Milton had never been in love. He was honest that he had loved many women but none of them had ever won his heart. He swore that whenever he found that one woman, he would forsake all other women and love her for the rest of his life.
Valentine's Day was easy for Milton. He rarely gave gifts to anyone for any holiday. This year was different. He wanted to give this woman something special for odd reasons that he could not discern.
He would buy her a box of fine chocolates and a bottle of cheap champagne. The thought of buying her something cheap tugged at the pit of his stomach. He felt sick just thinking about her.
Being in her presence made him feel there was no oxygen in that space. While in her arms, he felt almost paraplegic. Honestly, to Milton, the very thought of her made him feel sick! And feeling sick made him anxious and angry.
Milton had dated and lived with smart and sassy women. Women like Oprah or Janet did not need men beside them. The man needed her at his side. His 40-year history of dating earned him the “Perpetual Bachelor” title.
"Good women are not necessarily sweet. But sweet women are always good at something." Milton explained to his brothers as they sat in the bar drinking after work. "I don't want, nor need, a sweet woman". He bragged. Truthfully, he had never sought those kinds of women.
Another round of Heineken was served, Milton remembered his misery. He sulked for a while before going back into the conversation on women. "Yes", he thought before speaking, "she makes me sick".
"How is it that women make you sick when you find out that they are really sweet women?" he asked while raising his own hand and looking around at each man at the bar. They all agreed except Mack, the eldest of the five men.
Mack stated that he loved a sweet woman. "My momma was a sweet woman, but she didn’t take no smack off my dad, nor off any of us. And, and she had a heart of gold, and a beautiful smile, and an honest way of treating everybody. Yeah, I love me a sweet woman!" he said. Turning up the bottle and finishing his last swallow of beer before reaching for the fresh bottle sitting before him.
Mack cleared his throat, pointed to Milton, and asked, “Now, for years, you've been dating women who did not need you. Were not sweet. Now the first time you get a sweet woman, you mad!” He scratched his thick gray beard. Laughter from the other men. With a deep frown, Milton kept silent.
The discussion ended and the brothers bade each other a happy lovers night. Valentine’s Day on a Saturday was truly a lover’s evening. Noise in his gut, chest expanding, heart pumping hard and fast. He felt uneasy. Talking with his brothers did not improve his condition. He had to face this sickening dilemma.
He selected two boxes of fine chocolates. In the past, he would buy the smallest box of chocolate available. This woman made him want to do special things for her and with her. Raising his right eyebrow, he thought, “And to her!”
Milton had ordered flowers from three different shops. “What, the hambone am I doing all this for?” he asked himself as he pulled into his apartment parking space. He had purchased a diamond solitaire pendant from Jared’s anxiously deciding he was totally out of his mind.
“She makes me sick! How can I feel this way about a woman? Is it because she is so sweet to me? “He was holding a conversation with himself when his neighbor got his attention.
“FedEx left these three packages at your door early today. I kept them in my home so ‘porch pirates’ wouldn’t snatch them up,” he said. Milton was smiling as he took the boxes.
Three boxes from the sweet woman who made him feel gut-churning and anxious. He sat and stared at the sender’s name. They were all from her. Showered, shaved, and well dressed in a dark brown sweater and matching slacks, and checking himself in the mirror once more, Milton put on his favorite leather jacket and headed for the door. He hesitantly slipped a valuable piece of jewelry into his right pants pocket.
Although he felt lightheaded and queasy, he placed gifts into a large garbage bag and drove to his lover’s home.
Milton was glad to see her face and leaned over to kiss her neck. He was bragging about the contents of the bag. Dismissing his flashiness, she reached both arms around his neck and planted kisses on his face and beard. Her warm, alluring fragrance, staggered him. Refusing to resist the seductive odor, he pulled her into his arms and sat holding her on his lap.
She giggled and returned his kisses so sweetly that he began to feel a new sickness in his stomach and now tonight in his loins. He wanted to push her away so that he could breathe but wanted to hold her closer so that he could live. She gently pulled away from him and began questioning him as she helped him remove his jacket.
Milton finally caught his breath. Fresh air was now in his lungs. He smiled and answered her questions. She offered him a drink of the wine he had brought. She set two iced wine glasses on the bar. He started the process of opening the bottle. He fumbled with the bottle as though it was his first time.
He noticed lit candles throughout the room and on the patio. Soft relaxing music played throughout the house. He recognized patchouli and ylang-ylang essential oils diffusing in the room. He was close to vomiting. Intense throbbing feelings in his stomach, small beads of sweat gathered on his forehead, he felt physically ill.
