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Short story

July 9, 2001
The Iranian

Sunday afternoon. All I can do is think of you. Slow, lazy, not much to do. My life goes on. No you. You've never really been here. With me. We've never really been "together". Yet, I think of you as an old lover. One who left me, didn't desire me, ever. Or maybe did, once, for a fleeting moment, a smile, a look, one breath taken in a bit deeper than usual. That's all. I was hooked and you walked away.

Not being wanted is a new concept to me. I've always been loved, desired. I've always depended on that fact, taken it for granted. I learned early in life exactly how to win hearts. Once you've experienced that drug there's no going back. The need to be wanted supersedes all else. You plan your every move and every word around it. You live for their affection, their approval. Any sign that even for a moment you may not have it, oh, you'll turn the world around, turn your self around, or even reinvent your self, or just plain forget about your self and be and do what ever it is they want. So you can have their love. I had their love. Now I want your love and I can't have it. How to go on...

I watched the European Cup final games this afternoon. France and Italy. It was clear that France would win. It seemed obvious to me. They were still riding high on their World Cup glory. I yelled and screamed, laughed, cheered and criticized. I seemed to enjoy myself. I did, in a superficial way. The joy that once danced inside my heart is gone. It is not all your fault. You are only a passer by, one that likes to play games, a call here, a dinner there. One kiss. One soft, gentle kiss. I was hooked and you walked away. Another couple of months passed and we ran into each other at some one's house. You seemed glad to see me. I was confused. Why hadn't you called. Endless list of excuses. I understand. I didn't. You still didn't call. After that day, I mean.

A good looking Italian gave me his number this afternoon. We argued heatedly during the game. Football is always a turn on. Running, panting, scoring... The good looking Italian's note said "I lost more than just a bet this afternoon, call me." There used to be a time that a note like this would tickle my insides and bring a satisfied smile to my lips. Not now. I'm not moved so easily any more. I don't believe words. They never translate into action. Bitter? Yes. Lonely? Yes. Sad? Not really.

I said to my girl friend today that love seems like a distant dream. Something we read about, see in movies. People who are emotionally open. People who actually discuss their feelings. People who actually feel. Does it ever happen in reality? I ask myself why as I dry my hair. Hoping the towel will massage some wisdom into my head. Useless. I dress mechanically. The lipstick finds its way to my lips. The noise of the refrigerator begs me to throw away the rotten food inside it. I take a look. The usual suspects: milk, strawberries, bread. Gone, trashed. Are you happy now? I ask the fridge. It goes on grumbling. The hell with you, I walk away. The hell with all of you. What do you all want from me anyway? To always finish what I purchase? Sorry, I'm not capable of it.

I was playing with the good looking Italian's note in my coat pocket as I unlocked the door to my apartment this afternoon after the game. I pushed the message button on the answering machine and threw the note into trash in one clean shot. I froze when I heard your voice hoping it wasn't too late and I didn't have other plans and I would be able to come over for dinner. I didn't know you cooked. Without thinking I immediately picked up the phone and RSVP'd on your answering machine. Dinner at 7. It was only 3 then. What to do until 7? I sat on my bed and stared out the window. A gloomy day indeed. Anything could happen. You had called. The possibilities were unlimited. And so were my fears. Just as I was beginning to learn how to handle life without your love, I might have to figure out how to live with it.

Then I realized it wasn't you. The voice on the machine wasn't your voice. I played it again. It was Taymoor. Moor, moor, Taymoor. Tall, dark, frizzy long black hair Taymoor. Ran into him last week at Lili's party Taymoor. His Cointreau mixed with vodka on my lips Taymoor. Did I give him my number? I don't remember. Alcohol does that to me. Zero memory. I like it that way. Most of the time. Soon you'll find a message on your machine from me saying I'll be there at 7 for dinner. I try to imagine your face. Will you be happy to hear that? I decide not to call you to clarify my error. I decide to leave you confused. Reciprocate. You will walk in, with a woman, an evening planned for two. Then you'll find my message on your machine. Delicious! I wonder if you will attempt to call me and stop me from coming. It's almost a good enough reason to stay home and wait. But no. I have an evening-planned-for-two of my own to tend to. I guess. So another message is left on another machine, same content. Then I decide to lose myself in steam and hot water.

My bathtub is not conducive to hot baths, which is what I really want. It's too shallow and too short. The description holds true for many things in my life right now. Instead of lying in a small sea of warm soothing water I have to just stand there in the tub and get rained on. All the tears I am incapable of crying. They run over my body reminding me that I am still alive and my skin can still feel. My heart keeps on beating, hesitantly. Your voice may have given it some purpose but the current scenario is considerably less exciting. You see it's not just about being wanted. It's about being wanted by the one you want to want you. Taymoor is nice, what I remember of him that is. He smelled good. That I remember distinctly. You smell good. You're one of those people who carry a fine scent with them wherever they go. I can always smell you at a party. I know you're there because my nostrils scream and my heart begins to carve out a hole in my chest to get out. It's rather entertaining, really.

Out of the shower I go, towel, lotion, pluck one eyebrow, then another. My hair is now relatively dry. Massaged with a thirsty towel, that's all. I hate hair dryers. Too noisy. Too windy. Too hot. I hate vacuum cleaners. And irons. I choose some wrinkle free item in my wardrobe and look blankly at my reflection in the mirror. Not ugly. No. Just cold. Ice. Hard lines border the spot where a dimple might appear were I to smile. I stare at my reflection and conduct a brief interview.

