“Stars… come and get a star… the most delicious chocolate stars… free samples… the most perfect stars picked right out of the sky…”
The annoying monotonous voice followed me as I paid for my books with my credit card and walked slowly towards the bookstore's large white doors. “Stars… right out of the sky…” The irritating voice seemed to get louder. A face, resembling an upside down triangle, hardly balanced on a straw-thin neck, was barely visible over a cluster of bellies hanging over belts that surrounded her. It reminded me of my math professor, a thin guy with boyish good looks, whose deep voice seemed to sharply contradict his fragile physique. I was passing by the hungry crowd, when the mouth opened and closed mechanically, as if it belonged to a puppet. “I think you will need a star today,” the voice suggested. “Ummmm. All right.”
I was slowly approaching the voice when I suddenly realized who the girl was. She was the sister of one of my older friends. We called him Sam. He lived in our neighborhood in a house behind a drive-in cinema. I had often seen her come out of Sam's house, appearing at the doorstep like a ghost, to call her brother to dinner. We played soccer in the afternoons, sometimes well into the evening, and it was her appearance at the doorstep that meant it was time to go home. We usually played near Sam's house since it was close to the end of the blind alley and we could play in the dark without worrying about cars passing by. I had no idea she had such a deep voice. We never saw her talk to anyone.
I walked up to her. “You're Sam's sister, aren't you?” She smiled, her sharp teeth suddenly appearing from under her thin, pale, lips. “Please have a star,” she said in her deep voice. “Is it free?” I asked as I picked out one star-shaped chocolate cookie. She smiled again. “You're a student here, no?” I tried to think where I had seen her on campus. She suddenly clawed at my hand with her long bony fingers. Her hand felt cold and stiff. “Those are not the samples. Take one of these,” she pointed to the chocolate crumbs in the smaller plate on her left hand. I apologized and put the star back; then I took a couple of crumbs from the smaller plate.
In the afternoon, I went to my locker and took out my books to study over the weekend. It was a warm day, and I was panting and sweating as I entered the huge underground parking. I could recognize my Volvo from afar. It looked so shiny; the light reflecting off of it was blinding. I felt hypnotized, wanting to stand and stare at it forever. My Volvo looked as if it did not belong to this world. How perfect it looked! Suddenly I heard a screeching noise as a purple car drove by very fast and exited the parking, nearly hitting the yield sign.
I walked towards my Volvo. I checked the meter. It certainly cost me a lot to keep the car in this parking. I guess the money from the meter did not really cover the cost of even half of the lights in the parking. I put down my school bag and rested my back against the meter. I looked at the car. When I bought the '91 Volvo, it did not look this good. I had them paint the car gold. I also added fog lights. I had never driven through fog but the lights sure looked good. I also got some tinted windows. I checked for any scratches. Nothing — perfect! I got in the car and put the bag and my books in the back. It suddenly occurred to me that I had forgotten my lunch — a green banana — in my locker. I cursed myself and ran back toward the anatomy building.
It was raining hard when I drove out of the parking lot. Before entering the street, I saw the triangular head of the girl I had seen earlier. She was in my rear-view mirror. I slowly backed up towards her. “Don't you think you will need a ride today?” I asked, not knowing exactly why I had decided to offer her a ride. I did not really know her. She nodded mechanically several times. “Come,” I said. Her wet jacket touched the leather seat as she entered the car. She was wearing a white jacket on top of a white shirt and a white skirt that covered her legs to the top of her shoes. “Would you like a napkin?” I offered. She smiled and took the napkin. She started wiping her face. She then dried her neck.
“So what are you studying?” I asked her, as I turned right into a wide street ined with towering green trees on both sides. “Astronomy,” she answered as she turned a silver bracelet round and round her wrist. My stomach was making noises, but I decided to wait until I got home. Suddenly I noticed she had taken the banana out of the glove box. She was peeling the skin with her sharp teeth. “What are you doing? You shouldn't eat it,” I warned. She took out her long tongue and took a big bite. “I shouldn't eat it?” She asked with a strange expression on her face.
