Meet Mark: A tall, dark haired 32 year old accountant working for a small firm in rural New York. His sharp nose and dark complexion reveal his Sicilian lineage, and an onlooker would consider him to be an attractive high status male. His day comprises of tax audits, caffeine, and making serious faces at his computer screen when his boss walks by. He is a book-smart guy, and had always succeeded in math throughout high school and college. His GPA floated around the meaty part of the bell curve, mainly due to his natural understanding and performance with numbers. He is an accountant by trade, as was his father, and his father before that. His career choice was inevitable; as it was forced upon him at an early age. Any remnants of physically appealing physique are courtesy of his old college lacrosse days. Mark’s body is nowhere what it used to be, as he hasn’t needed to impress any other females in years. He plans on working out again, but he values his time spent at home more than time spent at the gym.
As he pokes his ahead above his computer monitor, pre-maturely dark skies and streetlights began to fill the horizon. Much to his enlightenment, 5 o’clock came early today. With a sigh of relief, he finishes his coffee, and shuts down his computer. He smiles as he packs up his stuff, as the thought of playing with his two children always fills him with a joyful warmth.
Mark swings his suit-jacket over his shoulders, and walks out the door to his sedan. He starts the car, defogs the windows, and drives through the winter weather. A small crucifix dangles from the mirror in hypnotic fashion.
A hot new intern enrolled with his firm today. She was a 21 year old blonde southern belle from Texas A&M that had just recently earned her undergrad diploma. She is strikingly gorgeous with long tanned legs and blue eyes. Mark had chatted with her at lunch time about the size of her old school and her future goals. He recollects her gazing down to his left hand and noticing a gold marriage band, and then regaining eye contact without haste. Her eyes subconsciously revealed a look of disappointment; it is a look that he has seen in many women throughout his married years.
Mark does his best to push her southern charm from his mind.
He arrives home, and puts the car in park. He is no longer moving, yet still has both hands on the wheel. He pauses, and exhales deeply before entering his suburban home. As soon as he enters, he is quickly greeted by hugs from his 4 year old son and 6 year old daughter.
“Daddy!” the kids yell.
He kneels down and smiles as he ruffles their hair. The smell of gravy and mashed potatoes fill the warm air.
“Honey you’re home!” His wife calls out to him, as she walks over to give him a kiss.
Mark had met his wife Lisa after graduation at a friend’s New Year’s party. Unbeknownst to him, she was on his university’s dance team for all four years, and they had never crossed paths.
Mark was 25, and in his physical prime. His career was on the rise, and his love life was never dull. He had been with 29 women before wedlock, and all of them were high quality. He didn’t need to settle. But her tight body, strong family values and caring nature drove him into monogamy.
The heat of her oven mitts greets his lower back. Mark is instantly filled with joy as he hugs his wife; and gives her a little pat on the butt.
He drops his briefcase, rests his coat and scarf on the staircase and takes a seat on the couch. The Giants game has already been turned on.
“Ah hell” he yells as he stretches out and cracks his toes.
“We’re getting spanked by the Bears.”
“Daaaaa Bears,” his little boy echoes.
His wife walks over to him with a freshly cracked beer, and mentions how dumb Eli Manning looks all the time. Mark grins and nods in agreement, and notices that his wife is starting to get a little thick in the thighs and waist. He tries not to think about it. He focuses his attention back on the TV quickly to be interrupted by both children scurrying across his view. His son is pushing his red Tonka truck around the hardwood floor with both hands. And his daughter is doing her best to catch her brother, but the feet of her pajamas have very little grip, so she continuously slips on the hardwood floor.
As halftime arrives, Mark rounds up the kids, and puts them to bed to the best of his ability.
“Tell us a story first Daddy!” the kids yell in harmony. He knew this was coming, as his daily routine did not often vary.
“A story and a treat!” His little girl Anna says.
“No. It’s bed time” He says harshly. “But Daddy!” she replies, visibly upset.
“Do you remember the big girl we saw at the store the other day?”
Anna slowly nods in agreement, with her arms crossed, and tiny chin greeting her chest.
“Her daddy gave her treats all the time, so many treats that her belly got so big that she can’t even see her own feet! Do you want to look like that girl?”
“Nooooooooo!” she says facetiously
“Then no treats for you. But I promise this Sunday we will go to Dairy Queen and get a cone bigger than your head.”
“But daddy I can’t eat that much!” She says giggling
“You and your brother can share, now come upstairs and I’ll read you a story.”
Mark does what he always does, and reaches into the drawer to grab the usual, Mortimer by Robert Munsch. The story is just long enough that they fall asleep before the ending.
