In honour of Toronto’s stifling sunshine, today’s Tuesday Teaser is entitled “Sunburn Man,” the third story in Myna Wallin’s novel Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar. Wallin’s book explores one woman’s encounters with various and hilarious young, often beautiful, always complicated men. Confessions daringly explores modern dating culture: the ease of virtual identity construction, and the complexities of real human interaction, all through the lens of the socially taboo woman: the cougar.
Myna Wallin will be reading from her book Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar
May 29th at The Central (603 Markham Street, Toronto)
3. Suntan Man
Screen name: Mr. Darcy
Self-description: I live to chase sunsets. Like Marvell, I have an unshakable love for God as a monotheistic grand architect. I am looking for a woman with a girlish sense of awe, wonder, and abandonment, a whisper of vulnerability, and a touch of decadence.
My career: PhD student with a double major in art history and religious studies. Thesis topic, “The Influence of the Colour Crimson and Christ Imagery in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood: An Examination of Christ in the House of His Parents, by John Everett Millais, 1850.”
Pet Peeve: Atheists
William had been honest about loving poetry, and Olivia had been drawn in by the gifts of fresh roses, the flattery, and the transcendent sex. Eighteen years her junior, he looks up to her, admires her. Says he is tired of “little girls” and finds Olivia “a breath of fresh air,” “the most beautiful woman he has ever known.” Will is given to hyperbole, but with his cherubic face she believes every word.
Today he calls her up, distraught. The dynamics are: little boy afraid his mother may be upset with him, an unfortunate pitfall in the Cougar terrain.
“Promise you won’t laugh,” he says.
“C’mon, what happened? You can tell me.”
He waits. “Promise me.”
“I don’t know, laughing’s involuntary, Will.”
“They told me I could do five to fifteen—”
“Don’t tell me you took the maximum,” Olivia says.
“Can I come over?” he asks.
“I’m burned to a crisp!” His voice gets high and shrill, like a teenage girl telling her friend some titillating gossip.
“Let me see.” Olivia helps him off with his coat.
William starts pacing, all nervous energy.
“I went to the hospital Emerg, and the triage nurse told me there was a six-hour wait—”
Olivia knows what’s coming next. William always gets preferential treatment, everywhere he goes. Waitresses fight to take his order, his doctoral advisor gives him extensions for a mild cold, or computer problems.
“—but the nurses on duty were really nice to me. This one nurse brought her friend in for a second opinion. They saw me within ten minutes, tops.”
At this, all bets are off in the laughing department. Olivia could have guessed what the nurses—bored by coughing, puking, pus-ridden patients—were likely to do, given the prospect of seeing a six-foot-one hunk showing off his sunburn. She can see him now, in a tiny room, stripped down to his Calvins, while two nurses inspect and admire his toned physique, trying to suppress their laughter at his pale skin toasted a ripe-pomegranate red.
“They told me I’ll be all right, but it will probably hurt for a few days. I should take some Tylenol Extra Strength, if I can’t stand the pain,” William says.
Well, I could have told you that, you moron, Olivia badly wants to say. But he is so beautiful. The first time he took off his shirt for her, she had said “Oh My God,” right out loud. It would have been pretty straightforward if he had been a stupid man, but he was getting his PhD in the cross disciplines of art history and religious something or other. Olivia could never remember what his thesis topic was. But she read the title when she saw his online profile and was impressed—he wasn’t just some pretty boy toy. Not that she would have had a problem with that. In fact, in retrospect it might have been a lot easier.
“Poor baby.” Olivia kisses him gently on the forehead. It is definitely hot. She has a moment’s sympathy for him. His normally alabaster skin is lit from underneath.
“You have got to see how bad it is,” he says, starting to peel off layers. She can’t help but notice all over again that his biceps are enormous, his chest broad, and he has an impossibly tapered waist. He once traced the muscles that defined his lower abs, jutting just above his hips. “You have no idea how hard it is to get these ones this cut. It’s taken years,” he had told Olivia.
He takes his pants off, too, right there in her kitchen. But there won’t be a The Postman Always Rings Twice moment atop her kitchen table in this scenario.
“You’re burned all right,” Olivia says. She shakes her head. Her gorgeous boyfriend is an idiot.
“My mother will never believe me. Can you take a photo?” he asks.
Olivia grabs her digital camera and, before she knows it, he’s doing those cheesy body-builder poses. He loves having his photo taken and forgets the pain momentarily. It is precisely at this moment that Olivia knows: I will have to break up with him—eventually.