Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Crush(ed) (a fiction)

“I just don’t think I am very important to you. I mean...don't get me wrong, the strong silent type thing worked for a while, but now it just seems like a…front.” She claimed. “I need so much more than to be just a crush.”

She may have said more after that, in fact, I am sure she did. If someone could dig out the black box of my mind, the part of me that faithfully records and transcribes every utterance that passes beyond my eardrums…I am sure that there will be many words there. But my memory, sweet memory, has blotted them out.

I don’t know if she was wrong. Perhaps she was absolutely right. We had only started seeing each other, and were still involved in that elaborate dance called “getting to know each other.” But I had cheated. Oh, not in any way you would think. But it was a deception, nonetheless.

You’ve probably seen the office building where I work. Or if you haven’t, I am sure you think you have. Think big, plate glass, iconic New York City architecture. Think of a plaza immediately in front of the dwarfing glass doors, with a gurgling fountain, perhaps to soothe the tired workers into thinking that they’ve left it all behind, whatever their personal IT is, and gone into the woods, or Rome, for contemplation during their short coffee breaks and lunch hours.

Anyway, that’s where I saw her first. Sitting a bit apart from the crowd (or perhaps not—I know that’s how I experienced her always, but it may not be the literal truth). Mechanically putting a spoon of yoghurt in her mouth with each turn of the page of the rather fat novel she was reading.

Ah, Madame Bovery…that chronicle of Emma’s death and disappointment (for it almost seems like one came before the other, no)?

Everything else about her was secondary at that moment. Not that I was immune to the eternal charms of long legs tucked discreetly under a chiffon skirt, and auburn hair pulled back into an absentminded bun. That she was beautiful; there is no, no doubt.

But it was her choice of reading material that lured my eyes to her—that cast the spotlight of difference on her even when surrounded by a teeming mass of that particular brand of humanity, the New Yorker at rest.

I could have approached her then and there—I had time left on my lunch hour, and I am not a shy man. But something about her warned me that to speak with her now would break some sort of spell that had already been cast around her. Something told me that we had already entered into an agreement, she and I, and the only thing left for me to do was wait and not bumble into it. I have been accused, sadly, of being a bumbler. A romantic fool.

The rest of the day went past me in a bit of a romantic haze of expectation—spreadsheets and memos and meetings were tinged with a golden aura of Purpose, even perhaps Meaning. Perhaps these would be the spreadsheets and memos and meetings I would remember as The Day I Met the Woman of My Dreams. The Woman who would see past the accounting drone (for I harbor no illusions…after a series of bohemian wanderings, I have settled down firmly, if not contentedly, on the side of the drones) and see me, the man who read and loved Madame Bovery!

I don’t remember anything more about that blessed day, because it seemed that I had left some essential part of myself in that sun kissed spot, staring at those tucked up legs, that auburn hair. I lived only for the office now. The other hours were merely marking time. I suppose I made dinner, for one, settled down with the New Yorker before falling asleep. But I cannot be certain, so I do not include that in my memory of that day.

The next two, three days, I rushed forth as soon as I was released into my lunch hours, my coffee breaks. But she was not there. I’m sure I looked a bit like a lost soul as I circled the fountain, once, twice, many times. Perhaps I had misplaced her? Perhaps she was merely a trick of the light, of the fountain droplets, of my recent rereading of Madame Bovery?

I was, in a word, crushed. Her abrupt departure seemed to leave the world a woefully sadder place.

Had I friends in my place of work, perhaps I could have made discreet inquiries in her building. But I was merely a drone, as aforementioned, and a newly hired one at that. So I opened my eyes, and saw nothing that I was actually looking for. Just…more work, my fervent enthusiasm of the other day being misunderstood as a newly stirred passion for accounting.

But, finally, my patience was rewarded. There she was, again, sitting, yoghurt in one delicate hand, novel in the other. Don Quixote this time. Oh, she was a romantic, my new beloved! I burned with the desire to speak with her, and this time I did not deny myself.

It took all of my not-inconsiderable strength to keep myself from declaring something ridiculous to her at the moment when her amber eyes looked up into my brown for the first time. I wanted to declare myself her knight, her champion!

I believe what I said was, “Uh, hi. I liked that book.” I was mortified, terrified she would take me for one of those football loving Neanderthals who wear their sports affiliations on their ties. But she only smiled, my gracious Lady, and said, “It’s so romantic. I love it so far.”

Now, why would she have mentioned romance if she had found me thus disagreeable? I was emboldened, and suggested that perhaps, we could partake of some coffee that very evening. Only I said, “You want to get some coffee, maybe, tonight? We could talk about the book.”

She shook her head and smiled. Was that a hint of regret? “No, I have class tonight. Thanks anyway, though!”

And with a jaunty wave, she sauntered back into her building, as regal as any Muse, as beautiful as Beauty herself.

I was lost.

Let me not belabor the point. I did finally succeed in getting her to go out with me. And it was a magical time, a time when the air felt heavy and strange with possibility. Her hair tickled my throat, my chest, my back, as we lay in my bed, staring out at the lowering clouds visible from my bedroom skylight.

