I met Mark at a raw foods cooking class. Before Mark, I had thought that raw food chefs were all pale, skinny guys with blonde dreadlocks. Mark wasn’t. He was a built, beautiful Adonis with tanned skin and a magnificent beard. He wore one of those chef’s coats, but it clung to him like a white double-breasted suit jacket. He looked delicious!
As the class began, I raised my hand to ask a question.
“Yes?” he said in his deep resonant voice.
“Can I record this on my phone,” I asked, really just wanting him to notice me.
“Sure,” he said with a smile.
For the next hour, Mark chopped, sautéed and muddled vegetables and herbs. His hands were man’s hands, thick and strong. Yet he held his sharp butcher’s knife with the gentleness of a baby bird. And when the defeated vegetables rolled a step out of places, he would use his knife to guide them back with the calm deliberateness of a shepherd. I could barely take my eyes off of him.
When the class came to an end I sat waiting for everyone else to leave. I looked around as the Whole Foods shoppers returned to their shopping, and Mark was cleaning his makeshift chef’s table. Watching him, I wondered what it would be like to put my hands around his biceps. I wasn’t even sure that the two of my hands could encase them.
“That was a really interesting class?” I said walking up to him.
“Did you like it?” he asked with a smile.
“Do like raw foods?” he asked, clearly making conversation.
“I’ve only had it once when a friend invited a raw foods chef to cook lunch for a group of us. It was good though.”
“Everyone should be eating raw foods. It would clear your mind, strengthen you heart… You’d lose weight. It’s eating like humans were designed to eat.”
“But you don’t just eat raw food, though, do you?” I looked at his built chest and bulging arms again.
“Well, I’m a chef, so that is what I cook. But I’m not a dick about it. If someone is cooking me something, I’m gonna eat it.”
I liked his casualness about it. He almost seemed normal. It was like he was just a regular guy who happened to cook raw foods. I liked him and I wanted to know more about him.
“But you don’t get like that by only eating raw foods, though, right?” I said trying not to blush.
I looked at him positive that he knew what I was referring to. But accepting his coy invitation to flirt, I put my hand on his bicep. His muscles were harder than I had expected them to be. He was as solid as a rock. My chest heaved and I could feel my cheeks glow.
“You have to eat a lot of protein,” he said with a small smile creeping across his face.
“Whey. It’s the healthiest form of protein. I could cook you a meal, all raw and you wouldn’t be able to guess that it didn’t have meat.”
“You could, huh?” I said challenging him.
“You don’t believe me. Why don’t you come by my place? I’ll cook you a meal and you would never want to eat anything else again.”
I looked at him with a smile on my face. I couldn’t help it. My body was pulsing with heat and smiling was the only thing I could do to stop myself from kissing him. I chuckled trying to figure out how to accept his invitation while still giving him the message that I was a good girl.
“I don’t know. I don’t even know you,” I said coyly.
Mark turned to me and did something completely unexpected. He touched my bare forearm. It was neither intimidating nor sexual. It was just a brief touch from his finger tip and it confused me.
He then touched my shoulder. And as soon as I registered the touch he was touching the elbow on my other arm.
“Do you want to come over and experience something you’ve never had before?”
I couldn’t think straight. He was asking me a question and his touches were drawing my thoughts preventing me being able to come up with something playful to say. And at a loss for words, I just said what I was thinking.
“Yeah,” I said feeling raw.
“Then just do it. You’ll never regret it.”
Mark stopped touching me returning to his cutting board which he tucked away in a large backpack.
I wasn’t sure what had just happened, but I liked it. It was like he had stripped me of all of my inhibitions leaving only my unprotected self. It felt more sexual than a kiss, but without the awkward intimacy. It felt like he was hunting me, except he had caught me and now he was just toying with me. He made me feel weak around his strength and I liked it.
“Walk with me,” he ordered, tossing the backpack over his right shoulder and heading to a backroom door. “Do you drive?”
I thought it was strange question but I answered. “Yeah, I have a car. Do you need a lift somewhere?”
Mark looked back and smiled finding the question funny. He pushed through the backroom doors and gestured for me to follow him.
