Alec Schmidt

The Last Woman

Woman in the Garden by Branko Šenoa

“I’ll give you some pills. Come back in a month,” the doctor says after I complain to him of my difficulty peeing. “Also, your PSA is too high. You may want to do a biopsy.”

Later, my buddy offers some advice. “Don’t have sex a few days before you do the test. Your PSA will likely be lower.”

“Oh, that’s easy,” I tell him. “I just broke up with my girlfriend.”

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

“You won’t believe it,” I smirk. “Political differences.”

“Talk to Gary,” my buddy quips. “His liberal girlfriend recently dumped him. Maybe he can fix you up with her.”

# # #

“Your pills help only marginally,” I tell the doctor a month later.

“Well, the good news is that your PSA is normal now. I’ll prescribe you other pills. They will somewhat shrink your prostate but they may kill your libido in the long run,” he replies.

“Any other ideas?” I ask grimly.

“Take the pills for three months. It will be easier to operate on you. Then we’ll have surgery.”

“And what’s the prognosis for that?” I inquire.

“In the worst case scenario, you may need diapers in the future, and even Viagra won’t help you,” the doctor avoids looking into my eyes. “But this happens rarely these days.”

# # #

“Three months … How am I going to spend them: write another research report or better find someone to fall in love with?” I browse absentmindedly the Facebook users on my feed who I am supposed to know. And then I see T. I lost track of her two years ago, after she disappeared from JDate.  We never met, even though we live just ten miles apart. We had a chat or two over the phone and exchanged a few notes on JDate. But I was so overwhelmed with T’s photos and her occasional warmth that I wrote a fantasy about us called “Another chance to fall in love.”

# # #

I do not have high expectations: T is much younger than me and, I guess, she is used to flying business class on vacations (I am not).

“How are you?” I shoot her a note.

“Nice to hear from you,” T replies almost instantly.

Then the torture begins. No, we cannot meet the next week. T will be at a conference. And by the way, she just became a young grandma and needs to visit her daughter’s family in Connecticut on weekends. No, we cannot meet the week after either. T has to go on a marketing tour, and then there is a charity dinner she has to attend.

I notice that she writes me mostly after midnight. It seems that her sleeping pattern is even worse than mine.

# # #

Finally, three weeks later, we meet in a restaurant. T looks a bit older than in her photos. She also gained some weight. I wonder if I would have recognized her on the street during the morning rush hour. T doesn’t seem excited either; she doesn’t even smile at me.

Then we have some wine. We start talking. Our sons are the same age and both applied to college this year. They both loved Legos when they were kindergarteners; they both became bitter after our families’ separations.

We have more wine, we share meals. We find out what music we love and which books formed us. We are in sync. Now I see her smile. Now I feel the warmth in her voice. Now I know, T is the woman from my fantasy.

# # #

And then, oh well, T tells me that she has recently got out of a highly emotional relationship and is not ready to start a new one. I don’t take this at face value. In my three-year experience with online dating, I heard various stories from women who did not feel immediate attraction on the first date.

I look at T’s tender face. No, I am not willing to lose her for the second time, so fast.

“Look, I have a lot of patience, don’t I?” I tell her. “I waited for two years to meet you.”

“A man’s look doesn’t matter to me that much; it’s all his about intelligence and confidence,” T suddenly offers me an opening. Or does she? Only time will tell.

The waiter brings the check and T takes out a credit card from her purse.

“In my experience,” I tell her, “women who try to split a restaurant bill don’t want to see me again.”

T sighs and lets me handle the check.

“I’ll be at a conference in Europe next week,” she tells me as we part.

# # #

I notice that T is active on Facebook around midnight.

“Are you moonlighting in Europe?” I send her a note.

“Yes, I can’t fall asleep,” T replies. “And I have to be up in four hours.”

I see the same situation the next night.

“Bad girl doesn’t sleep again?” I inquire.

“Nope,” T sends me a sad emoji.

“Okay, here is a well-tested way,” I recall my past experience. “You close your eyes and imagine that your head is on someone’s shoulder. I am happy to offer mine – virtually. No, really, close your eyes and just think that someone cares about you. But you must turn off your phone!”

“Stay tuned. If I message you in thirty minutes, it did not work,” T replies.

“I am with you,” I assure her.

She finally logs out.

# # #

We chat online about books and I tell T about the novel Shadows in Paradise by Remarque that influenced me during my youth. She loves Remarque but does not know the novel. I promise her a copy.

We meet during midweek at a restaurant. T notices that liver chops is on the menu and suggests we order them.

“Isn’t liver full of cholesterol?” I tease her.

“It’s very good!” I hear a lioness in her voice.

The chops turn out very good indeed. We chat about books, kids, politics; we are in agreement about everything. Still, T remains reserved with me. She tries again to split the restaurant bill and I refuse again.

“Can we meet during the weekend?” I ask when we walk out of the restaurant.

“I am in Connecticut this weekend,” T says dryly. “Maybe on Monday.”

“You made my day. I hope to see you on Monday.” I send her a message when I come home.

“Thank you! I enjoyed your company. But let’s talk about Monday, or Mondays. I am still attached to my past relationship. I am afraid this is not changing any time soon. I don’t want to rock your life!”  She writes me back.

