Saturday, August 1, 2009

At a glance

March 2008

I was flipping through the pages of my chemistry book on my walk home when I first saw her, sprawled out on a pink lawn chair in her front yard, as if no one was watching. I peered behind and around me, feeling almost embarrassed to be in the presence of such seemingly indecent public exposure. And yet, I must confess, I had never seen such a beautiful woman.

I hoped she didn’t see me standing there across the street in my tacky orange sweater, untied shoelaces, and faded blue jeans like some love-struck teenage admirer lurking through bushes. I nearly dropped my book bag hurrying home.

After school the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, I took a left down Rover Avenue and saw her there. She lay, basking, on that chair sipping a martini with two olives, fumbling the buttons of a cell phone in the other hand, unbothered. Sometimes, given the severity of heat, she clutched the bottleneck of a Corona (with lime) or playfully toyed with the twisty straw of a peach daiquiri. I would continue up the block towards my house thinking about what I could’ve said to her, going over all the ways I wouldn’t say “Nice day out, eh?”

I didn’t mind the walk. In fact, I sometimes waited with an almost impatient urgency to find an excuse to escape the gruelingly mind-numbing school routine. I would stroll casually, periodically shooting anxious glances up from the page of a book I was not actually reading to see her across the street. It was a strange obsession, seeing her, observing a form of life that was so foreign to mine.

Every day for months I saw her rosy cheeks and oversized sunglasses, and her long brown thick curls draping over the edge of the headrest. Her legs, long, smooth and golden, glistened in the afternoon sun as she chattered merrily with passersby. The supple skin of her bare stomach clung to the curves of her hipbones. Her jutting clavicle rested above perky breasts and an unpierced naval. A bent leg, symmetric shoulders, timid hands and fingers and manicured nail beds. My eyes danced, tracing her lines, her angles, her hair follicles, every cell that made up her entire body and made her human.

I began to wonder if she was even real. Was she perhaps just a figment of my imagination—an attempt, catalyzed by shallow mindedness, to transform mediocrity, to project a physical entity so capable of achieving constructs of perfection that even I couldn’t turn away? Maybe she was a girl just trying to get a tan, and I had nothing better to do.

Perhaps I would ask for her name. It must be something smooth and classy and womanly like Adrienne. How old was Adrienne? Did she like to play tennis, did she sing in the shower, did she ever wonder how far and how long the bounds of outer space stretch into the unknown? I imagine her being more of a hands-on kind of worker, and who still goes to church on Sundays because that’s what she grew up doing. She no doubt prefers extra whipped cream and nuts on her ice cream sundaes.

My tangential and sporadic stream of consciousness was dizzying, consuming me with an undeniable urge to know her.

I finally mustered the confidence to make my walk down the other side of the street. Taking a heavy breath, I approached her.


She looked at me, tilting her sunglasses up. “Good afternoon.”

Was she an animal lover, a Republican, a stamp collector? Did she sleep on her side or on her back or on her stomach? How old was she when she lost her first tooth? Could she read a trashy romance novel cover to cover in a single day? Had she been to the Louvre and stood in line to see DaVinci’s Mona Lisa, only to discover how tiny it really is? Did she sometimes eat chocolate before bed without brushing her teeth? What was her favorite color, 80’s band, shampoo brand? Did she fear failure, or clowns, or maybe seaweed? How many siblings did she have, and what was her least favorite flavor candy? What did she want out of life?

“Hot day out, isn’t it?”

“Sure.” She smiled, adjusting her lenses, and continued sipping her drink.

“Have a nice day,” I said, and continued up the block.