He slowly closes the book, tucks in the kids, and turns off the light. The hardwood creaks as Mark walks into the master bedroom, unbuttoning his dress shirt, only to be greeted by the bulge of his stomach. He looks down and smacks it with his right hand.
Mark turns his gaze onto his wife, both hands on his hips, shirt unbuttoned, and gut slightly drooping over his waistline.
He flexes each peck in harmony,
“I’m kinda in the mood tonight babe, are you?” His wife asks in curiosity. “We haven’t been intimate since your work party two weeks ago,” she added.
Mark, surprised at her comment, is exhausted, and his testosterone is nowhere what is used to be, but he agrees to go a couple rounds. He turns off the light switch and climbs in bed with his wife. They go for the usual: missionary, cowgirl, and then doggy style to finish it off. The hot intern creeps into his mind, this time he doesn’t fight the mental image. He finishes, and rolls over onto his side of the bed.
His wife rests her head on his shoulder, and grazes her fingers across his chest.
She exhales deeply and whispers goodnight. Mark lies awake. The ceiling fan and glare of the alarm clock keeps him up. He listens to the hypnotic beat of the rainfall against the roof, and watches the water roll down the window. An uneasy feeling encapsulates him as he is reminded that his tomorrow will be identical to his today. He will snack on the same stale office muffins, and have mindless chatter with his uninteresting co-workers. He will come home to a woman who hasn’t renewed her gym membership in two years, and then pretend to enjoy the same meals that were put in front of him thousands of times: shake and bake chicken, frozen crinkle cut fries, spaghetti with tomato sauce, and store bought pies.
He will see that same look in the eyes of the people in his office. It’s a sad look, and it screams help without any noise. It’s a look of helplessness, as all of his peers are confined and imprisoned by their bosses, their spouse, and their kids. They don’t like their 9-5, but the thought of quitting and starting over never even crosses their feeble minds. He shudders at their lack of autonomy, but realizes he is no different than any of them.
Mark readjusts himself in the bed and turns his back to his wife, with the covers over his shoulders. He begins to fantasize what life would have been like if he never met her.
If his only financial responsibility priority was himself, he knows that his current income could support a lavish lifestyle for a bachelor living in the city. He pictures the skyline from a rooftop condominium, while the clink of wine glasses with the new intern plays as a background noise to his fairy-tale fantasy.
He remembers having the most recent wedding day out of all of his brothers, and the unnecessary guilt that he felt from family for being the oldest, and the last to wed.
Was I pressured into this? Did I choose this life or was it chosen for me? He thought.
Thoughts of escape began to fill his mind. He imagines driving 120 km/h into the warm ocean air of Canberra on a speed-bike, and smoking cigars on rooftop patios in Panama City. Mark exhales deeply through his nose. The silhouette of his wife’s unconscious body painted the walls of his bedroom.
How will her body look in 10 years? Or 20? She will never be that firm 22 year old that he married. Will I still be physically attracted to her throughout her older years? He pondered. The thought of his wife’s mother’s body and tethered face deepened his anxiety. He wondered how much longer until his love and affection deteriorates into acceptance and appreciation.
The thought of financial and logistical freedom excited him, but he knew it would come at a heavy price. A damaged psyche to his offspring, and half of his net worth gone to a resentful ex-wife.
The reminder of his two wonderful kid’s faces put his anxiety at ease, slightly. His mental activity begins to slow, and he drifts off to sleep.
Meet Dan: A 30 year old energetic bartender; still in good shape thanks to his old football body that he had built in his early 20s. Dan’s sandy brown hair and square jaw reveal his Irish heritage, and his quick witted humour and sharp tongue convey that he was raised a salesmen. Dan works at a popular bar in Manhattan and serves drinks to some of the city’s most gorgeous women. He rents a one bedroom condo just down the street. His income covers both the necessities and some luxuries, as he doesn’t have to provide for anyone else but himself. Dan is living fast, and wild. He is completely living in the moment, with little of his paycheques arriving in his savings account. He had been in a long relationship in his twenties, but it fell through right before engagement plans.
It’s 11 o’clock, and just as Dan’s shift is over, the bar he works at starts to fill up. He rinses the last glass, collects his tip, throws on his coat and scarf, and walks out the door.
Light snowfall and Christmas lighting greets him on the way out, as he walks about two blocks down the street to his place. He has a little strut in his step, as he’s meeting a hot brunette named Bridgette in an hour for a drink. As he’s walking up the stairs to his apartment, his phone vibrates to a text that reads, “See you soon. J”
Dan opens the door, throws off his leather jacket and cracks a beer. He knows he should be rushing, but he feels that being a little late to his date will put him in a position of power.
