For the longest time I thought that being a modern woman meant *not* having children. Striving for "real" success. It took me a long time to realize that doing the things that are traditionally considered to be womanly can be called a kind of success: that my grandmother, who was a house wife and who never finished high school is not a failure because of what she did all her life, rather she is a failure because she did not choose to do it.

Forgive me, Father, for I am a modern woman.

Please forgive me for my gluttony; I was full after dinner and ate some cheesecake anyway.

I will jog an extra five kilometres as atonement for my sin.

Please forgive me, Father, for my lustful ways. I have touched a man and we are not married.

I will be reminded daily of this error by my peers, and will be publicly and openly shamed by them.

Please forgive me for my greed and vanity as I bought two new skirts before donating to the church.

I will fast for two days to make up for my selfish actions.

Forgive me for being jealous of my colleagues who are promoted before me. I will cast aside judgement and trust my superiors- it is merely a co-incidence that my male peers are all considered more knowledgeable than I.

I will work harder and longer to please and satisfy my superiors.

Please forgive me, Father, for questioning your existence.

I will torture myself daily as a result of my ignorance.

Please help to shape me into the perfect image of your daughter so that I may teach other women the error of their ways. Make me a stronger, wiser, more productive woman, Father.

Amen.

-Tap ta tappity tap tap tap ta-

The rain splashed into the dark pane of the apartment window. It fell heavy, and changed the normal view of the city's night skyline into a blurred mess of neon and noise, the living finger-painting of a deific toddler.

-Tap tap ta tappita tap tap-

Industrial beauty. Perhaps the ultimate oxymoron. Darkly beautiful. And seemingly enhanced ten-fold by nasty weather.

-Tappita tap tap-

Occasionally the percussive water was accented by a crack of thunder and the strobe-like flash of hidden lightning.

On the inside of the glass pane set so high above the saturated cityscape, the scene was set by the ambient, moody jazz licks of some small quintet with an artistically aloof alias. All it needed was a fog machine, or some universal lens to slide the room about three degrees out of focus. Edges don't belong on furniture in dark rooms on rainy nights. The edges seemed to finally understand this after a little coaxing from a few well-placed candles.

The tablecloth was deep red, like wine, or maybe fresh blood. Actual cloth too, but nothing so outrageous as satin or linen. It was probably a cotton-poly blend. That was okay. If you didn’t touch it, it kind of looked like satin. Well, from the other end of the room, anyway.

It was good to know how to cook. Women, he thought, liked that. It told them they would never be expected to fill some sort of traditional role, should the relationship turn serious. It told them that they could expect a well-prepared, hot, homecooked meal after the big meeting. Modern women liked that. She was, as well as he could figure, a modern woman. At least in the sense that she wasn't born more than six decades ago. Come to think of it, he really didn't know what "modern woman" meant, although he felt fairly certain that an appreciation for men who could cook something other than barbeque was a part of the definition. The point was she would like that he could cook. It was a skill, like sewing, or sword swallowing.

A keen skill. He laughed to himself as he finished slicing the vegetables for the salad. That was the word she always used.

-Chop chop chop-

"Keen." It was an old pop-culture word. When "swingin'" had been brought back with its respective music, it had become old-hat again. "Keen" was never attached to music. It would probably never come back into widespread usage. "Keen" was the "cool" of those who sat on the cutting edge of... that sub-culture genre-thing. He wasn't sure what it was called anymore.

-Chop chop chop-

His blade cut a beat which, although it didn't appear to match the random tempo of the tapping rain on the window, didn't seem to fight it either. It was almost as if the two beat patterns were harmonizing melodies. The aloof jazz band seemed to agree with both of them. That had to be a good omen. The whole world was in harmony for him.

The timer he had set for the bread went off. If the timer had the mouth and the vocabulary, it would have said, "Oh, hello. Say, that salad's looking good. By the way, the bread is done." Unfortunately, it was just a cheap little bread timer from the hardware store. As such, it gave a spastic little -ding!-, which felt out of place, but there are some things even candle light and jazz can’t fix. One of them is bread timers.

Note to self: find ambient bread timer.

He went over to the small toaster-oven, pulled out the bread which had been warming and placed it into a breadbasket which he had set aside for this very purpose. He then proceeded to cover the basket and its contents with a red cloth that had matched the tablecloth until he had accidentally washed that load of laundry with bleach instead of detergent. It was probably a cotton-poly blend, but from across the room...

She should be here soon, he thought, I think everything should be ready. I've got the chicken set to come out in about a half-n-hour, so we can talk, and eat the salad and a little bread, and it'll still be warm. And I think I’m looking fairly sharp. He looked for a mirror for a quick panic check, but couldn't find one. This put him slightly on edge. He blamed the bread timer for breaking the atmosphere, and tried to push the issue into the back of his mind by thinking about his salad.

The veggies were all fresh, crisp, juicy, and several other adjectives besides. That was good. He went to the drawer and drew out a pair of salad tongs that he then proceeded to use on his pre-salad. The salad flew freely around the bowl. -walush walush- "Walush?" Yes, if salad tossing had a sound, it was "walush." He walushed the salad in time with the rain and the jazz, and universal harmony was achieved in the kitchen once again.