He admired her radiant skin and sparkling eyes and smooth movements. He became aware that he was gaping at her with a strong desire to hold her. At the same moment, he wanted to feel aloof from her. Fighting the feelings that were so strong and powerful. He had felt this way with her before tonight. “Aww, she makes me so sick”, he mumbled.
She wore a layered chiffon gown, in Carnation pink, adorned with rich chocolate brown wide satin ribbons. Her feet were bare. Her toenails were manicured and painted in carnation pink polish. She wore only large silver hoop earrings. And styled her hair by pulling the hair up into a large band of cascading curls that fell onto her forehead near her eye.
Milton’s hands were shaking so obviously that she gently covered them with her own to help pour the wine without spilling. They both giggled. They faced each other as they silently sipped the refreshing champagne. Calm all around them. Milton raging inside, a plethora of emotions brewing.
“So, what’s in the bag?” she asked. She poured two more glassfuls. Milton fidgets with his keys, remembering they are still in his hand. He looked at his watch and phone, before answering. “Just some candy and stuff,” he said while pulling out the boxes pass to her. He rambles through the bag for more gifts. All the while he is wondering why he bought all these gifts. Puzzled and annoyed, he pulls out another box and lays it on the table before her. Hoping they would truly impress her.
The woman appeared delighted and gracious. He was certain these were things she honestly wanted. He was not delighted that he had hit so many bull’s eyes. He was angry at himself for being so sweet, as she called it.
He sat beside her and opened his gifts and was delighted and dazzled to get a Bulova watch with brown croc-designed band, embossed in silver, a braided leather bracelet, and matching belt. Things he wanted but refused to buy for himself. Emotions rising, he coughed into his hand, literally needing to lie down. He walked into her bedroom and sat on the foot of the bed, fell back, hands upon his head, and sighed.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, smiling down on him. How could he tell her she made him feel so sick that he needed to go to bed?” he thought. “Long day at work, too many beers with the fellas and …” he trailed off. Afraid to say what he really was unsure of. “I just need a little downtime. Can you give thirty minutes?” he asked pleadingly.
“Sure, no problem. Can I get you anything before you shut down?” she asked.
“No, thank you, Babe, you’ve been too good already. Just a few minutes,” he said and turned to lie across the foot of the bed.
He lay thinking how miserable he felt on the one night he should be entertaining and loving on her. Yet he felt despondent and really ill. “Is this love I feel for this woman?” he thought. “If it's love why do I feel so bad? I’ve never had a woman who made me sick,” he thought and slowly drifted into sleep. He slept two hours.
Milton awakened to the sound of her laughter and immediately felt a spur of jealousy. What felt like acid reflux boiled in his throat. He moved silently to the doorway of her bedroom, sneakily listening to the happy conversation. Instantaneously relieved that she was talking with her mother. He slammed the bathroom door to get her attention before joining her at the kitchen bar.
“So you are up. Would you like something to eat or drink? How are you feeling anyway?” she asked. So many questions. He wanted to go back into the room and be alone again. His head hurt. His stomach ached. And he felt distant. “I feel better”, he lied. “I really am hungry. Should we go out or pick up something?” he asked, rubbing his fingers together to indicate readiness.
She offered steaks on the grill and lobster tail with salad. Both were quiet, waiting for the other to speak. She had prepared much of the meal while he slept. She moved effortlessly around the kitchen smiling and setting up their meal. He watched but did not offer help. He waited at the bar, intentionally watching her. He could feel that she expected more and deserved more from him. And he was complaining in his mind that he was being selfish, stingy, and stoic, on Lovers’ Night.
It was unseasonably warm for February in Houston, Texas, they dined on the patio, listening to 70’s soul and love songs. She offered him some of the chocolates, hoping that it would settle him in a more affable mood.
They ate in silence. He was busy finding his way back to saneness and well-being and wondered how she was feeling. He did not like where this was going. He knew his actions were sloppy tonight. But he had this sickness within him that he had no idea how to heal. He wanted to walk out, end the night, and walk away. He wanted to feel like he did not care, the way he once felt. But the more he analyzed his feelings, the more disturbed he felt. Milton realized that he had to remedy this, tonight.
Near the end of the meal, she offered him to dance. All her favorite songs were playing. He wanted to refuse, instead, he positioned himself to dance.
Dancing and listening to the words of the song, he meditated on the healing of the words. The singe thought he had it all. Believing he was high when he was low, and feeling he did not need anyone to love him. Discovering that no one loved him for who he was.
