The Encyclopedia Man

October 8th, 2010

I’ve been reliving so many sad memories this week that I couldn’t help smiling when The Encyclopedia Salesman popped up in my mournful trek backwards in time. It was around 1970 and my husband had decided he didn’t want to be married anymore, leaving me at 27 with three kids (2, 3 and 5), tiny child support and zero self confidence in a city where I didn’t have any family or many friends. I only had a high school education at that time, so to make extra money, I babysat for other people’s kids. And there were plenty around. We lived in a row of┬árental townhouses, which were crawling with mothers who needed babysitters so they could go to work. I was too broke and beaten down by my marriage to be able to afford my own babysitter or go out, so there I was, no prospects for the future (except I was no longer being beaten and brow-beaten by my ex) and no experience of the dating world or the world at all. I had spent my marriage pregnant and passive, so being on my own was intoxicating and frightening. One summer night at dinner time, there was a knock on the front door, and there he stood–The Encyclopedia Man. Young and good-looking in a sleazy, Urban Cowboy, I-could-have-a-disease kind of way and of course, a smooth talker. He was working for one of those companies that hauled young people from town to town and dropped them off in neighborhoods to fan out and sell magazines or encyclopedias, picking them up at the end of the night and moving on. Even though I told him I was broke and there was no chance in hell of selling me anything, he talked his way into the apartment, ate dinner with us, waited til the kids went to bed and then seduced me on the living room floor. My first sexual experience after my husband left. And it was good, simply because it was illicit, crazy and impersonal. I refused to tell him my name, but he got my number off the front of the wall phone and used to call me occasionally “Person-to-Person to person.” I never saw him again, never wanted to and freaked out about it so much later that I got tested for VD…the only thing you had to worry about in those days. It was still the leftover age of love, I was a hippie and it never occurred to me that he might kill me, cut me or beat me up. So young and dumb. I have a lot of regrets and sorrow about relationships with men that I cared about, but none at all about The Encyclopedia Salesman. He made me feel beautiful, sexy and primal after being knocked around and put down by my husband for 10 years. It was one time in my life that I followed my instincts without worrying about the outcome or fantasizing about true love or making it into more than it was. It was only later, when I started falling in love with the men I slept with, that Trouble knocked on my door, stayed for dinner and refused to leave until nothing was left but bones.

8 Responses to “The Encyclopedia Man”

  1. gloria says:

    Interesting….and now look at you.:)

  2. Kelley says:

    Wow – I have an uncannily similar story – magazine salesman, I was 26 with only one child and she was with her dad (my ex) that weekend. The magazine salesman was gorgeous in that “girl in every port” kind of way and the only difference in our stories is that I fell a little in love and he disappeared the next day – never saw or heard from him again. My heart was broken for a little bit until I realized he’d pretty much cured me of a 2-YEAR “I’ll never need a man again” fast. I look back on it as my feminine revolution – the moment when I realized it was okay for ME to desire (and be desirable).

  3. nikki says:

    I’m afraid that photo was of me at the age when I met The Encyclopedia salesman!

  4. I wouldn’t mind feeling beautiful, sexy, and primal again…

  5. nikki says:

    no shit, v grrrl. how rare is that?

  6. c says:

    THIS IS A MOVIE IN THE MAKING! what an amazing writer you are.

  7. Marshanna says:

    I love this story so much…thank you.

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