduled tasting. Mike simply could not function in a state of relaxation and good humor with a full colon and his defecation strategy was now seriously jeopardized by the arrival of the mystery letter.
Although the need to release could be perceived as funny, Mike was always discreet about his private time because he knew deep down it was better to be the teller of a joke than the subject of one.
…to be continued.