Zoe & Sophia Dance to Hot Latino Music and Confront Scary Places as the Sublime Consumers of the Lightness of Being
Please send your ADVICE to two single women, whose lives are suddenly crashing in chaos! Zoe and Sophia, BFFs for thirty years, find themselves unexpectedly cast into the world of re-creation and redefinition after decades of being faithful wives to George and Marty. They need advice from anyone willing to help them. For instance, what advice would you give your BFF if she asked, “I’VE BEEN IN A PATTERN THAT DOESN’T FEEL GOOD. DO YOU THINK I CAN CHANGE THE PATTERN?” Any advice you can give to Zoe would be helpful, but this is what Sophia said.
One late afternoon Zoe rushed around her house, cleaning again each spotless room, deflecting thoughts that stalked her like little harpies. She was acrobatic in her ability to dodge these thoughts, but the one sure method she removed from her repertoire of agile moves was her dating websites. She was on lockdown with the laptop until she figured out why she needed connections with the faces and words of so many strangers.
Five miles down the road, Sophia sat with her elbow leaning on the dining room table, her hand cradling her head. She tried to write, but all her mind did was listen to the rain and think what a perfect metaphor it was for her life. Rain, like tears, echoed her pain, but rain was restorative, infusing life into withering plants. She knew she wasn’t a drought-blighted plant, but sometimes she felt like one.
Zoe knew she needed to talk about her thoughts when their whispers escalated to screams. So, she called Sophia.
“Hey, Sophie, what’s up?”
“Nothin. How are you?”
“I’m restless. Three days ago I banned myself from the dating sites and resolved not to talk to or see any of the men who keep pursuing me. It just feels so empty.”
“What made you decide to do those things?”
“I realized that whenever I feel lonely, I panic.”
“So, being by yourself scares you?”
“My skin crawls, Sophie. My stomach churns. I feel like an animal, cornered by prey, trapped in my aloneness.”
“Does staying busy help, Zo?”
“What do you do with your time?”
“When I’m not at work, I drive and stare mostly, and if I’m not driving and staring, I’m trying to figure out how to sleep.”
“Oh, baby. That’s depression at its worst. Has there been anything bright in your day?”
“Jackson in Florida called. He was very kind to me, in a friendship way. He recognizes that what motivates me to fill time seeking male attention is a need to plug holes of loss and abandonment from my past, going all the way back to my father’s death when I was eight. He gets it.”
“Doesn’t Jackson count as one of the men pursuing you?”
“He’s different. I have strong feelings for him. And he’s in Florida. All we can do is talk and write since I disabled the Webcam on my laptop.”
“Is he helpful? I mean, does he offer you good advice?”
“He says I need to change my thinking. Maybe that’s the secret to solving most things we perceive as problems. Just change the way we think about them,” said Zoe.
“Did you say the secret? I haven’t finished reading The Secret, but I think the message is pretty simple, really. Change the ways we think because our thoughts have a powerful influence on what we bring to ourselves.”
“Yes, simplicity itself,” said Zoe, “but it’s not so easy to do, especially when we can’t see the trees for the forest. What’s going on with you?”
“I can’t talk about it on the phone. You wanna come over?”
An hour later Zoe and Sparky, her stroke-impaired yellow lab, dashed into Sophia’s. Rain dripped from them into a puddle that Tolstoy sauntered over to lick. Tolstoy was Sophia’s huge Maine Coon cat, the man of the house. He loved Sophia dearly, but he was frustrated with her that morning. She was so preoccupied with troubles that she forgot to put water in his cat bowl. Even worse, she’d put some blue shit in the toilet water, which made Tolstoy want to puke, so he was not only irritated, he was parched. Sparky, who couldn’t walk straight on a good day, and who was incontinent and dumber than dirt (at least Tolstoy thought so), started to lap Tolstoy as an act of friendship and an invitation to play.
Sparky realized he must be pretty bored to want anything to do with Tolstoy, but his beautiful Zoe was so sad that morning that she had ignored him altogether. Sparky shook more raindrops off his coat, which sprayed over Sophia and her laptop. Sparky put his paw over his ears when he saw Sophia lift her head for a second. Those slitted eyes told her story every time. Okay, okay, he thought. I fucked up, but why does she need to be such a bitch to me?