“I hate this weather.” She had sighed on that day. “When the sky goes that shade of green, it’s almost like it’s ready to smother me, to crush the life out of me, or something.” She gave a breathless laugh.

She rolled over and looked at me expectantly. Now, I should interject here that, sadly, the verbal performance I gave her the day that we met didn’t end up improving all that much. I’m not sure why…perhaps because she responded to that man, a man I had never managed to be before. My words had always come forth in a rush, like a wall preventing a woman from seeing me, from wanting me. Perhaps because whenever I was near her, my mind whirled and crashed and collided with my heart and I couldn’t articulate that all to her. Perhaps simply because I was scared.

So I distracted her, even as I myself was distracted by her languid posture in my bed, by the arresting combination of presence and absence. I kissed her and she kissed me and no more was said.

If I could have lived in the rounded fullness of that golden afternoon forever, I would have done so. But…by degrees, something changed in her. Some test had been presented and failed, some disappointment sharpened her voice when she spoke to me.

A moment came and went, and came and went again. I kept my true self chained in the attic of my mind, starved for food and expression, consoled only by the presence of her.

Finally, she came out with it. “You don’t seem to take me seriously, at all! You don’t tell me anything important. How do you feel about things? About anything at all? Please…tell me anything that shows me that you’ve been listening to me during this thing we have.”

I hated to see her brought low that way—she was the Queen of my heart! Why wouldn’t my rebel tongue speak? How close I was to true happiness…she would know me, love all of me. She wouldn’t walk away like the others.

I opened my mouth and…it’s not important what was said. Suffice to say it was merest banality. I sounded like every stupid guy in the world.

And then she spoke and it was as though I’d swallowed Madame Bovery and Don Quixote whole and they were strangling me from the inside. A tsunami of words, held back by more words, and yet…nothing was right.Too late. I was too late.

So she turned and was gone after that night, and every night thereafter.

And I’m left here repeating all of these words, so many words, millions of words, knowing that when it mattered, I could say nothing at all.
For more crushes, go here.


Anonymous KG said...

The build up — the seeing her, then not seeing her, then seeing her again — is quite well done.

Certain phrases here show how well you know your characters. I particularly liked "the New Yorker at rest." I lived in NYC for many, many years, and I know what a treasured, zen state that is.

10:42 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger gautami tripathy said...

Great narrative. I liked the pace of the post.

Painfully yours..

11:02 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger paris parfait said...

I recognise that New Yorker distance - finding your own alone time in a crowded place. Your story is excellent, really well told! (And I like how you told it from the man's perspective). I know men like that character, who when they should speak, become tongue-tied and silent. And so everything is lost.

11:35 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Sophie said...

This took my breath away -
reminded me of "lolita" when
he describes looking at her
sunkissed knees as she pedalled
her bike...

you are so gifted with words and
"i am lost" in the beauty of
your writing:)

1:01 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Jessie said...

oooh-la-la! a romance made of literature. *swoon*

so many gorgeous details here, m. and i love the way you paint a picture of new york. i agree with sophie, you have a gift, my dear.

10:52 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger deirdre said...

Your story reads like a pathway, leading me deeper into something new. Great fiction.

10:33 AM, February 20, 2007  
Anonymous GeL(Emerald Eyes) said...

Your writing beckons with that special "oomph." Effortlessly, I'm drawn into the world you created. I'm also a fan of Madame Bovary, and I like how you weave references to that novel here. I bookmarked you in my feeds because I'm definitely returning!

9:15 AM, February 21, 2007  
Blogger Waspgoddess said...

I read this first on Sunday, and it's stayed with me ever since. There were so many phrases, expressions that stood out. You do have a way with words, you captivate us all with your skill.

2:14 PM, February 21, 2007  
Blogger Alexandra S said...

That was simply FANTASTIC Monica. Who hasn't felt tongue tied or wanted to curse their own lips for sounding so banal when inside one's emotions and thoughts feel so very much more? But YOU managed to capture very eloquently the pain of it and to really, really care for the narrator. I was rooting for him.

9:43 PM, February 21, 2007  
Blogger Terri /Tinker said...

This was so poignant! I actually felt an ache for this poor tongue-tied guy. Your story captured this sad situation perfectly - the "crushing" moment when words fail us - especially when it results in the loss of a new love.

3:49 AM, February 23, 2007  
Blogger sarala said...

An enjoyable story of failed romance. Good job.

4:09 PM, February 23, 2007  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

I loved pieces. Truly. Loved his voice. How someone could write a piece like that...and then for even a nanosecond question her writing a mystery to me. ;) Beautiful and so well done.

4:38 PM, February 25, 2007  
Anonymous fern said...

Awww...romance and sweetness in everyday life. I loved you makes me think that beauty still exists somewhere.. that all the magic of being alive isn't all lost in traffic and "To do" lists.
Gorgeous... I was transported. Can you do more pieces like this please? *bats eyelashes*

11:01 PM, February 25, 2007  

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