“His hair was long and sleek; Valentino’s blend of Western strength and Asian beauty. Estas was about my age, generously out-smarted me and his book was already iconic. ”
After her last blog post Lauren suspects she may fall in love, and struggles with the age old questions on life, death and what to wear.
A puzzled look in the mirror. An inch of dark root, but the rest of the hair light. The subtle honey tones of earlier dye had faded, leaving only the bleached base tone. My hair was already long enough to pull it back into a low ponytail if I sneaked in some bobby pins to hold it together. Soon I would have to decide if I would continue the faux pas of my hairdresser, who had given me a Marilyn Monroe like cut, setting my curls loose for the first time since the 80s. Or if I would ask her to clean it up and work towards a more modest bob line, daily straightening or my favorite hair do; cool blonde side parted hair in a low bun. It made me feel together, in control, like Sharon Stone. Especially with my white coat. I always wore white coats in winter and just bought a new one. It had deep pockets on the sides, exactly like the one from Basic Instinct. Every time I slid my hands in I half expected to find a silver cigarette case and a lighter of 30 St Mary Axe.
“Shall we get a bite to eat first?” Famke texted. “And drinks. It would be inappropriated to show up sober.”
I looked in the mirror again. As long as I wore my contacts I could still sport no make-up at 42. And my gray hairs were so rare I could never spot them when I looked for them. The dark root could pass. It would give my hair extra volume, and save me a hasty dye session.
“I can be there at 18.00” I texted.
It was two hours by train.
In the 90s, Famke had gotten me interested in literature, or at least in writer Henry who was about our age. I was into Brad Pitt and studied to be an engineer, but somehow Famke managed to squeeze Henry’s book in, and my brain was delighted to get something different than math or movies. I devoured Henry’s book.
Without Famke I would never have resumed reading after dismissing the whole thing after mandatory literature in high school; I would never have started writing, and would have remained unaware of good looking gorgeous men like Rafael (2012), Sam (2013) and now Estas, who we would visit tonight. Famke was excited too; she looked forward to meeting Dijin, the Marlon Brando of Dutch literature who had gained weight and addictions with every brilliant book he had delivered. And just like Brando his charm was still evident, and the markings of his addiction magnified his status.
“I couldn’t stop drooling over his chest hair,” Famke would confess later.
Famke and I met in an old café where the best seat of the house became available the moment we realized we should have made reservations. We ate fish, pasta, and Famke went fearless on the garlic.
“No plans to see your boyfriend this weekend, I reckon?”
But he had the children over.
“Estas’ book is about what you have,” I mentioned. Famke and her beau had been together for a few months. “Adolescent loves meeting again.”
Famke shrugged. “Yeah it’s cool. And how are things with you and the American?”
I had hooked up with my college sweetheart Rutger on Independence Day, which had been symbolic for how our relationship had developed.
“Rutger is Dutch. He just lives there. Probably holding auditions for a Mrs Rutger as we speak.”
“Did you read any of Dijin’s books?” Famke changed the subject.
“His first. I didn’t understand all the words. Probably straight from Arab or something.”
“Medieval Dutch. But you wouldn’t know that.”
“I did write an erotic story about his sister. Does that count?” I offered.
“No. Leave the Prince of Darkness to me. You stick with Estas.”
My belly expectantly jumped up to my heart at the sound of his name.
Contrary to my earlier writer idols I was still unsure how I would respond to Estas. He classified as “my type” but I hadn’t been able to pick up his energy on screen or from audio. Probably because his voice was so much softer. Estas didn’t speak with Sam’s rough consonants, which made you feel like you were phonetically raped, nor did his voice radiate Rafael’s warmth that wrapped you like a blanket, soothing into an easy surrender.
Even Henry, who had never classified as my type, owned a magical husky voice that had been the reason I went on crusades to bookstores and readings, desiring an autograph and to hear that enchanting voice.
Estas didn’t have such a voice.
And there was something else that made me doubt the real-life attractiveness.
His male protagonist was disturbingly ugly. I could find a way around his maniacal obsessive side, but the acne, non-existent body hair management and most of all his womanly hips, made it difficult for me to sympathize with the female character. Why on earth would she choose him?
In his favor: he was great in bed. But I knew from experience that a dirty mind can be a joy for a month or four, providing you don’t see him too often, but after that womanly hips, acne and failing body hair management will become a problem.
So what if Estas had written about himself?
What if the legs that had still looked fine on tv, would in reality look like the Venus of Milo would miss them?
It was windy, dark, and we were medium drunk. The small distance to the theater was covered with tracks and an indistinct intersection, trams and taxis sped by from unexpected directions. We patrolled what we believed to be the sidewalk for the duration of her two cigarettes.
“I almost started smoking again. I have pics.”
Photos on my phone of me smoking and a half eaten pizza.
“Cool. Who’s the guy?”
“First guy I ever kissed. We met at a reunion. He turned gay after his early teens.”
A rough beard, brown long hair and a wide smile. His blue eyes stood apart, adding to the child like grin.
“Tasty. Too bad we lost him.”
He had been highly popular with timid virgins. As if we sensed he wouldn’t grab or grope or otherwise bother us with heterosexual clumsiness.
“And I’m seeing Henry this week,” I said. “We’re going for lunch.”
