"What's your point?"
"Now is no longer what I once thought it was. That's all."
"DUH! So why don't you just say it?" She snapped. "Why do you need to make me work so hard to understand you?"
Is that what I'm doing?"
What else would you call it?"
"What would you call it?"
"You're a narsissist that's all. All you think about is yourself. Everything revolves around you."
"I'm a Leo."
"Oh, please! Give me a break. If you're going to ask me what my sign is I'm out of here. That went out with bells and beads."
Her amphetimine fingers jittered on the tabletop. Her spoon rattled in her teacup. Demons danced in her eyes.
Her sleek jacket fit her like a skin. Every bump of her body was tooled into the leather.On the table next to her hand, her black gloves glistened in the fleurescent, oriental light.
The rubbed wood of the booth huddled close around our conversation like a vampire licking blood from a wound.
Merciless lights and strident foreign laughter on the other side of the curtain made me glad I wasn't alone but to be with her wasn't much better- not when she was like this.
Normally I would just have gotten up and left or told her to shut up but I didn't feel like playing Mr. Man any more.
"Let's talk about something else." I said.
She strutted her chest like she always did when she wanted to make points. As always, I paid attention. It was hard not to. In spite of my pretentious self possession, she knew how to get to me. That was why she did it- why she wore the clothes she did- why when she walked it always seemed as if she was fucking the air. She did it for me. She did everything for me but leave me alone.
I didn't like to pay attention. There were too many things that if I looked at them too closely, would suck me down into the black hole. "It's safer to stay on top of things" I told her over and over but she didn't believe me-she persisted- she liked to get down and root around. I didn't. I'd done it all my life and I was tired- tired of my own skin- tired of the memories that haunted me- the moments when I forgot and looked too close at things I should have just ignored. That those things consisted of just about everything now made it even harder.
I couldn't really blame her though. In spite of all the experiences, sordid and sublime that she'd had she was just a kid. She just glided over the bumps like a hot dog skier looking for kicks on an imperfect slope.
I felt like if I could somehow reclaim even a moment of that ability she had to glide I would be all right but I never seemed quite able to do so. I was an expert once but not any more. I was another.
That was why I put up with her. In spite of myself, I needed her, if only because, in an unguarded moment, some of the magic might rub off on me and I could just glide, like I used to.
"Well...I'm waiting." She replied.
"What? Oh yeah. What were we talking about?"
"Something you obviously don't want to continue with. You're so predictable."
"Yep- predictably nuts."
She raised one eyebrow and glinted at me.
"Are you going to fuck me when we go home?"
"What brought that on?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe I feel like it would feel good if you tossed me a bone every once in a while. I've been a good dog."
She stuck out her tongue and panted.
"Stop it! I don't like animal jokes."
At that moment the sallow, toothless waiter slammed the heavy teapot down on the red formica table top with a vehemance that made it obvious that he hated us. It was interesting being the target of prejudice. It was so unlike what I would have expected if I expected anything but I didn't expect anything so it didn't matter.
She was right. I was self obsessed. There was me and there was them. It had always been that way. Nothing could be trusted. It was all I could do to pretend I trusted myself. That was what it was, pretence. I didn't trust myself any more than I did anyone else. Actually, I trusted myself less because I was the only random factor I couldn't somehow control. No matter how I struggled, I couldn't escape myself.
"Well ,I don't." I continued. "Animals have it hard enough as it is because of us. Just look at horses. Do you really think they want to spend their best years with us perched on their backs?"
She just stared at me with her mouth open like she was, at any moment, going to drop one of her statements on me. She was big on statements. It was her way of putting the world in it's place. Just like her thing about organizing everything on the table just so: the knief and the fork and the spoon lined up just so- the salt and pepper shakers just so- that exact distance apart obsessive thing she did.
No matter how obsessively careful she was in creating her line ups, the chaos of life would defeat her in the end.
"I give up." I said. "What are you going to say? I can't stand sitting here waiting for you to lay the big one."
