LENA: So what is this, Claire? Confession time? Actually, I don't think I owe anyone an explanation but I don't mind sharing. And no editorial comments, please, Claire. Wait until I tell everything before you preach, okay? Okay Sis? Okay.
So. I'm sitting at The Prince & Poppers last May. It's like it was an hour ago, I can see it so clearly. I can see him. Just one table away from me. He's on his third martini, pausing every so often mid sentence to study the expensive cigar he's nursing like it will somehow inspire just the right words. Somebody's told him that martinis and cigars make the man. I can't help but wonder what makes a man think that filling the air with the effluvium of burning leaves is the ticket to a woman's bed. For that is certainly his goal. I know it. And the perky creature with the big eyes sitting across from him knows it. But we're all pretending otherwise. Like you do with Jerry. No offense.
This guy's working hard. He's telling her about his job no, career; careful to indicate in voice and gesture that "it's really nothing" while at the same time hinting that his future is brighter than a supernova and his work so important and that only someone with his very specialized skills and a more than decent IQ could possibly be capable of handling such a job no, career.
Ah, the timeless aphrodisiac a job proud man acting modest about his accomplishments. So - he's in computers. Don't ask me how, just something about computers. She, of the expensive shoes and purposely-raggy hair, widens her eyes a bit at this. It reminds me of how, a couple of decades ago, our eyes glistened at the word "Attorney" or "Doctor." Look where that got us. Okay, okay, relax I'm not getting bitchy.
Anyway, I suspect that the cigars and martinis are part of his single man mission to prove that not all men in the computer industry are former geeks. But he's not fooling me. Oh no. Those bleached teeth have seen braces. Underneath that tan in a bottle and muscle from a home gym beats the heart of a skinny, bucktooth boy who fully understands what being at the wrong end of a bully means. When he gets excited I detect just the hint of a leftover stutter.
I look at her. She's beginning to lean toward him. She holds her head down, so she can seem like she's looking up at him. Remembering that one, Claire? Her smile is fixed in an "I'm one of the nice ones" mode this to convey that she knows that deep down all men think all women are bitches, but she's the exception.
I doubt it. Something about those cheekbones says she's got a bitch inside her, just screaming to come out. Her eyes are a bit glazed over, telling me that in her mind she is comparing computer guy to the other assholes she's been out with lately and calculating how generous he might be and if he's husband potential. You know the score - Typical first date thoughts.
Suddenly, as though he's read her mind, he cleverly mentions his recent purchases of a new car, a wide screen TV and...Ah hah, see that? A home gym. Again, he throws in a shrug, as though apologizing for his current success then follows shrug with the offhanded comment that ‘next year will be better." I figure we have about 15 minutes before he starts confiding in her that all the women he dates turn out to be money grabbers just out for security and never really "see" him. She's heard it before. She'll know what to do.
He's definitely shopping. And she's for sale.
The fact that she asks no questions other than what brand of wide screen TV he's purchased and what color his new car is, tells me she's got no interest in who this man really is. Doesn't give it a second thought. And why should she? She's dated him under other names plenty of time. I've got to admit it, Claire, I'm suddenly struck by a moment of pity for him. Then I see him staring at her tits and remember myself. Quid pro quo.
Hell, this is just the ancient dance of courtship. They might as well be in a big circle out on the African Savannah. Him all feathered up, penis gourd in place, with a big o'l grin on. On his face - not the gourd -- or, whatever. He's doing the dance and showing off his hunting prowess. She's watching him and not...very concerned and looking unconcerned, but all the time undulating her body just right - which is, of course, clad only in a skirt. The rest of us might as well be circling them and chanting and pounding sticks suggestively against the hardened rain starved earth.
I'm feeling very anthropological at this point. And, we anthropologi have rules, Claire. We can't interfere with the natives' ritual. We can only observe. So I sip my T ‘n T and observe, observe, observe.
Then Then I hear the signature beat of "I'm the Only One" issue from the sound system. At a nearby table are a bunch of thirty something secretary types are they still called secretaries these days? Oh well, one whoops and calls to the bartender "Turn it up, Jeri" and she does. I find myself wondering if the bartend was a "he" if he'd have complied. I mean I'm seeing more than a few winces and eye rolls from the groups of men who have stopped by for a peaceful beer before heading home.
But the secretaries don't give a shit. One yells "yeah" and all four begin bobbing in their seats no, not bobbing, more like gyrating. Then they start this sing along, in total disregard of the other clientele. Not one of them knows all the lyrics. They stumble over the words and catch themselves and laugh and forge on then they find themselves when they hit that chorus and begin raising their 99 cent Happy Hour Margaritas in a joyful salute.
