The Shape of Things

You don’t like to talk, you say

And I like to listen

Silences will be deep, you chuckle

Intoxicated slights of imagination

Unfold your stories anyway

Time falls

Summer, comforter, proximity

No longer enough

To control

Traffic in my timbers

You caress my heels

Unhooking anklets

No one needs to be cold, you say

Bells sing in my ears

This is how you knew

The shape of things

This is when I knew

I’d stay

Farwell Iqbal Bano…Music Died With You


Willful Blindness

They had met the usual way.

M was at this party hosted by D’s ex-roomie, and since they were about the only two guests non-Irish-white-catholic-blue-eyed, they naturally gravitated to each other. D was funny and had lived life. M needed a life. They discovered they lived two streets apart, so he followed her home that night—for purposes of safety.

Pretty soon he became her hip attachment. Eating, shopping, gyming together became sort of…a habit. It wasn’t by device, it just happened. He kept turning up, and she wasn’t the type to say no. She was used to collecting strays, and he liked being someone’s in case of emergency person.

Once after way too many jellybeans and popcorn on movie night, M developed a tummy ache like nobody’s business. D rubbed his stomach all night, and he whimpered in her cuddle like a newborn puppy. Subsequently, he started finding excuses not to go home at night. He didn’t really have any specific designs, but it was just nice to have someone to spoon on winter nights. Retro-Radical!

That changed. Not immediately, rather imperceptibly. The shift was comfortable, sweet, nothing intense, nothing heartbreaking, just steady. D was unsure how she felt about him, but she loved the routine they had. M found her hard to fathom, but her mysteries became the focal point of his day-to-day. Neither of them talked about the transition, but they doted on each other, and it seemed to be enough.

One evening D asked M to take her dancing, to that eighties club down by Canal Street. There is only so much you can bop to Wake Me Up, Before You Go Go without getting hungry.

They popped in next door to share a dessert. D, uncharacteristically, barely scraped in nibbles of the tiramisu.

“What’s wrong, Lady Bug?”

“What makes you think anything is wrong?”

“Well for one you answered my question with another question.”

“No, nothing, really.”

“You sure.”

“Positive, Gremlin.”

He leaned forward to push a strand of hair out of her eyes, she startled at the gesture, flinching in misunderstanding. You’d think he was about to hit her or something. M wanted to ask her again what was up, but something forbade him.

That night she begged a headache and sent him home. Had to be a lie, she loved his head-massages. But he didn’t push her. He tossed and turned all night, wanting to call, but doomful trepidation wouldn’t let him hit 2 on the speed-dial.

He missed her in unmanly ways. That emasculating thought got him a grip. It was just ONE Saturday, there will be others! He popped a leftover hydro-codeine from his last dental appointment, and went to sleep.

The phone rang in the vicinity of 4 am.

“Gremlin, you up?”

“No. Sweet Jesus! I miss your hair.”

“My hair or Hesoos’? Gremy, did you pop a pill?

“Hours ago…no residuals currently. I promise occifer!”

“Gremy, listen I need to come over.”

“Please! Please! Please!”

“Will you be lucid?”

“Enough to ask, come there me instead want you?”

“No, Yoda, let me do the heavy-lifting for a change.”

“Buggie, come soon.”

He phased between slumber and consciousness, fitfully anticipating her arrival. She needs to just move in with him. What on earth was the point of paying two rents when they spent all their time together. Plus its not like she could ever sleep without him, tonight was just a case in point.

The doorbell rang. He st/fumbled his way to the door.

“Why didn’t you use your key?”

“I needed you out of bed Gremy.”

“Why? The bed is so much warmer…”

“I…listen, can we just sit down?”

“… What’s up? You ok Lady Bug?…”

“I…I just need your teddy bear hugs.”

He obliged, but the act was laced with the sudden sobriety of drunk-driver’s first hit and run. The panic got worse when he felt the shuddered heaves of her weeping. His shirtfront seeped her tears onto his chest, just inches of human-tissue away from his currently arrhythmic ticker. He tried to run a gamut of dates in his head. Did he forget her birthday? Was it her father’s death anniversary? He was at loss. The only thing to do was stroke her hair, wait for her to speak.

