"Attraction but not love," I suggested.

"Sure," she said, smiling brilliantly and getting the hint.

"Affection but not emotion?"

"Yes. You're getting it!"

"Faith but not-"

She cut me off. "Damn it, Jay, you've lost it again. THINK!"

I scowled. It just didn't make any sense! "Think? I've been trying to do just that for the last hour and it's apparently not helping." I took another stab at it. "Frustrated but not bitter?"

She laughed. "You are so damn lucky, but you're still not getting it. You're overthinking it. It's 'bitter but not frustrated.' I'll invert it if you get it wrong."

"But if I got it," I countered, "how can you say I'm not getting it?"

She shrugged. "If you got it, you'd get it every time. I can see the pattern you're using and that's not it. It's amazing that you're so lucky with it, though."

I sat back, dejected. "Riddles but no answers."

"You're toying with me, right?"

"No," I almost shouted. "I just don't get it! That last was cynicism."

"Well, it was right."


Normally I'm good at riddles and puzzles of most types. When I was a kid I had this unique gift for picking out and unraveling patterns and themes, like Colin Laney in William Gibson's "Idoru." This is why it's so easy for me to come up with metaphors when I'm trying to explain something to people and they're just not getting the basic concept from my own perspective. We speak in metaphors so much, as a species, and we never really notice it. We take words for granted as having a meaning at face value, but not looking into their depth and realizing the hidden pearls within. In the Baha'i Faith, it is a common sort of cliché, first uttered by the founder's son, Abdu'l-Baha, that every word has "seventy-plus-two meanings." Seventy-two meanings for each word in any language or just for the Persian languages? This is a question I wish someone had bothered to ask him when he was still alive. He probably would've answered with a cryptic, "Yes." But, then again, that's what religious leaders do, right? They mystify people.

This woman is no religious leader, but she continually mystifies me to the Nth degree, far more often than she has a right to.

I played this game with her last night like a gladiator with wall-eye vision. Hit, hit, hit, hit; miss, miss, miss; hit, hit; miss- drunken battle ship ("War but not battle?" "No. Battle but not the war." "Oh. Certainly. Of course. How stupid of me."). I did it for nearly two hours before I threatened mental suicide and she finally told me. When I saw her explanation, it hit me like a train of thought wreck. Apparently, I'd thought of the pattern she'd shown me, and dismissed it as being way too simple. A complex mind never likes to think simply. Ask Einstein, he'll back me up on that one. When I got it, though, when I was led to the truth ("A horse led to water," she called me), she and I began to torture everyone present. It's a fun game, once you know the rules.