I drink coffee on a small strip a few hundred yards from the Pacific Ocean called the Belmont Shore. There along the narrow, one-way streets lay quaint sandcastle houses tightly joined. From the houses, now and then, emerge groomed poodles, sun-baked bodies in two-piece bikinis, and overweight, balding men. Up and down the main strip, myriad of pedestrians walk along the boutiques, restaurants, and coffee shops. I am one of those pedestrians.
One early morning, the sidewalks had been just washed clean filling the air with a pleasant scent. I had parked myself at an outdoor café reaching for that writer's inertia when I saw her approach. A figure, as though chiseled out of marble walked fluidly by. A cool breeze wafted perfume into my nostrils. With pencil in hand, I quickly began to sketch in my notebook. She had on see-through Gucci sunglasses, Parada top, high-heeled shoes, and bag. And her long, shapely legs, forced inside a pair of close-fitting Armani genes, floated past as I drew her.
I should have nudged her to join me, yet I sketched her clandestinely like a thief. The thought of throwing myself at a stranger brings me chills. I am not a coward but perhaps lack physical courage. Should this stroke of genius had come upon me only a minute sooner, I would've made a gesture either by a quick hint of the eyes or a subtle nod of the head. Although this method has not been affective, I commenced to try it again, and again.
The next day, I sat at my usual table for hours on end doodling in my notebook. As usual words refused to come and I commenced to sketch instead. I drew Arezou again. (Imaginary names come so quickly into my head.) Why did I call her Arezou? Well, I don't know, but it seemed fitting at the time. She did look Persian to me; her auburn hair full, her eyebrows (from behind the Gucci glasses) thick and arched, her skin olive color. I drew several renditions of her. Page by page Arezou began to transform. Her lips became fuller, her eyebrows more extended to the point of meeting in the middle, her cheeks rosier, her thighs fleshier. I even gave her a different outfit: a traditional, folkloric garment I once saw hanging on some museum wall. Well, she now looked completely Iranian.
For six weeks I daydreamed, and only from memory did I sketch hundreds of drawings of Arezou, each perfecting the one before it. I presented them to my friends. At first they looked surprised, but then they nearly chocked with laughter. How little they became when we rendezvoused on the 40th day. This time, though mentally prepared, I realized I was hardly physically prepared when I glanced down at my clothes with horror. I was dressed like a commoner, an invalid, the village fool. In the eyes of high society, one struggles making an impression, let alone being placed on an equal footing. So there I sat like a statue, Starbucks cup in hand, clenching my teeth as she walked past like a jet airplane.
The next day I made up my mind to visit boutiques on Belmont Shore. I entered one. A mystical half rap, half middle-eastern music played overhead. It made me feel strange and cool, as though I belonged there, and as if I had worn these clothes before, perhaps in some past life.
“How much is this shirt?” I inquired, feeling a retro-polyester shirt with my fingers.
“89.95,” said the young, hip, salesgirl coldly.
Price was steep, but the shirt seemed excellent, fitted in a European fashion for slimmer torsos with rabbit-ear collars and tiny brown, flowery stripes. It was much more in mode than, say, the cobalt blue one with short sleeves and straight collar, which would've made me look like a dental assistant.
“Can I try that one?” I put on shirt, force-tucking it in into my genes.
“That's not the way you wear it,” she said irritably, pulling the shirt immediately out. “You wear it on the outside, like this.”
“Oh,” I said, dumbly. “I feel I've worn this shirt in some past life.”
“Oh,” she replied uninterested and more irritable now.
After much serious consideration I said: “I'll take it,” and stepped into the sun with shopping bag in hand, feeling ecstasy as though I were now well equipped for my encounter with Arezou.
No farther than three steps had I traveled when a major logistical problem surfaced: I only had one shirt, and could not possibly hang about in the same clothes day after day. I would have to alternate shirts, playing my odds against the encounter, or (another brilliant idea) I'd keep the shirt but alternate cafes instead. Or, integrate the two alternating between shirts and cafes, but that would've made things more complex than necessary.”Lets see,” I commenced to multiply all possible permutations in my head.
I was merely strolling down the street, arms swinging, bag in hand, calculating permutations, reaching into that chalkboard in the sky to borrow ten, when I noticed Arezou passing me from the right. I don't believe she recognized me for she kept her head solidly straight, and without so much as a glance she trotted by with hips swinging ever so slightly. This was in fact satisfactory for I wasn't yet well dressed, and had only minutes ago acquired the retro-polyester shirt. Well then, I thought: “fate works in mysterious ways.”
But everything seemed to be in order and I gradually began to prepare myself for action. I made a brilliant plan; audacious as it may have seemed, I decided to bump into her next time I saw her. If I collided with her, not too hard of course, but hard enough so that she'd drop her bag, I would then bend immediately down and gentlemanly pick it up, apologizing profusely, followed by a: “What a lovely bag,” then introduce myself, and invite her to a cup of House Roast coffee.
On the eve of that day I went to bed pondering my plan, eyes wide open, turning and tossing until the sun crept slowly across the horizon. I came out of the house, new shirt on, notebook in hand, ocean breeze against my face. Then, a pair of wings crept into my peripheral vision. I lowered my chin and saw the rabbit-ear lapels airborne and flapping, as though about to take me away like the flying nun. I reached with index finger and apposing thumb and held them down for sometime but soon got tired and they became immediately afloat again. Now I began to be amused by them, feeling cool and nostalgic in my retro-polyester get-up when I heard a man's voice shouting from across the street: “I love you.” A car came to a halt, made a u turn and came back around screeching. A head stuck out of the passenger's side window repeating from the top of his lung: “I love you,” and whizzed by with a roar.
This flattered me. Even though I am not homosexual, I was nevertheless flattered. And I was deeply impressed by the boisterous and the blunt manner of which a stranger can exclaim his true emotions without as much as a hint of reservation.
When I saw Arezou again, it was six months later. She caught me completely by surprise and how ironic was the manner of which we met. I had made a final decision to abandon my plan and was ready to altogether dismiss it when I saw her at my table. As I arrived at the usual Starbucks, there she sat sucking Frappuccino through a straw. I stood there for an entire minute pondering and commenced to sit beside her, (it being after all my table) when I changed my mind, mid-flight, propping myself down at the next table, scraping the plastic chair hard against the pavement. How I thank God, even to this day, I didn't sit by her.
“I haven't seen you here before, are you from around here?” I said almost shouting.
“Pardon?” She said without turning.
I cleared my throat. “I said where are you from?”
“Ok,” she said, an answer I did not expect.
“It's hot isn't it?” I said, trying again.
“Totally,” she said. Then turned slightly around showing her right ear from which hung an earpiece presumably connected to a cell phone that wasn't readily visible.
“What do you do?” She said, gazing not quite directly at me, but more to the right, about six feet out.
“Me?” I asked finally, thumb pointing to my chest. She nodded.
“I'm a writer,” came a ready answer.
That had always been a touchy question.
“I get by,” I said after some hesitation. Then, without warning, she jounced off walking, took the earpiece from her ear and shoved it into her bag. A convertible stopped at the curb and she immediately climbed in. The car hissed into traffic, turned at the next one-way street toward the ocean, and disappeared into the sandcastle neighborhood. I switched tables, opened my notebook, and began to sketch the girl across the street >>> Arts & Literature forum