by Brian Knippers
Memories are dreams of past lives. In prison, memories become a reality and a curse. You relive the past while you sleep. You daydream snippets of who you were before your life became a rote expression of formulaic punishment. Some memories are beautiful…other memories destroy you.
I lived in Boston in my early twenties. The city’s spectacular when you’re young. The lights at night reveal shapes and cityscapes. Denizens of the party scene become a multitude of endless encounters. If only I could remember all their names? I lived for the great unknown back then. The next chance hookup. What I found proved to be far more intoxicating, a discovery that surpassed all my expectations.
When I first moved to Boston I was living with a young woman named Carrie. Carrie was an east coast transplant originally from northern California. She was a tall, blond, Irish gal with cerulean blue eyes and straight white teeth. We thought we were in love. We were in love. We just weren’t in love with one another. It took me far to long to understand Carrie was a more evolved person than I was.
When I first met Carrie she’d been with my buddy Chad for a few years. They’d moved from San Francisco to Boston. Chaddy was a close friend of mine in high school. Carrie and Chad had broken up, and Carrie and I had hooked up. It was a fucked up thing to do to a friend. There were only a couple occasions in my life I gave into the temptation of sleeping with my friend’s girlfriend. But, I have to admit, being with Carrie made me feel alive. She was the kind of woman that made any man feel like a rockstar. My ego ate that shit up like ice cream! In my defense, Chaddy treated Carrie like shit. Still, there’s no excuse for fucking over your friend and sleeping with his one true love.
Through a connection I’d made working at ABP (Au Bon Pain) in the Cape Cod Mall, I secured employment as an assistant manger at an ABP in Boston. The restaurant I worked at was located on Winter Street. One afternoon — after giving an employee a fifteen minute break — I took over her register.
Managers at ABP wear light blue oxfords to distinguish themselves from regular employees. In the midst of our afternoon lunch rush, a gorgeous woman walked into the restaurant and ordered a baguette an espresso. She asked me why I was wearing a light blue oxford. I found her question, or maybe the way she asked it, funny, and started laughing. She had this delicate French accent and she was gorgeous. She was also slightly taller than me. I’m six feet tall and I normally don’t find women taller than me attractive, but she wore it well. I put a free chocolate chip cookie in her bag and forgot about her.
The next day she came in, spotted me and waved. I took a break, went outside and sat with her. She was thirty one years old and spoke of the world as if she’d once owned it. Compared to my twenty three year old, uncultured, “grew up in Maine,” ass, she was my superior in everything from art, to science, to philosophy, to baking a loaf of bread. In every silo of human awareness that’s palpable, Sophie was my senior. We had one thing in common, however, and I knew it the first time we locked eyes. We both wanted to tear each other’s clothes off. She asked if I was busy that night, and would I like to join her for dinner. She gave me her number. I promised to call after work. There was one minor problem, I was living with Carrie. In order to free up the night, I’d need to come up with an inventive excuse to explain my absence.
After work I crawled back to Allston on the T’ (Subway Train). Carrie wasn’t home when I got there. We’d been fighting and I suspected she’d been seeing Chad again. This made living together awkward, but I’d never been the jealous type. If a woman’s going to cheat on you, it’s going to happen regardless of your struggle to stop it. Cheating is not the ultimate betrayal, it’s an expression of dissatisfaction within a relationship.
I called Sophie and asked her for directions. She told me to come over whenever I was ready. I threw on shorts, a t-shirt, sneakers, etc…back then I was a big believer in, “keeping it casual.” I may have used several light dabs of Armani cologne, my go to olfactory aphrodisiac in the 90’s. Then I jumped on my mountain bike and began traversing traffic. This was back when you could ride a bike on the jogging/walking path that runs alongside the Charles River.
I reveled in the thrill of weaving in and out of walkers and joggers, staying one step ahead of the ever shifting wave of humanity. By mirroring the speed of the traffic on Storrow Drive — when it was moving — I kept my speed up. My usual route — when heading into downtown Boston — was Long Ave. (the street I lived on) to Allston Ave., left onto Comm Ave., left onto Harvard Ave., right onto Brighton Ave., merge back onto Comm Ave., then down towards Kenmore Sq.
But, to get to Sophie’s place, I’d be zipping down Brighton Ave. before swerving behind the Boston University Buildings. In minutes I’d be flying down the jogging path… speeding along the, “foot of the Charles,” past the boathouse, past the esplanade, past the, “let’s smoke pot and people watch,” people.
As it happened, it happened to be a perfect summer’s eve. A slight breeze was rolling off the Charles towards the sweltering city streets. I rode aggressively, inhaling smells of diesel fumes, dirty water and burning tobacco along the way. All those candid observers lounging everywhere. Those masses of Boston’s multi-cultural humanity that love nothing more than languishing in slothfulness and lazing around on carpets of well worn grass. These listless slackers became blurry blobs of swirling color as I flew by on wheels of wings to meet my future muse.