Looking back at the road, I realized I had accidentally entered into traffic circling a square at the center of the intersection. They had either torn down what was in the square or they were building something new because there was nothing there except dirt, construction workers, some big machines, and a small tree at the edge of the square. I thought this road was a short-cut but it seemed to be taking longer than I expected. I looked at Sam's sister with rage. Despite her dry face and neck, she was still soaking wet, so much that her shirt and skirt stuck to her body. I could see a white bra under her shirt. I tried to take the banana away from her, but she kept holding it out of my reach.
Looking out window, it seemed I was going around the square again. “I can't see anything,” I announced. I was also getting quite hungry. As I continued circling, what seemed to be a long pole bearing a board with some information appeared at the edge of the square. I could not read it. Deciding to focus my attention on the road, I asked her to read the information, hoping that there would be a fast-food restaurant around. I listened carefully as she decided to sing the information to me:
THE EARTH INSTITUTE
STAR'S DRIVE-IN CINEMA
THE IMMIGRATION OFFICE
DICK PARS NEJAD'S MASSAGE PARLOR
MICHAEL JACKSON'S BAR & GRILL
I was about to ask her if she was making up these names, when I felt something being pushed in my mouth. Sam's sister had taken out a bite of the banana and was pushing it down my throat. “Come on you. Don't you want to do it for mommy?” she asked in her deep voice, obviously getting a kick out of torturing me. I was trying to resist but her fingers were pushing into my mouth and I had no choice but to swallow the squashed white pieces. She was laughing hard for the first time since I had known her. “Was it as bad as you thought?” she asked, laughing maniacally again. I tried to stay focused and keep my eye on the road. I finally finished the slow turn around the square. My golden Volvo came to life as I pushed on the gas pedal and we sped along the slippery road.
She pulled down her window to read the signs. With her directions, we were finally able to find a road that lead to our neighborhood. From here, I had to follow the same deserted road downhill to her house. Through her window, I could see brown hills in the distant. Sam's sister was now looking in the glove box for something, but finally settled on playing with the door lock. “Up, down, up, down,” she kept murmuring. I tried not to give her any more advice. I didn't want to play a father-figure during the ride. But I couldn't hold myself anymore. I exploded. “Would you please stop playing with the lock? It's for your own safety.” She pouted, drew her eyebrows together, and went back to playing with her bracelet, turning it round and round her wrist.
“So why are you selling cookies?” I asked, feeling I may have offended her. She looked at me for a few seconds, as if she misunderstood what I had said. She suddenly yelled, “What do you think? Money!” As she spoke, her mouth opened and closed like an alligator. When she finished talking, a couple of sharp teeth remained outside her mouth. “Money?” I repeated, not paying attention to our conversation. “So they pay you for selling stars? Well, that's good. I have to tutor my step-brothers and run errands for my step-father, and they pay me almost nothing. Don't you think you have an easy job?” She shrugged her shoulders.
I stopped beside her house. She tried to get out of my Volvo, but her skirt was stuck to the seat, and I had to help her free herself from the black leather seat. “Say, a few friends and I are going to see this new movie on Sunday at six. I can't remember what it's called but they say it's an excellent movie. Would you be interested in joining us?” I asked and soon regretted it.
She was bending over the seat, reaching for something on the backseat, but stopped midway and said, “Oh! My bag is in front. How stupid of me!” She then ran her hand through her hair. Her curly hair was messy and wet, and strands of hair were stuck on her cheek, some hanging over her eyes. “It would be a perfect evening, if you could come,” I begged. “I have to study. I don't like to watch movies. I'll see,” she said, as she pulled the strands of hair away from her eyes, and picked up the books from under the front seat.
I uttered a sigh of relief as she pulled out of my Volvo. I was happy that the seat's leather covering was not scratched. I should have left the plastic coverings on the seat, I thought. “See you before six,” I yelled. I suddenly felt extreme hunger as I drove to my house. I looked in the glove box. I thought she had left the rest of the banana in the car but I realized she had it in her hand as she pulled out of my Volvo.
As I parked the car in front of my house, I suddenly realized what I had done. I had asked Sam's sister for a date! She was honest and down-to-earth but wild. She was everything I never knew I wanted in a girl. She gave life to feelings I never thought I could have for any girl. Sure, she was nosy, did not listen to what I asked her to do, and enjoyed torturing me, but what girl wouldn't? How would my family react to this? How would my friends react to this?