I look back at my subjects and see him lean toward her not wanting to lose his momentum. Her eyes slide toward the secretaries who are having a ball. One grabs a knife and is using it as a mic. Their faces are animated with a combination of yearning, rage, and determination. She smiles; he grimaces, so she changes the smile to rueful - like "well, what can one do?"
But under the table I see one well-arched foot begin to tap to the rhythm of Melissa's pain. The tap begins to effect her leg, then moves up until her pelvis is performing mini thrusts right there on the red leatherette banquette. She's still staring intently into the computer guy's eyes, but slowly her whole body begins gently rocking to the music. She is torn. Should she simply check out a moment and be with Melissa? Or, should she focus fully on computer guy's self-aggrandizement?
For the first time since I've been studying them her mask begins to drop. That carefully composed, symmetrical sweetheart face wakes up. A hint of a real smile appears and I see that her smile is crooked and her tiny incisors are pointed and that she has little laugh lines around her eyes.
Computer Guy's voice rises in volume in attempt to compete with Melissa. You fucking fool! I want to cry, you can't compete with we who are willing to walk across fire for the object of our passion. You wouldn't even consider it, would you? You'd send an animated e-mail card or something. You'd pick up a single rose at the 7/11 and feel smug about your thoughtfulness and spontaneity. A big gesture would be taking her out to dinner to celebrate your promotion.
I look at her; the purposely-raggy hair is falling over her eyes. Under it she peeks again at the secretaries who sing out the chorus full voice their grins share knowingness with each other like the words are actually some secret code for a clandestine coven. A very dangerous coven.
And I'm looking at her and I think. Oh Baby, what're you doing? Why are you up for sale to a man who drinks extra extra dry drinks martinis? Doesn't that strike you as metaphorical? Your little tapping foot and slightly swaying body give you away, honey. Those petal-like pointy incisors were made to nibble flesh. You want passion. You want a wild ride. You know life is short he isn't for you not for long. He couldn't even think words like Melissa is singing. The obsession, the fury, the irony. You and me? We know this is a woman who'll get what she wants. Only a woman could feel this could communicate this. She's not begging she's telling. She's not pretending to be interested in software, she's hardwired for love, sweetheart.
I know that if a broad sang a song like that to me, let alone wrote a song like that to me, I know I'd follow her anywhere. You too, huhn. You too. And suddenly I want you you little raggy hair bitch. Screw the Prime Directive of Anthropological Observation. I'm getting outta this chair and tearing off my shirt. I'm gonna walk over there and beat my chest and challenge Mr. Software to a game of grunt and bash, mano a mano - Then when I've cleared my territory, I'm gonna pick you up in my arms and carry you out of this bar like an Officer and a Gentlewoman ‘cause someone's in need of saving. And I want to do the saving.
I want to save your inevitable children from crooked teeth and too many toys and from the inevitable nastiness of the inevitable divorce that will occur after you realize he'll never walk across a fire for anything or anyone and you inevitably stop being able to pretend to be fascinated and he inevitably finds someone less tired who says she doesn't mind at all that he smokes cigars in the house.
I want to make sure that your face is never perfect and symmetrical again. I want to exploit that crooked little smile and those sexy laugh lines and feel those tiny teeth and watch that body dance naked to Melissa, and cheer you on as you stomp those shapely feet and thrust that wondrous pelvis and wail "
it's only fear that makes you run".
But the pounding fades on the sound system
the music's over. The secretaries cheer and high five each other. The boys with their beers roll their eyes again and head for the free snacks. The computer guy flashes his whitened teeth and gestures to the waitress for another round. Raggy Hair slips down in her seat just a bit- as though some imminent danger has past. Her face, once again, an almost perfectly symmetrical mask.
The moment's over, Claire. Done. Finis. For all of them at least. They're safe now.
But not me.
I now have to live with the epiphanic moment I have just experienced. I now have to wrestle with the long dormant fantasies Melissa has awakened in me. I now have to make decisions.
And suddenly everything's clear.
Okay, so it will be a nasty divorce. And
Michael and I'll have to sell the house. And
I'll miss my garden and all
but hey, I'll look for an old building with loft space and paint the walls bright colors. Maybe I could take up my photography again.
Get a cat.
I could finally let my hair go gray.
Oh I know, it'll be rough for a while.
My husband won't understand. The kids won't understand. And
my sister Claire really won't understand.
Do you, Claire?
. You asked.
I'll make you a wager, Sis. I'll wager you our mother will understand.
Dear Old Mom's always had her little suspicions, hasn't she?