He opens his blinds to a beautiful view of Manhattan at night, he turns on a David Gray vinyl, and slowly begins to freshen himself up for his date. Dan cleans up well; he’s looking to make a good first impression on this girl that he met during one of his shifts last week. He goes for a formal look of black pants, white button up, metallic watch, and a spray of Lacoste cologne.
As midnight approaches, Dan works some gel into his hair and flows it back;
“I’d do me.” he says to himself in the mirror.
Dan swigs back the last of his beer and heads on out the door to the Ale House where a local band is playing.
As he arrives to the scene, he notices the band is in full force. He may be the most sober guy in the building. He locks eyes with the girl he is meeting; she is sitting at a round table at the corner of the bar, legs crossed, in a short black dress, with just a little bit of cleavage. She appears to have a little Espanola in her blood, curvy, and with a distinct dark freckle over lip.
Dan acknowledges her, smiles, and approaches the table. “Thank god I didn’t hold my breath,” she says with a grin.
“Well aren’t you a funny one,” he replies as he adjusts his cufflink.
As Dan slides into the table, they are pleasantly greeted by his old college friend Alyssa who is serving tonight.
“Rickard’s White for you Dan?” she asks.
“Always trying to plump me up, aren’t yah,” he says sheepishly.
“You know me too well,” she replies, pleased with the flirting,
Dan takes a mental note that he would totally do Alyssa.
“And for you?” she asks Bridgette. “Just a vodka cran,” she says quietly as she stuffs her purse into the corner of the booth
The bar is buzzing, but they are sitting far from the band, so they can hear each other without any trouble. Luckily Dan is seated with his back to the wall, so her attention is focused on him and only him. He picked up this little trick in college. Dan does his usual playful banter, discusses his travels, and pokes fun at her, all while keeping his legs in touch with hers. He makes her laugh with ease, and every time she giggles, she grabs onto his forearm.
As time passes, they have reached a happy medium between buzzed and drunk; the two begin to discuss what they’re really passionate about. Bridget notes how she loves dancing and hot yoga. Dan reveals his love of adventure, and how he enjoys writing and meeting new people. As more drinks are served, they begin to feel more and more connected.
Bridget’s constant hair tosses and glow in her eyes revealed her desire for further intimacy. Dan likes where this is going, as he can already picture her sprawled out on his bed.
Bridget’s eyes become a little glossy so Dan decided to call it a night.
“I wanna show you the view from my balcony,” he says as he scribbles down his signature on the receipt.
“Only if you have me home before bedtime!” she replies jokingly.
Dan knows he has this in the bag. He quickly visualizes how it’s going to play out when they get home; he waves down an incoming cab.
“12c Water street!”
Bridget is now resting her head on his chest, as the two speed through the chilly Manhattan night. The street lights wrapped with Christmas ornaments and reefs brings a genuine smile to his lips, as it reminded him of being a child in the backseat of his parent’s car; without a care in the world. Dan could see the cab driver nodding in acceptance as the two pulled up to his place. The two scurried upstairs. They couldn’t resist the sexual tension, within seconds Bridget’s panties were dropped.
They went at it three times that night; and had spurts of passion near the end. He never banged a Hispanic girl. She had been unusually hard to orgasm, he thought, but he powered through.
After the sex, they both rolled over on his bed with a euphoric yawn. Bridget inched closer to him and tried to cuddle; it felt forced. Dan could not see a future with this girl, as she gave it up way too easy. He kind of wanted her to leave.
As his buzz began to wear off, and the thrill of the chase subsided, he began to ponder if he will ever find the right one. As Bridget’s breathing became heavier, she had now entered a deep sleep.
As Dan lay, he felt a bit of shame cast over him. He gazed up at his ceiling and thought, will I ever have a family? Who will I pass my knowledge and wisdom down onto? My parents are expecting grandchildren. He did not want to disappoint them, he thought that society expected him to have kids. He wondered if being a parent offered a sense of fulfillment in life that being a seasoned bachelor could not.
He knew that refraining from marriage and kids gave him freedom and luxuries that wouldn’t otherwise be readily available; and being able to fly to Atlantic City with his buddies on demand pleased him, but the thought of dying alone scared him. The fact that he is entering his 30’s scared him. And the fact that he is scheduled to attend his best friend’s wedding in August scared him even more.
He knew kids were expensive, but he wondered if being a father would make his life feel complete. He pondered whether the dopamine rush of reward from being with a new girl would always trump the oxytocin high of being with a loved one.
As the voices in his head began to seize, Dan turned his back to Bridgette and drifted off to sleep.
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