I am looking for her. The woman of my dreams, my reason for being, my main squeeze, my POSSLQ. Her.
I’ve looked for years, starting in kindergarten, straight on through college, at work, in Deepak seminars, by the frozen food section in Safeway. I’ve sifted through all the types, sizes, colors, personalities, pathologies. What I seek is the impossible, the perfect doppelganger.
I seek the compassionate smartass. A hard woman with a heart, the switchblade in the velvet sheath.
I have come close. Sometimes she is short, dark, and sarcastic. She is tall, mercurial, and cynical. She is blonde with a cocked eyebrow. She is semi-Persian, descended from rug merchants but laying claim to some obscure royal lineage, a little scrawny, electric when she walks into a room, wit sharp as a stiletto.
So many she’s. And she is never quite right.
I am like Ahab, always in search of the Great White, and always getting the Great Off-White, and sometimes (when I’m in thrall to my hormones), the Great Right Now.
I have flung my harpoon into the sea and too many times have hauled up haddock and hake and on occasion, the stray coelacanth.
But now, I have snagged the real thing.
She is five foot four and redheaded (dyed; straight and shoulder-length with a little flip at the end) and blue-eyed and freckled and Gen-Y (translation: way too young) and unconsciously consciously wearing way too much plaid combined with polka dots and green and orange and a crusher hat only Sam Snead could love. (Although some days, she wears a classic 1950s working-girl tight gray turtleneck and cool gray slacks that hug her curves, and my libido pounds like a jackhammer.) And edible bracelets. Don’t forget the edible bracelets, made out of that hard, awful, pastel-colored candy used for Will You Be Mine? Valentine hearts. She wears them as a joke, bites off a candy bead and sucks on it, invites me to bite off a bead and suck on it, too.
She is too young. She is a whelp, a stripling, as green as new cucumber, as fresh as a coat of paint. A mere 24, recently released from a Cal State hatchery, flashing through the water, a silver streak, randomly mating here and there, looking for that great, good, dark place, that deep emerald spot in the hook of a cove where she can lie on the bottom and feed off M&Ms, listen to the Beatles (without irony), and knock back shots of tequila.
I have found Her and I am in Love. I have hurled my harpoon at her and struck my own heart. I have been pulled under the waves, down down down into the depths of my own foolishness and lust and ego and stupidity, and maybe, to that great emerald lair of love and contentment.
There are complications. She is young and I–at least according to the face I see every morning in the bathroom mirror–am not so young. In fact, I’m old enough to be her father, assuming I’d slept with her mother.
Then there’s her boyfriend. The one she lives with. I ignore the boyfriend issue, sidestep it. It is a tangent, I tell myself. I shall probe and thrust, parry and dart, work my way up, over, and around her mental block, till I am all she can see.
Or I can just say the Hell with it, and throw strategy out the window and blubber my love and chase her like mad, no matter who or what is in my way. I will sweep her off her feet, dazzle her with my wit, warm her with my heart, knock her on her ass with my sexuality, drive her crazy with passion.
Or not. She is cool, this one. She is funny and sly, a smartass parvenu, ready with a quip but biting her tongue, skeptical of everything, the bookworm in the corner of the cafeteria eating lunch alone with her nose buried in a Sagan book, always a step removed from what’s going on, distant.
But if she gets a dose of caffeine and Reese’s Pieces, she’s suddenly center stage, jabbering and laughing with friends, acting like the barely post-teenager that she is, being “stooped” as she puts it, with the hint of a Texas drawl.
How can I take her away from this life? From her post-hatchery hanging out doing tequila shooters Girls-like existence? Sharing a house with the amped-up girlfriend, the sullen programmer from Bulgaria, the recent (and soon to be discarded) boyfriend. The late nights at the Italian bar down the corner, the late nights getting drunk and playing Clue with next-door-friends. The clubs, the bad bands, the noise, freedom from everything.
Would she leave all that for me?