She would arrive soon. Out of her car. Darting through the rain to the door of his building. Or not. She might enjoy the rain. Walking slowly, giving purpose to each step, secure in that she would continue to be radiantly beautiful, regardless of how much rain fell on her. Perhaps even knowing that a little rain could add to her own industrial beauty. Again, he wasn't sure. This might have something to do with what "modern woman" meant, but it might not.

Up the elevator she would come. Stopping at his floor, and only his floor. Yes, that would be the most dramatic. No stops part way up, just one swift ride to his floor. From the elevator to the hallway, and then to his door.

-Knock knock- That would be the sound on the door when she arrove. Women like her didn't ring doorbells. That just wouldn’t feel right. There was something so much more real about knocking on a door, especially when there was a doorbell right there. It showed you put thought into how you announced yourself. Instead of instinctually going for the easy way out, you took decisive action and rapped on the entrance itself. -Knock knock- And it would be in rhythmic harmony with the rain, and the jazz music... That would be so like her. So like this whole evening.

Modern woman: he thought to himself, Likes men who cook. Industrial beauty. No doorbells. Maybe by the end of the evening he'd have a definition down. Probably not. He just wasn't sure what the term meant. He could ask her...

No, that would be silly. Did she even think of herself as a modern woman? He didn't really think of himself as a modern man. Was he a modern man? He was... himself, really. What else could he be? Maybe he was a modern man... after all, he cooked, and understood why theatre could be just as exciting as football. That made him more modern than say... Darren from Bewitched. There were probably other things too. Things that made him more modern than somebody like Cliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show, or even whats-his-name, the dad from Blossom. Wasn’t he with the times? How could he not be? He was still young. His "good old days" were less than 15 years ago. Hell, his "good old days" were probably right now.

This didn't feel like a "good old day," him walushing a now thoroughly over-walushed salad and worrying about whether or not his dinner companion was modern, and what that meant, and even more, whether or not he was modern, and what that meant. He stopped walushing the salad, realizing that he had gotten off beat from the jazz and the storm outside. That must have been why he felt so stressed out: he was out of harmony again.

In an attempt to re-enter his culinary nirvana, he got out the salad serving bowls and started to heap starting portions into them from out of the larger salad bowl. He felt his harmony again.

Mmmn... he thought, And she’ll be here any sec—

-Kizhak!-

An all-too-electrical sounding clap of thunder corresponded almost exactly with a lightning strobe, which was instantly followed by a loss of power to the room. Actually, it looked pretty much the same, having been lit primarily via candle, although the lack of jazz music could have registered as a tactile sensation: an emptiness causing a vacuum sucking in any and all available sounds from everywhere. The sound of the rain on the window seemed to grow in volume.

-Tapitta tap ta tappity tappitta-

At least he still had some rhythm to work with. The rain would tell him what the universal rhythm was, and it showed no signs of stopping any time soon.

The elevator! What if she was in the elevator?! Who knows how long the power will be out?!

Then again, perhaps she could have been running a little late. Fashionably late. That would be like her. Maybe modern women are fashionably late? He was almost certain that she was a modern woman, after all, and if they were fashionably late just as a matter of course, well, then she would just come up the stairwell. In the dark.

Well, modern women weren't afraid of the dark. Or stairwells, for that matter. In fact, modern women probably saw stairwells as a metaphor for something, and used them instead of elevators. Stairwells had more industrial beauty than elevators. That was it.

In all her radiant industrial beauty, she would ascend the stairs in the darkness, with only the click of her shoes against the concrete steps to break the vacuous silence of the stairwell. From the stairwell to the hallway. From there to his door, where she would knock. Just like the elevator scenario, only with more stairs, and fewer elevators.

Of course, now the chicken wouldn't get done, but the salad and bread were still good. He had champagne sitting in a bucket of ice, too. That was classy, although not really modern. Classy was beautiful, like modern, only existing in a totally different world of beauty. Regardless of its classification, chilled champagne was "a good thing."

What would he do until she arrived? The salad and bread were as done as they could get, the champagne was probably nicely chilled by now, and he already had candles set up, thwarting the power-outage. The chicken couldn’t be saved, in all likelihood, unless the power came back soon.

Maybe he could primp?

He ran from the kitchen to his bedroom, and, finding it dark, ran back to the living room, picked up a candle, and returned to the bedroom once again. He set the candle on the nightstand, and examined himself in the mirror. The candle's amber glow gave him an industrial beauty which surprised him, because he felt that under normal circumstances he looked... well, normal. He liked what he saw, though, and exhaled a breath of relief. Food preparation might attract modern women, but it could do a number on a well-dressed chef.

And then, unable to resist anymore, he began to make faces at himself in the mirror. The candle’s glow made his faces look even more unusual, and he quickly moved from mere faces into assuming full body poses. Had there been a casual observer in his bedroom, it would have been observed that the whole thing looked like one of Samuel Beckett's shadow plays, had he written shadow plays.

It suddenly occurred to him that if he kept thrusting himself into positions like this, he might actually start to break a sweat. That wouldn't be good. Sweat was only attractive during the 80's. These days, industrial beauty called for a dryer look. Unless you were wet from rainwater... that was okay. Industrial beauty was complicated.

With a short, mournful huff he left the mirror, and picked up his candle, bringing it back to the living room. Why wasn't she here? As if to signal his defeat to the question, he flopped down onto the couch, determined to sit until either she showed up... or... or until something else happened.

Maybe she was stuck in the elevator. No, no, that wouldn’t make sense. Not for her.

-Tap tap tapitta tappitty-

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