“So why do you think these guys like giving head so much, especially if they’re not getting anything in return? What’s their motivation?” I asked.
One of the biggest perks of being a true ‘road warrior’ – of which there really aren’t as many as you’d think – is autonomy and anonymity while traveling. Truth be told, it’s probably the one major benefit, aside from my salary, that keeps me engaged in business travel.
When I first began my career in management, I looked forward to business trips as a means of escaping the office, and, somewhat ashamedly, the break it gave me from being at home. In those days, I was the dutiful husband and father, trying to provide a comfortable living for my family and climbing the corporate ladder. As time passed; however, I began to view all of the travel as somewhat of a nuisance. It became a “have-to-do” instead of a “want-to-do” – particularly in the aftermath of 9-11 and the increased hassles that accompanied air travel.
The farther in my career I advanced and the larger and more successful my company became, the more time I seemed to spend in the air. Client meetings, conferences, trade shows and conventions began to occupy an increasingly larger share of my calendar. While I had always tried to make it a priority to spend as much time with my family as possible – particularly when the kids were young – as time passed and the children grew older, my focus tended to shift toward work and career.
I had gotten married at a young age – 21 – and immediately set to work starting and raising a family. Almost exactly a year later, my wife Brenda gave birth to our son. Less than two years after that, our daughter came along. It was a struggle at first, but somehow I managed to complete college, find a good job and purchase our first home – all at about the same that time a lot of my friends were just striking out on their own for the first time.
By the time I had reached my late 30s, it seemed as though I had already lived a pretty fruitful and productive life. Our children were well into their mid- to late-teens, and for the most part, were model young citizens. Meanwhile, Brenda had returned to full-time work and was enjoying a great deal of success in her own right as a branch manager for a mid-sized community bank. And as for me, having received my MBA just as I was celebrating my 31st birthday, I had become the company’s youngest executive vice president. By all accounts, we were the picture-post-card of the successful all-American family.
While it certainly seemed as though we had it all – money, a nice home, two good careers, wonderful children – there was a huge void that had formed in our marriage. Our sex life had atrophied to the point where it had all but ceased to exist. In fact, we actually managed to avoid having intercourse for one year entirely. And when we did manage to muster the desire and/or energy to make love, it was about as vanilla and rote as one could imagine.
As far as I could tell, neither of us was unfaithful. I certainly knew I wasn’t, unless you considered the occasional flirting I did with a restaurant waitress, bartender or hotel desk clerk as cheating. It wasn’t my style to cheat, nor was it my wife’s – or so I thought. I had just assumed that sex had simply been something we had mutually chosen to opt out of for the time being. But, then, that’s danger of assuming things.
I got the call from Brenda one afternoon while waiting in line to board a return flight home from an extended business trip.
“Hi Sweetheart,” I said, thinking she was just calling to check to see what time I would be arriving home.
“Hi Michael,” she said, pausing while she formed her next words. I could tell something was wrong.
“I’m getting on the flight now,” I said. “Is everything ok? Are the kids ok,” I added.
“The kids are fine,” she responded. “There’s something I need to talk to you about when you get in, so please don’t go anywhere until I get home.”
“Um, okay,” I said. “I hope everything’s alright.”
“I can’t talk right now,” she said nervously. “We’ll talk about it later tonight.”
Before I had a chance to say anything else, she hung up. “What the fuck was that all about?” I thought as I put my cell phone away and handed my boarding pass to the gate attendant. The flight from Oakland to Orange County was only about a 60-minute flight, but it seemed like hours. I could always tell when Brenda was upset by the tone in her voice, and she sounded extremely upset. A million things ran through my mind. I took out my tablet and tried focus on a book I had recently downloaded, but my thoughts kept going back to our brief conversation.
Later that afternoon when I arrived home, the house was still. I had called my son from the airport after I landed to try and get a read on what was going on. He was at a friend’s house playing video games and was obviously oblivious to anything of major importance. I tried to reach my daughter, but she didn’t pick up, which was not uncommon. She did send me a text though letting me know that she was not going to be home for dinner. At that point there was nothing to do but wait till Brenda got home.