I am the Office Boyfriend, an unofficial post that nonetheless has strict requirements. I must pay attention, provide M&Ms, make her laugh, send annoying e-mails, leave little cadeaux on her chair, buy her lunch. There must be a joke of the week. Random phone calls. Fake solicitations from the Jonas Brothers Institute. I roll anything rollable into her office as I walk by–tennis balls, marbles, donut holes. She appears at my desk like a sprite, demanding my Office Boyfriend Special Reserve Tea–the English stuff with an extra caffeine kick for when work is even more boring than usual.
Through all our days together, the hour/two hour/three-hour lunches, the drinks after work, the rare Saturdays spent doing anything I can convince her to do, I edge closer. If she was 34 and single, we would be rolling around on the floor by now, tearing off each other’s clothes with our teeth. But she is 24 and not, and so I take little victories where I can. The unguarded moments where I briefly caress her hair and rub her neck; sitting in a bar having a quick beer and holding her hand; kissing her chastely goodbye at the end of an evening.
I am confused and simultaneously impressed. She doesn’t spurn my advances, my trills of love; she deflects my romantic energy aikido style, keeping me off balance. She doesn’t exactly say she loves me, but she is happy to hear that I love her. She absorbs the attention and returns it in spurts, like a forgetful housewife who remembers to water the wilting violet in the corner just in time. She blazes across my orbit like a comet, then swings away in a parabolic loop, and I must wait and wait and wait for her tail to flash by me again.
Is this love about her–or me? Both I suppose. But this story is about me, since how can I capture on paper what it is about her that captivates me?
OK–one example. I am the editor of a semi-distinguished technical magazine and write a chummy, semi-clever column about goings-on in the trade. A few insider jokes, some warmed-over Benchleyisms, a swipe or two at Microsoft–that sort of thing. One recent column was better than the rest, or so I told myself. Some snappy patter, a little sly social commentary, a dig at Amtrak, a play on words.
A day or two after it appears, an e-mail arrives from Her, pointing me to a Web address. A click or two later, I’m staring at my column online, complete with my hardass editor picture. Or is it my column? “I totally have a studly mantra: ‘It’s Amtrak’s World–We’re Just Passengers On It'”. Wait–did I write that? What follows, I discover, is her wicked reworking of my column in choice Gen-Y style, complete with a side trip to “buy a few minis on Daddy’s card”, a few “barf me out hosebags”, and a tableau of 300 Lady Gaga wannabes singing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”.
Ok–another example. She almost slips a house ad into the magazine promoting my hair, specifically, the Cypress Tree-like outcropping that makes me look like Gumby on a windswept day. “1 out of 10 Editors Agree–the Wedge Look Is In!”. An artfully crafted fake, it confuses the hell out of the production staff and isn’t pulled from the magazine until the last second.
How can I not love this girl-cum-woman? At 24, she is totally (well, mostly) unintimidated by my age or position or so-called power. How could I not find that charming, alluring, sexy, irresistible?
As the days and months roll by, I craft a dozen different pet names for her: Dew, gear-fab, Red, wENderful, and on and on. I can catalog her hundred and one gestures. The smoldering don’tfuckwithme look that could melt glass. The Jack Benny-like index finger she touches to her cheek when she’s about to say something sarcastic. The retro 16-year-old roll of the eyes followed by a Duh? that tells me I’m being a shade too obvious.
Can I have her? Should I have her? And does the latter mean finding a Fountain of Youth or at least a good plastic surgeon?
We come to the summit of our relationship. I can’t just be the Office Boyfriend anymore, I say. I want a promotion to Boyfriend 1st Class. Am I worth it, she ponders? Worth ending one relationship and starting up with me?
In the end, she leaves me–and the current Boyfriend 1st Class–for another woman. Now she is an unmarried husband. The circle is complete.
Robert Luhn is a terribly svelte writer based in El Cerrito, CA. His work has appeared in The Hudson Review, Book Forum, Harper’s, The Nantucket Review, Aberrations, Another Realm, Calliope, A Different Drummer, and Blank Expression. He collects small unattractive animals.