Suddenly, he didn’t want to know.

And then there it was. The bombshell his sixth sense had been foreshadowing all evening like the campy theme music of a slasher B movie.

She’d met someone. He was the perfect candidate on paper. Age-appropriate, right-religioned, dialect-compatible, geographically-akin, career-symbiosised, and lifepathvision-aligned. She needed to give it a try. She owed it to herself, and her family, to do the right thing for a change.

“The right thing…?”

“Gremy, this is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, it’s breaking my heart.”

“It’s breaking your heart…?”

“You are the most important part of my life!”

“You are my life…”

“Gremy, please don’t make it harder then it has to be…”

“I am not doing anything.”

He tried to pull away at that point, but she wont let him. She gnawed at his arms with her nails as if drawing blood might take the attention off the real issue. He couldn’t break down right now, not in front of her, not like this. He stayed rigid in her thorny embrace, easing only when she fell asleep. Still in his arms, still half-sobbing. He didn’t have the heart to push her aside. She, childlike, impervious of the clumsy havoc she had just wreaked.

D was still wearing the pearl earrings he’d gotten her for her last birthday. She had laughed and clapped her hands in ecstasy when she had seen them. Such happiness, M never thought he could make anyone smile like that. He thought he saw love in her eyes that day. Maybe it was just joy at the realization she had trained him perfectly in tune to her tastes.

Such bitter thoughts.

None of it made any sense.

What the hell was age-appropriate? Religion? The only ism she followed was hedon! In fact she had laughed at the cave-man tendencies of the men in her particular monotheistic cult. And life path? Seriously! How much more configuration did she need then the monkey-see-monkey-do routine he was always willing to commit to, just to keep safe the warm cocoon of their life together.

And when the hell did she find time with this person, she was ALWAYS with him.

Sleep eventually unhooked her nails from his flesh, but he stayed tethered to her.

Even Job was probably less fond of reintroducing flesh-eating larvae into his wounds, just because God intended it so.

In the morning she stubbornly persisted in their rituals as if it was just another Sunday. He didn’t say much while she made her world-famous omelets, and urged him to put the coffee on. When he brushed past her in the kitchen, she reached out and caressed his cheek. He cringed at the contact. She grabbed him and held on like a man-overboard to a float.

Possibly nothing had changed?

He kissed her, he couldn’t help it. This was his girl, she’d always be his girl. She didn’t back down when his lips gathered more urgency, letting him slip a hand inside her shirt, jumping up, wrapping her legs around him, her unspoken signal of consent.

He took her into the bedroom.

They spent hours there.

He fell asleep, his face smothered in her breasts, thinking maybe he had just conjured up last night. A bad case of indigestion induced nightmares. His sub-conscience feigned much needed bliss.

He woke up to her cell phone ringing, and subdued mumblings.

“Yes, hey, yes, I know. I’ll call you in 20 OK? OK. N-no, not today. Look let me call you. This isn’t the best time. No it wasn’t easy. No, OK, let me just call you, OK? OK. Bye.” Pause. “No I haven’t changed my mind…Ditto.”

He saw her through hooded eyes, slink out of bed, and come to his side, and caress his cheek.

“Gremy, I have to get home.”

“Stay the night.”

“No I really…I really do have to go.”


“Yes Gremy?”

“I love you, D?”


“Gremy…I…its…I don’t know what to say.”

You know what to say D. He just looked at her, all the longing of the past year straining in his eyes.

“I love you, Lady Bug.”

“I have to go baby. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, OK?”

He let her go, he had no choice. It could still be just another Sunday…it could…it could…

The next two months were odd periods of adjustments.

He’d wait for her outside of work, only to realize she wasn’t coming down. When he called she wouldn’t always answer the phone. There was suddenly no one to spot him at the gym. When he did see her, and it was often enough, she acted like she always did. Caressing his cheeks, knowing his exact order at their sushi place, buying that extra loaf of bread for him, if she went to the grocery store.

But she disappeared on the weekends.

And those times were awful. He felt an intense pain in his innards at not knowing where she was, what she was doing, who she was touching…

His friends jokingly nicknamed him Moliver after the famous Twist, because he moped about like he’d lost his anchor.

