Some people swore the house was haunted by the presence of James Bond. The house itself was a seemingly normal center hall Colonial overlooking the sweet spot between the eighth and ninth hole. But inside was a different story. Rumor had it the living room was tastefully furnished in early “Goldfinger”. Guests could lounge on the Pussy Galore couch, and watch Alex, the man who infused the house with the taste of “Bond, James Bond”, mix a mess of potato vodka martinis “shake not stir”. Allegedly, an Austin Martin replica carved in clay sat in the garage.
He was a man of mystery. No one I knew had ever seen him. He was essentially an anecdote, a curiosity, a guy with a bizarre hobby.
And so when he invited my entire life drawing class to his home I didn’t immediately connect the dots between the person who stood before me and the infamous home.
It happened this way. While the instructor was adjusting the lights over a particularly robust female model, Alex announced, with a faux Scottish accent, that he’d be honored to have everyone come to his place after next week’s class. Blushing, he returned to his easel, picked up the charcoal and tried steadying his hand. Then, remembering, he called out “Pot luck.”
Maybe it was the theatrical accent, the ascot or simply the way he held his chest taut as if he were packing whatever gun it is that Bond carries that clued me into his real identity. When I saw the address on the gold embossed invitation my hunch was confirmed.
I looked forward to the evening the way you might anticipate a trip to the zoo. I would gawk, touch things, watch Alex moving through his habitat and then leave.
I was determined to leave. I can’t emphasize that enough. Before I started therapy, I had a weakness for reforming obsessive types. I liked fixing them. Peeling away the minutia of the obsession, layer by layer, until my boyfriend stood before me naked. Pure. Honest.
There was for instance, Brad, in high school, whose pale complexion turned pasty as he worked through the levels in World of Warcraft. A few weeks under my loving care, Brad took up mountain climbing. True, he dislocated his shoulder while climbing Mount Rainer but that’s another story. There was Kenji, in college, who had a thing for Halo 2 until I turned him around. Josh, in grad school, who nearly blew his scholarship working obsessively on a Shelby Mustang in his folks garage. He graduated with honors and then he promptly broke up with me.
While I’ve kicked my obsession with obsessive guys, I confess my heart does skip a beat when I’m around one. Clearly, I wouldn’t be satisfied until I got a peek at the rest of the house. Midway through the party, Alex and I finally slipped away.
It was as expected, tasteful, elegant, hoity toity English. Each room featured another Bond. Alex narrated the tour in a pitch perfect Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, even George Lazenby who only had one chance at bat.
Then we reached the master bedroom. At the foot of his bed were a series framed photographs of a young boy at the playground. Curious, I touched one of the photos lightly. In a voice flavored with a taste of Brooklyn, his real voice, Alex said simply “that was my son, Jimmy, a real firecracker”.
Our eyes locked. My heart slammed open.
There he stood, naked. His true self stuck in the playground with Jimmy.
I wanted to touch the man underneath the mask. Trace his real contours. Not with charcoal and newsprint. But with a kiss.
Nothing was ever the same after that again.