To pass the time I took a shower and unpacked. Afterward, I went to the den and poured myself a glass of Scotch. As I waited, one glass led to another. It wasn’t until sometime after 6 that I heard the familiar sound of the garage door opening. “She’s finally home,” I thought. “Let’s see what she has to say.”
As if on a mission, Brenda wasted no time before seating herself at the dining room table. Normally, she would charge upstairs to change into something more comfortable before making her entrance for the evening.
“Michael? Are you upstairs?” she called.
“I’m right here,” I said as I made my way into the dining room from the den. “What’s going on?”
The whisky had begun to work its magic. I felt like I was prepared for anything she would have to say.
“Michael, there’s something I need to tell you.” There was a long pause, then she continued. “It’s not going to be easy for you to hear, but… I want a divorce.”
“You what? Wait a minute. I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I heard you right,” I said dumbfounded.
“I know it sounds awful, but I want a divorce,” she repeated.
The only thing I could think to say was, “Why?”
Brenda paused for a few seconds. “I don’t know how else to say it, but I’m in love with someone else.”
Her words seemed to echo in the emptiness of the room.
“In love? With someone else? What the fuck are you talking about?” I asked as I gulped the remaining half of my glass.
“That’s not important right now,” she said calmly.
“What do you mean it’s not important?” I said angrily. “Of course it’s fucking important!”
“How many glasses of whisky have you had?” she asked quickly.
“What the hell difference does that make?” I shouted.
“I don’t want to talk to you if you’re drunk,” she said. “And I don’t want you to be angry.”
“Well, I’m not drunk. You walk in here after we haven’t seen each other for a week and announce that you’re divorcing me because you’re in love with someone else and you don’t expect me to be angry?” I paused for a moment, trying to regain my composure. “What the fuck, Brenda?”
“I’m sorry,” she said, starting to cry. “I didn’t know how else to tell you.”
“Wow! Jeez! Well, I guess that’s one way.” I paused again. “So are you fucking this guy or what?” I asked, trying to contain my anger. “It is a guy, right?”
“Yes, it’s a guy – a man,” she said. “And yes, we’ve had sex.”
“Ok then… is it anyone ‘we’ know?”
“Yes, sort of,” she said. “It’s Daniel, from work.”
“You mean your boss Daniel? That asshole? I probably should have known it.” I said. “Does HIS wife know? That was his wife he was with at your Christmas party last year wasn’t it?”
“He’s not my boss. And yes. She knows. They’ve been separated since March,” she explained.
“So what now?” I asked. “Holy shit, Brenda! I’ve never once messed around on you – not one fucking time. God knows I’ve had lots of opportunities, but I’ve never cheated on you – EVER!”
“I don’t doubt that,” she said through her tears. “I can’t explain how or why this happened… it just did. I hope you don’t hate me.”
“Well, hate probably isn’t the right word… so how long has this been going on between you two?” I asked.
“Too long,” she said. “I just couldn’t bring myself to tell you.”
“Do the kids know about any of this?” I asked.
“I think Angie knows something, but I haven’t said anything to either one of them yet. I wanted to talk to you first.”
“Why would Angie know anything?” I said.
“I think she overheard me on the phone one night talking to Daniel. After I hung up, she asked me who I had been talking to and I lied and told her that it was you. Later she came into the bedroom and asked me why I had lied to her. I told her that I hadn’t, but then she let me know that what I told her was impossible because she had been talking with you on the phone at the same time.”
“So what did you say?”
“I apologized and confessed that I hadn’t been truthful with her, but that I couldn’t tell her anything about the call at that moment… I told her I would tell her later,” Brenda explained.
“Oh, aren’t you clever?” I said. “Angie is a smart kid. She knows,” I added knowingly. Well, we’ll all appreciate your honesty now,” I said. “I’ve got to get out of here for a while. Jesus, Brenda, I can’t believe this. Do me one favor will you?”
“Sure,” she said. “What do you need?”
“I’m probably going to be gone for a while. I’d rather not see you when I get back. I’ll tell the kids you had to go out to Palm Springs for the night so you could fill in for the manager at that branch tomorrow. I really need some time alone to think,” I said. “I’m sure you have someplace you’d rather be right now anyway.”
The next day I took it upon myself to break the news of our impending divorce to the kids. They were shocked and saddened beyond belief. I knew it broke both of their hearts to know their parents, whom seemed like the perfect couple, were actually splitting up. As for the why, I left that for Brenda to explain.