His sister suggested he cut D out completely, but unless he moved from the neighborhood, that was going to be next to impossible. And truth be told he didn’t want to escape her. Who the hell tells a junkie to go cold turkey and expect it to work anyway!

Then one day she called him, it was a Friday, about 1 am. He was out with some friends at a club, trying half-heartedly to get his game on. She was bawling hysterically. So many hiccups, he couldn’t make out a word of what she said.

“D, where are you? Where? No just stay there, I will be there in twenty minutes. Please don’t cry. OK no, I’ll stay on the phone. Just please, don’t cry.”

He stayed on the phone throughout the cab ride to the lounge she had been abandoned at, and then held her tight while she cried in his arms the whole 30 minutes ride to his place.

The story unfurled in sniveling spasms. They were finishing up dinner at a little Thai dive near St. Mark’s Place, when they ran into D’s sister. When the seldom-thinking-ever-welcoming D invited her along for the rest of the evening, “The Other Man” became convinced it was no accident. He wasn’t ready to meet family, but D fervently assured M, she hadn’t intended it that way. “The Other Man” spurned her the entire evening, until a disconcerted D sent her sister home to try to placate him. Without an audience or ally from her family, he took anger to unprecedented heights. People on the street witnessed the scene, the abuse, the humiliations. Someone offered to call the cops. She was just so embarrassed. She kept saying she felt like a weevil, a crushed weevil.

What the hell is a weevil?

He carried her up the two flights of stairs, snuggled her up in his blankets and attempted to get some water. She wouldn’t let him go, wailing at the idea of being without him for even a second. Apparently her life depended on nestling in his armpits…through the night.

“Gremy, why does this always happen to me? Why do I always get burnt?”

“D, did I ever hurt you like this?”

She caressed his cheek: “You are my angel.”

They fell asleep in each other’s arms.

He tripped on figments of angel food cake.

Delightful Ignorance, YUM!

It was still dark when her kisses arouse him, fingers sneaking to places he’d ached for them to be in the last two months.

“You sure, D?”

She responded by guiding his hands to liberties he desperately wanted to take. No one could say no to that, least of all a lovesick weevil. Its OK he rationalized, she had to try out “the right on paper” candidate. She had to do it for her uber-fundo-conservative family’s sake. She was with him now. All was harmonious in the universe. And in the morning…in the morning he’ll tell her what he’d been thinking about all along. In the morning he’d tell her about the ring he’d picked out. The inscription he’d thought of etching on it. In the morning…

In the morning, she was gone. A post-it note left on his pillow, in her signature unpretentious scrawl:


What was wrong with her head, that it needed sorting out? What the hell just happened? Didn’t she just make love to him? Didn’t she initiate? Didn’t she say she was sure? What the hell does she mean by her own way? Where the hell did she go!

He picked up his phone to call, but decided against it, he’ll go see her. He ran out, one shoe on, one slipped on and laced up while running down the stairs. He almost lost his glasses in the process.

At her apartment, still flustered, he automatically reached for his key, and turned the lock.

…He should have rung the bell…

There she was, lying in all her majesty on his favorite piece of furniture, the burgundy chaise lounge, with “The Other Man”—lets just call him TOM for posterity’s sake—on his knees, begging some sort of half-assed forgiveness, and her teasing him with unacceptance. Her smile had a coquette he missed from his nights.

Seeing M she scampered to her feet, visibly tizzy.

TOM turned around, and M had to admit, he was a bit of an Adonis. I guess that’s what D meant by “age-appropriate”.

“M, hey…what…uh…?”

“I am sorry, I didn’t know you had company.”

Pregnant pause.

She bungled introductions. TOM steeled M with a piercing gaze, his handshake nothing short of a warning, the hissed hello a challenge to duel. M realized TOM knew exactly who he was, but before M could stake his claim, he saw the look on D’s face. Her silent beseech was enough to make him forego any thought of self, ego, id, and adopt the burden of superman. He didn’t have it in him to be superman, but what else could he do?

He exchanged pleasantries, made excuses, and then tried to be on to his way, when TOM called out, “Perhaps you should leave D’s keys, to avoid further embarrassment.”

