Love for Lunch (Separate Checks)

©Stephen Allen

Just relax. There's no need to rush this. Don't spoil it by getting all
in a tizzy. If it's supposed to happen, it will. It's out of your hands
anyway, the higher powers and unnamable forces are pulling all the strings,
your little string especially. Breathe deep and think about baseball.
This kind of advice was playing itself in my head, but I'm afraid I
wasn't listening. I was way too distracted. It had been such a long dry
lonely summer. But now all of a sudden I couldn't shake the desperate hope
that the drought was about to come to an abrupt denouement.
To be alone like I am is like being deaf at a symphony concert. Blind in
the presence of true beauty. It burns inside like a hot coal in the throat.
As she walked through the smoky desolation of the back of Ray's Lounge, it
was like an iceberg cracking in half. I felt like a drowning man coming from
an extreme depth toward the surface and air. Why did she have to show up in
my nightmare, and why now? Now, shimmering towards me like a vision, barely
contained within gently swaying crisp blue cloth, was Judith. Or Sheila,
Georgette, or something. She was already the other woman and I didn't even
know her name.
But that's just a cute turn of a phrase, and not quite stating the truth.
The truth is there can't be a 'the other woman' when there's not a woman to
start with. The truth is every woman knows immediately if there's another
woman when they first lay eyes on you. It's an electrical thing. If no
other she creature wants you, then why should she? If it's not worth having,
it's not worth stealing. So I needed nothing more at that very moment than a
special someone to start being a louse to. Now this, even my scrambled eggs
brain told me, was one box full of paradox.
But in a second her smoldering gray eyes said she could hear all my
cowering thoughts loud and clear, and they were all irrelevant. She had her
own agenda, and all I had to do was sit tight and hang on for the ride. I'd
heard about this kind of thing happening. But never to me. I reached for a
cigarette, only to realize I don't smoke. Yeah, I was being real cool.
As she tilted her hips to slide onto the barstool next to me, the sound
of satin sliding across silk underthings made a whispering sound. It was the
only audible sound in the universe. I didn't trust my parched throat to
produce anything intelligible, so I sat dumbly, trying to swallow, and trying
not to stare at her fingertips, her rings, her hair, those deep gray eyes. I
had to just sit there and take it, the cruel and unusual punishment of her
smile, her legs, my past.
The energy of her hips was pulling at my being like a magnet. My
barstool swiveled around facing her by itself. My hand moved slowly of its
own volition to her knee, the hem, and between. she made a quick little move
and in a flash the knife was in my chest.
As the darkness folded in all around me, my only thought was gee whiz,
this is a high price to pay just to cop a little feel.........