Page 27


and collected them in shoe boxes that lined up under her bed, neatly like toes. Who on rainy days spread her stamps out to stack and count like a mogul. Who persuaded a gang of children to visit each house in the neighborhood collecting butter and sugar and then, in a secret basement clubhouse mixed them together, pounds and pounds of the mixture, and made the other kids eat it until they got sick all over each other. Incorrigible and sly she’ll be. A girl more awkward than ungroomed, and freshnot used up. She’ll run at swim practice, oh she’ll run all right, but only when she wants to. On the whole, nerdy is good because someday she will lose her honking laugh but keep her punchlines and her general smarts. I know this like I know gravity: Nerdy will keep her nose clean, her skin soft and white, and her sarcasm stropped like a razor. And it will be her own brand of sarcasm, a sassy incredulity always ready to show that razor and slice some sorry thing clean open with a flash. No TV-irony, thoughmass media gets cut to the core of its bloat. Vapid commercials and sitcoms whose implausible plots revolve around single misunderstandings also stagger away, holding in their guts. She lopes and jokes at afternoon practice at the stadium track, last across the line, last into the team van, but in a real race, that is, where she pretends that someone else’s stakes are hers too, she churns her legs, her hair loose and flying. Then she laughs because she wants to win and here she is winning; that’s the biggest mischief of all. As a woman she has science fair trophies and silk scarves and an illustrated copy of the Kama Sutra and bowls of polished rocks from the mountains she’s climbed without oxygen. How interesting, how nonstop. Feet with high arches and legs on the verge of speaking for themselves. A woman who could be a sidekick of Doctor Who, as played by Torn Baker.Wears plaid skirts; down with multidimensional space travel; unfazed by space creatures and bad special effects. I know the kinds of women I like. Women who sprout big laughs: a burst, a yip, a chitter yitter falling down chirpy pow. Women who cook lamb stew. Whistle through their fingers. Who stay up all night talking and then want to make out on the dock as the dew falls. Who read The Economist and Vogue. Perform delicate neurosurgeries wearing no underwear and sing in a rock-n-roll band. Or she will speak Russian and run sub-three marathons and theorize about subatomic particles, then in underground laboratories build machines intricate and sensitive for locating these particles in the vast universe. Capture one for a single hot nanosecond and brutally interrogate its checkered past. Also, she will heal fast and she will remember her dreams. Okay, so maybe not Rusian. But it’s okay to dream. Women who charm me:You’re lovely and long. When you enter the room, spies and priests duck. Your presence halts assembly lines. Cantors mumble, lose their places. Inert gases oxidize. A man would blurt passwords into your eyes; against your ruby lips his vocations would escape him. You get me drunk in the fake Irish pub after I tried to persuade you to write a book with me. Remember? Still smarter than me, you refused, making me slur to you all the reasons why I can’t do it alone. I need your help, a collaboration, we could write it together, but you, too smart a fish to be merely stubborn and too polite that night for your usual modes of escape. On the walk to the car you volley my appeals, and then, no longer rapt with my chatter, you swooped me coolly off the sidewalk into all the darkness along the buildings, confirmed my secret ardors with your lipstick lips. I’d been had. I liked it. And the book? Funny how it never came up. You wore glossy black shoes and asked me out for a drink and afterwards invited me up to your apartment to look at your Exner’s Rorschach test clinical guide, to which I said yes for the simple charm of the invitation’s transparency. After the two-minute tour of your onerug apartment, we turned to each other and kissed with the force of something held apart for a long time. While. the cat watched. Took turns pushing each other against the refrigerator in your dark kitchen. I discovered: more’ glossy black shoes stacked in the closet. You’re the red stripe in the candy cane, the bright glossy color twirled in the mundane white. Every six months or so, you appear in town, take me to dinner; in the morning I don’t remember the drive from the airport, I don’t rememberthe drinks or the grilled mahi mahi, but I do .remember the moment when we’re alone for the first time in months, when we have no explanations to offer for that gap in time. There is no gap. It’s erased by that moment I remember, of your body’s singular regard for mine. B ut this is how it really happens. What it comes down to in the end: She recorded her voice on my computer when I wasn’t looking, I guess before she went back to her husband. Why did she go? Because she’d figured out I didn’t deserve her. The other day I was cleaning old files off the machine and found her gift. It came loud and clear, .like a small bomb in the middle of my day. Her lilt and pressure, “Michael, I am loving you.” Her gentle drawl. I haven’t seen her in two years, haven’t talked to her in one. I probably should have made her stay with me but how could I have known that at the time? Still, it was such a pleasure to hear her voice, a shock and a pleasure. “Michael, I am loving you.” I mean the fidelity was incredible. Of course I didn’t want to erase it, but of course I did. Michael Erard is a writer who lives in Austin. He can be reached via email at [email protected] . 3/16/01 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23