M wanted to punch him, but poor little D hated drama, and didn’t deserve to be in the middle of a pissing contest. Did she…? No! No, she didn’t. He wished D would say something, but her face was a pale cloud, devoid of all but fear and trembling. M took her hand, and before TOM could protest, he put the key in it, folded her fingers on top, kissed the back of it and left.


He heard it, but he also heard TOM murmur a “Let it go, its better this way.”

He didn’t hear her come after him.

He didn’t hear from her at all for months.

Once he got a text: “Sometimes Gremy, sometimes…”

He knew he shouldn’t respond, but: “Always Buggie, always…”

She let him stew in silence after that, unfairly devoid of response.

One Thursday evening, M saw them walking hand in hand at what had been their favorite pier. He couldn’t believe she’d bring him to their spots, but what are you going to do, it’s a bloody free country. He saw her dangle a bracelet, looked like some thing Tiffany’s would sell, and kiss the heart hanging from it. He ran before he could witness any more endearments.

This was torture.

He started looking for a new apartment in a different neighborhood. The hunting in the evenings kept his mind off of things. The weevil had a mission, and nothing beats the road to recovery for the lovesick, then finding a purpose.

The next time he saw her was at another party his friends Chivas and Regal (yes really) had thrown. Apparently no one had sent them the memo that M&D were no longer an item.

He assumed she wouldn’t be there.

But she was.

Of course she was.

It would never occur to her not to be.

TOM wasn’t there.

Bailed on her apparently.

“He didn’t think it suitable to be present at a party thrown by your friends Gremy. He said it was too Melrose Place. Can you get more provincial!”

How could M tell D that he actually thought TOM was right, without TOM becoming more of a man in his eyes than M was willing to give him credit for. So he agreed with D instead.

“He wont meet any of my friends Gremy, and he won’t introduce me to his. Well the bastard really doesn’t have any. Except that one girl, but he wont introduce me to her, or his family.”

“What’s the rush, D?”

“Its not about the rush, its just, why the hell do we have to be such a hidden thing… Does he think I am not good enough?”

“D, you are better than good enough. You are smart, you are a fighter, you are beautiful. You are…”

“Its just not the same with him, not like it was with you. You and I integrated. With him, I am a date on the weekends, when he isn’t traveling for work…I get so lonely…”

She bambi-eyed him with that last statement.

Against his better judgment: “I am always there for you D, you know that.”

She caressed his cheek and laid her head on his shoulder. By the end of the evening she was in his lap, repeatedly informing him his heart sounded like a ticking bomb.

The hell she knew!

It was time to leave, but it was too late in the night to let her brave the subway on her own. He insisted on dropping her home. She insisted he come upstairs.

“Why D?”

“Its your reward,” she tinkled.

He hated her in that moment. She was fully cognizant of the power she had over him, and that his desire for her made him un-able/willing to resist her seductions. Expectedly, he followed her upstairs, strung along by innuendo and false promises, hating himself every step of the way.

She toyed with him.

Kissed him.

Caressed him.

But wouldn’t let him touch her.

“Why D?”

“Because you let me.”

By the wee hours, he lay exhausted in a pile at her feet. Unable to take any more of her, unwilling to leave without more of her. She clustered him in her arms and let him sleep there. No more. He was grateful for the miniscule mercy.

In the morning there was another note.

note_16045He felt like Samson after a visit to the barber.

What the hell is wrong with you! You are doing goddamned well for someone your age. You have a fantastic job, you are working on your start-up, you have two degrees, enough money to buy the latest generation of every gadget, not a bad looker, almost in shape. That Venezuelan girl last night was totally hitting on you! And here you are at the foot of your ex-girlfriend’s bed, where she is going to sleep with another man tonight, while you twiddle your thumbs in the hopes she gives you enough mental gymnastics to last another month of wet dreams.


He slapped himself on the cheeks. HARD. Twice.

Then he left her place, anti-instructions, leaving the door unlocked.

“Goddamnit, I hope someone robs her!”

