His scent gets me every time. It’s an orange spice that always makes me crave an Orangesicle. I wish Matt would wear some fancy cologne, or do anything sexy for that matter. When Zeus comes over for Matt’s birthday dinner, I prolong my hug just to get a whiff. His smell transports me to a forbidden place. It’s not really cheating if it’s all in my head, I tell myself. At night I fantasize about us having passionate sex in every position imaginable.
“You give the best hugs,” Zeus says after we both let go. I shrug and walk into the kitchen to check on the roasted chicken. It’s really just an excuse to step away before I say or do something stupid.
“I’ve got this,” Matt says, following me into the kitchen. I think he’s being passive-aggressive because no one else showed up for dinner.
“All right, all right.” I raise my hands as if to surrender and head toward the living room. I should’ve known better. Matt is the chef at a three-star restaurant in Wicker Park. So, he takes his cooking a little too seriously. I blame him for my weight issues.
Now, I’m stuck on the couch with Zeus. We’re isolated from Matt because of the wall that separates the two rooms. If only our three other friends hadn’t canceled at the last minute. I make sure to sit on the other side of the couch, with enough space between us for Matt to fit. Even from this distance, his strong fragrance fills my nostrils like I’m smoking it. I pull out my phone, hoping one of my girls has some emergency only I can fix. No such luck. No texts, no missed calls. I’m feeling the non-love right now.
“So, how have things been at the hospital?” Zeus asks. The awkward tension is so thick you could cut it with one of Matt’s cooking knives. I feel a magnetic pull toward him but I resist. I hold the armrest tight lest some force of nature actually thrust me toward him.
“Same old. Now that I’m in surgery my work is a little more interesting.”
“Surgery?” He pulls his head back and raises his eyebrows like he’s impressed. “That must be stressful.”
I shake my head. “Not really. I just supply the doctors with the tools they need and let them do their thing.” I hate talking about my job. “What about you? How’s work?”
“Oh, it’s OK. We won a case and were finally able to put a major drug dealer in jail. So, I’m feeling rather accomplished today.” He’s always doing something amazing but tries to play it down.
“That’s awesome.” I smile.
“Thanks.” He smiles back. We let the silence hang for a moment. There’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask him. For as long as I’ve known him, he’s never talked about his relationships with women. Maybe if I knew he had a girlfriend I would just get over myself.
“So,” I start, “I’m sure a successful guy like you has girls chasing after you all the time.”
“Actually, no. Dating in Chicago sucks.” He sits forward and starts explaining different dates he’s been on and how they all ended in disappointment. I don’t know whether to be elated or feel despair about this.
“I’m curious. What cologne do you use?” I ask, changing the subject.
He raises one eyebrow. “That’s top secret info right there.”
I nudge him. “Aw, come on.” He considers me for a second.
“All right, if you insist.” He leans closer to me.” It’s Ephemeral by Calvin Klein.”
I get on my phone and start reading Huffington Post articles about the presidential race.
“Food’s ready,” Matt says, holding a steaming pot of chicken and potatoes. He sets them on the table and we eat. During dinner Matt and Zeus do their “bro” thing, where they talk about college basketball statistics and the latest video games. I used to get irritated about it but now I just let them be. I chime in when I can, which is rarely. After dinner, I make sure to write down the name of that cologne.
The next day after work, I stop by the mall and buy a 3.4-ounce bottle of Ephemeral. It even comes with free body wash and shaving cream. At home, I find some old newspapers and use them to wrap the bottle. When Matt comes home I present it to him as a late birthday gift. It seems to cheer him up. He puts it on immediately. After a nice dinner we end up having the best sex we’ve had since we started dating. And the whole time I’m imagining it’s Zeus.