every word of this is true.
I generally don't have to work too hard to make a date interesting and memorable. I'm a strange attractor, a chaote magnet; weirdness comes to me -- and the women I date tend to be chaotic themselves. Jessica (the young woman I've been utterly infatuated with these last three weeks or so) is no exception. She gives the impression of having gone to sleep in the Victorian era and awakened in the modern day, displeased with what she finds here but determined to make the best of it, brightening everyone's day with her quiet grace, her faultless politeness and soft-spoken kindness, her quick mind and vast store of knowledge.
This impression is furthered by the fact that with her long straight ravenblack hair (soft and sweet, falling past her waist), sharp and lively eyes of grey-green (large and all too easy to get lost in), pale features (carved of ivory, yea, with rosebud lips, even) and delicate dancer's figure (fragile and sweet in one's arms), she resembles the heroine of a gothic romance or tragic opera, in her flowing black satin skirt and dark charcoal half-cloak.
All of these factors combine to make me turn into a gibbering idiot, barely capable of speech for the first few minutes of catching sight of her after an absence of more than a few minutes. I do relax very quickly, because she's easy to talk to and, more amazingly, she seems to return my affections. She avoids relationships like the plague, for various and sundry personal reasons, so the very fact that this was our fourth date (in less than a week!) was a good sign. We'd had conversations... ah, but I'm getting sidetracked.
We met up at the Aurafice Cafe & Internet Bar on Pike and Boyleston, a favorite old haunt of both of ours, and it was open mic night, something I normally avoid. Julie (a superbly talented teenager) was just finishing her set, playing her young heart out on the violin, and I was beginning to question my policy of avoidance. Her music whirled and dove its way through the air to the corner table where Jessica and I were sitting, and we relaxed into each other, enjoying the contact and the music and the moment. Jessica's hand fell lightly onto mine, and stayed there. I thought for a moment that perhaps this just might end happily after all, as Julie unchinned her violin and took her bows, sliding onto the big floppy red couch by the stage and lovingly replacing her instrument in its case.
When someone finishes their set on an open mic night, there is a sudden flux of patrons in and out of the little coffeeshop as people scramble to enter, leave or purchase coffee without interrupting a performance. Among those entering after Julie's set was a dark-skinned man in weary bluejeans and a goretex jacket. He stood out among the regular Aurafice crowd of cyberpunky Seattle goths, gutterpunks, geeks and indie kids, with his dingy and worn yuppie clothes and the booze on his breath.
"Step on up, the mic is open," said the MC, replacing Julie onstage. He was friendly-looking and blonde, with a scar on his chin. "We're already done with our scheduled performers for tonight; who else wants to come up here?"
And the dark-skinned man spoke. "Yeah, man, I got something to say, I got something to talk about." The MC nodded and gave him the mic. "Yeah," said the dark-skinned man again. "My name's Johnny."
The audience watched, quietly and politely, waiting. Jessica looked up from her book, which she had slipped into during the intermission, and replaced the bookmark, interested.
"So I just got off a train from New Orleans. That's what I do these days, I ride the trains. And I go to places like this and rap at people like you. And, shit, I wish I'da known I was coming, I would have practiced more, but this is what you get, boys and girls. The act I'm about to do is sort of a tribute to the great Richard Pryor, who maybe you've heard of and maybe you haven't, and I hope you find it enlight'nin'."
And Johnny began to tell a story, so thick with slang it reminded me of a Lord Buckley rap, so thick that I could barely follow it. It was about an ex-con, looking for a job at the Employment Office, who throws up on the carpet and refuses to clean it up. A cop on duty tries to persuade the ex-con, who responds with threats of violence. "Do that and I'll have to shoot you," says the cop. "Yeah, then who's gonna clean up the blood, asshole?" says the ex-con.
"Such language," whispered Jessica, slightly reproving. She is, perhaps, the only woman I have yet met to whom the phrase "ladylike" actually applies in the classical sense.
I am not exactly that comfortable with the '03 zeitgeist myself, and while I can navigate Jane Austen well, and pronounce Chaucer properly most of the time, I found myself struggling to keep up with Johnny's scatological story. I guess everyone else must have followed it, though, because he got a big laugh at the end and a round of applause. Jessica and I exchanged confused looks and shrugged, applauding out of politeness more than anything.
