Skinny Dipping

| Impulsivity & Odd Habits | Narcissism & Histrionics | August 28th, 2015 |

I had again driven out to Buffalo for what might have been our fourth or fifth “date.” It was a warm summer evening and Tina and I went for a walk. She led me along some wooded paths and down some almost-hidden concrete stairs that eventually deposited us on the beach of Buffalo Lake.

We took a lazy stroll on the beach, her and I, the only people who mattered in the world. Our hands entwined and then fell away before she encircled my elbow and we continued on, arm in arm as the faintest hint of red began to tinge the western sky.

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Delighted, Tina suddenly stooped over to pick up a red stone she’d somehow spotted with her notoriously faulty eyes. Holding it up for closer inspection, she verified an agate find.

I hugged her and congratulated her on the discovery, having already learned of her obsession with agates.

We came upon a rocky nook in a stand of trees at the edge of the beach, where Tina wanted to stop and sit for a while. We both plopped down on the stony sand and watched the waves gently lap the shore.

“Twitterpated.” Tina said, “it’s the word I think of when I think of you.” She was aware of the word being used in Bambi, but thought of it as her own word to describe the flutters in her heart and stomach she associated with my presence. It was tremendously flattering and endearing.

I leaned back on my elbows and Tina snuggled close to me as we looked at the glinting lake.

“The water looks so cool and refreshing,” Tina said, suddenly sitting upright, simultaneously loosening all the bits and pieces that covered and supported her bits and pieces. “Skinny dip?” She invited.

Her bosom exposed so suddenly and gloriously, it was hard to say no, but I did. We had a sense of being alone, but I was aware that we were on a public beach and there was plenty of daylight left. I was startled by her impulsiveness.

I gently persuaded her to cover up, promising to go skinny dipping with her when we were able to get up to her Grandpa’s cabin.

Tina pulled her top back on with some reluctance and within moments we heard voices coming from the vicinity of the stairs. Two women emerged onto the beach with three children just then and I breathed a sigh of relief.

“That was close,” I said and we decided it was about time for us to vacate the beach. We could be all the naked we wanted back at the apartment.

Histrionics are associated with exhibitionist tendencies and people afflicted with narcissistic or histrionic personality disorders are often oblivious to consequences and act impulsively. I’d learn over time that Tina could be dangerously impulsive, particularly when she’d been drinking (which was always).

We passed by the family group and made our way back up the steps toward the Buffalo Hotel.

Tina led me over to the dumpsters before going in to the building to show me something she wanted retrieved. There was a silver-colored hard case atop the heap of garbage in one dumpster. It looked like the sort of case a traveling salesman might use and it appeared in pristine condition. She wanted to salvage it, but hadn’t been able to reach it herself. Ever obliging, I hopped up, planting my belly on the rim and stretched out to grab the handle. I could just reach it and held it aloft triumphantly when I got my feet back on the ground.

We went through the narrow alley, where Tina pointed out a number of potted plants and flowers, on the ground and on window sills. She said the building manager, Jim had ordered the tenants responsible for them to get rid of them. He believed they attracted bugs. That sounded a bit crazy to me and there was a lot I still had to learn about the Buffalo Hotel.

When we entered the lobby of the old brown brick building, we encountered a small, older woman with dyed red hair coming down the stairs. She shared a name with my dear departed grandma: Irene. She stopped on her way out to tell Tina that Jim wanted to see both of us in his apartment.

“Oh, great,” Tina said after Irene had left the lobby. “I wonder what I did this time.”

“Both of us?” I’d heard a bit about Jim before. Tina referred to him as Lord Buffalo. I couldn’t imagine why he’d want to see me, though, or even how he knew who I was or that I was in the building.

Jim lived on the second floor. Tina knew the way. Something told me to leave the hard case behind. I left it on the floor near the landing and followed Tina down the dim and narrow hall. The door to Jim’s den was open. It wasn’t an apartment as such. It appeared to be no more than one large bedroom with some sort of water closet. A double bed dominated the room and Lord Buffalo sat on it like a throne, eying Tina and I in obvious judgement.

Jim was an older man with unwashed, longish-thinning gray hair combed across his head. He was wearing only a dirty A-frame shirt, black socks and boxer shorts.

There were shelves on one side of the bed stacked with canned foods and shelf-stable microwave meals. He didn’t appear to have a refrigerator. On other side of the bed was a bank of security monitors. That seemed wildly out of place. I didn’t understand what kind of place the Buffalo Hotel was.

“I’m glad you both came,” Jim said. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you.”