His next weeks were a mixed bag of intense anger, jealousy, hatred, morbidity, and the headlining act: RAGE. Rage at the realization that his place in D’s world was that of a lab-rat in a maze that she tormented occasionally to skew results in her own favor.

His brother came up one weekend and left extremely worried. This was not the happy-go-lucky, not-even-hurt-a-fly, Gandhiesque-in-his-pacifism, sibling they all adored. This was Whitney&Bobby-on-crack-withdrawal. He told their mother M needed her, and she should consider spending a couple of months with him. A family conference call was arranged, and despite M’s protestations, plans were made for Mom to fly out.

The day his mother was supposed to land, D’s best friend called.

“M you need to get to the hospital ASAP!”

“What happened?”

“M, she was pregnant. He beat her black and blue. It’s a miracle she survived!”

He didn’t wait to hear the rest. He ran to the hospital. Who’s child was it? He kept wondering. Could easily have been his. Whose was it? Obviously she didn’t think it was. But it could…should have been…

When he saw her bloodied face, her bruised arms, her stoic resistance to tears, the angst around his heart shattered into a million pieces. D needed him, that’s all that mattered. He made arrangements for his mother to be picked up, and then he was D’s, never once leaving her side.

He held her through the stitches, through the bone-setting, through the grimacing.

He held her while the doctors explained they might have to do a D&C to make sure none of the remains of the fetus stayed to rot her insides.

He held her through the police report in which she obdurately refused to press charges.

He even held her through the three painful times she tried to contact TOM, and each time it went to voicemail—and her heartbreak the one time he did pick up, because she called from M ’s phone instead.

He chocked it up to the whole anger-denial, etc process. D had to go through the steps to be rid of demons.

He came everyday. Fed her, washed her hair, told her shaggy dog stories.

The afternoon she was to be discharged, he took her in his arms, his lips quivered.

“D, I was supposed to be your protector…I let you down.”

“Gremy, you are my angel.”

“No, just listen to me. I wont ever forgive myself if I let this happen again. Look, I know I didn’t say it soon enough, but I loved you the minute I laid eyes on you. Just be mine, D. Marry me. Enough of this nonsense.”

She looked at him with battle-weary eyes.

“Look, you don’t have to answer right now. Lets just go home. Mom is waiting for us. We can talk about this later.”


“D, I was a mess when you were gone. Mom came to stay. I’ve talked to her and the rest of the family about us. They know how much you mean to me. They are OK with whatever demands you may have. Religion, geography, career, life path, whatever. They just want to see me happy.”


“Shhh…just relax right now, you’ve been through hell.”

She stayed at his place the next few days, till she was ready to be on her own. His mother tended to her like kin. After all D made her son so very happy, and she loved whomever her son loved.

The night D moved back home, M forewarned his mother, he may stay there in case D wasn’t well. When they got to D’s place, she asked him to come up for a bit.

M grinned, “Of course, my Lady Bug.”

She sat him down on the couch, and went into her bedroom telling him she would be right back. She took some time returning. Then sidled up to him with a tattered smile, and held his hand.

He noticed she was now wearing that heart-dangling-Tiffany’s bracelet…wait didn’t TOM…

Then she handed him back the pearl earrings he’d given her.

All she said was:

“I have no demands Gremy.”

Necessary Chaos

Bitter are the words we use

When we admit

That we love someone

Ashamed accents

Thought of surrender

In these times

Such a sin

We prefer our pickled existence

Swimming in vinegar

So much more focused a job

(Energetic, complicated)

Than lying in a beloved’s arms

Engrossed in therapeutic naked confessionals

For if we all healed ourselves

What would the shrinks of the Upper East Side do?

Who would fill up office spaces with pleather?

Why would anyone care about anybody else’s business?

When the only juice that matters

Is the one between you and me

Religion, tenets, isms, hyperbole

Would be flushed down the toilet bowl

In God’s master bathroom

Where would the world be then

As we know it today?

Corridors we rushed through

Would bear silent homage

To unheard footsteps

Elevators which shot us up

To our corporate images

Saturated with cast-off pin-stripes

Sophistication we lived by

Blown away

In the smoke you & I create

There may occur


Would I then

Care about the muscular strength of your ideas?

