Icarus Transfigured by m. l. teague (page 22)

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Chapter Nine

Dear Grasshopper,

Nothing about a mouse in a cupboard resembles a piece of wood with a metal spring, yet the mousetrap, as a creative solution to a pest, arises out of the ether of the imagination so seamlessly it is easy to forget the profound process in arriving at it.

We begin with logic and tautologically deduce four from two sets of two, and from there proceed, step-by-step, to greater and greater understanding that defies all logic.
H.G. Wells once referred to logic as a form of stupidity, and compared it to a serviceable suitcase with a loose handle.

Poincaré argued mathematics relies on intuition and not logic; Einstein made a similar case for creativity over intelligence. In short, the undertaking of divining a mousetrap from a mouse eludes scrutiny, for the seeker cannot seek his seeking, and the finder cannot find his finding.

Insight may be compared to an exposed photographic plate connected to a telescope. Logic needs only the brightest stars to make its points, so opts for the shortest exposure time. Intuition waits a little longer on a hunch more is there than meets the eye, and consequently plucks out a few nebulae. Genius leaves the plate in place the longest, and aims away from the stars into what most would regard as a pointless void. With patience, it dredges up countless galaxies, and fills the plate with more light than darkness.

In every surface, no matter how unpromising at the outset, there are countless universes to be unearthed. Nietzsche boldly defined genius as “seizing chance by the forelock,” though to create new worlds in this way demands new eyes, and a giant’s grasp with small, careful hands. ~Omar

         The Dancing Star, Part One

The painter was necessarily upset by Brae’s disappearance, and the idea he could write anything in his journal at the coffeehouse was distasteful. Still, habit and ritual were deep-wired in him, if not always finding substance in them. He was suddenly torn between two females in his otherwise barren life, yet was fated to act on only one.

His car hastened his arrival at the coffeehouse.

Bean and Nothingness seemed slow for a school day, so he gravitated to a table he sat at twice before, by osmosis. Stepping to the counter to order his drink, he saw her before she spotted him. The beautiful brunette looked no worse for their night together, although the verdigris cast to her eyes conveyed only subdued recognition. A whirlwind had transpired between them, yet the abruptness of this second encounter so soon after the first was, in Aloysius’ estimation, the awkward first date missed the first go-round. Sober, he opened his mouth to babble. “Ah-h-h. Lattes… I mean—do you have lattes? A large one?”

Her smile was hard to gauge.

Aloysius blurted the first thing that came to mind. “You’re not wearing your glasses.”

“I wear them when I want to appear older,” she said.

He groped in a pocket for his wallet. “How old are you?”

“I just turned twenty-three.”

There was always a disconnection when he was brought face-to-face with the numbers. He grinned in an amble while she prepared his drink.

The painter wanted to see the graduate student as a child, like Brae, but with her back momentarily turned, he could not help take inventory of all her attributes that were decidedly not child-like. Even allowing for flat sandals, he guessed her to be five-ten. Her bones and height prevented her from being delicate, although her chiseled line and long legs made her resemble expensive Lalique art glass.

Her ensemble, an ashen grey cardigan sweater pulled over a simple indigo blue dress, aspired to modest maturity, and perhaps such trappings made him too eager to be taken in by her wiles. Yet the presentation the night before had been so deft and dazzling that any man susceptible to the flattery of a pretty girl should be forgiven for temporarily forgetting age. The line separating daughters from prospective lovers (in a man’s mind, always) is never wider than a single thin strand of DNA.

The barista met his dissecting gaze, forcing him to guiltily redirect his attention to a stain on the counter. On setting his drink down, she ventured her own evaluation. “You are quieter than I remember.”

Aloysius volunteered some of his feelings. “I’m afraid it’s not a good day. My neighbor’s little girl has gone missing.”

“That’s terrible.” Pained by her intrusion, the mug was pushed toward him with an easier expression. “It’s on the house today. Compliments of me.

He was pulled halfway out of his mood.

“My name is Emma,” she said. “Emma Breton.”

“Aloysius,” he replied. “Aloysius Gauge.”

With names properly exchanged, the patron moved away to make room for the next customer. The coffee was consumed without his customary calculation, while his most steadfast companion, self-pity, tugged him through the chair seat to the scuffed floor.

Had the bachelor married years ago, he would not be forming designs on young women. He knew he should not encourage his foolhardy infatuation, yet, despite this better judgment, he was unable to stop gawking at Emma. Mercifully she had no time to notice. Maybe she bore him no true feeling. In which case, it was for the best.

Aloysius was already a regular at the coffeehouse (this would not change), although any subsequent attempt to engage the graduate student would be anticipated with a degree of anxiety. Given this, the painter decided, in a magnanimous turn, not to further the acquaintance. She would be his muse, but distantly. He would come here to write or sketch in his journal each day, and then return home to throw his unrequited feeling into his creative work. It was a proven formula, and worked too well to his admitted detriment.

His “worshiping women from afar” was more than a lifelong practice. It was an incurable disease. In this painful instance, at least, it was welcomed deliverance. Whether she would be flattered by his attention, or indifferent to it, he hoped she would not lump him in with other older men who came into the coffeehouse to leer at her. His attraction would not be so crude or intrusive. Nor would it be calculating or ingratiating. He would admire her with the quiet reverence of someone who needed more than wanted her.

Scene: Directly, a group of young bohemian-types came in to chat up the barista; Aloysius was familiar with their ilk from his erstwhile incarnation as an MFA student. He pegged them as slummers: marginally talented offspring from moneyed East Coast families who venture to the heartland to slum it in art school for a few years. Beyond their Brie crust of culture, these artisans had acquired a painterly craft, but with nothing more to paint than views out their shabby chic student apartment windows. When not defacing perfectly good canvases, they splattered paint on their black clothing like stigmata. All these years later, the painter could not shake his inferiority complex around this alpha group. He was and always would be (by their estimation, he thought) a commuter college parvenu with something to prove. This outsider status had allowed him to heroically portray himself as the provincial Cezanne among his Parisian betters.

The visiting trio (two males and a female) left the building to smoke, and Emma, who apparently did not smoke, took a break to keep them company. He watched her interact with the young men through the window, and knew only one of them would have to do. The breathing space permitted him a moment to remember his earlier state of mind: his mournful pining for the other female in his life. This purer fatherly attachment for the missing child was something for which no one could fault him. His melancholy inspired him to open his journal and begin writing. The words quickly took the ill-advised form of a poem, though he kept it in the most general terms by addressing it to his idée fixe.

Emma continued to ignore him on her return, and so the die was cast. The evening episode between them had been a drunken flirtation that, in the full light of sobriety, was put into proper perspective. Still, in keeping with his stoic fatalism, the patron stayed dutifully through the rest of the barista’s shift.

Preparing to leave, she went into the bathroom with a tote containing a change of clothes, trading out her indigo frock for a striking Sixties cocktail dress of black and white geometric design. She blew by his table on the way out the door without making eye contact, obviously to dampen any expectation he may have formed. Once she was safely off the premises, the poet glanced again at his effort. He had not written a dedication. His first impulse was to write the child’s name, but he wrote “Emma” instead.

He was immediately remiss on setting down the pen, so tore the page from the book spine with the thought of throwing it away. As the last inch ripped free, the young woman was abruptly hovering over him. The startled patron crumpled the page and slipped it into his jacket pocket.

“Are you busy?” she asked.

“No.”

“Do you feel like eating a late lunch or early dinner with me?”

He exhaled. “Both."

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