The months that followed were tough on all of us. At first, I didn’t tell anyone at work, but as time wore on, people began to notice that something was wrong. Our company president was the first to talk to me about it. I spared him the gory details. Instead, I simply acknowledged that Brenda and I were calling it quits and that I had filed for divorce. Soon the news began to spread like wildfire around the company. Several of my colleagues, both male and female, privately approached me to find out if the rumors they had heard were true, and to offer their support if I needed or wanted it. I thanked each of them for their concern, but my plan was to plough forward and, to the best of my ability, not let it affect my work.
Since California is a no-fault divorce state, we sold our home and divided our assets. Brenda agreed not to seek alimony, for which I was grateful. A child support order was imposed, and since I made nearly three times as much as Brenda, it was a hefty sum on my part. Fortunately, the kids were almost grown so that part would be short-lived. Even though we had shared custody, the kids ended up spending a majority of their time with Brenda, which seemed to work out for the best because I was rarely home anyway.
Left without a spouse, time spent on the road seemed longer. Even though I was now free to pursue other relationships, it took a while to “get back in the game,” so to speak. Then, almost as if someone had flipped on a switch, my libido roared back to life. Soon, I found myself lusting after nearly every attractive woman I saw, and many times, I got lucky and they lusted back.
I was reluctant to date anyone seriously at that time. Not only was I not in a hurry to rush back into a long-term relationship, but I was just having too much damn fun! Over the course of the next year or so, I must have slept with more than 25 different women. I even had my first threesome. Single life had changed me. In less than 12 months, I’d had gone from celibate monk to swinging bachelor. Just the thought of that made me laugh.
It was also during this time that I began experimenting. One night, as I was sitting in a Denver hotel lounge, one of the waitresses who had served me the night before, brought me a free drink. Now, that’s not all that unusual given that it was a hotel I frequented when I came to town. I simply assumed that the bartender had made it for me as a thank-you for being a regular guest. But… there I went assuming again.
“Here, this is for you honey,” she said with a grin on her face. “You’re drinking vodka tonic, right?”
“Why, yes, thank you,” I responded.
“Oh, don’t thank me,” she said. “It’s from one of those friendly people sitting at that table near the end of the bar. Maybe they felt sorry for you since you’re all alone again tonight,” she teased. “You are alone aren’t you?”
“Yes,” I laughed.
“Well then, I think the polite thing to do would be to go over there thank them,” she said, giving me a slight wink.
“I’ll be sure to do that,” I said.
I resumed sipping the drink I had ordered earlier and surveyed the small group. There were five people in all – three men and two women. They were all dressed in business attire and attractive looking. Two of the men looked to be about my age, while the third was much younger. The women appeared to be in their early-to-mid 30s. One was a tall, shapely blonde with a bright-eyed smile that seemed to light up the room. The other, who also had a nice body, had long brown hair and a slightly more demure demeanor. She somewhat reminded me of my ex-wife in her look and mannerisms. The way they were all interacting – laughing and talking and occasionally touching one another – was reminiscent of some scene out of an imported beer or whisky commercial. I decided it was time to introduce myself and thank my benefactors.
I picked up my drink and made my way over. “Hi,” I said. “You guys look like you’re having so much fun over here, I thought I’d come over and join the party. I also wanted to thank you for the drink,” I said, pointing to my glass. “I’m Mike.”
Surprisingly, the brunette was the first to extend her hand. “Hi Mike,” she smiled. “I’m Angela.” As I shook her hand, she began introducing me to the rest of the group. “This is Steven,” she said pointing to the lean sandy-blonde man at the end of the table. We shook hands. “Next to him, the baby of the group is Shane. And the lovely lady to my right is Barbara, and the distinguished gentleman to my left is Richard.”
After handshakes were given all around I broke the ice by asking what the occasion for their evening get-together was?
“We’re all here for the pharma conference,” Barbara said.
“Oh, I didn’t realize there was one going on,” I said. “So, are you all pharmacists?”
“No not quite,” Angela explained. “Actually none of us are. But Richard here is the only one licensed to prescribe our drugs.” They all laughed. “We’re all reps. It’s our job to keep Richard in business.” They laughed again.