“Wow! What did you do to deserve that?”
“I don’t know. We know each other through Twitter. Henry saved Sam. I hooked them up after Sam’s debut exploded in the media and he wasn’t getting any guidance. Sam would have been on heroin if it wasn’t for Henry.”
Now that I saw how sluggish the media were with Estas’ book, I realized things indeed had been absolutely crazy last year with Sam. The media all fought to write about him, to have him on their show. With Estas’ book it was different: he had been invited to only one show, a program that only covers serious literature, but was boosted bottom up, by bookstores and readers. There had been five star reviews, of course, but no paper had the shamelessly long interviews that had been published of Sam.
“Maybe Estas needs saving too. You should hook him up with Henry.”
But I shook my head. “It’s his fourth book. Estas can take care of himself.”
“You never know!” Famke insisted. “Dijin might get him. Could have him in an opium den before the clock strikes twelve.”
We picked up our tickets, and looked for a seat that allowed us a good view at the big couch on stage. There was already a musician, playing a string instrument, probably inspired by either the Arab or medieval background from Dijin. The lyrics were odd, like poetry that doesn’t rhyme.
“He has a weird accent,” I whispered. “Like he only just milked the cows.”
Famke nodded. “Alcohol doesn’t help to appreciate this.”
The audience looked at the ceiling, fondled with brochures, solemnly nodded. The average age was 104.
And then I spotted him, talking to Dijin in one of the side aisles, leaning to the wall. Estas was taller than on tv, his long hair darker, maybe a dye. A slender elegant body. The pants weren’t shrink to fit, nor could I see his butt, but no doubt his butt cheeks were firm and he wasn’t a hormonal mess like his protagonist. And the face! On tv the light brown skin had leaned towards white, a Southern European tone rather than Asian. But in real life it showed its true beauty. Even the features, that had appeared slightly out of proportion, suggesting a bloated face and interfering with ratio of nose, nose to lips – were peaceful and balanced.
“First eye-contact with Dijin,” Famke bragged.
But Estas stayed focused and didn’t look into the audience.
The evening started. It was modelled like a talk show and Estas was first. The interviewer came remarkably prepared, and was professional. Not someone who is there on stage to steal someone’s glam nor to idolize his guests.
“The longing to unite with someone is the only big myth we have,” Estas explained the uncompromising content of his book. “I wasn’t interested in writing about meaningless sex.”
He finished by reading from his book. Two people in a room and their nearly insatiable desire to feel the other, to claim and to be claimed, to possess. Estas’ soft voice meandered through the explicit paragraphs, carefully articulating, only brushing on the strongest words. Lifting them until they floated on his breath.
The interviewer sighed. “That’s how you write a novel.”
Estas appeared satisfied.
“If you do it right, yes.”
I spent Dijin’s interview staring at Estas, who took position in the first row.
After the show they set up the stage for book signings. Most people planned on coming back later, and went for refreshments. The authors took their place, the banjo player started his medieval songs again. The interviewer and some publishing people wandered around and kept the authors company.
“Has the signing started?” I asked. “Or are we interrupting?”
The interviewer gave way with a friendly smile and I got Estas’ table. Famke was the first with Dijin. She brought two glasses and a bottle of green liquor, which he immediately opened.
“Hi, I’m Lauren” I stared into Estas’ eyes as I shook his hand. “Will you sign my book? I already have one. A first edition.”
And I wished I had brought him absinthe, although I was sure he wouldn’t drink that.
“Why do you write in Dutch?” I asked Estas. Estas had studied English literature and strongly favored Anglo-Saxon literature. Like Henry, Estas had idolized Henry Miller, particularly Tropic of Cancer. A book I didn’t even own yet because I was afraid that just like Catcher in the Rye, it would stay untouched. Henry Miller was the lover of Anais Nin, in Paris in the 30s. That was my strongest motivation to one day read it.
Estas’ English was more than likely as good as mine plus he actually read the American Classics.
But that’s not how he saw it.
“Oh no, I prefer Dutch. There is still so much that can be achieved there.”
He looked unbothered that only a fraction of the world would be able to actually read his achievements.
Our moment together was light. I noticed how the gentle voice created space around him that didn’t fill up, didn’t respond to the weight of man meets woman.
“I will give you my name,” I dived into my bag for my card. That is the only concession I do when I write about famous people. Even when the subject doesn’t realize yet that I’ll write about him.
“You re not Lauren?”
“I’m also Lauren. When I write erotica. When I teach yoga I have a different name.”
“You try to separate it. The romantic you and the business you.”
“You say it like it’s not working.”
“We carry our most intimate side with us all the time. We all do.”
Meanwhile on the table next to us, they were less shy with their intimate sides. Dijin was drawing hearts in Famke’s book. She was giggling and sipping the green liquid.
Estas’ pen cautiously started to spell my name. Then his own. No L word, X’s O’s. His wedding ring flashed, catching the stage lights. A sharp ray of light.
“I liked your sex scenes,” I said, suddenly unabashedly. Pages dense with intimacy. Two people cheating but with a monogamous desire for each other. The type of sex only Rutger had been able to give me.
“Thank you,” Estas closed the cover. “I tried to stay truthful. It is what really happens.”
“If you do it right. Yes.”