I looked around as the light changed. It was definitely not as bright behind the scenes of the grocery store. Past the brief hallway was what looked like a warehouse with pallet after pallet of dried goods.
I had never imagined what the back room of a grocery store looked like. In fact, I hadn’t even given it much thought whether or not it had one. But here it was and it was huge.
We didn’t go much further than that, though. Instead, Mark ducked in to a small room on the left quickly returning with a leather jacket and shiny black helmet. The raw food chef rode a motorcycle. And if the helmet was any indication, it was the type that made your windows rattle when he rode by. I had no clue who the man before me was and it scared me enough to want to know more.
“You can come by my place tomorrow at… What time do you get off of work?” he asked leading me out of the store.
“I work for myself at home, so I get off any time.”
“Come by at seven. Okay?”
“Where?” I asked suddenly afraid that he wouldn’t tell me.
“What’s your number? I’ll text you,” he said flinging his leg over what looked like a Harley Davidson.
I gave him my number. He could have given me a quick call, but he didn’t. Instead, he put the phone in his jacket pocket, adjusted his backpack and flipped on his helmet.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said starting his bike.
The rumbling was enough to rattle loose the remnants of my inhibitions. I stepped toward him putting my waist in arm’s length of him. If he wanted to grab me and kiss me he could. I would let him, but something deep inside told me that he wasn’t the type who asked for permission.
He didn’t kiss me though. He didn’t even touch me. What he did instead was pull a lever on his handle bars which proceeded a loud click. And then with me standing there staring, he put his feet up and rode away.
I watched as he exited the parking lot and entered the street. He never looked back. For that brief moment, the streets were empty except for him. He pulled away like some motorcycle bad boy. And as soon as he was out of sight, my first thought was of when he would text me.
I didn’t have to wait long. I received a text in 45 minutes letting me know his address. The last guy I had dated had been Nicholas. I was determined to learn my lessons from that experience.
All of Nicholas’s actions had told me that he didn’t really want to be with me, but I hadn’t listened. He was always distant. He only contacted me for Saturday sex. And it all should have been clear when it took him a week to text me for the first time. The signs were all there that he didn’t want to be with me. I simply hadn’t paid attention.
Mark was clearly different. He didn’t keep me waiting for a week wondering if he would call. He didn’t keep me wondering if we would get together again. No, Mark obviously wanted to be with me. He set a date as quickly as possible and he invited me into his home to cook for me. If Mark’s actions weren’t a sign that I was making different choices, than I didn’t know what would be.
It was great that Mark was so into me, because I was really into him. He was the type of guy that I dreamed about. He was a “man.” He was a hunter. He was strong and aggressive. And god, was he hot. But not only that, the fact that he was a raw food chef said that he also had a sensitive side. It wasn’t like he was a butcher. He cooked raw food. Mark was like a ruthless gladiator who loved kids. Mark was perfect.
The next day as I prepared to go to Mark’s, I wondered if I should pack a bag. Sure, it was our first date, but I was going to sleep with him. I wasn’t going to tell him that. He was go to have to work for it. But if he put in the effort, I was going to give in. And since I knew that, I had to figure out how a good girl could show up on a first date with an overnight bag.
Certainly I would leave the bag in the car, but still, how does a good girl happen to have a tooth brush in the car the next morning? How does a good girl happen to have a change of clothes?
Whatever it took to convince Mark that I was a good girl, I was going to do it. Because Nicholas had proven my mother right. I hadn’t act like a good girl with Nicholas, and he ended up convincing me to have sex with his best friend. If I had acted the way I should have, things with Nicholas might have turned out differently.
Throwing a change of underwear into a bag and then adding another for good measure, I then added my toiletries. After a while I found myself packing for a weekend trip, which was presumptuous. But if things went half as well as I thought they might, a weekend bag might not be enough.
I searched my closet for the perfect pair of worn jeans. I wanted something with holes but not falling apart. I then retrieved a tee-shirt and took off my bra. Looking at my braless profile in the mirror I was happy with what I saw. Well, I was as happy as I could be and I felt ready to go. Putting on my tan sandals with the zipper in the back, I slung my bag over my shoulder and headed out.