The song showed him to himself. Milton had bragged how he had never been in love. Never wanted to be. Did not care if none of his past lovers ever loved him. Breakups were easy for him. He had not missed anything. At the age of sixty, he was still a good catch and a good lover. He did not need anyone. Until tonight he had never felt this incompetent, never this inefficient. Never felt so sick. It was the woman. She made him feel this way.
It was time to face his truth. He wasn’t sick.
As the song progressed to the third stanza, Milton’s spirit was becoming lighter. He could feel the words of the song take the form of his life and the words had a meaning that mirrored his own candid feelings.
That I was a lonely man
A man with no direction, with no purpose
With no one to love and no one to love me for, for me
Aw girl then you, then you came into my life
You made my jagged edges smooth
You made my, you made my direction so clear and you aw woman
You became my purpose my reason for livin' girl
Songwriters: Lionel Richie
Just To Be Close To You lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
“WhoooHoo…” he thought. This is how he truly felt! “This woman doesn’t make me sick. It's what falling in love feels like!” he was moving to the beats of the music, but his mind was moving much faster. He was beginning to accept the wisdom that was speaking to him. He knew. He was certain at that moment, what he must do. He had known much sooner than tonight. He wanted to hold her he wanted to finish the dance.
The woman was deep in thought as they danced on the patio. Whatever was on Milton’s mind was troubling him. She had already made her plans for tonight. Whatever was on his mind was not going to change hers.
“I will not continue in a loveless, guessing “what is next?”, fruitless relationship with a selfish, thoughtless, and uncaring dysfunctional male”, she thought. She felt that the only passion he showed was during lovemaking. After nine months of wondering what relevance she was to him, was still an uncertainty.
“Who am I to you?” she asked him many times. He never quite expressed a straight answer. “Tonight, Sir Milton, you’ll find out who you are to me?” she thought grudgingly. Smiling in his face, head upright, she kept in step with the music’s beat.
The woman had put all his things, even the gifts he brought tonight, in his garbage bag and placed them in the driver’s seat of his car. Even though her mother had tried to advise her differently, she insisted that he was ungrateful and dysfunctional, and would drift through relationships until he was elderly and decrepit. She pondered how rarely he invited her out, or to go places together. She felt more worthy than just a girlfriend. She desired a profound relationship that was deeper than him calling her to give him his own information, decision making for his own life choices, being his valet, bodyguard, and personal assistant. She was overboard with the descriptions.
“Mr. I Got This, is more dependent than he will admit. He knows he needs me. He makes me sick!” she thought. He spun her around as the song ended.
Milton pulled the woman into his arms. She tried to pull away but he held her firmly. Looking down into her eyes, he rubbed his beard on her forehead, nose, mouth, and chin. He kissed her deeply continuing to hold her close. The soft calm that flowed into his belly was healing. He did not speak for a moment. He had made up his mind what he would do tonight. He took her hand, reached to pull a pad from the chair to the floor, and slowly placed his knee on the pad. Still holding her hand, he slid his hand into his right pants pocket. His bald head glistened with fresh sweat. He pulled out a diamond and emerald ring. With a broad smile, he looked down at the lovely ring then back up at her.
As soon as the woman saw the ring, she knew. Hot tears of shame and humiliation sprung from her eyes, spilling down her cheeks. She was shaking and openly weeping.
Milton said, “How can I say this? Will you … I have been such an old fool, Baby, I truly do love you. I need you. I can go nowhere and find you again. I want to do this with you For. Ever!” he stated. Tied tongued searching for more impressive words. He was feeling so lighthearted and so so good. He looked into her eyes. And tried it again. “I hope you will… Babe, will you be my wife, my woman, my girl?” he said. His voice went deeper with each word.
The woman was weeping loudly. “What have I done?” she thought. “Oh, I feel so sick right now.” she thought as she put her free hand to her face and turned her head away. He tugged on her hand to get her attention.
“Yes, Milton”, she moaned the words. And continued to weep. He placed the ring on her ring finger, stood up, and kissed her deeply. Then picked her up and walked into the bedroom. “I got this,” he whispered into her ear, gently placing the still weeping woman on the bed.
Milton kissed her gently and whispered, “You always knew you were the one, didn't you?” he asked while caressing her shoulder. She could not think, the deep boiling pain in her stomach had her feeling awful. She moaned sorrowfully.
“You make me sick,” she said whispered sadly.
“I know, Babe, I know”, he said and slid into bed beside her.