When the whole world has gone

Hare Rama Hare Krishna

And would you love

My vulnerability?

When it can be bought in tepid bucket-loads

At your nearest, friendly, drug store

Would anyone be tranquil?

If that was the way the world swayed?

Necessary becomes chaos

To have pockets of peace

Even if lined with lint

And overwhelmed

By the mothballed odor of preservation

Seldom used

Unless in




Et tu Brutus?


Caesar ceases to think

Only lives on as a legend

Manifested through hardcore marketing

And a parasitic estate

Which refuses to go hungry

By letting a dead man die

But I am still alive

Feel me

Still breathing

I am not the 10

Contrived out of myth

Just a catastrophe

Molded so

By other accidents

Often forgetting

There is more to me

Until you remind me

And I get lost

In the nutrasweet of your liquid voice

To wake-up again

Translucent stains

The only proof that you were here…

Stumbling through a somnambulist’s haze

I enter His bathroom

To purge


My life force

Drains away

In a weightless sound

Which only You can hear

But refuse to

For We both know

I am a compulsive screamer

Une Liaison…

The first real love story I deeply felt in my bones was Mamet’s “Sexual Perversions in Chicago”. Actually it was the movie version “About Last Night”, with Rob Lowe at his prettiest, and Demi Moore, when she still looked human and not the divine incarnation she currently is. I was 12 or 13, and somebody left the video in the VCR (that’s what we had before DVDs children).

I really shouldn’t have watched it, but I did.

It was the 80’s, and the sexual revolution had come and long gone. Love had new rules, yet we still yearned for permanence, even the dysfunctional one of our parent’s mistakes. So when Lowe (don’t ask me the characters names, to me it was much more real then that) gets asininely provoked over Demi leaving a Tampax wrapper on the bathroom floor, you know then it should have been better left at the one night stand.

Yet I fell in, head over heels. Not with Lowe, or Demi-goddess for that matter, but with the vulnerability of two unbaked people trying to stretch the ephemeral one-night stand into a relationship. At the pit of my stomach I hungered, hungered for the warmth, the warmth of the fleeting, it’s so much more precious then.

Modern love.

These days, its surreally different. We live in a world of arrogantly-demanded haves, without a concept of those who may have-not. Nurtured on a diet of Hannah Montana and Dark Knight, little children daydream of being princesses and superheroes. And they grow into divas with an Amazonian appetite for the self. Enough to fill the river, the forest, an urban jungle or two with utter dis-balance, in order to negate the proverbial void. Perhaps they have it right.

We grew up a little more insecure. On days I was over-compensating I’d allow myself a Cinderella complex, worshiping the emotionally incapable Heathcliffs and Darcies of my Bronte/Austen infused youth, but disallowing myself to formally attend the ball. The self-attention-deficit combined with the unrealistic expectations B/Hollywood gave me about the L word, curdled odd fantasies where deprivation was not only an essential ingredient, but the culmination of it. The beloved would indeed not only un-notice my devotion, but his oblivion would actually land death and me in a scraping match. My pre-pubescent delirium saw me accidentally locked outside in thunderstorms, perhaps floundering overboard, trapped in a tower, and other such masochismos, until I was nearly lost and HE–the inevitable HE–but had to realize my utter adoration for him.

Pain seemed to be an ordained pre-requisite for fulfillment. Even then, the only way I felt deserving of return of affections was if I did not relent despite torture, ambivalence, distance, abhorrence, contempt, and just wretched misery for a good long while.

Even then!

And there it is. Everything I had ever anticipated has come true.

Rob and Demi, in a Mamet-created bar scene hell, make each other miserable. But apparently in this day and age there is no easier way to be together. How did I know at 12? And why did I imagine that this self-perpetuated prophecy of mutually assured destruction could actually result in something healthy? I mean who really cares in this day and age how loyal you are? What matters most is how pissed you can get on the moment someone misses a basket with a Tampax wrapper in the bathroom.

And then all hell breaks lose.

May the gods give us all mad-basketing skills.


Plausible Deniability


The first time it happened was an accident.

Lemons were being peeled, that Kevin Costner film was on a rerun, summer had heat, and ice was being chucked in glasses. It had been a long day of packing boxes, with a suddenly friendly neighbor who volunteered her Sunday in a fit of elevator generosity.

