The first thing I noticed about Frank was the size of his feet. They were very large and wide. It’s not that he looked like a clown, but if you were the type of person who wonders about the comparison between the size of a man’s feet and other parts of his anatomy, well they would have taken your breath away.
I was a single mom getting my degree, and twenty years older then most of the other college students. It was difficult to find a date, so when I met Frank at one of my summer jobs, I was elated. He was not an imaginative man, but he was steady and loyal. I wasn’t attracted to him, but I thought spending time with him would make me feel closer to him. This was our fourth date, and except for that unexpected kiss he gave me on the last one, there had been no intimacy. I let him believe I was chaste.
Frank was wearing this aftershave that seemed so familiar. He told me the name, which was an upscale somewhat pricey brand name, one that both men and women could wear. I didn’t like it.
Scents, like fingerprints are unique. A fragrance can bring back a memory as clearly as though the event had just occurred. In this case, the familiar memory remained illusive. I just couldn’t figure out why anyone would wear this aftershave, as it was so unpleasant.
We had gone out for our weekly dinner, ordered, received our drinks and settled ourselves in at the restaurant for at least a half-hour’s wait. This should have been a good time to spend with one’s date, but the truth was, Frank was utterly boring. I began asking him questions that I knew he would ramble on about. I kept just enough consciousness reserved for him so that I could interject an “oh really?” or an “I didn’t know that!” while he continue with “Blah blah and blah blah so that blah blah could blah blah.” Whatever!
The rest of my consciousness was reserved for deciding what to do about Frank, himself. Tonight he had really piled on the aftershave. What was that awful smell? Part of me knew I was going to have to break off the relationship, but then there would be no more dinner dates and I wouldn’t have a boyfriend anymore. School was starting again soon and struggling alone sometimes seemed like more then I could bear. I vacillated between keeping him as a buffer between myself and loneliness or the unfairness to him. I don’t like using people. I also knew that, although Frank would never admit it, I would be required to put out more in the way of sexual intimacy. After all, he was paying for these expensive dinner dates, wasn’t he? But then, there was the issue of those very large feet and my curiosity to be satisfied in their regard.
Then suddenly I remembered the scent, like someone who finally regains his or her memory after suffering from amnesia! I think it was the perfect alignment of events that triggered my recollection. The candleholders gave off a slight greenish glow around our table. The waiter arrived with our dinner, stirring up another waft of Frank’s scent. In anticipation of the feast, Frank’s stomach growled loudly, sounding very much like the croaking of a very large bullfrog.
Frogs! That was it! Frank’s aftershave smelled like frogs! Now frog smell is not one that most people would recognize. If they did, do you really think they would buy it? I can just hear it now; “Oh Baby, what’s that wonderful fragrance you’re wearing?” He asks. “Essence of Frog, of course.” she whispers in his ear. “Well it just drives me wild and I’d pay any price for it!” I don’t know, maybe people like it because it subconsciously reminds them of the primordial ooze from which we all started from.
I would know about frog smell, because I grew up in Frog Alley. They always said that nothing lived there except frogs and French people.
I was stunned and the more I looked at Frank with the green glow, the frog scent aftershave, the slight perspiration sheen on his forehead, well he began to look like a frog.
I loved the Frog Alley area with its wetlands, rivers, lakes and its frogs. We were a large family with not much money to spare for non-necessities. So what did you play with? Frogs, of course. We sold them to fishermen, we played mad scientist, we tried to eat frog legs and we vied to see who had the quickest hand at catching them. My younger brother threw my doll into the outdoor biffy, so I used frogs as my dolls. They were kind of cute if you held them under their little arms and danced them around with cupcake papers as tutus. If you ignored their big feet, they looked like tiny dancers, but they weren’t very graceful when they tried to hop away.
Frogs are really kind of boring, they don’t emote, and they just look at the world with glassy eyes and say, “croak croak.” I tried to stay calm and continue with my “uh hum” and “oh really,” but I felt I was sinking into a morass of confusion and panic. Frank sounded like he was saying, “croak croak.” Frank didn’t emote and he had glassy eyes. Poor Frank, maybe someone made him dance in a tutu with his big feet.
One year my older brother and I learned about how Jesus had been crucified on a cross, died and rose again. We were curious children with boundless imaginations. We thought that maybe frogs could do the same thing. My father, being a carpenter, had all the tools and scrap wood we needed. I am now sad to say we did this, and we were not being malicious, we were truly excited about witnessing the miracle of the frogs rising from the dead. We made a little hill in the driveway and put those little crucified frogs on their crosses on the hill. Early the next morning, we raced out as quickly as we could. We were crushed. Not only did those frogs not rise, but earlier that morning my father had backed his truck over them on his way to work. Thoroughly flattened, they were. Yes, I knew a lot about frogs.
Poor Frank, what made him the way he was? Did he get flattened by some well-meaning persons? Would I crush him if I left? If I stayed, then maybe I would have to kiss him. Maybe his tongue would come out of his mouth with surprising speed and I would be stuck to him like a helpless bug.
Frank left to use the restroom. It was then that I decided that it was better to be brave and true to myself then to stay with someone out of fear. Whether that fear was of loneliness, of not finding someone better, of not finding anyone at all, or just fear of the unknown.
The next decision I had to make was when and where I should tell him. I decided that after dinner at my door. The hardest part was how to tell him.
Frank returned from the restroom and I noticed that his feet didn’t seem as large as I seemed to remember. Since I had never discussed his feet with him before, it was difficult to find a way to bring the subject up. Once done, I learned that he had suffered a severe case of poison ivy on his ankles and feet. He had wrapped them in bandages and couldn’t fit his feet into his shoes, so he had purchased much larger ones so they would be comfortable. Now that the poison ivy was nearly gone, he could go back to wearing his regular shoes.
I was very silent on the way home because I had much to ponder. Frank held my hand. All I could smell was frog. “What am I going to do about Frog … I mean Frank?”
What should I say? “I can’t see you because you aren’t my type,” or “I can’t see you because I have to concentrate on school.” How about this one, “I can’t see you because you’re absolutely boring me to death.”
The car pulled up to the driveway and Frank walked me to my door. My hands shook and my heart pounded. I still didn’t know what to say. I turned to him and he took it as a signal that I wanted him to put his arms around me. I put my hands on his chest to maintain some distance and took a deep breath.
“Frank,” I said. I looked at him in the eyes. “I need to tell you something.” Frank looked back patiently at me waiting for me to finish so he could get his kiss.
“Frank,” I said again. “I can’t see you anymore because, well ….
You smell like a frog.”