Driving up to the hills of Malibu I thought about the work I had left to do for the week. The ‘How to be a Rock Star’ book was finished and ready to be published. I had handed out the assignment for the ‘How to Cook Raw Food’ articles and I had to finish slicing up the video. Since the Rock Star videos with Nicholas were driving the Rock Star website’s views, videos were going to be a part of my business model from now on. However, it did add a lot of time to the production process.
The other lingering thing I had to deal with was the shoe game app. The initial amount quoted for the game was $500. I had already spent $5000, and I was on my third developer. It was a nightmare. And the only thing I could do to stop it from driving me nuts was to put it out of my mind.
I wrote the endless checks, made the approvals and then turned my mind elsewhere. The day before, I had been expecting the final delivery. And after 4 hours of testing, I found a fatal flaw and had to send it back to the developer. That game was slowly killing me.
Almost losing my mind over the stress of it all was what had led me to Whole Foods on the night that I had met Mark. I had desperately needed a pick-me-up, and I didn’t care if it was chocolate or heroine. But finding the chocolate at the Whole Foods bakery, I also found open seats in front of a gorgeous man giving a raw foods cooking class.
It was all exactly what I needed. Not only did he take my mind off of my work, which was slowly killing me, but tonight I would be cooked for by a gladiator. And if I got lucky, I would wake up next to him as well.
When I pulled up to Mark’s address, I have to admit that I was surprised. The address was an empty lot in the middle of nowhere. And the only thing on it was a chrome, rounded 1950’s trailer. Initially I wondered if it was the right place and then I saw his motorcycle. I considered driving away but he stepped out from behind the trailer wearing a tank top. He was built like a Roman solider.
I parked my car and slipped my overnight bag behind and under the passenger seat. I wasn’t sure if I would need it anymore, but I couldn’t be sure. I got out of the car and walked toward him.
“I’m glad you came,” he said giving me big hug. He had an earthy smell that didn’t smell bad. In fact, there was something about it that I kind of liked.
“You’re out in the middle of nowhere, aren’t you?” I said hoping he’d explain why.
“Yep. Beautiful, isn’t it?”
I took a moment and really looked around for the first time. There were more hills in front of the property, and a valley on the other side of the street. There wasn’t another house in sight. It was a little hard to believe that 8 million people lived only 45 minutes away.
“Wow, it’s amazing!” I said truly awestruck.
“You want to see the rest?” he asked holding out his hand.
I walked to him and offered my hand. He took it confidently and led me to the other side of the trailer. What stood behind it took my breath way. There was a four legged pop up structure that was at least ten feet by ten feet. Interwoven across the top of it was a vine where large yellow and pink flowers hung.
Against the trailer was a lush couch. A few feet in front and to left of that was what looked like a portable kitchen. And in front of that was a seating area surrounded by flower pots with flowers in bloom. It was as if a living room, kitchen and family room were set up and then the walls were removed. What I saw could only be described as outdoor living and it was beautiful.
“What do you think?” he asked as I stood with my mouth hanging open.
“Wow!” I said again short on words.
“It’s natural living, ya know. If people knew how great this was and how good it was for the environment, everyone would do it.”
I looked at him wondering if he was joking. He wasn’t. I looked back at his setup. It was indeed beautiful, but it could only work exactly where it was, in the middle of nowhere. But in the middle of nowhere, it was amazing.
“Just wow!” I said again before checking to see what smelled so good.
“Do you like that? It’s zucchini pasta with light marinara glaze topped with my own version of Seitan. Do you know what Seitan is?” He asked with a big smile and lots of pride.
“It’s a meat substitute that tastes better than meat. And the way I make it, has more protein than a burger. But it only has the best type of protein.”
“Really,” I said looking down at the bowl of pasta on the counter. “And this is raw?”
“That is, but the Seitan isn’t. The whole meal is better than raw. It’s the way that vegans should eat. You ever notice how pasty and frail vegan’s look? Do you think humans survived forty thousand years by being pasty and frail?
No. Our bodies were designed to work best when we’re eating more protein. Do you think a pasty, frail vegan could survive a dinosaur attack? No. They’d get eaten and the dinosaur would be hungry by lunch.”
I wondered if Mark was joking about the cavemen and dinosaurs. I was hoping he was. I would hate to think that his understanding of history was based on ‘The Flintsones’.
