so i’m at an art exhibit with yet another man and we agree to walk along separate walls, because i don’t want his thoughts interrupting mine, and he’s standing across the room from me when i turn and realize he has the exact same build as the photojournalist, even the back of his head looks like his, and it strikes me then that the entire reason i’m here with this person, unconsciously, is because of that resemblance, and i’m still in love with the same fucking man.
today’s man notices me looking at him and smiles, then horrifically takes my stunned gaze as an invitation to close the distance between us. i will invisibility but it works not at all; how much more effective a strategy that could have been had i but declined the suggestion of today’s excursion altogether. had i not responded at all.
but no, my life could not have taken that simple direction, because i am a woman with curious struggles that don’t stop at just an inability to curb impulsive behaviors, or a lack of chronological understanding, but that now apparently include seducing facsimiles of a former lover.
“i’ve been meaning to set the record straight on something,” today’s man says, once he’s within range.
i immediately wonder if he’s going to inquire as to why, when he invited me to this exhibit, i responded by sending him a photograph of a tousled hotel room bed. my brain starts cartwheeling for an explanation.
“i’m not, as you seem to have assumed, an unconditional mahler fanatic,” is what he chooses instead. naturally, this really throws me. i dive-bomb my memory for a point of reference for his words.
“it’s only the 5th, 9th and 2nd i greatly enjoy,” he continues. “the 6th, for instance, which I heard at mahlerfest last year, was an experience of accumulating disaffection verging on antipathy…bach is my object of scarcely qualified and inexhaustible awe and joy.”
he awaits a reaction. i’ve got nothing.
“okay,” i candidly offer, eventually.
he squints minutely; it’s barely discernible.
what i wouldn’t give to fling myself out of one of matisse’s many windows right now.
“will you excuse me?” i ask.
he nods, and i high-heel tip-tap my way across the marble floor to the bathroom, where i lock myself in a stall for 15 minutes and question the soundness of sending him a text message requesting that he leave.
in the end i opt for: “i don’t want to come out.”
i wait a few painful moments in which a response is not forthcoming.
“is that all right?” i send next.
“by all means,” he responds now. “i think it’s really good for us to exist as disembodied assemblages of semiotic marks in a void of trepidation.”
this makes me smile.
when i eventually exit the woman’s room i find him on a bench, waiting. sit beside him and play with the loose fabric of his shirt sleeve.
he watches my fingers as he speaks.
“you’ve charmed me, as you know, in ways that aren’t confined to, but delightfully mingled with, my strong carnal attraction to you,” he says.
my cheeks grow hot while colors explode in canvases all around us.
“maybe you don’t appreciate how much i enjoyed your company before discovering your lovely skin, the way and feel of your lips. but i want to determine whether this resonance i feel owes itself to something more than mere touching.”
“i think maybe i’m just not good at this,” i propose, as if the votes were still out on my dating performance.
“well, then i’ll just try to enjoy this tragedy as it tears me to pieces,” he responds, standing. “thereby, perhaps, taking possession of it as a tragicomedy.”
today’s man reaches out his hand, indicating that i should take it, i suppose. which i happily do, as we’re now brave comrades in this ruinous situation i’ve created.
“shall i return you to your hotel?” he asks. “can you tolerate such an assault on your self-sufficiency?”
i smile, kiss his cheek.