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Shahin & Sepehr

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April 16, 1999
The Iranian

At times the midget stares at me; at times I stare right back, and always it seems we are having a silent exchange. Once I tried to describe him to my therapist, a red-bearded Jew, who was of the belief that the midget is something like the subliminal personification of my subconscience. Whatever the hell that means!

In the beginning, I thought I could wave him away as if he were smoke from a cigar, but I couldn't, which brings me to this: it's he who's in control, and I've learned not to fight him anymore.

Last Thursday night I was at a bar downtown, and I met this brunette whose name escapes me. We were sitting on these swiveling stools and she was yacking on and on about her job as I accidentally bumped my knee against her thigh when, without warning, my sub-sized, disapproving other self decided to join us. Casually I was feeling her up and he materialized out of thin air! When she excused herself to go to the powder room, I begged him to leave us alone; to disappear. My luck was about to change, I just knew it. But he didn't move. Didn't say a word either. Just sat there and glared at me.

As the evening wore on, I had the feeling the broad was alerted to something. Despite not being able to see my ghoul, she started to evade me, as if I were some kind of a weirdo. My considerable experience of such ventures has made me super-sensitive to the unspoken politics of dissing. However, her being there that late in the night, and her flirtatious tone with the barkeep had conveyed a certain availability to me, which made it impossible to even think about not having her, let alone convincing myself to go home alone.

In the early days, I used to blame myself for my failures with women: I must have been wearing a stained shirt; I was too eager; too transparent; didn't make eye contact. No sense of humor whatsoever. No character. Did my best to overcome my shortcomings: careless dressing, self-indulgence, over-eagerness. But the outcome still was the same. Then I tried to be a little more aggressive: went to a bar and walked straight up to the hottest looking babe and announced to her that I knew what she wanted, and that I had it. Said I'd do to her what no man had ever done to her. She was a busty blond and, as they come, a couple of tiles short of a full minaret. She said: "Oh, really? Like what?"

"Like kissing your belly," I said, "from the inside." Imagine my shock when she picked up her purse and made away without hearing the rest of it. And to think that I was about to put my arm around her and say, "Your place or mine, baby?" like a complete jerk.

Next I tried the shy approach: went to a different bar, gulped down Jack Daniels all night, sitting on a stool, trying to look harmless and witty. Still my luck refused to change. How do the other guys do it? My eyes full of sincerity, I pleaded for a chance to show my tender side, but I was constantly slighted. You'd think so much rejection would put a damper on my efforts. Any lesser of a man would have folded under the pressure, but not yours truly. I kept going at it and continued having senseless conversations with perfect strangers if only to show my wretched, invisible prosecutor I wouldn't give up life.

Until last Thursday night.

In the short interval the brunette had excused herself to visit the ladies room, as I was pleading with my subliminal whatever, convinced that I was going to fail yet again, the brunette's featureless face popped into my head. Suddenly, the reason for my unsuccessful business with women came to me. I could see it clearly, finally. It was so simple, I kicked myself for not having recognized it before. The same face. In every bar, the same bland features. It could not be, but it was, right in front of me, and I had seen it before. I was positively sure of that. Finally, unable to conceal my triumph, I decided to come right out with it. When my brunette returned, I was full of confidence.

"It's you, isn't it?" I said with a smile.

"Excuse me?" she said. But I had no intention of letting her off the hook.

"C'mon, I know it's you," I said steadfastly, "I know I'm not mistaken." At this point her face changed, acquiring a cunning, sardonic expression.

"Yes," she admitted, not in the least abashed. "Most of you fools never realize."

"But why?" I asked.

She turned her head and ignored my query.

"I'll say this for you," she said after a while. "You've given me a busy life. It's boring most of the times. Who doesn't appreciate a challenge?" My eyes were fixed on her lips, but I was not quite sure what she was talking about.

"Look at it from my point of view," she continued. "I have to be in a certain place at a certain time, try to be someone else, wait for you or another fool like you to show up, not knowing when. Waiting is a laborious business. I always have to be ready, on these stupid chairs, in these bars, like fruit at fruit-stalls."

"But now that I've recognized you," I said triumphantly, "you can't hide yourself anymore. You've got to come with me." She was about to slight me again, but I wasn't having it. Not now. Grabbed her left wrist and half-dragged her across the bar with a roomful of eyes watching. I could not think of another way to persuade her. Luckily, in America, people stay out of your way once they're convinced you're in the middle of a domestic situation.

Once we got to the parking lot she was not struggling anymore, just stopped for a moment to tidy up her skirt. Then she put her arm around me and we walked to my Dodge. Inside, as she reached for my fly I noticed the midget sitting on a wooden crate by the dumpster. No one else was in the parking lot, dark and misty at this point. The brunette went hard at work until what was hard became soft. She looked up then and I saw a flash of her earlier disdain. A row of teeth, lips glistening.

Bored with the show, the midget made to leave. What's he up to now? With the brunette still glaring at me, I seized a handful of her brown silk and gave her the prize she had coming to her. The steering wheel turned warm and wet with her blood, which was running down into my lap. Didn't even put up a fight. Sometimes they do, you know, the ones who try to buffet their way out. As if it can change anything. This one didn't even let out a pip. She was a good one, had already checked out when I cut into her creamy throat.

Next day the local paper carried her picture, a brief bio and the condition she was discovered in-all of her neatly packed inside the bar's air-conditioning duct, behind the building, which had the cops believing she was served by a maniac. No word on her smugness, her slutty outlook on life, her mean-spiritedness. Meanwhile, I'm kicking back and drinking my cold beer this fine Tuesday morning. A petite red-head has moved into a one-bedroomer down the hall.

Time to do my laundry. Might drop by to say hello.

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