How do you even thank someone you barely know, but who has a jagged sense of irony, can organize chaos, and is just plain nice, when you’ve found them, just when you are moving. So he made lemonade. Would have added some liquor, but it oddly felt inappropriate while the sun was still out. No one would have questioned that ethic in Spain…ah Spain…

A shock of lemon squeezed itself into her messy curls, and he decided to pluck it, without permissions. It was barely perceptible, but he saw her lips twist into an awkward smile, lopsided, as if the right side of her face was stroke-ridden, but it wasn’t grotesque, just odd…ly charming in a paralytic sort of way. An evolved chimp fear grin…

He didn’t see her again for a while.

They had stayed in touch, as promised, but his new job, and her constant travels, seemed to unmake the coffee cup that shouldn’t have been so hard for two same-city dwellers. They were occasionally invited to the same parties, but somehow they never seemed to arrive at the same time. Her face, now and again, would pop up in friend’s photos, and he’d think: “Now that’s a five-star girl.” But he never saw that lopped curve on her lips in any of them. And the memory faded.

Once while riding the subway he had a eureka moment: “She never did call in that IOU for strong arms when moving!” Hence, she must still live in his old building. Perhaps he could go there with the pretence for checking for old mail, but it had already been weeks, and the more he thought about it, it seemed to grow into a disproportionately stalkerish idea.

He let go.

After a while he stopped looking out for her at street corners, stolen gazes, coffee places or laundromats.

Two Fridays to that lapse in judgment, he found her again, abruptly.

It was in Aisle 3 of a supermarket he didn’t usually go to, but it was on his way to a friend’s housewarming. He was in-charge of cheese. She turned a corner and ran over his left foot with her overwhelming grocery cart.

And there it was again, that unmistakable arch of her oral orifice, pulling a Beyonce.

To the left, to the left.

Pleasantly embarrassed at having found him and run him over at the same time. (It’s easy being bipolar in urban settings.) He told her about cheese; she said she was getting supplies for a soup kitchen she volunteered for. They crowded Aisle 3 for at least ten minutes while irate shoppers tried to meander around them.

“Listen,” he said after a suit made him step aside to dive into a shelf of gourmet crackers their presence was embargoing, “I was heading to this party…”

“Oh don’t let me keep you…”

“Uh…actually, I was wondering if you’d like to come along?”

“I have to get these supplies to the kitchen, and really I am not dressed.”

“You look fine, its low key, and I’ll help you drop off the groceries.”

“I don’t even know anyone there…”

“You know me.”

“Do I?”


An inept silence, then he spluttered.

“I’d like you to know me.”

There it was again then, that semi perk of the lips, which he was dangerously close to ego-maniacking as an exclusive communication.

“I’d like that, but without background noise…maybe we can get coffee after you are done there?”

“That’ll be late.”

“I don’t sleep much.”

“So it’s a date?”

“Its coffee…”

“I’ll text you as I’m heading out, we can go to the all night diner by my old…by your place.”

“Ok midnight warrior, see you then.”

Another half smile later, Aisle 3 was clear.

But his mind wasn’t. He thought about her all evening, through cheese, wine, grapes, and some odd-poofy thingees–canapés gone haywire. He thought about her throughout the chatter, the tour of the nearly empty rooms, the board games, the pizza delivery guy messing up the order (pineapple on cheese? really?), and some late-arriving drunk walking in on the new white carpet with wet soles, and the ensuing hoopla (did you know spilling Diet Sprite on top is a cheap home-made remedy?). He thought so much he calamitously munched on a handful of peanuts.

Yes he’s allergic, yes there was a rush to the ER, yes that was faster then calling the ambulance, and no there was no midnight text nor warrioring nor coffee.

The next day he agonized about calling and explaining, but it all felt like such a story. At noon, he got a text from her.

“I fell asleep early, and I guess you had a late night, c’est la vie.”

Now that’s five-star girl!

He called her/she didn’t pick up/he didn’t leave a message/she didn’t call back.

He didn’t see her again for a while.

