February 04, 2008

Alice remembers Internet cafes of the past

It's been 10 years since Alice has bolted into a town to connect with the world at an Internet cafe. Then, she was at a writer's colony in Massachusetts, racing in her rental car over 40 miles of a winding, hilly, two-lane road.

In Mexico this week, Alice saunters into the cafe calmly. She isn't expecting any salacious, lavicious communications these days.

Why the urgency then? She was conducting an affair -- though, since Alice is and was single, did it qualify as such? She had made no promises, taken no vows. The Married Man, on the other hand.... was philandering his hobby? An entertaining diversion from suburban less-than-wedded-bliss, kept intact because he loved his children and hated to cook?

Alice admits to some twinges of guilt, for she did know -- and had gotten along famously -- with TMM's wife years before. If TMM's wife hadn't phoned Alice a lot worse for the wine when her husband was out partying with the boys, there might have been more guilt. At the time, not so much.

Ten years ago, Alice needed those town trips to check email, flirt in cyberspace with the TMM, who had instigated the affair while Alice was staying with his family. Sure, she had hesitated. Stop making passes at me, she said. I'm in your son's bunk bed while your wife is in your bed, passed out from last night's drinking. What are you thinking? (No verbal answer.)

She did not protest too much to find herself having amazing sex with TMM in her favorite Wonderland venue for a clandestine rendez-vous, a hotel. The room overlooked one of the city's only private parks in a lovely residential area three miles south of chez Alice, convenient to Grand Central Station for TMM.

With its dark bar, residential location, and old-fashioned separate taps for hot and cold water, the hotel was a quaint landmark from another era. It's long gone now, purchased and demolished to make way for another overpriced, over-amenitied condo project selling for $2,000 per square foot or so.

Alice broke off the affair -- and has steered clear of married men and women in matters of the heart (or body) ever since. TMM taught her a lesson, one known to most single women of a certain age: TMM was out for himself, and Alice a convenience.

Though all she wanted was sex and some laughter -- if she had wanted to be a wife, she would have sought out that slot, say 20 years ago -- six weeks with TMM re-enforced the fact that Alice lacks the emotional filter required to remain superficial. She starts to take matters seriously -- and serious is where the single and the married part ways.

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