- "What do you expect from this evening's encounter?"

- "Well, Jim, to be quite honest, very little."

- "I see. Why go then?"

- "To be fed. Isn't that a good enough reason?"

My reflection smiles.

- "What do you wish to happen this evening?"

- "I wish for him to fall on his knees and declare his undying love to me."

My reflection is rolling on the floor. It finds me amusing.

- "How would you respond to such a declaration?"

- "I would thank him first. Then I would excuse myself and say on my way out that unfortunately I am incapable of loving anyone right now."

- "Are you?"

- "Yes. I believe I am."

- "Why go then? Oh, I forgot. Dinner."

- "And wine. I feel like red wine. I hope that's what he's serving."

- "Any particular kind?"

- "An old zinfandel would be nice. Something that would warm up my soul."

My reflection has left. It's only me now. Staring at myself. I remember the last time I saw you. It was a couple of months after we had kissed during an extended goodbye. No contact in between. I was relatively sure you'd be at this gathering. I came late. You were there. Offered me a beer. I thanked you politely and ignored you the rest of the evening. You chatted with people on the terrace, I listened to endless conversations inside all the while keeping an eye on the terrace window which framed your silhouette. Once I caught you turning back and looking behind you. Were you searching for me? You said nothing more to me that night. "What are you drinking? Beer? Wine?" "Beer, thanks." That was the extent of our conversation. I left early. What was the use?

Now I'm going over to another man's place for dinner. I will be quietly waiting for my subconscious to signal the time of your anticipated call. Your words flowing through the communication lines "No, don't come... it wasn't me." Taymoor would most likely be talking at that moment. I, pretending to be all ears hearing another man's voice in my head. One who doesn't want me, which is precisely what makes him attractive. The man across the table from me at that moment would be full of desire, presumably. Perhaps I'm drawing too many conclusions from a simple dinner invitation, last minute invitation at that. It occurs to me that Taymoor's intentions are probably completely noble, casual and friendly. I mean how full of desire is he if he only remembers to call a few hours before the appointed time.

My hair is still semi-wet. It looks flat when it's wet. I look flat. Maybe this is not such a good idea. Maybe I shouldn't go over to Taymoor's. I could call and cancel. I could come up with some reasonable excuse. Oh, the world is full of excuses. Anything, sickness, death, traffic, work... whatever. I don't want to. I want to see him and eat his food. I want to look into his eyes and find out what I mean to him, if anything. I want to hear what he might have to say even if it is casual repartee. I want, I want... I want it to be you. But it isn't. You did not call. But you may. Shouldn't I be home when you call? What if you call to joyfully accept my proposed visit? What if there is no woman there and you're welcoming the chance to see me again? What if...

It occurs to me that all I want, at least right now, is a good dinner. But what if Taymoor can't cook? I search my mind for any indication that he may be a good cook. Did we discuss food? I don't even remember what we talked about. This is why I prefer the first date (is this a date?) to be at an established restaurant. The risks are highly diminished then. Now, I feel, I'm wide open for a disappointment. Even if he were the man of my dreams I have no reason to believe that he is a good cook, or that he even shares the same taste in food so that were he to order in, or buy prepared food from one of those new world market/cafe places he would get something I like. Oh, my God, what if I don't like the food? The real tragedy in any relationship comes when the two parties disagree on what to eat.

I remember one particular time when the gentleman (so-called) was a recovering alcoholic. Not only did he order club soda with lime but he asked me to do the same. Now, I have a lot of respect for anyone who has succeeded in overcoming an addiction, God knows I haven't, but to impose your restrictions on another, on a date no less. That is unacceptable. And I told him so. He disagreed. He was of the opinion that I should show more sensitivity. I felt that I couldn't expose any sensitivity until I had enjoyed a pint of beer. He was disappointed, not as much as I. That was a short dinner date. But at least that guy knew what he wanted and stuck to it. I can respect that. There's nothing more disappointing than a man who doesn't know what to order, or how to order. I mean the way one picks something off a menu reflects how one makes decisions in life as a whole. I am convinced of this.

What I love is when the guy actually recommends something. "I've had this here before and it is excellent." Or "What are you in the mood for? The fish is wonderful here." There was a time that I assumed all people have an opinion on food. But later, one of the sad truths I learned in life was that many people couldn't care less what they ate. This I find unacceptable. One's attitude toward food is directly reflective of one's attitude toward sex. If you don't care what you put in your mouth then chances are you don't care where you stick your dick. I say that with all due respect to those gastronomically indiscriminate folks out there.

So now I am beginning to seriously doubt whether or not to even go to Taymoor's. Now I feel overdressed for a disappointing dinner to come. I'm not sure why I don't imagine Taymoor might be a good cook. But I know once I visualize something it will most likely happen. Okay then, what to do? Pacing back and forth, thinking, changing the music, changing my mind, and back again, and I have a glass of wine, and now hot tea and I change my mind again. What? Are you always certain of what the best thing to do is? Aha! I fall into my own trap. Yes. What would I like to eat? That's right. What would I pick off the menu? I would like grilled fish with roasted potatoes, or garlic mashed potatoes. And for desert I would like something with fresh berries. Now I'm over the red zinfandel. What I really want is a refreshing sauvignon blanc. Okay. I'm ready now. I have visualized what I want from this encounter.

A twist of the scarf, leather jacket to protect me from the North wind and off I go to my car. The open road embraces my wheels and the wind ruffles my semi-wet hair just enough to make it look fully styled. I know what I want. The possibilities are unlimited.

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