The way her hair had stuck to her cheek — I could not get her face out of my mind. The trip in the car kept repeating itself in my head, like a movie in slow-motion. I could not make sense of my feelings. Was I in love? With her? That was impossible. I looked towards her house. The rain shower did not stop. I bent over my seat, but my black pants were stuck on the black leather seat. I freed myself from the seat, reached back and grabbed my bag, and pulled out of my Volvo.
I got stood up. She never showed up for the date. She later said that she did not have a dress to wear. I felt obligated to buy her one. I told her that I was going to the bazaar and will get her something. She insisted on paying for it. I never did go to the bazaar, but my step-father did. He and two of his friends owned a store in the bazaar. He needed to see the store's sales-woman and pay her salary. I told him what kind of dress I liked, and he bought me one. It was exactly what I wanted. I cleaned my desk of everything except my calculator which was attached to my desk, as I laid down the dress. It was a sky-blue sheer tulle ensemble with sequin leaf and flower motifs. She said she would wear it for the first time when she gives a party.
One day I was doing my homework, when my step-father came to my room and said that we needed to talk. He said that my recent marks were very low. My professor had told him that I was distracted in class, and spent my time day-dreaming. This was very unusual, my professor had said, as I had always been a great student, a perfectionist in every way. In addition, my professor said that he had compelling evidence that I was cheating from a couple of his old students, including Vladimir, Mary, and especially James. My step-father had his own complaints too and thought I was on drugs. Once he found me in the dark basement, and he was shocked at what I was doing. I had the palms of my hands pressed together, murmuring: “My love! My love!”
Although I pretended nothing was wrong, I knew I was in love. I could not focus on anything. Her face kept appearing, like an angel, between my eyes and the pages I was trying to read. I spent my days spinning round and round in my room in the basement, singing to myself. I did not enjoy playing soccer with the boys anymore. Soccer was now just a childish game, too rough for my taste. I spent my afternoons trying to catch a glimpse of her from behind the blinds which I had pulled down most of the way so I could not be seen. All I could see, however, was the huge advertisement for the drive-in cinema that was in front of her house.
In two weeks, on Valentine's Day, there was going to be a big party at her house and she had invited me. Since her brother knew my step-brothers and my step-father, they were also invited. Of course, I was expected to stay home and study for my exams, as my marks had continued to slip. My family, however, were unaware of my relationship with Sam's sister. After giving me a long list of things to do, and threatening me with spanking if I did not study, my family finally left the house. I really hated my family. I really did.
I called my grandpa, telling him how my step-father had taken my Volvo, and hidden my clothes, so that I could not leave the house. My grandpa was the only person who cared about me and I had told him about my relationship with the girl. He was most accepting of my relationship with the girl and understood my undeniable love for her. It made me feel good to talk to him. Soon after our phone conversation, I went to my room in the basement to force myself to study. Sometime later, there was a knock on the door. It was my grandpa. He said that his wife had baked a pumpkin pie for me to take to the girl's house. He had also brought his own brown pants, and my grandma's white jacket, which were the only things close to my size. Unfortunately, they were both too loose.
I told my grandpa that I could not go anyway, because my step-father had taken my Volvo so that I could not drive there. He asked, “Why don't you walk to her house? It's not that far.” “You know I can't,” I said. “If I want to impress her, I can't walk. Everything has to look perfect.” He sighed before saying, “You can take my Mercedes, but only on one condition. You have to bring it back by midnight. Your step-father usually comes to my house shortly after twelve to see if I need anything, and if he finds me here, we will both be in trouble.” He looked at the car through the window, and added, “I will be in front of her house close to 12. I can give you a ride home.”
My grandpa then helped me get dressed, making sure my hair looked fine, and waved goodbye as I finally started his 1978 box-like black Mercedes and drove away very slowly. Half way towards her house, a purple car raced by me and a young boy wearing a Nike hat, who had half of his body out of the window, shouted in a deep voice, “I can't read your license plate.” He then laughed like a maniac and raced into the dark. When I arrived at the girl's house, I took a look at my license plate. They had stolen it! They must have done it when I had stopped behind the yield sign at the intersection.
