Aloysius was excited to introduce Emma to his best friend, although Omar exhibited none of the artist’s romantic sentiment. Being a student of Schopenhauer, the cynic was well aware of the biological mechanics involved. For it was Schopenhauer who said love was the lie practiced on the individual by the species; and it was Schopenhauer who said nine-tenths the cause of love were the lover, and only one-tenth was the object; and it was Schopenhauer, in his infamous essay on women, who likened a woman’s beauty to the wings of a female ant: they fall off shortly after breeding because they become detrimental to the raising of young. These attitudes also reflected Omar’s sober appraisal of the fair sex.
The coffeehouse bustled, though Emma was unflappable and effervescent in pink. It was instantly clear to Omar who was the puppy and who was the leash in the budding relationship. He wasted little time on salutations. “Aloysius tells me you’re in fine art photography?”
“If I were to waste my time with an art degree, I would go into photography, too. You can always get a real job if the art thing doesn’t pan out. Like working in a coroner’s office, taking pictures of bullet wounds, or bite marks on dead prostitutes.”
Aloysius chuckled nervously. “That’s Omar for you. Always the optimist.”
More customers approached, so the coffeemaker made the men their lattes. Omar led his friend to a nearby table, though he too could not take his eyes off the tall, leggy brunette.
“What do you think?” asked the painter.
“She’s wearing an engagement ring, Ally. Didn’t you tell me she was involved with a college prof?”
The friend offered a clarification. “There is involvement. Only it’s with a fiancé.”
“Is it a long distance relationship?”
“Is he around?”
“I haven’t met him, if that’s what you mean.”
“But you were with her last night? Right?”
Aloysius sipped his coffee.
“How long have they been engaged?” the friend probed.
“Since high school. It’s the real thing.”
Omar laughed out loud. “Real thing, my ass! She couldn’t commit to this guy in college, so now is using grad school as an excuse to shop around. Your for-shit timing has abandoned you at last. You’re in the catbird seat on this one.”
Aloysius would not be drawn into the speculation.
Omar glanced at the sunny barista again, postulating, “She’s too damn perky to have spent much quality time on her back. I wouldn’t be surprised if her joined-at-the-hip sweetheart is the only poke she’s ever had.”
The friend was no more goaded into presumption than speculation.
“What about the other one?” observed the friend, eyeing the second barista.
“The other one…? Do you mean Erica?”
“What about her?” Omar gleamed. “She looks feisty—and sturdy. Not the kind of girl who will scoot around much on a mattress. There’s nothing I like less than chasing children’s menu portions over a mostly empty plate.”
“I can’t see you hooking up with her.”
“Oil and water?”
“More like oil and oil, which would only lead to a kitchen fire and fire extinguishers.”
Omar assessed the dynamic. “She’s cute, in an infantile way. Infantile facial features are God’s way of giving young women beguile where he does not give them exemplarily bone structure. It’s a six-month lease.”
“I bow to your superior knowledge of anatomy,” quipped Aloysius sarcastically.
The lull was brief, and the friend was soon paddling the boat back toward the deep end of the pool. “Well,” he segued, “did it get hot and heavy last night with your ala prima masterpiece?”
The reserved artist always squirmed at these forays. “Yes.”
His answer was too clipped; Omar put on his lawyer’s hat. “What do you mean by yes? You say yes like we’re playing twenty questions. Did you do it or not?”
The witness fumbled for a napkin. “Not technically.”
Omar was curt. “I know this song-and-dance well. You lead with your chin, and she has you dancing by the short hairs. What happened?”
“There was a backrub, and some kissing.”
“A backrub, huh...?” The friend leaned back with a measure of world-weariness. “Don’t let this turn into another one of your from-the-waist-up-only relationships, where she wants to yank your chain but not your dick. You must give off a scent woman can smell like money.”
Aloysius scanned the tabletop for a defense. “We’re friends. With privileges.”
“She’s not an ATM,” griped Omar.