Tolstoy saw Sparky’s nervous reaction. Mounting tension always made Tolstoy hungry. Well, everything made Tolstoy hungry since Sophia’s husband Marty walked out and took Tolstoy’s big brothers with him, the border collies Dickens and Voltaire. Plain and simple, Tolstoy had a serious eating disorder, which is why he scurried out of the dining room, through the kitchen and out the swinging door to the summer kitchen. Perhaps Sophia remembered to leave some kibble in his bowl. Sparky sensed that the tears were about to fly with the two women, and frankly, he was getting a little tired of the morose shit, so he slunk off to follow Tolstoy out to the summer kitchen.
Zoe walked over to Sophia, who hadn’t stirred since she arrived except to glare at Sparky. Sophia’s forehead rested on a book. Gently, Zoe tried to lift Sophia’s head, but Sophia wouldn’t budge. Finally, Zoe gave her hair a tug, not too hard, just enough to pull Sophia out of her weird, depressed trance.
“OUCH,” cried Sophia. “Why did you do that?”
“I wasn’t sure you were alive, just testing. What were you doing anyway?”
“I was visualizing.”
“Putting pictures in my mind of what I want and believing those things had already come to me.”
Sophia picked up the book next to her and handed it to Zoe. It was The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. Then she said, “Read the book. It’s about changing our thoughts to make the things we want come to us.”
“Fuck sake,” said Zoe. “Can we discuss the book later? Tell me what you wouldn’t talk about on the phone.”
“Something happened this morning. I had my weekly meeting with Marty over division of assets. He seemed really lost and sad and told me he was feeling ambivalent about us.”
“What’s that mean?”
“He said he had drawn away from Fugly lately, and that he was thinking about me all the time.”
Marty was Sophia’s husband who left her after he disclosed his affair with Fugly. Fugly, who looked like a man-troll, pursued Marty during the course of his relationship with her on a business project. Fugly’s husband was a famous musician, and his father was really, really famous, Famous Father. It was Famous Father who financed the project proposed by Fugly to Marty, one that would fulfill a dream Marty sought for years. Once Famous Father found out about the affair, he pulled his money out of the project and it collapsed. But Fugly left her husband to be with Marty. That’s not all she left. She walked out on three young children whom she now saw on a visitation schedule.
“What does Marty want from you?”
“I’m not sure, probably just a dialogue. But he did own up to some things that he hasn’t before.”
“He’s maintained all along that because I was a mean, bitter wife, I drove him away. But this morning he acknowledged those things weren’t true. He admitted that Fugly gunned for him from the first day they met, and that she put that desire into actions and words that drew him away. I knew all this from the beginning, I sensed it in the way she broke every boundary, openly pursued him, and I railed against all of it. I pleaded, I screamed, I fought to make him see. But, as he said, he finally just ‘fell.’ Who wouldn’t? He had a wife at home intuiting the situation he denied in himself and acting like a harridan. He had the other woman who wanted him, being wonderful and adoring toward him.”
“Okay, Sophie, I know your theory, but let’s face it, it takes two tango.”
“I know, Zo.”
“So, where do things stand?”
“I told him about Jack.” Jack was Sophia’s new lover.
“What did he say?”
“Not much. But I could see pain spring into his eyes. What I didn’t tell him was that I don’t see a future with Jack. Jack’s good on paper, a writer like me, and we share the same taste in music, food, art, blah, blah, blah. But Jack is so much like Marty. And the fact that he left his wife for another woman and destroyed a marriage, I just don’t think I could love someone who would do that to another person, no matter how cleansed he feels.”
“Why not?” asked Zoe.
“Because it was cowardly, disrespectful, and selfish, and people who do that are forever haunted by their guilt. And if they are not, well, who would want a person without a conscience?”
“You have a point. If you want out of a marriage, just have the balls to leave. Don’t jump into another relationship, before you’ve left the last one,” said Zoe.
“It’s a matter of degrees. It’s one thing to have a slip, screw around a couple of times, and then face up to what you’ve done. It’s another thing to “fall in love” with someone over many months while you’re still married and still telling your wife everyday how much you love her and worse, telling her she’s imagining the affair. That’s what both Marty and Jack did. That takes a lot of deception, self and otherwise.”
“So, have you told Jack what you’re thinking?”
“Not yet. I have a date with him tomorrow night. I thought I’d tell him then. My only reluctance, honestly, is that I like having someone to make love with, someone to sleep next to at night. It’s been so long for me. The problem is that I still fantasize about Marty.”