Johnny got down off the stage and (Jessica bit her lip fretfully) walked straight over to us, sitting down. Now that I could see him up close, I saw that his left eye was squinting and ruby-red from burst blood vessels, and that while I had originally taken him for African-American, he must be at least part Asian, with pronounced epicanthic eye folds. He had a gravelly voice that was still somehow pleasant, like an old jazz singer, and I couldn't decide whether I thought he was a likeable weirdo or creepy stalker. Jessica, who tends to be a bit uncomfortable around strangers in general (since they tend to have Ulterior Motives, and she's much too sweet-natured to be rude to them), looked like she wanted to crawl under a rock.
"So," Johnny asked, looking from me to Jessica and back, smiling, "was it love at first sight?"
I wince. Jessica blushes prettily. "...we're just friends," she whispers.
It was for me, I thought to myself, a little bitterly.
"You are?" says Johnny. "But the two of you seem so -- together. Why aren't you?"
"Because I'm too independent," she said, a little louder. Which was more or less the reason we weren't in a relationship after Date #2, given our admitted interest in one another; why is it that every women I fall for is terrified of intimacy and committment, no matter how much she cares about me?
Johnny nodded. "I understand. You're a strange one, a unique one, I don't think I've ever seen anything like you before." I had to agree. Jessica is one of a kind.
He turned his attention to me. "But you -- you, I have met before. There are a lot of you. By looking in your eyes, I can tell what you do. You used to work with databases, filling them with information about the health of other computers."
I blinked, suprised. The guy was getting weird and mystical, but that was okay, I can be that way myself. And he'd just given a serviceable description of the last major project I worked on, a network monitoring and trending tool, where I rewrote some of the database schema. "That's ... what I used to do, yes. Back when I had a job." Bitterness, again. The dotcom layoff blues.
"Yeah. Times are tough, man, times are tough." Johnny nodded sympathetically. He got up and wandered off, talking to a few other people. Jessica and I soon decided to leave, already seriously weirded out by the encounter, and uncomfortable with each other now that the tremendous chemistry between us -- and her reluctance to do anything about it -- had been brought up yet again. She was sick and exhausted and needed to go home, her thin pale body shivering under her heavy wool half-cloak. I strove to drive the inevitable comparisons to the consumptive heroine of La Boheme from my mind as I helped her up, offering her my arm as we headed out of the coffeeshop.
"Hey, you takin' off, guys?" Johnny, from behind us. Jessica and I both wince, and turn.
"Yes, Jessica needs to go home; she's not well."
"Oh, all right. Listen, it was good to meet you two. You're good people. But lemme give you a piece of advice, my friend," he said to me. He put an arm on my shoulder and spoke quietly. "You'll never get her," he said, and Jessica suddenly had a very suspicious coughing fit. "And it'll hurt and you won't understand why not. And she'll go for someone else, and you won't understand why. She'll go for someone totally opposite -- sorta like I was twenty years ago..."
Shut up, I wanted to yell, just shut the fuck up. Don't tell me this is like one of those old parables where you meet an old madman on the road, and he turns out to be a god or a spirit with a prophetic vision. Don't let this be a fucking omen. This is too important to me. I'm already falling in love and it's too damn late and she likes me too, damnit. I pursed my lips and smirked. "Thank you -- but I have to try. By my Word, I'll make my own reality."
Johnny nodded. His squinting, blood-red eye reminded me of Odin and the eye he sacrificed for knowledge and insight. "Yeah. I know. Good night, man." And he headed back down the street, heading for the center of town and the wider world.
Jessica and I linked arms again and resumed our walk to her car, her coughing fit having subsided. "Well. That was... interesting," I said. "He certainly was... insightful."
"He had a certain fractured vision," Jessica said in quiet, meditative tones, coming to a stop as we reached her car. "But he wasn't right about everything," she said, smiling up at me. "I'll see you Wednesday for coffee and drinks and dancing?"
"Of course," I said, willing all of my vaunted eloquence to the fore and finding it useless, wanting to praise her mind and heart and beauty, and not even knowing where to start. And most of my processor cycles were already taken up with trying to figure out what she meant by Johnny "not being right about everything," and that little smile.
I hugged her and received a kiss on the cheek, a long sweet moment, before regretfully sending her on her way.
The struggle against the will of the gods is one of the noblest of all to me. It is the struggle for freedom, the struggle for self-will and self-determination, the refusal to be stuck with someone else's ineffable plan. The struggle to be something more than a toy or a pawn. And if Johnny was a prophet (shades of Tank Girl), come to warn me, then I thank him for his warning.
But baby, we've come a long way since Prometheus, and love is a power of its own. I will not give up hope until it is clear that I must; my soul requires that I try. For I know that while it would be a transitory thing, it would also be a heartbreaking, beautiful, inspiring thing. And that's what I live for.