Pourquoi un homme, plutot qu'un autre
Slight change of pace today...
1. A (very) short story
She had a white blouse with a pearl button clasp at the wrist; this was my in. I had been watching her all night at a dinner party thrown by a guy I didn't like very much, but who could cook well. She was sipping red wine and nodding to the person seated next to her. She seemed engrossed but it was hard to say whether it was the talk or her own thoughts. I took the time to take her in. Hence the photographic memory of that blouse: the detail of it, the ruffle at the collar and the length of her neck. The way she used her hands when she spoke, her fingers. Her hands barely moved but when they did it was with grace and precision. I couldn't hear her but I hoped her voice was low and measured. Something to match the way she looked. I didn't think I would get to talk to her. The host had kindly seated me at the other end of the table with all the reprobates. Of course, I did talk to her. It took three glasses of wine and finding her pearl button in the hallway. I pocketed it and caught her in the coat room as she was leaving. I think I said hey and held out my palm, button at its center. She grabbed her wrist reflexively; her thumb searching for the clasp, then reached out and took back the pearl. Months later she told me that it was my smile that won her. I remember smiling; it was when she said thank you and I finally heard her voice.
Fragment from a cafe conversation with friend M.
M: You're an idiot.
M: I'm being serious. You are so irritating. She wasn't meant for you. She never reciprocated. You said so! You were in love with her because she's beautiful and...
S: (Interrupting) No. That's not true.
M: Yes, it is. She was beautiful and you were totally delighted to show off your beautiful girlfriend to EVERYBODY.
S: Okay, that's a little bit true but that wasn't why I loved her.
M: You also loved her 'cause she was cold.
M: She was cold. And unreadable. You loved that because it meant you could project whatever you wanted onto her.
(Silence. Waiter refills glasses. More silence.)
S: That's the cruelest thing you've ever said to me.
M: Sorry. What can I say? She was cool and distant and you loved it. And that's more fucked up than anything else that may or may not have happened.
You have to understand, I'm the type of guy who until then had dated women one could only describe kindly as "animated." Or, if you were being unkind, “drunk.” She was different. For one, she barely drank. She kept a date book. Her handwriting was even and absurdly perfect. She only had one purse and one suitcase. Everything about her was contained and that trait informed everything she did. I'd watch her get ready for work and marveled at the ease of it. She told me that her parents were disasters and that she'd raised herself. "That's why I'm never late; I've had a lot of practice." I thought of her as a child getting herself ready for school in a big house full of ashtrays and empty bottles. I wanted to be there too. To walk her to the bus, to keep her company, for a while at least. Not that she seemed traumatized by it. I only ever saw her cry once. It was a little before the end of things. She was reading a book in bed. It was something I would never read in a million years, a biography or something. She didn't make a noise, that's why I noticed. I hadn't heard her breathe in for a while so I turned and looked. She was staring straight ahead and her eyes were full of tears. They looked like glass. Her mouth was open, it seemed like she was trying to say something but she didn't speak. I didn't ask her what was wrong, I was scared to. I turned over and pretended to fall asleep. Eventually she turned out the light. She never mentioned anything about it. The next day we had coffee and rode the train together. She might have squeezed my hand goodbye. I can't quite remember.
A message on the answering machine
Hey, it's me. I've had some unexpected...(unintelligible, traffic noise) come up and I need to go home for a bit. I don't think I'll be able to call you for a couple of days but we'll talk when I get back.
We haven't really kept in touch but that's my fault mostly. Things were polite though I fell apart a bit. Unwashed dishes, sleepwalking at work, mirthless eating; the usual tell-tale signs of middling loss. It wasn't her fault. I don't think my friends ever had the right impression of her. She was warmer than she appeared. Every now and then I heard her laugh, her real laugh, not the laugh you perfect for strangers. Something different and sparkling. I've been thinking of her recently. My new girlfriend gave me that same book for my birthday. It's sitting on the nightstand, collecting dust.
2. A song
A Novel Idea/The Song Corporation (mp3)
This gauzy, beautiful whisper of a track is not about alabaster lovers but it did inspire the tiny fiction pasted above. I tried to imagine the woman in it and what she is and isn't capable of saying to the person she is addressing. In my story, he doesn't let her talk because it's safer not to know.
The Song Corporation has a full-length CD coming out in September. A Novel Idea is on that CD. More details TBA.
Befriend The Song Corporation on My Space.