" Wasn't going to say anything." She replied with a slinky smile wrapped around a mouthful of gum.
I just stared at her and she stared at me. We both stared for another long moment before she licked her lips.
"No really," She said.
I didn't believe her. It was just another facet of her game. Sooner or later she would find the perfect moment to drop the big one.
"Really! Wasn't! I was thinking horses probably like it. I would."
"Oh God, here it comes."
It was always sex with her. Maybe it was because she was wound so tight. Sex was her only release.
"What's the matter?"
"It's boring." I replied.
"That's because you always make it so complicated. You take the fun out of it"
"I don't make anything complicated."
"Oh no, not you! Mr. fucking complicated! You don't fool me. You'd like it if I played horsey. I'm sure. You wouldn't stop yanking on the bit until I didn't have a mouth left."
She was on a roll. She punched my arm.
"Come on fucker,admit it!"
I'm not admitting anything."
"I'm sure". she said again. "It's not that I don't know you. I know you only too well."
She plopped her self back against the naulgahyde with a self satisfied smirk. A slash of tongue between her glistening teeth pushed the gum out around it like a sheath. She slowly inflated it until it popped. She licked it back into her mouth.
"What does that have to do with horses."
"Nothing," she said and giggled. "I just threw it in because it made me hot." She said.
I could hardly hear her. Beyond the curtain the after midnight crowd tumbled in out of the fog soaked streets.
"Come on, let's get out of here." I said and got up.
"I haven't had my tea yet."
"Fuck the tea." I said and left.
The narrow street stunk of old fish and burned grease. The moon hung from the narrow gap between the buildings like a round Chinese lantern. The crumbling facades suddenly looked almost beautiful.
I had a headache.
She struggled with a wizened oriental man to be the first one through the door. She pushed past him. He cursed her and then stared hard at her ass as it fucked it's way across the few feet between us like a dog humping a leg. She wrapped her arms around me and leaned way back.
"He's staring at my ass isn't he?" she whispered between narrowed lips.
"What do you think?"
I hate it when people do that."
"So, if you hate it so much stop."
"You think it's that easy? My ass has a mind of it's own." She said.
She pulled herself up and pushed me away.
I resisted comment. Instead, I flagged down a passing taxi.
"Where are we going?" She asked as she flopped around on the seat and got comfortable.
"What difference does it make?"
"Well,,," she thought for a long moment. "Hmmm."
Her grin was wicked.
"You might be taking me some place to fuck me. In which case a girl can never be too pretty or too clean, ..." she leered again, "...Or too prepared."
I turned to her.
"Look, if you need to get laid so bad I could pay the cab driver to do it."
That shut her up for a few minutes. I wondered what I was going to do next.
I felt like an accidental tourist, on an extended vacation that I wasn't sure I wanted to continue with but was equally not sure how to escape from.
One fruitless avenue led to another and before too long I didn't know where we were. I didn't ask the cab driver because I knew she would pounce on it and rag me to death about how out of it I was. She might have been right but I didn't want to hear it.
Finally, I said, "I was thinking of going back to school."
I surprised both her and myself.
"School?" She turned on me with a wide eyed skepticism painfully obvious in her astonished look of disbelief.
"Yeah, school. Don't make it sound like I was planning to commit myself."
"What else would you call it?" You're a little old for school aren't you?"
"What does age have to do with it?" I snapped back.
"Whoooh! Don't get touchy on me. I just meant...well..."
"Most guys my age would be planning retirement?"
"I didn't say that." She shuffled on the seat uncomfortably exposed, knowing I was right. Her fingers fidgeted on my knee. She stared out the window, suddenly extremely interested in the boring strip mall architecture that choked the street.
I easily unthreaded the tangled web of her thoughts. First there was the realization that I was old- then that this wasn't what she had planned for her life- then that in spite of her hard posing she expected, eventually, that her life would be different- that eventually she wanted a condo, 2 kids and a guy with a steady job and a good pension plan that she could manipulate through sex into doing exactly what she wanted him to do.