At the entrance to the house, I was greeted by the doorman and gave him a bouquet of hand-picked flowers. He mentioned that the host would have preferred plants. He also mentioned something about the construction work around the house, and then lead me in. I asked for Sam's sister, but the doorman did not know who I was talking about. When I described what Sam looked like, he said Sam did not have any sisters. I did not want to argue with him; instead, I had him show me the house.
The loose-fitting clothes that my grandpa had given me made it very difficult to walk. I was also wearing my grandma's big hat and old sunglasses, two big black ovals that weighed heavily on the ridge of my nose. The glasses had many scratches and they kept getting fogged up as I was very nervous. So basically I could not see much. However, I could easily see that the house was huge. I briefly took off my sunglasses and looked around the house. There was indeed something spooky about the house. There were hand-stenciled walls, high timber ceilings, ancient iron chandeliers, and arched windows and doorways. Large rugs covered the floors of spacious rooms. There were large mirrors everywhere I turned.
I walked to the living room. Somebody offered me a glass of wine. I told them that I was not a big drinker but they insisted. I tried to pick up the wine-glass but my sleeves were much longer than my hands. After knocking over several glasses of wine, and getting half of my sleeve soaked, I finally picked up one glass.
A large number of ladies and gentlemen were standing there, talking, drinking, and smiling. They were all in style. They were dressed in Giorgio Armani, Plein Sud, Anya Flint, Guerriero, Elisa Jimenez, Christian Dior, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Missoni, Chanel Haute Couture, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez, Elie Saab, Banana Republic, Valentino, Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, Alberta Ferretti, Chaiken, Donna Karan New York, Prada, Ben de Lisi, Vivienne Westwood, Vera Wang, Barbara Bui, Tommy Hilfiger, Lloyd Klein, Vintage, Viktor & Rolf, Miu Miu, Jean Paul Gaultier, Diane von Furstenberg, John Galliano, Randolph Duke, Tree, Badgley Mischka, Benjamin Cho, and Banana Republic.
I walked towards the library, but the door was locked. I walked around a little bit and then entered a huge but empty room. It had a very high ceiling and there were tall columns to support the ceiling which looked like it was about to cave in. The room was very dark with no windows but there was a television set in the distance. The television had a glowing green screen. I just stood there and stared at the green screen in the distance. I put on my glasses.
A few house tours and a couple of drinks later, I came to a new room where huge stars hung from the ceiling. This room had more mirrors than any other room I had seen. Very loud rap music filled the air. I glanced at myself in the mirror. My loose pants made me laugh. I noticed a gentleman who was bending over a box in front of me. He was trying to pick out a porn movie to watch. He was naked except for his tight white underwear. Between his plump buttocks, a small print read GAP. Standing in front of a very large window, an extremely thin girl was drinking Pepsi and dancing, completely nude. I could see her rib cage and hip bones. She looked sexy.
Suddenly I was bumped to the floor from behind. After a few failed attempts, I finally stood up and squinted from behind the glasses to see who had bumped me. An old naked and hairy man, wearing nothing but a red heart-shaped underwear came forward, and apologized, dancing around as he did so. His fists were full of melted chocolates and candy. His cheeks and chin were a light brown color and small chocolate crumbs were stuck on his bald head. He was sweating profusely as he kept dancing around and touching the star-shaped rings on his nipples. As I was about to exit the room, I saw a young woman with heavy make-up who had nothing on, except a Guess bra. “Your Valentine's Day parties are indeed special,” I said, after introducing myself. “My name is… 'Today's Valentine's Day?'” she asked, looking very surprised.