She lived in a high dollar condo a couple blocks from Haymarket Station. I pulled up in front of her building and began to feel self-conscious about my choice of attire. She buzzed me in and I took the elevator to one of the upper floors. Her apartment was a palatial dreamscape to a kid sleeping on a futon with a picture of a mushroom hanging on his wall. Her moderate decor would be considered spartan by today’s standards. And yet, the lack of unnecessary inanimate objects created vacuous amounts of floor space, allowing ambient light to flood through the floor to ceiling windows. Sophie had taste, something I knew little about. I was drawn to a watercolor hanging on the wall. She said it was a portrait someone had painted of her in her formative years. There was cheese and wine on the table. The windows were open. A few translucent curtains were billowing inward with each light gust of wind. The whole vibe was surreal. I asked Sophie if I could rinse off in her shower. She pointed down the hallway without saying a word. That was Sophie in a nutshell. She made the strangest requests seem normal. In her shower, I found a cake soap that made me fall in love with the female essence all over again. After stepping out of the water, I found a luxuriously thick towel hanging over the doorknob. The towel smelled better than the soap. I pulled up my shorts and left the bathroom, sans t-shirt.
We sat back on Sophie’s sofa and ate cheese and crackers. The wine was crisp and tasted of green apples. I asked her what kind of wine it was and she told me it was a Gewürztraminer. I continued asking her question after question about her life as she calmly revealed the details. One trait I always admired in Sophie was her openness. She’d been a successful runway model for years and still did a little modeling on the side. I grew uncomfortable, laying back flat on her couch I began telling Sophia about Carrie as if I was in a therapist’s office. Explaining our conundrum took me less than five minutes. Sophie laughed it off as a learning curve of adolescent love. She was kind, polite, considerate and understanding. We polished off the bottle and she took me to bed.
Sophie was an attentive lover, but she was more than that. Being with Sophie was like earning a doctorate in, “The Mystery of the Female Mind and Body.” She was my first, “vocal lover.” She would say things like, “Put your finger on my pubic bone and press upwards, gently,” or, “grab my hips and pull me forward.” She had no problem whispering, “gentle, gentle,” like she was speaking to a child. There was also the occasional upbraiding for not being aggressive enough. The words slower, harder, faster, or not yet, were either murmured in my ear, or screamed at me fiercely in moments of passion. Her demeanor shifted with her levels of excitement. Once we began, her resolve was remarkable. She was a raptor locked in on her target. And oh, how I loved to make Sophie climax. Afterwards, we’d lay strewn across each other in nestled exhaustion. Her whole body would tremble. Think of a bowl of firm jello when you yank open the refrigerator door to hard. Of the thousands of orgasms I’ve given to women over the years, Sophie’s orgasms were extraordinary. One after the other. Once she climaxed, multiples often followed. You could kiss her neck and she’d have an aftershock. It was incredible!
Sophie preferred to brought to her first orgasm slowly, with patience. She liked foreplay. Being a barista, I was reminded of the difference between making a particularly fine cup of cappuccino, and brewing a strong pot of coffee. The rise and fall of empires sought less, great pleasure takes time.
Making love to Sophie was spectacular, but it was her mind that fascinated me. What Sophie taught me took place outside the bedroom, shower, sofa, kitchen, patio, and all the other places we explored one another’s bodies. She taught me how to treat women. She also taught me how watch, listen and understand how women want to be treated. Then there were the Sophism’s such as:
How to demand a woman’s respect by holding your ground.
How to steel your nerves and remain confident when faced with a tense situation.
How to be subordinate and submissive when your woman demands it of you. What character/personality traits women looked for in men.
She taught me all this, and more. Of all life’s little vaunted lessons, these were some of the most important lessons I ever received. I dated a lot of college aged women back then. But, most of the young women I dated had no idea what they wanted in a man.
Sophie taught me how to examine a woman’s clothes, make-up, and hairstyle to tell if she was well put together. How to concentrate on listening to the way a woman spoke. She explained this was a way to better gauge the level of a woman’s education. She taught me about lingering looks. What it means when a woman looks at you from across a room a little to long. Then she taught me how to act on it. Sophie gave me instruction on signals. Drilling me on what it means when a woman puts her hand on your shoulder, or touches your chest, during a conversation. The most important lessons Sophie taught me, however, were on the subtleties of a woman’s persona. The subterfuge women use to disguise joy, anger, fear and sadness. How women sometimes avoid confrontation when there’s a problem, creating a diversion to steer you away from their feelings.
These are secrets women wear close to the vest.
Sophie took a rough cut piece of chopped liver and turned it into prime rib. She mined a hunk of quartz from a backwater quarry and compressed, cut, and polished that rough stone until it was ready to be presented as an official product of Switzerland. We were together for six months. She took me to the city’s best restaurants. We’d see plays together at the Wang Theater and the Charles Street Playhouse. She took me to see Blue Man Group and Stomp. I knew nothing of Boston’s Theater District except that it existed until Sophie brought me there. She paid for everything, and that included buying me a new wardrobe. I kept Sophie to myself. I never spoke of her to my friends, roommates, or anyone else, until now. Our time together drifts back upon me like rolling fog sweeping across a lake of dreams. She’s a brilliant silhouette walking a distant shoreline on a gray October morn. If I was Sophie’s plaything, she was my lover. I like to think I meant a little bit more to her, but I’d only be fooling myself.
One day Sophie announced she intended to move back to France. She told me this on a rainy October eve as we walked hand in hand through the Commons. She was holding an umbrella for both of us. I began crying. She looked away from me, staring off in the distance as though looking for someone else. Every bit the Parisian lover I remember…that’s how I’ll always remember her.