“Hey, you make love with someone for decades, and they learn what you want and need. I have a sense Marty misses the sex with me too.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well, for the last few weeks, every time I see him, he has that sort of hungry look in his eyes.”
“What does that mean, Sophie?”
“He can’t help his eyes from looking me up and down.”
“Sophie, would you ever take Marty back if he asked?”
“NO,” cried Sophia. Zoe gave her a look shaped like a vast question mark but said nothing. Tears formed in Sophia’s eyes. “I don’t know,” she whispered.
“Never mind,” said Zoe.
“It’s okay. I’ve never really thought about whether I would go back with him. But I do know I wish I could make love with him one more time. I’ve never admitted that to anyone.”
“Okay, Sophie. Change is constant; growth is optional. That would not be growth. Anyway, let’s quit talking about sex, okay? I’ve sworn off of it for the time being.”
“Wow, Zo, that’s huge. But what are you gonna do for sex?”
“Well, I haven’t yet tried out the sex toys you bought at the Naughty Party while I was out in L.A. No time like the present, I guess.”
“Humm,” said Sophia, “Come to think of it, neither have I. I finally took the toys off Marty’s side of the bed and put them in his bedside table. In fact, I forgot all about them.”
“Why do you need them now that you have Jack?”
“Have you not been listening to me? I’m breaking it off tomorrow night, Zo.”
“Oh, I thought that was a maybe–not a for sure.”
“It’s over. I can’t lead him on. I just have too much residual shit to be able to accept who he is, and I get him all confused with Marty and blah, blah, blah. I don’t wanna talk about it. But I will miss the sex.”
“Well, once again we’re talking about sex.”
“Hey, does your new regime mean we can’t go out on anymore dinner dates?” asked Sophia.
“Not necessarily. We could go out with guys I wouldn’t want to sleep with if they were the last men on earth.”
“Where would you find them?”
“Just turn on Match.Com. You’ll find millions of them.”
“I say we do it, Zo. I miss our double dates. We haven’t been on one since I met Jack.”
“Okay, but you have to set them up. I’m not even dipping my toe into that stream right now. I don’t want to get washed downriver, if you know what I mean.”
Sophia turned to her laptop, clicked out of her manuscript and into Match.Com. Just then, they heard terrible squealing followed by crashing yowling and moaning. Zoe and Sophia rushed through the kitchen to the swinging door of the summer kitchen. Zoe tried to push it open, but it wouldn’t budge. Sophia pushed too, and finally they were able to shove Sparky’s girth forward enough to step inside. Since Sparky’s stroke, he had trouble rolling over. Sparky was stuck on his back like a bug, baying like a hound dog. Blood dripped from the tip of his ear.
Tolstoy looked up, saw Zoe, and glared. Why the hell was she interfering, he wondered? Then he turned his head and saw Sophia’s concerned glance, which quelled his distress. Tolstoy, tail erect, marched back and forth in front of his upended cat bowl, which lay amidst kibble strewn on the floor. He guarded the area like a sentry, but he kept losing his concentration when he remembered the dead mouse hanging from his teeth. Tolstoy was pretty certain that if he dropped the mouse on the floor to devour, Sparky would once again try to invade his food. The bit of Sparky’s ear that was caught in Tolstoy’s claw was also annoying the hell out of him.
Sophia looked down at Sparky whose nose was covered in kitty litter. Cat crap dribbled from his mouth. Sparky didn’t know he wore flecks of kitty litter on his face, so when he looked up at Sophia, he flashed innocent eyes at her that said, “What? What?” Sophia just shook her head, and Sparky wondered why that bitch always ruined his desert with her dirty looks. She was the one with the antisocial cat; she was the one whom his beautiful Zoe paid attention to instead of him. Why couldn’t she just take her bastard cat into the next room and let Zoe help him roll over and stand up?
Sophia strode to the outside door, jerked it open and ordered the animals outside that instant, including the dead mouse. Then Zoe bent down and locked the animal door, so they couldn’t sneak back inside. Tolstoy sprinted out of sight. He was pissed. He hated rain, but he hated Sparky even more for getting them in trouble. But at least he had some comfort food to make him feel better. Sparky was pissed too. Tolstoy was a prick, he thought, as he staggered sideways to the covered porch and stretched out. He admitted that he was quite full and a little sleepy from the cat crap.
