Cheat Day with Fernando

We’re heading home from a nice dinner out, and decide to make a pit stop at the local brewery for a quick beer. Why not, today is special—today is cheat day!

It’s a rare thing to be dressed up lately. Most days, since my recent unemployment, are spent pounding at my computer in comfy clothes. I won’t call them jammies because sometimes they even double as workout clothes—after all, why dirty two sets of clothing.

My mornings are entertained by Tony Horton yelling at Daniel Haas in one of the P90-X workout tapes I’ve done so many times I can recite all of Tony’s one-liners—but hell, it keeps me active. While this may be true, fit ain’t fit unless you’re eating right—right? So I’ve decided to do the 4-Hour Body—again. On this diet, you are restricted from eating any white carbs, or sugar—including fruit. It is what Tim Ferris, the author, calls a slow-carb diet—basically a high protein diet. The beauty is that you get one cheat day a week whereby it is a requirement that you gorge on junk food—something I’m not generally inclined to do, but after eating beans, spinach and eggs for most of the week, an ice cream sandwich and Doritos are looking mighty fine.

The rest of my day is filled with writing. For the past three years I’ve been working on my book—the past seven months of which, have been spent working on my book proposal, and on querying umpteen million people for testimonials—some of whom are the likes of Mary Karr and Augusten Burroughs.


I’m consoled with the 28 positive responses I’ve gotten from others—so what if nobody knows who they are.

I’ve told my husband Peter that he is no longer allowed to ask me what I did today—a habit of his that has grown wearisomely dangerous to the point of me daydreaming about whacking him over the head with a broom the next time he asks because its always asked with a hint of: —loser tagged onto the end of it, and my guilty conscience can’t take the hostile innuendo—although I’m not really sure why I should feel guilty. After all, I’ve worked my entire life and I deserve a well-needed break—especially from the wretched job I just left—but I digress. So instead Peter can only ask if I had a good day. And today I have.

I’m not just celebrating cheat day today—although it is truly cause for celebration. I am celebrating because of the email I received from my writing coach after sending him the close to final version of my 55-page proposal he’s been helping me with. His email read:

You’re making me cry…in a good way…wow…you did good…nothing more for you to do…at least not now…

This, of course, makes me want to cry. So this is why we are dressed up and celebrating. And this is how we meet Fernando at the River Styx Brewery.

Fernando and his buddy are seated at the last two bar seats and I plunk myself down beside him. He beams a nice smile and says hello, then goes back to his conversation. The next thing I know he’s engaged in conversation with us. He’s very touchy—but most Latin men are, I think. His white Izod shirt contrasts his tanned muscular Rolex and gold clad arms. I notice his shoes match and comment on it, at which point he takes the time to explain they aren’t actually Izod shoes, but some high-end designer I am unfamiliar with. I find myself intrigued by this man who is taking every opportunity to touch my arm while regaling me with how beautiful I am—a term not widely used by my husband—but then maybe those Chocolate Moose jammies and Red Sox T’s are just not sexy enough to warrant the praise. He even calls one of the dresses I like to wear around the house a moo-moo—when you’re husband calls a dress you like a moo-moo, it’s time to chuck that dress into the Goodwill bag—along with the Chocolate Moose pants from Maine.

After a time Fernando walks around my barstool to speak to Peter—I can only surmise that Peter may have been glowering over my shoulder while Fernando was patting my arm like a pet cat, and Fernando knows better than to leave jealous husband alone as I am singularly engaged in conversation with him. So he saunters over and begins to wield his charm on Peter—and it’s working. Before long they are best buds, and Fernando is telling him that he should have been staring at his face instead of mine because he is much better looking.

“Hey, that isn’t nice!” I say with feigned indignation as I reel around. But I know what he’s doing. He’s schmoozing Peter like any smooth operating man—working the bait and switch tactic—I’m not really flirting with your wife.

Fernando’s mouth is running nonstop. He misquotes Shakespeare among other verbal faux pas, but I’m still oddly enamored of him—and I can see that Peter is too. He says things like, “Dorothy, we love him. If you let him go, I’m keeping him for a ménage à trios, which is French for a very funky three-way.” And, “It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times, it’s the best that you are…”

Fernando is someone you might expect to meet at a Manhattan nightclub sipping martinis or Bourbon straight up—where his type is the norm, but not in this mill-turned-brewery in the crappy town of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Don’t get me wrong, the brewery has done a fabulous job of turning the place into a really cool spot that allows dogs, and has games like corn hole and shuffleboard with its orange lanterns hanging from the ceiling and skeleton illustrations adorning the walls—theirs being a theme of Greek Mythology—In order to cross the River Styx and reach Hades, a dead person must pay a fee to the ferryman, Charon. But this just isn’t the type of place you’d expect to meet a man like Fernando.

We are ready to leave, but Fernando insists on buying us one more drink. He also insists on calling the bartender Kyle, even though he knows his name is really Ryan. Saying, “A rose by any other name would not have a different perfume. Your name was given to you by your parents—to me you are Kyle—your essence is of a rose.”

I order one more beer and sing a snappy tune inside my head, it’s cheat day, it’s cheat…I can drink beer on cheat day….

Fernando is standing between Peter and me. Someone just lost at the human sized Jenga game and the crashing blocks mute all other sound. Fernando has grabbed me and tried to plant a kiss on me more than once now—I have safely turned my head each time, offering only my cheek, but by the time we are leaving he makes his mark and plants a kiss smack on my lips. I know if this were happening around my ex-husband, Fernando would be bloodied on the floor by now—but thankfully Peter is not like that and when we get in the car all he says is, “He was something else.”

“That’s for sure—I can’t believe he kissed me,” I say. But really, I’m not shocked.

The fact is I’m not thinking of Fernando at all anymore. By the time my seatbelt is safely fastened, I’m thinking that I only have two more hours before midnight when cheat day will be over. Cheat Day has turned me into a beast—a raving drooling beast that suddenly craves food I don’t normally eat.

In the old days I would be ruminating over every word Fernando said—analyzing them from every angle—but today I am thinking of one thing as we make our way up the hill to our home:

D – O – R – I – T– O – S!

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