“This is the way that humans should eat. And more than that, it tastes better than anything you’ll ever taste.”
“Those are some bold words,” I joked aroused by his confidence.
“In a couple of minutes, you’ll see for yourself,” he said positioning himself next to me in front of the ingredients.
“Can I record it?”
“What’s with you always wanting to record me cooking?”
“I make websites about how to do stuff. I’m thinking about making a website about how to make raw food.”
“Humans can’t make raw food. Only mother nature does that,” he said with very little sarcasm.
“I mean prepare it. Is it okay if I record it?”
“What you should be recording is what I’m doing tomorrow,” he said beginning to wisk and mix the ingredients.
I apprehensively pulled out my phone waiting for him to object. When he didn’t I turned it on and focused it on his large masculine hands.
“What are you doing tomorrow?” I asked darting my eyes from the phone’s screen to his very intense eyes.
“I’m going out to help stop some killers.”
I looked up at him frozen. “What? Are you a cop too?”
“No. I’m going out with Green Peace after some whalers. Do you know that whales are just about as smart as humans? Whaling is like if people were allowed to kill people in downtown L.A. for their body part, or something. That would be crazy, right? But because whales don’t look like us, people think it’s okay.”
“And you’re doing this tomorrow?” I asked intrigued.
“Yeah. You should come. You want to show people how to do something? Show them how to save the fucking planet so that we don’t kill ourselves,” he said with a passion that I had never seen. I liked it.
I considered the idea. “When are you leaving?”
“That’s really early,” I said wondering what time he expected our night to end.
“Yeah. You could just stay over, though. We could leave together in the morning.”
A smile crept across my face as I stared at him. He didn’t see it because he was staring down at the food.
He had made the suggestion so flippantly that I didn’t know what to make of it. Did he expect to have sex, or was the suggestion easy to make because sex wasn’t an option?
“Are you serious?” I asked hoping for some type of clarification.
He looked up locking my eyes with his. “Yeah. You should come. I’ll show you ‘how-to’ save the planet.”
There was something inescapably sexy about what he proposed. He was inviting me to help him save the world, or at least to watch him as he did it. He was a gladiator. And if he was a gladiator, it meant that he was also dangerous.
I couldn’t help but think about how a gladiator made love. Would he be gentle or was he brutal and dominant. Would he stop if I said, no? Would he take me anyway? Would I be a delicate flower in his strong, thick hands?
“I’ll think about it,” I told him. “Ask me again later,” I said with a blush.
I recorded everything he made from the Seitan “strip steaks”, to the raw apple pie. As the sun set, he set up a table under the gazebo and we ate. He was right. It was one of the best meals I had ever had. And enjoying it as the sun set behind the hills, only made it more romantic.
As the temperature dropped, I began to consider the down side of a life without walls. He saw me rubbing my arms and he invited me to move to the couch. Retrieving a blanket from the trailer, we both climbed underneath it.
His body was strong and warm and his scent intoxicated me. He could have done anything to me that he wanted. And as the conversation died down to the two of us basking in each other’s warmth, I broke the silence.
“You had asked me if I wanted to stay tonight and join you tomorrow,” I said softly.
“Yes. Would you?” he asked turning his intense eyes onto me.
“I will,” I said signing over my will to his.
“Good,” he said before pulling me tighter and cradling me in his arms.
I wanted him to kiss me. I waited for him to kiss me. But as the night wore on, I began to understand that his touch was all that I was going to get.
“Well, it’s getting late,” he said. “We have an early day tomorrow.”
“It is,” I agreed hoping that this would be the start of a very sexy night.
Mark pulled away from me and asked me to get up. I thought he was going to lead me back to the trailer. He didn’t. Instead he pulled out the sofa converting it into a bed. We were to sleep under the stars.
Climbing into the bed my head swam with ecstasy. I would have given him anything he asked for. All I wanted in return was that he make love to me under the stars. All I wanted was for our two hearts to beat as one and to feel his powerful presence inside of me.
Instead what happened was that I crawled into his arms like a little girl and he held me like a man. It wasn’t what I thought I wanted that night, but damn did it make me feel intoxicated. And as if I had drank a bottle of wine, in no time, I was asleep.