Zoe and Sophia returned to the dining room and to Match.Com. Zoe refused to show Sophia how to cruise local guys, nor would she dictate what to write in the emails that would entice two men to be game for a date on short notice. As a result Sophia couldn’t line up two live ones for the evening. Finally, she clicked out of Match and Goggled live music playing in the area that evening. The Dolphin Striker in Portsmouth had a Latino band. Sophia adored Latino music.
“Let’s go take showers,” said Sophia.
“We’re going to Portsmouth for dinner and to hear a Latino band.”
“We are? Did you find dates?”
“We don’t need dates to go out and have fun, Zo.”
“God almighty. Just go take a shower.”
“ What are we gonna wear?”
“Pick anything you want from my closet.”
After the women showered, they stood in Sophia’s downstairs bathroom applying lotions to their slender torsos and long, lean legs. Zoe loved showering at Sophia’s house because she had an endless array of body creams to choose from, creams of every scent, except fruity ones which Sophia found putrid. Zoe’s favorites were the ones made with Shea butter or olive oil. Other moisturizers sat in rows, waiting to address any and all zones and conditions of the face, neck and chest. Once the women dried their blond hair and applied artful make-up, they dressed in different colored pencil skirts and cute tops from The Loft.
Soon, they were on the road to Portsmouth.
“Now, Sophie, there’s a chance we might meet some guys at the Dolphin Striker.”
“That would be cool–meeting guys the old fashioned way.”
“Well, if we do, you know the drill. No accidently filling your mouth too full, going into hysterics then spitting food all over the guys. Got it?”
“And no dragging out Pema and reading out loud or meditating while we’re there, okay?” Zoe was referring to Pema Chodron the American Buddhist writer both women loved.
“Yes. I mean, no, I won’t do that. I’m so much better now. I won’t have a meltdown. At least I don’t think so.”
“But, Zo, can I read from Pema right now? Wouldn’t you like to embrace groundlessness and find some open space before we get to Portsmouth?”
“No and no. Give me the book,” said Zoe, holding out her hand. “I know it’s in your purse.”
Sophia drew Pema’s book When Things Fall Apart from her purse and reluctantly handed it over as a child might a coveted toy which she wasn’t allowed to take into school. Sophia remained silent for awhile, holding her purse tightly in case Zoe wanted her to hand over anything else.
Even though she was with Sophia and on her way to spend a festive evening among other people, Zoe was suddenly gripped with a panic that surged in and out like the tide. A grim feeling squeezed her stomach and stuck in her throat. She felt as though a force were lowering her onto shards of erect glass, and internally she sobbed from pain that she could not yet feel. The fear of it caused her suddenly to reach over and grab Sophia’s arm. Sophia turned to face her. Then Zoe said, “I’VE BEEN IN A PATTERN THAT DOESN’T FEEL GOOD. DO YOU THINK I CAN CHANGE THE PATTERN?”
Sophia looked out the window. A full moon was rising. She thought about her answer for a moment. Then she turned to her old friend and said, “YOU HAVE ALREADY BEGUN TO GROW BY YOUR RECENT CHANGES, ZO. OWN THOSE CHOICES, AND RELAX ENOUGH TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEM.”
“Thank you, Sophie. I GUESS I’VE EMBRACED THAT CHANGE IS CONTANT. NOW, I ALSO SEE THAT GROWTH IS OPTIONAL, MINE TO CHOOSE, MINE TO RECOGNIZE.”
“Was that a Buddhist thing, Zo?”
As Zoe and Sophia walked from their car toward the restaurant, they saw Poppy, Fonzi and Jasmine walking toward them. Poppy was Sophia’s daughter and Fonzi, as they called him, was her husband. Jasmine and Poppy had been best friends since childhood. All five faces lit up.
Poppy called out to her mother and “aunt.” Zoe and Sophia rushed up to the three, showering them with kisses and hugs.
“What are you two lovely ladies doing here?” asked Fonzi.
“We came for dinner and to hear the Latino band. And you?” said Sophia.
“We were trying to decide where to eat.” said Poppy.
“There’s a band here tonight?” asked Jasmine, her face beaming. Jasmine was between men at the moment and loved musicians.
“Where are the kids?” asked Zoe. Zoe was referring to Lily, Sophia’s granddaughter and her best friend Jamile, Jasmine’s daughter.
“Jasmine planned something really fun for Jamile and Lily,” said Poppy. “She rented a suite for the night in a hotel with a swimming pool. The kids are there with the nanny swimming. Fonzi and I are staying in the suite too.”