“Me?” I was stunned.

“Yes.” Jim sat up straighter “if you’re moving in, there’s going to have to be an adjustment to rent,” he said.

“Moving in?” I chuckled nervously. “No. I live in Minneapolis. I’m just visiting.” I was really puzzled. I’d spent a couple weekend nights there by then. That was all.

“And he’s your… what?” he looked to Tina.

“He’s my… This is Dan, my boyfriend.”

“I see. Because there’s extra water usage and things like that, so if you’re going to move in, we’ll have to renegotiate.”

“I’m just visiting,” I assured him. “I’m not moving in. I have my own place in Minneapolis.”

“Uh-huh. The lady who used to have your apartment used to slip me twenty bucks when she’d have a man over,” Jim said to Tina.

I was entering the Twilight Zone.

“I saw you two at the dumpster,” Jim went on. “That’s the main thing. Whatever you took out of there, if it’s going in your car, that’s one thing, but I don’t want you bringing it in the building.” He took a moment to look us each in the eye. “Bugs.” He finished.

I felt relieved I’d left the case back at the landing.

“OK,” Tina put in, “Don’t worry. That went right into Dan’s van and I for sure won’t be bringing anything in from the dumpster. I promise,” Tina said.

“How do you like the new apartment?” Jim asked.

“It’s way better,” Tina said. “So much better.”

When I’d first begun dating Tina, she and her mom were in the process of moving from an even smaller efficiency unit down the hall into apartment 19.

“It’s the best apartment in the building,” Jim said with a hint of pride. “Used to be part of the ballroom, back when this was a Hotel. Do you know? There are marble pillars inside some of these walls. Marble.” he chuckled.

It was an odd juxtaposition to imagine, cheap plastic tiles were falling off the bathroom walls, but behind the sheet rock were marble fixtures from past glory days.

“There’s a lot of history in this building – but your apartment – that one, we did up really nice. So you like it, huh?”

“Oh, yes.” Tina said, mustering some enthusiasm. “We’re really grateful that we were able to get that unit.”

“I thought it would be good for you and your mom,” Jim said with an air of satisfaction.

From there, we got a brief history lesson on the Buffalo Hotel. Jim knew quite a lot about the subject. In all, I’d guess we stood nervously in Jim’s doorway for about 20 minutes before he finally gave us leave to go about our business.

Tina was relieved. “The last time I was summoned to Lord Buffalo’s lair, I got stuck talking to him for an hour,” Tina explained. “And at least this time he had a shirt on.”

The Buffalo Hotel wasn’t an ordinary apartment building. That’s something I was just beginning to learn and it continued to baffle me as time went on. That historic frontier-style structure and the people who lived there could be the subjects of an entire book.

Back in the penthouse, Tina opened the contraband dumpster case. Inside, were foam inserts with product cutouts, as I suspected, but no sign of any bugs. The case was in like-new condition and Tina was pretty happy with the score. She had an endless need for containers.

“What’s with Jim’s obsession with bugs?” I wondered aloud. “Besides, I assume this case was, until recently, somewhere in this building. If it had bugs, they would have come from inside here.”

Tina picked up a clip board with one of her adult coloring pages on it and sat on the futon. “Could you pour us a couple drinks?” She asked as she rummaged in her box of colored pencils.

“Of course, my lady.” I found the bottle and mixed a whiskey and Diet Coke for her and one with regular Coca-Cola for myself.

Tina was stressed by the visit with Jim. I’d learned that, similar to my ex-wife, her coloring hobby was one of her relaxation techniques. That, weed and alcohol. And sex. She made use of all of them that night.

I understood the coloring hobby, but Tina had another habit that was more puzzling to me. She was engaged in it the next morning while we watched South Park on my laptop and picked at a plate of crispy bacon I’d fried up for us. She went through fashion magazines and catalogs and tore out pages, setting them in piles. When she reached the end of a magazine, she’d throw what was left of the decimated book away. Nearly all of the pages she deemed worthy of sparing were outfits or clothing items she seemed to like. Sometimes, jewelry. It puzzled me, but for some reason I never asked her about it.

We didn’t linger in the apartment long. I had a radio interview for work that afternoon at the State Fair and since I had to be there, I was bringing Tina along to make a fun day of it. Before we departed for the Fair, Tina gathered up the torn out magazine and catalog pages and put them in a manila envelope. She put that envelope in a magazine rack.

Then we were out the door and I didn’t give it any further consideration until the next time I observed the odd ritual.

Previous: TBD | Next: A Chilly Reception at Scott’s Farm


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