When I woke up the next morning, Mark was already out of bed. It was still dark outside, but there was a light glow from the trailer. I wondered if he had abandoned me for the comfort of indoors, but he soon returned dressed and carrying what would become breakfast.
“Morning,” he said putting everything onto the counter. “You snore.”
“I do not,” I protested in a raspy voice.
“No, it’s this little snore. It’s cute.”
I rolled over stretching. “I do not snore. What time is it?”
I closed my eyes wondering if I could really do this. I still had a few minutes to bailout if I was going to. And I could always use the excuse that I didn’t have a change of clothes. He didn’t know I had a few days worth of clothes in the car.
“How long is the trip?” I asked opening my eyes again.
“Depends on how long it takes us to find a ship. The ships talk to each other. So we just need to do enough to disrupt their patterns.”
I thought about what he had said. It wasn’t an answer. It wasn’t even a ballpark answer. “So two or three days?”
“Something like that. Maybe a week. Can’t really tell.”
The more I thought about it, the less it sounded like a good idea. I had work that I had to do. A weekend would be one thing, but a week?
“Will there be an internet connection on the boat?”
“Mmm. Okay,” I said too tired to resist.
“I packed some of my clothes for you. A few shirts. Something to sleep in.”
“I have some clothes in the car.”
I really expected him to ask me why I had the clothes, but he never did. Instead he made me breakfast, allowed me time to shower and freshen up and then we left. I had never been on a motorcycle before and it really woke me up. He had given me one of his motorcycle jackets, but the dew that collected on my pants froze as we sped through the hills.
Arriving at the dock, we parked in the parking lot and found the iconic Greenpeace boat. I didn’t follow such things, but I had seen images of it on the internet. It was smaller than I expected it to be though it was larger than any super yacht.
I again wondering if I had made the right decision. But by that time, I was already on board.
A mid-thirties man with blonde dreadlocks approached us.
“Mark!” he said giving Mark a hug. “And who’s this?”
“This is my friend, Christine. She’s going to do a website about saving the whales,” he said turning to me.
“Seriously?” Blonde Marley asked.
“Yeah, I’m thinking about it,” I volunteered not knowing what I was getting myself into.
“Well, if you have any questions, let me know.” He turned back to Mark. “You two are in the KB quarters.”
“Sweet,” Mark acknowledged.
“Breakfast will be served once we cast off.”
Blonde Marley walked away and Mark led me down the corridor into a surprisingly large cabin. With the door closed, I asked.
“Who’s that guy?”
“Bob’s like the events director.”
“Like on a cruise?”
“Sort of. We all work for Greenpeace and he manages our schedules.”
“You work for Greenpeace? As what? Chef?”
“Resident hypnotist?” he said with a smile.
“What?” I asked confused.
“That’s a joke we have here. No, I’m a consultant.”
“Where does the hypnotist come from?”
“It’s because I used to be a hypnotist and that’s kind of what I do here.”
“What do you mean?”
“Hypnotism is all about breaking patterns.” He lightly grabbed me by the wrist and sat me next to him on the narrow bed. And before he spoke he began touching me like he had touched me at the grocery store. First he touched my forearm and then shoulder. He then touched my other arm all while locking his eyes on me.
“I want you to focus on my voice,” he commanded.
His voice was the only thing I could focus on. Any time I tried to break eye contact or think about where he would touch me, I would feel uncomfortable.
“You’re getting very tired. Your eyes want to close, but you are fighting them. You desperately want to close your eyes, but you won’t.
And as he said it, I could feel my eye lids get heavy. I really did want to close them. I very much wanted do what he told me to do. The continuous light touches made it very hard for me to focus on anything other than his eyes and voice. And when I stopped trying to fight it and gave in to his wishes, everything felt considerably easier.
Mark stopped touching me and leaned back.
“That’s hypnotism. We all have patterns that we have learned from childhood. We have learned that conversations will unfold in certain ways and that people will act certain ways. And to those expected events, we have standard replies that we say without thinking. It’s like asking someone how they are. They automatically said they’re fine.