In other words, in her heart of hearts, she wanted normal. Instead she had me.
The old guy.
"What are you laughing about?" She asked.
I didn't say anything. I didn't feel mean, just tired.
"Do you really want to go back to school or are you just jerking my chain ?"
"Yes I'm serious. I'm always serious."
"Oh right! I got it! Like Mr. Toad and his car!"
She shut up and pouted out the window.
Finally, unable to stand any more of the slump shouldered, poor me posture she had assumed, I spoke.
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself. I'm just trying to come up with something that makes sense."
"School?" She asked, meek voiced.
"What's wrong with school?"
She didn't have to tell me. I knew. She hated school. Kids her age didn't read. Kids her age were in the mall playing videos or in their room masturbating while they played bloody games on their computers and imagined themselves as some comic book rendition of the hero myth. It wasn't just a "guy thing" Girls did it too. Dumb was a drug that didn't play favorites.
What do you want to go to school for? Schools like... I mean, fuckin' b-o-r-i-n-g!"
She grinned. Pleased with her condensation of the quest for knowledge into a teaspoon of pop speak."
You've got plenty of money. You can do anything you want. Why want boring?"
"Money isn't everything." I replied.
I was tired of trying to explain why I did what I did, but for her sake I tried.
"Anyway," I continued, "If I learned graphic design I would be able to use computer graphics and if I could use computer graphics I could make a CG movie and..."
"Why do you want to do that? Why not just have fun? Computer geeks aren't any fun."
"Fun isn't all there is to life. Besides, that's just as much fun as anything else I can think of."
I glanced out the window. I didn't have a clue where we were. I leaned forward and gripped the back of the drivers seat.
"Take us to the beach."
"You got it boss." He replied with a shrug of his head.
Neither of us said anything. I tried to imagine what it would be like, going to school. I'd have to work hard to not break cover. The last thing I wanted was to have anybody find out who I was but that wouldn't be difficult. The truth was that I wasn't really as memorable as I imagined myself to be. Most myths are like that. Somewhere behind the curtain there's a guy just like every other guy, pulling levers.
Finally the cab stopped at the beach
As walked along the waters edge she fumbled with her cell phone. Since I told her my plans she had become more and more distant. It was as if she sensed that more than the cab ride was over- that I probably wouldn't want to take her with me on this adventure and even if I did, she probably wouldn't want to go.
She was probably right. Why would I? Why would she? I was sure that she was wondering what someone like her would have in common with a student, even one as nuts as I was. As for myself. I knew that she would be like a signboard warning that there was something wrong with the picture. I would be much less conspicuous if I came across as somebody that was filling up his golden years with knowledge they would never get the opportunity to use instead of taking trips on cruise ships or interminable golf games, or fooling around with somebody like her.
I suppose I would have to pay her off. That would only be right. After all it couldn't have been that exciting. Hardly any of the things she was interested in, except sex, were things that I was even remotely interested in. Even the sex wasn't that great, just a lot of hot sweat and thrashing around.
We shuffled along the narrow strip of sand. Silent crows stood at the edge of the water, staring out to sea like a flock of devils. As we passed they swiveled their heads and stared at us with acquisitive eyes. I picked up a rock and threw it at them but they continued to stare until we had passed. I turned away and then for some reason, quickly turned around.
They were gone.
We didn't speak. I was glad. I didn't have anything to say to her any more. It was as if she was a shadow trailing me down the sand. Finally she sighed and spoke.
"It's over isn't it?"
I didn't want to talk about it. Women always wanted to analyze and finalize and romanticize and put everything neatly in it's place before they moved on. I just wanted her to disappear like a shadow when the lights go out but I knew it wouldn't be that easy.
"Why not? Don't you feel anything?"
"No, not really. When it's over it's over. What should I feel? When you die you don't feel. You just die."
"Is that what happened?"
"I don't know what happened. I don't want to think about it."
She nodded her head.
We continued in silence down the beach.