This Valentine’s essay ran in The Austin Chronicle in 1991. “It’s just a fantasy,” I insisted to everyone who asked. “Totally made up! I mean, look — I don’t even have an aquarium!” On the other hand, I did make a nice soup with coconut milk and I did have a fleeting cub-reporter crush on my editor. Years later, I learned he’d had no idea it was about him. Just as well, Little Miss Troublemaker. –MW
The day I met you at Leah’s garage sale, there were so many questions I wanted to ask. Do you have a girlfriend? Is it serious? Are you married? Is it serious? Do you like my hair this way? Do you think intelligent women are sexy? I’ve read that some people do, but maybe that’s only in books. I could change for you, darling — it’s nothing, I’ve done it before. They work wonders today with simple shots and surgery. I could shave my legs for you, even. I once renounced shaving on principle, but now my legs are just something to stand on, their texture of little concern to anyone. You could change all that in a minute. I could be smooth for you. I could draw the silver blade along my shinbone with exquisite care. I would bleed for you, darling, tiny cuts pinking the bathwater, but if it was for you, I would be porcelain, I would be glass.
I want to open your refrigerator, try on your clothes, listen to the messages on your answering machine. I want to find the worn pages in your atlas and take you away. Did you used to smoke cigarettes? Vodka or scotch? Morning or night, gentle or rough, fast or slow?
I had a dream the other night, we were at the movies, you and I, both accompanied by other people. The film was Putney Swope, I recognized the part where the braless black stewardesses are jumping on a trampoline. You didn’t see me, but I was just across the aisle, watching your face in the reflected light, your low, ticklish laugh, your comments to your companion, your hand on the arm of the chair which could have been my leg. After the show there was quite a melée in the lobby, I was set adrift from my life and washed up at your feet, then you bent as if to kiss me and I felt the back of my neck untie, a shiver along the inside of my mouth. A long time went by, the time of seven dreams, seven showings of Putney Swope, and we were still there.
The next time I saw you in real life, sitting in that restaurant by yourself, I half-thought the dream was true. My lips parted in spite of me, wet and involuntary. I had a dream about you, I said, my voice husky with passion. Are you all right? you said. Do you have a sore throat?
Last week I bought a used novel at the thrift store. When I opened it, a small gift card, once used as a bookmark, fluttered out. Gorgeous, it said, won’t you wear this next Sunday night when we go out to dinner? I can’t wait. Your guy. I read that note over and over. I studied the handwriting. And kept it by the side of my bed like a match near a tinderbox.
The main thing is, I don’t want to ruin our friendship. I know it’s not much of a friendship but if I say something to you like: Feel how soft the skin is on the inside of my thigh, that’s going to be the end of it right there. I’ll never be able to shop at Safeway again. Okay, I admit I didn’t used to go to that Safeway; it’s not exactly on my way home, but I’m used to shopping there now. I’m used to searching the parking lot for your car. I’m used to strolling along the back wall of the store, trying to see which aisle you might be in. Hello, I say, passing you casually, lifting a can of shaving cream off the shelf. Hi! you say, how’s it going?
Oh, fine, I say, and you? Would you like to come over to my house and eat butter lettuce? I could make you a wonderful soup with coconut milk. We could watch “Sixty Minutes.” I could show you my aquarium. But how would I keep from staring at your shoulders, your wonderful thick arms, your unknown hands? Hey, I would say shyly, turning off the sound on Andy Rooney. Do you think — would you like me to rub your back?
You know, my biggest problem with shaving has always been how often you have to do it. Leah says it depends on if it’s for looks or for feel. For looks, once a week. For feel, every day. Okay then, every day, no, twice a day, first thing and last, for you!
Marion Winik writes “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a column about life, love, and the pursuit of self-awareness. Check out her heartbreakingly honest and funny essays twice a month on Baltimore Fishbowl.
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