“I see,” catching onto to the humor. “So you guys come with a suitcase full of samples and go home empty-handed while poor Richard has to cart all of them home. I guess everyone wins then.” They all laughed again.
They were pharmaceutical reps, I thought. That makes perfect sense. Pharma companies had a clear reputation of hiring highly attractive, charming and intelligent people to represent their products. I had met enough of them on planes, in bars or hotel lobbies over the years to know that many were former models and/or actors.
“So what do you do?” asked Steven.
“Oh, I’m afraid I haven’t done drugs since college,” I responded, immediately thinking about how lame that joke must have sounded. I quickly added, “Nothing as interesting as your lines of work. I’m a vice president of marketing for a window, roofing and siding manufacturing company. Not terribly glamorous, I know, but it pays the bills. I’m here for a series of meetings with one of our suppliers.”
“Well, we hope you’re enjoying your stay here in the mile-‘high’ city,” Richard said. The group laughed some more.
“Actually, I wasn’t really having all that much fun – until now,” I said, sneaking a glance at Angela.
“We’ll take that as a compliment,” Angela said, allowing her comment to acknowledge my glance.
As timing would have it, my bladder spoke up. “If you all will excuse me for a minute, I have to use the men’s room.” Damn, I thought. I’m certainly not making a stellar impression on either of these ladies. I’ll have to step up my game a bit when I get back.
I wasn’t gone long, but when I returned, both Shane and Steven had disappeared. Returning to the table, I said, “Well, I hope they didn’t leave on my account.” Richard and the girls just laughed.
“The guys didn’t want you to think they didn’t like you,” Barbara said. “They just had a previous engagement they had to attend.” As she spoke, the three glanced at one another and smiled.
“Well, I guess that just leaves us four then,” I said. “Is anyone ready for another round? On me.”
“Sure, I’ll have another one,” Richard said. “Ok, Barbara said. I probably shouldn’t and it will have to be a quick one because I’ve got to go upstairs and get packed. I have a super early flight tomorrow.” Angela agreed to one more drink as well, saying she also would be leaving early the next morning.
Time seemed to pass quickly as the four of us shared some of our more bizarre experiences we’d had while travelling. Both women were extremely adept at flirting, and Richard and I were doing our best to keep up. It wasn’t long, however, that the ladies announced that they had to leave. They each gave me a business card and both invited me to stay in touch. Much to both of mine and Richard’s disappointment, after a quick round of hugs, they high-heeled it back toward the lobby and were gone.
“How about you Mike?” he asked. “Are you calling it a night too?”
“I think I’ll have one more drink. Care to join me?”
“Sure, since you’ve twisted my arm,” I joked. He flagged the bartender and he sent over another round.
I began the last drink with a toast to Angela and Barbara, to which Richard chuckled. “Was it just me, or were they both absolutely hot?” I asked somewhat rhetorically.
“Hmmm. I hardly noticed,” Richard said. Then we both laughed.
The more we drank, the more our conversation turned to serious guy talk. It’s amazing how much personal information two total strangers will share after enough alcohol is consumed. After I mentioned I was divorced and how loveless my marriage had been in the years leading up to our split, he too confided that the spark in his marriage had gone cold.
“Our sex life is basically nonexistent,” he confessed. “In fact, recently I’ve started cruising the internet in order to find willing partners.”
“You mean like dating sites? That sounds kind of risky. Aren’t you afraid your wife will find out?” I asked. “I would think it would be hard to find women on those sites who just want casual sex.”
“I would agree,” he said. “Actually, and I don’t know how you’re going to react to this, but most of the people I meet online are men. Now, before you judge, I will tell you that I don’t consider myself gay. Not at all. I’m not the least bit interested in any type of romantic or ongoing relationship. It’s purely sex, and usually one-off sex at that.”
Maybe it was because of all of the alcohol I had consumed to that point, or that I had experienced so much in the sex department recently, but I wasn’t really all that shocked, although I did find it odd that he didn’t consider himself in any way, shape or form gay. I always thought men who had sex with men were gay, or at least bi-sexual.
“Really?” I said. “That’s interesting. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging you or it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. I’m just curious… so what kinds of things do you do that makes you feel that you’re not gay? Wouldn’t you at least think you were bi?”