The lawyer seized on his friend’s floundering as an excuse to lecture. “You’ve had too little experience with women, Ally. When you get a girl in the sack, it’s like goddamn Disney World with you. You spend so much time surveying the park you forget to go on the rides. There are many females in this world who will happily exploit your timidity in not demanding intercourse, especially if they get a free three-hour backrub out of it. You need to insist on the main course, right off. Leave the hors d’oeuvres for later.”
Aloysius piped up. “She did initiate the kiss.”
The friend was not impressed. “If you marry a beautiful woman, you’ll spend half of your life beating-off in the bathroom, and the other half being paranoid about every man who looks at her—and there’s no end to that! You’ll never get a good night’s sleep until you either arrange a disfiguring scar for her, or get her knocked-up. Since (speaking as your lawyer) there is no legal penalty entailing jail time with the latter, that would be my advised course of action. The only thing less attractive than a woman missing a limb is a woman with a clinging child.”
“Your heartless, Ommie.”
“No. Just practical.” The attorney sneered at Emma. “You set yourself up for failure, Grasshopper. You choose unattainable women because you have a high opinion of yourself, and when things go awry for whatever lame reason, it becomes one more excuse for you to engage in your periodic bouts of self-loathing. You never get the volume right.”
“You’re getting too far out in front on this, counsel. One night of foreplay doesn’t equal a lifetime commitment.”
“You call a backrub foreplay?”
Aloysius angled. “Well, an orgasm was involved.”
“Evidently not yours.”
“Let me guess,” the friend ventured. “She got sleepy so wrapped up the evening with a head fake?”
Aloysius sharpened the creases on his carefully refolded napkin.
The counsel was solemn. “Remember, Grasshopper. It was Eve’s conniving wickedness to fake orgasms that got her and Adam tossed out of the garden. Love is war, my friend, and it’s always smoke and mirrors with women.”
“She’s complicated,” he explained.
Aloysius was reluctant to part with it, but was in excuse mode. “There was a suicide attempt when she was younger.”
Omar smirked. “What pretty, henna-dunked college woman doesn’t make that claim?”
“Why must you be so smart at my expense?”
“Because I don’t want you hiding behind excuses—yours or hers. You can’t have a relationship without sex, and you can’t have sex if one of the participants is so high up on a pedestal you can’t grab her drawers. Don’t let her set the parameters, here. You only have to beat this fiancé’s hump time by a few minutes to move to the front of the class.”
“There’s more to it than sex.”
The sage darkened. “For all your notions of unsullied love, my friend, I know you polish your purple helmet just as much as you do your Boy Scout honor badges—if not more. Too much of your self-sacrificing in this regard is dressed-up cowardice. What was it Nietzsche said: ‘Verily, many is the time I’ve laughed at the weakling who thought himself virtuous for having lame paws’?”
Aloysius sprung a defense. “I must proceed in the way I know how. I wish I could be decisive, but I’m not.”
“So what does that leave you with? Greeting cards? You can’t ask a woman to be her boyfriend. It doesn’t work that way. You assume the role before it’s assigned to you. You have to move in a few sticks of furniture before she’ll let you set up house. Love is closer to the realm of the body than the mind. It’s about attitude. If she’s sharing her bed with you, then the fiancé is on the way out—which means you are on the way in. Words, sentimental or contractual, are—as I’m always saying—afterthoughts.”
“I know,” the timid man moaned. “I’m screwed on both ends. I can no more profess my feelings than act on them.”
“Which leaves the woman in the driver seat. Which puts us right back where we started this conversation.”
Omar paused in his unsolicited advice, sighing, “If one of these ideal women ever end up fucking you like a whore, you’ll have no leverage at all—no resentment left whatsoever on which to hang your spineless hide. God forbid, you’ll be so pussy-whipped, I’ll be lucky if the bitch lets you send me a Christmas card once a year!”
Chapter Twenty-three, Section Three/ Back/ Contents Page
Copyright © 2007 Michael Teague. All rights reserved.