I looked around in different rooms, and finally went through a relatively long hallway, and entered the big ballroom with blue walls. Some people were dancing. I saw some of my soccer friends there too. I had another drink as I watched the dance. Soft romantic music was playing and I started singing along in my head. “Lady in red, I've never seen you shine so bright, I have been blind…”
I suddenly noticed Sam's sister in the middle of the circular hall. God, she looked stunning. She was dancing by herself, turning round and round on the dance floor. Behind her, on one side, there was what looked like a gold statue of a proud smiling eagle, with its claws sitting comfortably in the flesh of a stupid-looking lion. On the other side, there was a statue of a man — or a woman — with snakes for hands. I watched her dance. She was wearing the sky-blue dress I had gotten for her. Her golden skin looked breathtaking under the bright lights of the ballroom. Her golden hair covered her round gleaming face. Her pearly-white teeth were beyond comparison. A golden necklace was sitting comfortably around her long and soft neck. I felt my knees getting weak. She was standing with a champagne glass in her hand, in the middle of the dancers, who had now formed a circle around her. I was about to take off my glasses but noticed my step-father and step-brothers standing on the other side of the room.
Suddenly a voice from behind said, “Move it sister!” I tried to move to let the person by, but I accidentally stepped over the long leg of my pants, and was pushed to the dance floor. It took me a couple of steps to gain my balance but I was near the center of the floor now. “Would you like to dance?” Sam's sister asked me. I was not sure if she recognized me but I accepted the offer, afraid that if I walk, back, my family would recognize me. We danced for several minutes or maybe hours. I had no idea. I felt like I was in heaven. She was so beautiful. The touch of her hands on my hands made my knees weak again. This was a dream. As we turned round and around, all the colors and lights mixed and became one. All around me was this bright white color. People's faces too became one, and the only expression I could see was confusion.
I put my head on her shoulder. Her beautiful scent was like a drug. I did not want this moment to end. Ever! We danced some more, but suddenly my watch's alarm started beeping nonstop. It was 12.
“I have to go,” I told her, and ran towards the long narrow hall. “Wait,” she said as she followed me. I came to the other hall, and found the main entrance. “Wait,” she said again, but this time I also heard “you son-of-a-bitch!” from my step-father who was running right behind her. It was raining hard again, and I was going down the slippery steps when a hand suddenly grabbed my foot. It was my step-father. I almost jumped up my own body height but my shoe came off, and he threw it at my head as I dived down to the bottom of the steps. With much difficulty, I ran behind the house where my grandpa was waiting for me by the black car. I signaled to him that there was no time, and he succeeded in starting the car after a few tries, and we were on our way. We took the back alley to avoid seeing my step-father, but the car suddenly stopped and would not go. I had no choice but to walk.
I jumped out the car, and fell right into the mud. I tried to get up but I stepped over the legs of my pants and with a loud noise the pants were completely ripped and ruined. I took off the loose coat as well, and ran towards the house under the pouring rain, in my muddy black underwear and shirt, with only one shoe covering my left foot. I wiped my muddy face every few seconds and kept on spitting out the sticky mud as I kept on questioning myself if I should be running towards or away from my house. When I got close to home, I saw Sam's sister standing in front of the house. She looked at me for several seconds, from head down to toe and up again with a smile on her face. She had one hand behind her back which she slowly brought out. She was holding my other shoe as she kept staring at my naked foot. “Were you the mystery guest at the party?” she asked as she turned the shoe round and round her finger.
Weeks later, I asked Sam's sister on a date. I prepared myself for a long time, and to be honest, everything went as planned. It was perfection. After a perfect evening, we ended up, how should I say, getting very close. But this was what I wanted, wasn't it? Wasn't it? After I got very very… I went to sleep. I woke up with the sound of the heavy pendulum of the ancient clock. It was 12. The pounding sound felt like blows to my brain. It was dark.
I slowly turned over to my side. Lying beside me was a body drenched in sweat, awkwardly spread over the bed with the head nearly bent backwards and the chin sitting uncomfortable over a pile of cushions. The gooey black lips were partially open. It looked as if the different body parts did not belong together? It looked unrecognizable. A hand was under the stomach and another, perpendicular to the body, was nearly touching me. Her hand felt cold and stiff. The yellow skin was particularly thin on the back of the hand and small muscles and pipe-like green veins were bulging and stretching the dried yellow skin.
I got up to my feet, and started looking for my shoes. I slowly walked towards the door. Above the doorway, on the wall, there was a funny picture of a man with blood gushing out of his eye sockets. I stepped out and quietly locked the door behind me. Parked across the street was my Volvo, shining brighter than the sun.
……………….. Bye Bye Spam!
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