Well, my patience is not limitless. I write her another note: “I’ve attached the piece Another Chance to Fall in Love, that I wrote after you disappeared from JDate. I should warn you, it’s explicit at times. We all have fantasies, don’t we? When we met, I didn’t want to show it to you. It has a sad ending but I hoped to give the real story another chance. Alas, I realize now that the end of story is always sad … Let me know when you want to pick up Remarque’s book.”

After a sleepless night, I add, “No hard feelings, at least in the morning. You were my muse, after all.”

“Your story is beautiful. We all have ‘fantasies’. I am honored if I provoked one,” T writes me back. “I am in Connecticut this weekend and also for the second half of December. But maybe we can meet next Tuesday?”

“More liver at six o’clock?” I ask her.

“That would be perfect!” T replies.

# # #

“I am considering spending a week in January in a warmer place. I am thinking Curacao. It is really warm and it has a European charm,” I tell T when we meet. “You are invited.”

“Thank you but I am not sure,” she replies. “I told you, I still can’t get over my past relationship. I will never go back but I still cannot move forward either.”

“I am writing another story about you. I call it The Last Woman. I want you to help me to write it. I want you to be my last woman.”

T raises her brows and I put my last chip on the table. I tell her about the impending surgery.

“You will be fine,” she tries to put as much warmth in her voice as she possibly can. “I’ll think about it.”

“I know you won’t allow me to split the bill,” T says and smiles slyly when the waiter brings it.

# # #

I make another pitch a week later. “I do not expect any commitments from you in Curacao. You will spend some time in a warm, nice place with a man who cherishes your presence. In particular, since you’re now confined to your grandma’s role in Connecticut.”

“What makes you think that my life is reduced to a grandma’s role?” T snaps unexpectedly. “I am going to Quebec for a couple of days.”

And then T starts writing me notes from Quebec. She never did it before, she only replied to mine.

“When are you flying back?” I ask her.

“Driving home now,” she replies.

“Eight hours? I hope you are in a good company,” I get suspicious.

“Nine.” That’s all what she writes.

We meet again in a restaurant.

“Yes, I was in Quebec with the man I had a relationship with in the past,” T admits. “But I am not in a relationship now! He wants to resume it but I do not.”

“I am not in a relationship,” she repeats again. “And I am not rushing into a new one.”

“You wrote me notes from Quebec, which you never did before, and I thought…” I make a pause and try to look into her eyes. “I thought that you needed me.”

“Well, I felt uncomfortable in Quebec,” T avoids eye contact.

“Let’s split the bill,” she says bitterly.

I nod my head.

“Good luck with your surgery,” T tells me at parting.

# # #

I am sitting in a Curacao hotel lounge, sipping a cognac and looking at a group of young, skimpily dressed women gathering at the bar. One, of them, a slim, sexy brunette, notices me and walks to my table.

“Hi, I am Lola,” she introduces herself with a smile.

Is she my farewell to manhood? I wonder and order her a drink.

I notice a guy with criminal chin at the bar who is staring at us. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“There are plenty of men in my life,” Lola smirks. “But I have a girlfriend.”

“Can we invite her, too?” I start thinking big.

“I’ll ask,” Lola says reluctantly. “She is not in this business, and you may even not like her. Maybe another girl at the bar?”

“Never mind. How about dinner?” I see that Lola is following with her eyes a waitress who is bringing food to the lounge’s patrons.

“Thank you!” She offers me a grateful smile.

“I usually try to avoid hungry women,” I grin.

“You are a wise man. I like you.” Lola suddenly looks at me seriously.

Oy vey. I end up romancing a bargirl. I sigh.

And then I get a text message from T: “I am coming tomorrow at noon.”

“You promised not to rock my life. I think you are just enjoying it,” I reply instantly.

“Oh, did I ruin my reputation?” She shoots back.

“You know I love you. Come soon!” I decide it’s not the time for my sarcasm.

“Nice talking to you, Lola. Don’t worry about the bill.” I rise from the table and walk to the bar to pay for her order.

# # #

I hug T as soon as she walks in the room.

“I was sweating on the road,” she whispers. “I need a shower.”

“I will eat you with salt,” I cover her face and neck with kisses.

“I need to pee,” T brings up an argument that I have to honor.

She goes to the bathroom and I hear that she turns on the shower.

It takes forever…

Finally, T comes out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel.

And the bliss begins.

# # #

It’s very warm in Curacao but so windy that we cannot even stay on the beach. We wander through the narrow streets, checking every bar and art gallery, and return to the hotel late at night. When I come out of the bathroom, T is in bed, her eyes closed.

“Did I tell you that I love you?” I ask her.

She shakes her head.

“That’s right, I just wrote it.” I kiss T on the temple. “Do you know how scary it is to say this? You feel like you are naked on the street.”

T presses my face against her neck and I stop talking.

# # #

Three days pass in a flash.

“When is your surgery?” T asks when we come out of the Newark airport.

“I’ll see the doctor next Monday,” I return to earth.

“We’ll be in touch.” T places a long kiss on my cheek and gets into the taxi.


About the writer:
Alec (Anatoly) Schmidt is a research scientist (from physics to finance) and adjunct professor. He published three professional monographs and self-published a memoir Everything that can happen to you happens today. Schmidt’s stories “Requiem for my parents” and “Another chance to fall in love” were published by the Tilde Magazine and Avatar Review, respectively. He was born and studied Physics in Riga, Latvia.

Image: Woman in the Garden by Branko Šenoa (1879-1939). Oil on paper. No size specified. 1918. Public domain.