Then he heard she maybe dating his college roommate’s sister’s ex-boyfriend. THAT cad, I mean seriously what the hell is she thinking! Did Jockmeister even get the nuances of the smile? Did he get that she was an absolute five star girl! It seriously led to a decline in his opinion of her. I mean if she’s taking herself to town with THAT subspecies of the human race, why the hell should he want ANYTHING to do with her. Damn the torch, he had more qualitative things to do with his time!

One Wednesday to that lapse in judgment, he found her again, abruptly.

Ok no that’s a lie; he knew she would be at the Klimt prints exhibition. (No he wasn’t so in tune to her artistic tastes, Facebook Twitterings help!) He went there early, and he’d stay there all night if he had to. He couldn’t help thinking he had to ask her why that guy for God’s sake, why him!

She walked in, alone, wearing a sun-bright yellow dress that he though was completely out of place for such a setting. He let his gaze follow her till the hair on the back of her neck must have stood under the severe scrutiny, but she seemed to be lost in Klimt. He could bear it no longer. He strode up, and stood besides her staring at the ‘The Virgins’ and willed her to turn his way. But patience couldn’t outlive the righteousness of his revulsions, he vehmenced:

“I think Gustav’s reputation as a master of eroticism is an utter ridicule of his works, they are absolute labors and expressions of love.”

She didn’t turn. Her answer flowed in unperturbed knowledge of his presence and his stance.

“Eroticism is a huge facet of love.”

“But there is this whole desire amongst people to vulgarize it. Klimt was not a horn-dog.”

“There is nothing understated about Klimt, he saw it, he said it, minimalism is over-rated.”

“Not everything needs to be declared.”

She then let him see her lips rise in the familiar partial skew, as if it was indeed for him and him alone. It was even more tantalizing viewed in profile.

“Can’t we just take the guesswork out of…guesswork?”

He c/wouldn’t answer. She started to walk away then, in another direction. He had been mistaken, she had not come alone. Jockmiester was there, bodaciously laughing at someone’s joke. Despite himself, he grabbed her wrist. She returned his questioning gaze:

“So your vision of Klimt is more in line with ‘Mulher Sentada’?”

“‘The Kiss’. I revel in expressions. Its something I can sink my teeth into, respond to, follow, enjoy.”

“So there is nothing to be said for natural progression? Every thing must be chased?”

“I believe in seeking…and I want to be sought.”

Klimt's The Kiss

She left then, that five star girl, he watched her walk to Jockmiester, he saw she kissed his cheek, her lips did not curl in the act.

It would be a while before he even dared to think of her again…this was going to be a write-off. It was official, recession had hit EQ.

It was a Monday, so cold-so blue, beginning of the week. There was a gentle tap on his shoulder as he was about to walk out with his morning cuppa. Her hair was longer, her cheeks seemed sharper, but he knew it was her, although he desperately wanted to see that smile as a reconfirmation. She seemed warm wrapped up in her woolies. He had a bizarre urge to run his finger down her lips, and forcibly mold on that signature contour.

She said she’d lost her old phone with his number. She’d meant to call him post-Klimt.

He said that may have left him verklempt.

There was muted laughter.

A moment, and then there it was.

“Where did you get that smile from?”


“I’ve wondered about it.”

“Its wondered about you.”

“If I didn’t have to go to work right now, I’d…”

“I know.”

“You know that you are a five star girl don’t you.”


“Well, you are.”


“How can I convince you?”

“I don’t think you can in a coffee line.”

“How about over dinner, sometime.”

“Yes, sometime…”

“I promise not to eat peanuts!”


That Thursday, he was held back at work, he emailed her to let her know dinner may not happen, but maybe a coffee and that promised conversation? She emailed back:

“Ok midnight warrior, text me as you are leaving, you know I never sleep.”

He sat there thinking of her smile. He visualized it, felt his finger trace it across her face. He thought of the utter joy that randomly catching it every few months gave him. The stopping of his heart, melting into his gut, slipping through his soul. He though how it was fleeting bird, so beautiful in flights…of fancy.

He thought of pursuit vs. predisposition.

He thought many big thoughts about that smile on that five-star girl.

Then he deleted her number from his phone.