What I’ve neglected here — and elsewhere — is a sort of exercise. While flab has collected at the end of brain neurons and the tip of my writing callous has noticeably diminished, instead of writing I am worried about efficiently entering passwords into online programs, and also about the state of B. Tyner, star right fielder for the imagination Philadelphia Phillies. Should I release him and let someone else take over, or should I keep him until he becomes old and his skills, necessarily, degrade?
A bizarre fantasy:
I have always regretted the weight gain that caused my meeting with M. to be so disappointing. I entered the café loping like a bear, with my thighs noticeably touching, even enveloping each other, and my neck-fat a fleshy boulder, quivering like a sack of gelatin, thick as several layers of scarfs.
One could see the disappointment in M.’s face, and I kept talking to avoid the weight, never addressing the subject, not even a little bit, skimming over it like a hydrofoil over water — but what was even worse, I now realise, was her shock, owing to the peculiar kind of dishonesty that surrounded the circumstances of our meeting. The weight had not been warned of, or even mentioned, and so it served as a psychological warning — foreshadowing for far worse, though it was also its own kind of barrier, a very real one.
In the grocery store on Sunday, I noticed a young woman, neurotically thin, navigating the vegetable aisles with a basket of fruit. She had dark brown shoulder-length hair — not greasy, but perhaps not well-kept either — and she wore a plain green, slightly worn, t-shirt with matching shorts and flip-flops that suggested she was doing exactly what she was doing, which was indifferently, even carelessly, shopping for groceries late on a Sunday night.
I noticed this woman, as I said, which is an important detail only because as I passed her aisle I had to double-back because I realised what I was looking for (onions) was in her aisle. I’m sure my jerky and awkward movements as I doubled back, combined with my looking at her earlier, must have conveyed that I had some interest in her…
We found ourselves side-by-side at the onions. I, interested in the large onions, stood by the basket of medium sized ones, while she, interested in the medium onions, stood by the larger ones. A bubble of awareness restricted movement. I didn’t want to act too quickly because I thought that acting too quickly would startle her, or, one way or the other, have unintentional romantic implications. She reached across, in front of me, and touched one of the medium onions. I waited for my chance. She put the onion down, back in the basket. The set-up was so much like a television show or a movie (that contrived scene where the unfamiliar couple lingers, and comes together, over the ripeness of a green pepper) that she must have been aware of its awkwardness… Finally, her hand receded; I reached over and grabbed one larger onion, and then another.
At the same time I pulled back the second onion our hands interrupted each other, and she turned to me and smiled: too wide and too honest, a naked smile, as if it said “Ah! So here is how we finally meet!”, and I realised that my awkwardness earlier had been something else for her. I smiled back, honestly, because I liked her, and, embarrassed, left.
The worst part of the encounter, and also the most endearing, was that I could see the encounter from her perspective, and I knew that if I’d had a similar encounter, at another time in my life, I would have considered it thrilling and sustaining — even if nothing happened more than what I described above — and I could sense that it was the same for her; in her eyes I caught her loneliness, a sad loneliness, but a nice one, and I remembered what it’s like to live alone in the city, and I thought that if the encounter was nice for her, if there was anything sustaining in it, then so much the better… even if for me the encounter couldn’t be anything but awkward.