But when you hypnotize someone, what you’re doing is breaking their expected patterns. In that brief moment, the brain has to figure out what it will do next and for that second we’re paralyzed. Now, if you keep disrupting their pattern, they will feel like they’re drowning. Their brain won’t be able to recognize what’s happening to them. And as they try to figure out their response, the decision making process will become harder and harder for them.
In this moment, the brain’s only response is to shut out all other stimuli and latch onto the calm in the middle of the storm, my voice. And resigning yourself to listening to my voice, you become highly suggestible. And that is what being hypnotized is.”
Having regained my sense of awareness, I stared at him trying to process what he had said. So had he hypnotized me that night in front of the grocery store? Is that why I had accepted his invitation to dinner. I scanned his body again and realized it wasn’t. But I did remember how I wasn’t planning on giving him a straight answer until he started touching me.
“So, what do you do for Greenpeace, hypnotize the whalers?” I asked with more than a hint of sarcasm.
“No. Like I said, hypnotism is all about disrupting patterns. People will go about doing what they do, never thinking about the consequences until the moment their pattern is disrupted. It is only then that change can occur. We’re here to disrupt the pattern of the whalers.
Every day they go out and harpoon a whale as if they were brushing their teeth. What we do is interrupt their pattern and wake them up. Once they’re awake, we make them reconsider what they’re doing. It’s not much. But if we don’t do anything, people like them will just go along, doing what they’re doing until every whale is gone.”
“And you’re a consultant? What does that mean?”
Mark smiled. “I’m the one who comes up with how we’re gonna disrupt their pattern. I’m the man with the plan.”
I sat for a moment considering what he had said.
“So, you’re saying that we all get into patterns, and unless you do something to disrupt that pattern, we will continuing doing the same thing forever?”
“Like what type of things? How much do you have to disrupt things?” I asked fascinated.
“It usually has to be big. Think of it this way, it needs to be something so big that there is no way that you can easily slip back into your old patterns.
It doesn’t have to be dramatic. When I was touching your arm it wasn’t dramatic. It just has to be enough to give you the mental space to make another decision. And the hope with the whalers is that we do something big enough that it leaves space for their better angels to take over. At least that’s my plan.”
Mark left me in the room as he oriented himself with the ship and crew. He told me that he would come back for me when breakfast was ready. I told him that I was going to take a nap.
I couldn’t sleep though. I was too taken by what he had said. ‘The way that you change your patterns was by doing something big enough to disrupt your pattern. And it is only in that void where your better angles have the space to step in.’ I had never heard this before. The idea fascinated me.
Thirty minutes later Mark called me to breakfast. There were fifteen people around the table and everyone was under thirty five years old with most of them being in their twenties. And other than Mark, everyone else was a perfect example of a granola activist. Colorful woven hoodies, torn jeans and Birkenstocks were everywhere.
Mark introduced me to Scott, the cleanest shaven of the crew. He was the sound engineer. Lance was a young bearded guy who did something having to do with engineering. Jim was a botanist. And as far as I could tell, Tim was the muscle. At least Tim didn’t seem to have another function. And other than Mark, he was the only one who wasn’t pasty and frail.
There were others eating with us but those four seemed to be directly under Mark’s command. This wasn’t a military operation, but Mark very much seemed to be their commander. Mark was the man in charge.
After breakfast, Mark took me to the computer room. There were 2 computers available with cabling for three laptops. I signed into one and checked my email. I checked how my most recent websites were doing and published my ‘How To be a Rock Star’ book. After that I answered a few emails then signed out.
Things were relatively boring on board after that. I considered taking a nap but instead spent some time on deck watching the waves as I considered what Mark had said. He had said that the only way to bring about change was to interrupt a person’s pattern. Was that true? There was something that felt true about it. Is that what I had done by following Mark?
What was my pattern? Looking back at Nicholas and all of the guys before him, it was tough to say what my pattern was. My first long term boyfriend was a built, cocky guy who spent way too much time at the gym. I broke up with him because he was just a dick. He was so insecure that it got to the point where he tried to control my every move.
The next guy I dated for any length of time was a nicer guy who I worked with. I was a waitress and he was a bartender at the same restaurant. He was an actor and we broke up because he wouldn’t spend any time with me. He always had class or play rehearsal or some other thing that left work and the occasion night for us to hang out.