One afternoon I was passing the time at the Macy’s on thirteenth and Market. I walked in through the large columns and leisurely strolled the white marble floors, passing by the large glass display cases and cosmetics counters when I smelled it. The scent made my cheeks flush with warm blood. I detected a spicy mixture of ginger pepper, black basil, and amber that I knew intimately. My inner thighs tingled. Immediately, I turned around looking for him — my giant, my Bear — but he wasn’t there. I picked up the square glass bottle, holding it to my nose and closing my eyes.
The most recent man I thought I could love wore Calvin Klein Euphoria. I’d press my nose into his neck when he hugged me and get intoxicated by it. He’d spray some on my pillow, so I could pretend I was lying in bed with him at night. I’d wake up in the morning to that scent and imagine my face pressed against his broad chest.
Bear had a thick beard that I was insanely attracted to. It was long, unkempt, and reddish, and I would twirl the ends of it between my fingers when we talked close, our waists pressed together. He drove a truck and wore camouflage cargo shorts with work boots. He was a man’s man and looked like he just got finished hauling logs, or powerlifting, or some other heavy duty man stuff. He looked dirty, like an outlaw biker. I think that’s what I liked the most.
We travelled the city at night, going up and down 76, listening to Led Zeppelin at high volume. Between What is and Never Should Be and Since I’ve Been Loving You, we would find a spot in East Falls. We’d sit in the back of his jeep and make out old-school style in the August heat, while listening to Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. Bear’s nose was particularly slanted, broken, and reset several times from his boxing days, and because of that I’d have to turn my head to the side to kiss him fully, my lips overpowering his. He’d return my kisses, sucking on my bottom lip and flicking his tongue in my mouth, until my lips hurt and I ran out of breath. We’d lay out on the back seat, and I’d affectionately call him my giant, threatening to climb his tall ass like a tree. “Go for it Princess,” he’d say daring me with his stormy blue eyes.
He took me to play laser tag and mini golf in Manayunk. We’d go to the gym and lift on the weekends. He had catch phrases like, “I’m born ready,” and “boom.” We’d lay on the couch at his place off South Street and watch Mark Wahlberg movies. At night, we’d make dinner together with his George Foreman grill. He’d place the plate down on the table, then simulate an explosion with his massive hand. “Boom.”
I started calling him Bear the first time he took off his shirt. I was mesmerized by the abundance of hair as my hands followed the patch of fur on his muscular chest down the trail to his belly button. I loved running my fingers through the thick hair. I loved the feel and warmth of it. We’d cuddle and I’d press my face against him, letting the fuzz comfort me.
On Sundays, we’d sit on his large window ledge, our legs dangling over the roof. He’d hold his gigantic hand out in the air, covering the sun. I’d put my hand out, pressing my palm to his, my hand dwarfed in comparison. “Your hand is so small,” he’d say and close his fingers around mine making a fist. “I just want to sling you over my shoulder and save you every day.” Then he’d compare our various body parts, noting that his calf was as big as my thighs. “I’d bust down doors, torch buildings, and save you every day.” He’d lean over and kiss me to the soundtrack of the Eagles defensive line and the busy city below.
“Would you like to buy one ma’am?” I open my eyes to an eager saleswoman. “It’s a great scent.” I place the bottle down on the counter noting the slight clinking sound it makes on contact. “No thanks, I need something a little less intense.”
Originally published in The City Key.