Jasmine just smiled, revealing delightful dimples and pretty brown eyes. Then she humbly nodded a head of wavy, honey-blond hair, but said nothing.
“That’s very generous of you, Jasmine,” said Sophia then wrapped her arms around her.
Jasmine was the top executive of a computer company. She was one of a rare breed of young woman whose math and science skills were so highly developed that she was plucked right out of college and installed as a software engineer, on a rung higher than any man hired at the same time. It took her very few years to rise to the top, but she didn’t forget her humble upbringing, having been raised by a struggling single mother. Jasmine shared her hard work and good fortune with everyone, except a husband. She wanted to be a mother, but not a wife. So, she eschewed marriage offers from various boyfriends, including Jamile’s father.
“Well, I say we eat here. Let’s go in,” said Fonzi, somewhat baffled to be the man with four lovely dates on his arm.
Inside, the band was just setting up. The group found a table right in front of the band’s platform and ordered food. Sophia sat admiring how attractive Poppy looked with her dark brown, soft curly hair and olive skin, her beautiful eyes set above high cheekbones, and her zaftig figure. Both Poppy and Jasmine turned heads of the young men in the place. The men also eyed Fonzi with envy as he sat between these two curvaceous young women. Zoe and Sophia turned heads too even though they were older than the other three. A great deal of diligence by Zoe and Sophia, aided by dim lighting, disguised just how much older they were.
Poppy’s and Jasmine’s eyes lit up the minute the loud, bright music started. They leapt from the table to dance in the small patch of floor in front of the band. Their grace was mesmerizing and watching them brought back memories to Sophia of when the two were preteens, dancing in front of a mirror in Poppy’s bedroom.
Fonzi leaned into Sophia’s face when she asked him whether he practiced how to dance in his pre-teens. He said he was more interested in sliding down the banisters at his Catholic school, but only when the nuns weren’t looking. He still had the splinter scars to prove that passion. Of course, poor Fonzi had to spend evenings at the mercy of his dear mother’s tweezers as she dug relentlessly around the flesh of his butt, to free the blades of wood. He explained that the smell of rubbing alcohol still made him gag, since this is what his mother used to cleanse the wounds of his naughtiness. Who could not adore Fonzi, Sophia thought to herself?
Finally, Zoe and Sophia gave into the spirit of the music, and they too jumped up to dance. Zoe’s moves were smooth and sensuous, contained and workable in the small space. Sophia was incapable of economy of motion, and she swung out in an aggressive interpretation of the Latin sound. Unfortunately, she tripped over a cord from the electric bass and began to fall, face first, into the handsome bass player. Poppy and Jasmine caught her on the way down and propelled her back into motion. Zoe turned her back and danced with an imaginary partner, pretending she didn’t know Sophia. Within seconds a middle-aged African American man materialized to fill the role.
Sophia’s arms lashed out in spastic motion, barely missing Zoe’s new partner. Her arms instead landed squarely across Poppy’s head, which knocked Poppy off balance and sent her banging into Jasmine. Jasmine tripped and bumped into a man dancing next to Sophia, and his foot caught Sophia’s ankle. Sophia stumbled and started to fall. What could have been a domino moment of dancers losing their balance, toppling the musicians in their wake, was averted when two hands grabbed Sophia from behind and held her fast. Slowly, Sophia turned her head to see the face of her rescuer. Her eyes widened; her heart stopped. Marty held her tightly in his arms.
“What are you doing?” Sophia asked.
“I had a feeling you might be here tonight,” said Marty.
“Why was that important?”
“I want to come home. We belong together.”
The music stopped. Zoe looked over at Sophia’s blank eyes. Sophia saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing. At that moment Poppy glanced toward her mother and caught sight of her father. She hurried to Marty, smiling her welcome. She and Jasmine swept Marty away to their table where he shook hands with Fonzi and sat down. Zoe left Sophia standing alone on the dance floor, stark still, staring at nothing. Without a word Zoe went to the table and collected their belongings. She handed Fonzi fifty dollars and walked back to the dance floor. Then she gently guided Sophia out of the room and into the quiet night.
The glow of the full moon lit the faces of the two old friends, who remained silent on the ride home. But each of them knew in the pits of their stomachs that they were off on another adventure as the Sublime Consumers of the Lightness of Being.
To be continued, but remember, if you want to read the whole story, start at the bottom of the blog. And PLEASE, keep sending in your wonderful advice! Thanks.